Info

All demo content is for sample purposes only, intended to represent a live site. Please use the RocketLauncher to install an equivalent of the demo, all images will be replaced with sample images.

22 March 2021

This Kung Pao Chicken recipe is the ultimate stir fry with chunks of marinated chicken stir fried with peppers, scallions and peanuts and an easy but flavorful sauce.

We’re whipping up an easy stir fried chicken recipe in the Chili Pepper Madness kitchen today, my friends. Would you care for some? You’re definitely going to want to sample this one.

Chicken stir fries are great to have in your recipe box for quick and easy dinners that are also satisfying to the spicy food lover’s palate. They cook up fast and you can spice them up as much as you want to with extra peppers, extra spices and seasonings, and liberal use of your favorite hot sauces.

This particular dish is a classic Chinese chicken stir fry that Americans have most likely heard of and enjoyed from local Chinese restaurants or a fast food chain like Panda Express. It’s called Kung Pao Chicken, and it’s one of the grand daddy’s of stir fried chicken in the U.S.

What is Kung Pao Chicken?

Kung Pao Chicken is a Chinese stir fry dish made with chunks of chicken that have been marinated in soy sauce then quickly stir fried with peanuts, chili peppers and other possible vegetables. It’s origins hail from the Sichuan province of China, though you’ll find it all over the country. Chinese cuisine has given the world so many wonderful recipes, and I’m incredibly thankful.

Because of its wonderful flavor, the dish has spread throughout the world and has become highly popular in Western cooking. You’ll find recipe variations from region to region and from cook to cook. Kung pao chicken is easily adaptable to locally available ingredients and customizable to each individual palate.

You can easily find most ingredients in your local grocery store, or find suitable substitutions.

It is very easy to make, and huge on flavor, two features I truly love about this recipe. So tonight, you can skip the Chinese takeout. This is how I like to make mine.

Let’s talk about how we make kung pao chicken, shall we?

Kung Pao Chicken in a pan with lots of chopped green onion

Kung Pao Chicken Ingredients

  • FOR THE CHICKEN MARINADE
  • Soy sauce
  • Rice wine (or use dry sherry)
  • Cornstarch
  • Boneless chicken, cut into bite-size pieces – use chicken breast, chicken thighs, or a combination.
  • FOR THE KUNG PAO SAUCE INGREDIENTS
  • Light soy sauce
  • Dark soy sauce
  • Chinese black vinegar (or use balsamic vinegar)
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Sesame oil
  • Honey
  • Ground Sichuan peppercorns (Sichuan pepper – use black pepper as a substitute)
  • Chili flakes
  • FOR THE KUNG PAO CHICKEN
  • Vegetable oil (or use sesame oil)
  • Dried Chinese peppers, whole (or use chili de arbol – see recipe notes)
  • Fresh chili peppers – I use jalapeno peppers, though you can use your favorites. If using bell pepper, only use 1 pepper.
  • Scallions (green onions)
  • Garlic
  • Roasted peanuts 
  • FOR GARNISH
  • Extra roasted peanuts, chopped scallions, spicy chili flakes

Kung Pao Chicken in a pan

How to Make Kung Pao Chicken – the Recipe Method

MARINATE THE CHICKEN

In a large bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, rice wine and cornstarch. Add the chicken pieces and toss to coat. Set aside for now. You can make your chicken marinade ahead of time and leave it in the refrigerator, covered, until you are ready to cook. This is great to get going in the morning so you can marinate until the evening.

Marinating chunks of chicken for making Kung Pao Chicken

MAKE THE KUNG PAO SAUCE

In a separate bowl, whisk together the light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, black vinegar, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, honey, Sichuan peppercorns and chili flakes. Set aside for now. 

Kung Pao Chicken sauce in a bowl

You can also make the kung pao sauce ahead of time and refrigerate, covered, until you’re ready to cook. Great time saver.

FOR THE KUNG PAO CHICKEN

Heat the vegetable oil to medium-high heat to high heat in a large pan or wok. Add the dried chilies and fresh chili peppers. Cook, stirring often, for 1 minute.

Vegetables in a hot pan

Add the chicken and stir fry for 3 minutes, or until the chicken is mostly cooked through. Be sure to stir vigorously.

Chicken and vegetables in a hot pan

Add the scallions and garlic. Stir fry for 1 minute.

Add the kung pao chicken sauce and peanuts and stir. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes, then remove from heat.

Simmering the Kung Pao Chicken in a pan with sauce

Garnish and serve. Best served with cooked rice or noodles.

Boom! Done! Your kung pao chicken is ready to serve. Looks wonderful, doesn’t it? I love the sauce, so shiny and huge on flavor. So easy to make, isn’t it? Extra chili flakes for me, please. 

Serving Kung Pao Chicken on a spoon

Recipe Tips & Notes

  • The Dried Peppers. The recipe calls for dried Chinese peppers, which can be found online or in Asian markets or a nearby Chinese grocery store. If you don’t have access or can’t find them, chile de arbol peppers are great here. Focus on smaller, brightly colored pods, not overly dark peppers, like ancho or guajillo, which would completely change the flavor of the dish. Skip the dried peppers altogether if you need to and focus on fresh peppers.
  • The Fresh Chili Peppers. I use jalapeno peppers or serrano peppers for extra heat, though they are not traditional. You can skip the fresh pods if you’d like, or use vibrant red Chinese peppers or other peppers available to you. Bird’s eye peppers or Thai peppers are great here for a nice touch of heat. Use a bell pepper for substance without the heat.
  • Szechuan Peppercorns. Szechuan peppercorns (aka Sichuan peppercorns) are an acquired taste, so keep this in mind if you have not tried them before. They are different from black peppercorns, with an almost floral taste described as lemony, perfumy, almost soapy to some palates. They are known for numbing the tongue and lips, and I love them, but it is easy to overdo.
  • Serving Kung Pao Chicken. You’ll mostly find kung pao chicken served with steamed white rice, though brown rice is good. I love it with stir fried rice or with prepared noodles for more of a noodle stir fry dish. Super tasty.

Kung Pao Chicken in a bowl with rice and peanuts

Buy Chinese Peppers Online

That’s it, my friends. I hope you enjoy this easy kung pao chicken recipe. It’s so delicious! I love this recipe. Let me know if you make it. I’d love to hear how it turned out for you. Keep it spicy!

Recommended Cookbooks

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.

Try Some of My Other Popular Chicken Recipes

Try Some of My Other Popular Recipes

Kung Pao Chicken in a bowl with rice

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.

Kung Pao Chicken in a pan
Print Recipe
5 from 4 votes

Kung Pao Chicken Recipe

This Kung Pao Chicken recipe is the ultimate stir fry with chunks of marinated chicken stir fried with peppers, scallions and peanuts and an easy but flavorful sauce.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Chinese
Keyword: chicken, hoisin, Sichuan, soy sauce, spicy
Servings: 4
Calories: 348kcal

Ingredients

FOR THE CHICKEN MARINADE

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine or use dry sherry
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 pound boneless chicken cut into bite-size pieces (use chicken breast, chicken thighs, or a combination)

FOR THE KUNG PAO CHICKEN SAUCE

  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar or use balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns (black pepper is an OK substitute)
  • 1 teaspoon chili flakes

FOR THE KUNG PAO CHICKEN

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or use sesame oil
  • 10 dried Chinese peppers whole (or use chili de arbol - see recipe notes)
  • 2-3 fresh chili peppers medium-sized, chopped (I use jalapeno peppers, though you can use your favorites. If using bell pepper, only use 1 pepper)
  • 4 scallions chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts

FOR GARNISH

  • Extra roasted peanuts, chopped scallions, spicy chili flakes

Instructions

MARINATE THE CHICKEN

  • In a large bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, rice wine and cornstarch. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Set aside.

MAKE THE KUNG PAO CHICKEN SAUCE

  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, black vinegar, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, honey, Sichuan peppercorns and chili flakes. Set aside.

FOR THE KUNG PAO CHICKEN

  • Heat the vegetable oil to medium-high heat to high heat in a large pan or wok. Add the dried chilies and fresh chili peppers. Cook, stirring often, for 1 minute.
  • Add the chicken and stir fry for 3 minutes, or until the chicken is mostly cooked through. Be sure to stir vigorously.
  • Add the scallions and garlic. Stir fry for 1 minute.
  • Add the kung pao chicken sauce and peanuts and stir. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes, then remove from heat.
  • Garnish and serve. Best served with cooked rice or noodles.

Notes

Calories estimated without rice or noodles.
The Dried Peppers. The recipe calls for dried Chinese peppers, which can be found online or in Asian markets or a nearby Chinese grocery store. If you don't have access or can't find them, chile de arbol peppers are great here. Focus on smaller, brightly colored pods, not overly dark peppers, like ancho or guajillo, which would completely change the flavor of the dish. Skip the dried peppers altogether if you need to and focus on fresh peppers.
The Fresh Chili Peppers. I use jalapeno peppers or serrano peppers for extra heat, though they are not traditional. You can skip the fresh pods if you'd like, or use vibrant red Chinese peppers or other peppers available to you. Bird's eye peppers or Thai peppers are great here for a nice touch of heat. Use a bell pepper for substance without the heat.

Nutrition

Calories: 348kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 32g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 73mg | Sodium: 1261mg | Potassium: 691mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 663IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 45mg | Iron: 2mg

 

8 comments

  1. 5 stars
    Best Kung Pao chicken recipe ever!! We are addicted to your Kung Pao chicken and must have it at least once a week. Thanks for another stellar recipe!

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Excellent, Tamara! Glad you enjoyed it! We love this one for sure.

  2. 5 stars
    This is one of my favorite dishes of all time. Great recipe!

    In the marinade, which soy sauce for you use, dark or light?

    Do you have a recipe for Hunan beef? I love that rich spicy garlic sauce… Mmmm… Mmmm!

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Thanks, Jason. Definitely a favorite around here. I use light soy sauce in the marinade, but both in the sauce. I do have a recipe for Hunan beef, but it’s not on the site yet. Hoping to get that on here soon! I appreciate it!

  3. 5 stars
    Very easy to make, a simple, quick marinade; and just a few other ingredients! The result? fireworks in the mouth. Thanks, dear Mike!

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Thanks, Jérémie! I always appreciate that you enjoy the recipes I share.

  4. 5 stars
    Thanks for soooo many great recipes. I’ve had several of yours already and this one looks as good as all the rest.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Thanks, Len. So good! We love this recipe for sure.

Recipe Rating




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.