Kung pao chicken has always been one of my favorite things to order at a Chinese restaurant, and this recipe is honestly just as good as any I’ve tried! I’ve made it countless times and I fall in love with it over and over again. My husband likes to joke that he feels like he needs to tip me after he’s finished eating. My big secret is how EASY this is to make.
Kung Pao chicken is one of the healthier dishes you can order from a restaurant, but it’s also way healthier made from scratch. I love being able to see and control what ingredients go in our food. I’ll often adapt this recipe and add extra vegetables to the stir-fry, like zucchini and bell peppers.
Ingredients in Kung Pao Chicken:
Don’t be intimated by the list of ingredients in this recipe because they are all really simple, and many of the sauce and marinade ingredients overlap (that’s why I like to make them at the same time, in step 1).
Traditional Kung Pao Chicken contains chicken, peanuts, and green onions. I added a bell pepper to this recipe, and you could add any other vegetables you’d like.
The sauce and marinade contain soy sauce, chicken broth, vinegar, cornstarch and chili paste. The chicken marinade and sauce ingredients really add the extra WOW flavor to this dish.
Kung Pao also includes szechuan peppers (sichuan peppercorns). They provide extra heat while the sauce is cooking, although you don’t actually eat them, unless you want you mouth to be on fire 🙂 I will be honest, I don’t always add the szechuan peppers unless I have them on hand. You can find them in Asian grocery stores or more gourmet chain stores like Whole Foods.
How to make Kung Pao Chicken:
In two separate bowls, make the chicken marinade and the sauce. The ingredients are similar for both, so I’ve found that it’s easiest to make them at the same time.
Allow the chicken to marinate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 hours.
Add oil to your wok or frying pan and heat to medium-high. Add the peanuts and red pepper flakes and toast them, stirring occasionally, for about 2 minutes. Remove them to a separate bowl.
Add the chicken to the hot pan evenly spaced in a single layer (you may need to cook the chicken in batches.) Cook on medium-high heat just until golden flipping only once. It doesn’t need to be cooked all the way though because it will continue to cook when we add the sauce.
Add the bell peppers, ginger, peanuts and green onion to the pan. Stir-fry for one minute.
Pour in the sauce. Stir, and cook everything together until the sauce begins to thicken. Keep in mind that the sauce will continue to thicken as it cools.
Remove the pan from the heat and serve the kung pao chicken over hot cooked white or brown rice.
Consider trying these popular dinner recipes:
Restaurant Style Kung Pao Chicken
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts , cut into small pieces
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or more to increase spiciness)
- 1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
- 2 green onions chopped
- 1 red bell pepper , chopped
For the Marinade
- 1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 large egg white
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
For the Sauce:
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon chili paste with garlic (or use sriracha hot sauce with a little minced garlic)
- 2 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- hot cooked rice , for serving
- In two separate bowls, make the chicken marinade and the sauce ingredients. Set the sauce aside. Add the chicken to the chicken marinade and set aside.
- Add 1 tablespoon of oil to wok or frying pan and heat to medium. Add red pepper flakes and peanuts and stir-fry until peanuts are golden (about 2 minutes). Remove peanuts and pepper flakes to a bowl.
- Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan and bring heat to medium-high. Use a slotted spoon to scoop half of the chicken (allowing excess marinade to drip off) into the hot pan, in a single layer.
- Cook chicken for 1-2 minutes on each side, flipping only once, until golden (chicken does not need to be completely cooked through).
- Remove chicken to the bowl with the peanuts. Repeat with cooking remaining chicken. Return peanuts and chicken to the pan. Add ginger, bell peppers or other vegetables and green onion. Stir-fry for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the sauce. Stir, and cook for a few minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and the sauce begin to slightly thicken.
- Remove from heat and serve with hot cooked rice.
The general rule for cooking white rice is one part rice and two parts water. However, for fluffier rice, try 1 part rice, and 1 ¾ parts water. Make sure to let the rice sit for about five minutes after cooking. Adapted from William-Sonoma
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*I first shared this recipe in April 2013. Updated July 2018.