This Hunan chicken recipe is an iconic Chinese stir fry of lightly pan fried chicken and stir fried vegetables in a spicy Hunan sauce. It's so easy to make, on the table in 15 minutes!
We're cooking up an iconic Chinese stir fry in the Chili Pepper Madness kitchen tonight, my friends. Are you a fan of stir fry? I love a good stir fry because not only are they easy to make, they usually require very little prep and cooking time.
You'll have this one on the table in well under 30 minutes, including your prep time, and that is fantastic for a slow cook like me. Plus, you can really adjust the spice and heat factor very easily.
This recipe is called Hunan Chicken, and I think you're going to love it.
What is Hunan Chicken?
Hunan Chicken is a spicy chicken stir fry dish from the Hunan province of China. The chicken is velveted then quickly stir fried with a mixture of vegetables, then finished in a spicy and slightly sweet brown sauce.
You may have tried Hunan chicken in your favorite Chinese restaurant, as it is quite a popular Chinese-American dish.
Hunan Chicken Vs. Szechuan Chicken
A common question is - what's the difference between Hunan chicken and Szechuan chicken? While the recipes are quite similar, these are actually two different dishes varying primarily in the sauce ingredients.
Hunan chicken relies more on a fermented Chinese chili-bean paste called doubanjiang for it's heat and flavor, where Szechuan chicken focuses more on tongue-numbing Sichuan peppercorns and spicy peppers. Both Hunan cuisine and Sichuan cuisine are known for being spicy.
My version of Hunan chicken incorporates some elements of the Sichuan version in order to bring that heat and spice level up a notch. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
Let's talk about how to make Hunan Chicken, shall we?
Hunan Chicken Ingredients
- FOR THE HUNAN CHICKEN SAUCE
- Soy Sauce.
- Oyster Sauce.
- Doubanjiang. Doubanjiang is a Chinese fermented chili and bean paste. As an alternative, use a chili paste, like sambal oelek.
- Rice Wine.
- Sesame Oil.
- Sugar. Or use honey.
- Chicken Broth.
- Chili Flakes.
- Sichuan Peppercorns. This is not traditional, used more commonly in Sichuan chicken, but I love the extra kick.
- Corn Starch. To thicken the sauce. Mix it with a bit of water to make a slurry.
- FOR THE HUNAN CHICKEN
- Chicken Breast. You can use chicken thigh as well, skinless and boneless.
- Corn Starch. For coating the chicken.
- Salt and Pepper.
- Vegetables. I'm using thinly sliced bell pepper, jalapeno, zucchini and carrot for the stir fry. Plus fresh garlic and ginger.
- For Serving. Chopped green onion, red pepper flakes, sesame seeds, cooked rice or noodles.
How to Make Hunan Chicken - the Recipe Method
MAKE THE HUNAN CHICKEN SAUCE
Get Whisking. Whisk together the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
MAKE THE HUNAN CHICKEN
Coat the Chicken. Add the corn starch to a large bowl with salt and pepper to taste and add the chicken. Toss the chicken to evenly coat each piece.
Stir Fry the Chicken. Heat 2 tablespoon oil in a large wok or pan to medium-high heat. Add the coated chicken and cook, stirring, until golden brown. Do this in batches if needed. Should take 2-3 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
Stir Fry the Vegetables. Heat the remaining vegetable oil in the wok and add the peppers, zucchini, and carrot. Stir fry for 5-6 minutes to soften.
Ginger and Garlic. Add the garlic and ginger. Stir fry for 1 minute.
Reserved Chicken and Sauce. Add the chicken back to the pan and stir in the sauce. Stir to coat the ingredients and thicken the sauce, 1-2 minutes more to warm and cook the chicken through.
Garnish and Serve. Sprinkle on the chopped green onions, chili flakes and red chili flakes. It's great with cooked rice or noodles.
Boom! Done! Who's ready for some Hunan chicken? So easy to make, isn't it? I love quick and easy recipes, especially when they're so big on flavor. Hunan chicken always delivers.
Recipe Tips & Notes
- Heat Factor. Mild-Medium. Hunan chicken isn't as spicy as some other Chinese dishes, but you'll get some nice heat and spice from the Doubanjiang or chili paste. I add in extra elements, including some spicy peppers, spicy chili flakes and Sichuan peppercorns, which are not traditional, but I love them.
- Sichuan Peppercorns. Sichuan peppercorns (aka Szechuan pepper) are different than other spicy foods, bringing not so much heat to a dish, but a distinctive tingling and numbing experience to your tongue and lips. They can be an acquired taste, so keep this in mind if you have not tried them before. They are different from black peppercorns.
- Make the Sauce Ahead of Time. You can easily make the Hunan sauce ahead of time if you'd like to save time later. There aren't many ingredients, but just stir them together and keep in the refrigerator, sealed, until you're ready to start cooking.
- Vegetable Options. You can use any of your favorite vegetables for this famous Chinese stir fry. I'm using bell peppers, zucchini and carrot (along with jalapenos), but consider some others that go great with sir fries. Try mushrooms, baby bok choy, sugar snap peas, bamboo shoots, broccoli, sprouts, or other popular stir fry veggies. Make it your way!
That's it, my friends. I hope you enjoy my Hunan chicken recipe. I like my spicy version the best. Let me know if you make it. I'd love to hear how it turned out for you.
If you love Chinese recipes and cooking, I recommend these books for the American cook. They're loaded with easy Chinese recipes that are full of flavor. I refer to them quite often.
- The Food of Sichuan, by Fuchsia Dunlop (affiliate link, my friends!) - This book is fantastic with loads of authentic Sichuan recipes and knowledge. Highly recommended.
- Easy Chinese Cookbook: Restaurant Favorites Make Simple, by Chris Toy (affiliate link, my friends!)
- The Essential Wok Cookbook, by Naomi Imatome-Yun (affiliate link, my friends!)
Try Some of My Other Popular Recipes
- Kung Pao Chicken
- Szechuan Chicken
- Cashew Chicken
- Dragon Chicken
- Bourbon Chicken
- Chicken Stir Fry
- Mapo Tofu
- Spicy Chicken Fried Rice
- Sichuan Dry-Fried Green Beans Recipe (Ganbian Sijidou)
- Hot and Sour Soup
Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.
Hunan Chicken Recipe
FOR THE HUNAN CHICKEN SAUCE
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 2 tablespoons doubanjiang or use a chili paste, like sambal oelek
- 1 tablespoon rice wine
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon sugar or use honey
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes or more to taste - I use extra
- 1/2 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns optional - not traditional, but I love the extra kick
- 1 tablespoon corn starch mixed with 1 tablespoon water to form a slurry
FOR THE HUNAN CHICKEN
- 1 pound chicken breast cut into strips or cubes
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil for frying
- 1 large red bell pepper sliced
- 1-2 jalapeno peppers sliced (optional, or use other hot peppers)
- 1 zucchini sliced into rings
- 1 medium carrot sliced into sticks
- 1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger
- For Serving: Chopped green onion, red pepper flakes, sesame seeds, cooked rice or noodles.
MAKE THE HUNAN CHICKEN SAUCE
- Whisk together the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
MAKE THE HUNAN CHICKEN
- Add the corn starch to a large bowl with salt and pepper to taste and add the chicken. Toss the chicken to evenly coat each piece.
- Heat 2 tablespoon oil in a large wok or pan to medium-high heat. Add the coated chicken and cook, stirring, until golden brown. Do this in batches if needed. Should take 2-3 minutes. Remove the chicken and set aside.
- Heat the remaining vegetable oil in the wok and add the peppers, zucchini, and carrot. Stir fry for 5-6 minutes to soften.
- Add the garlic and ginger. Stir fry for 1 minute.
- Add the chicken back to the pan and stir in the sauce. Stir to coat the ingredients and thicken the sauce, 1-2 minutes more.
- Garnish and serve.