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This Kung Pao Chicken recipe tastes just like the entrée at your favorite Chinese Restaurant but so easy you can make it right at home!
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Kung Pao Chicken is one of my favorite dishes and always my first choice anytime I go to out to eat. This easy kung pao chicken recipe comes together fast, so even when I don’t feel like leaving the house, I can enjoy my favorite Chinese takeout dish at home. Juicy chunks of chicken drenched in a spicy hot sauce that’s so full of flavor, with tender veggies served over rice. YUM! My family loves it too! We add lots of extra veggies for a wonderfully simple yet satisfying dinner any night of the week.
Ingredients in Kung Pao Chicken
Don’t be intimidated by this longer list of ingredients. There’s a little of this and a little of that, and you can switch out veggies for things you have on hand for different flavors of stir-fried goodness every time. Here’s what you can start with:
- Chicken – cut into chunks. I like using chicken breast, but you can use chicken thighs and breasts too. This recipe calls for about a pound.
- Chicken broth – any canned or boxed broth from the store works great. You could use water and chicken bouillon if that’s what you have in your pantry.
- Soy sauce – any kind works! Dark soy sauce, low-sodium, light soy sauce, whatever you have.
- Sesame oil – a little goes a long way with this oil, so just a few teaspoons is all you need.
- Vegetable oil – a light canola oil works best.
- Zucchini – one small veggie, chopped into bite size pieces.
- Red bell pepper – chopped. You can swap out yellow, orange or green pepper too.
- Garlic – about three cloves, chopped
- Cornstarch – dissolve four tablespoons into four teaspoons of cold water to thicken the sauce.
- Chile paste – I like to use three heaping tablespoons of this sauce, but you can use less if you want to ease up on the heat in the dish. You can find this at most grocery stores in the Asian foods aisle or on Amazon.
- White vinegar – if you have Chinese black vinegar or rice vinegar you can use that too!
- Brown sugar – gives the dish some much needed sweetness for the kiddos.
- Green onions – chopped
- Water chestnuts – this adds a delightful crunch to the recipe, but are completely optional
- Peanuts – two big handfuls ought to be enough.
- Red pepper flakes – just a pinch adds a good amount of eat and flavor.
Check the fridge. Do you have a handful of carrots you need to use up? Chop them up and throw them in this recipe! Try some of these other add-ins and make this a different stir-fry every time!
- Baby corn
- Green peppers
- Dried red chilies
- Balsamic vinegar
- Hoisin sauce
- Serving Kung Pao Chicken with rice is the perfect way to round out this dish. And if you’re cooking for a crowd, you definitely want to check out our post about the easy way to make rice for a large group here.
Try the Slow Cooker Version
If you want to make an easy slow cooker meal, just sauté the chicken and veggies over high heat for a minute or two, whisk the sauce ingredients together in a medium bowl and then throw it all in the slow cooker! This super easy method saves lots of time and tastes just as good! Plus, the smell of dinner hanging in the air when you get home is like heaven.
Frequently Asked Questions about this Recipe
These get confused quite often. Kung Pao is hot and spicy, whereas General Tso is sweeter. There are also no peanuts in General Tso Chicken, but are a staple in Kung Pao chicken.
If stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, you can enjoy leftovers for up to three days. Just microwave a portion on a plate and enjoy.
If you have kids who don’t love all the heat, cut back on the chile paste. Instead of three tablespoons, try just one. Don’t use dried chiles, or serve them on the side.
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How to Make Kung Pao Chicken
Kung Pao Chicken
- 1 lb. chicken cut into chunks
- 1/4 c. chicken broth
- 6 Tbsp. soy sauce
- 4 tsp. sesame oil divided
- 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1 small zucchini chopped
- 1 red bell pepper chopped
- 3 cloves chopped garlic
- 4 Tbsp. cornstarch dissolved in 4 tablespoons water
- 3 Tbsp chile paste heaping tablespoons, but use less if you don't want it spicy
- 3 tsp. distilled white vinegar
- 3 Tbsp. brown sugar
- 5 green onions chopped
- 1 can water chestnuts chopped (optional)
- 1/2 c peanuts 2 handfuls
- red pepper flakes to taste
- chicken broth to taste
- In a medium-sized bowl, combine 1 Tbsp. chicken broth, 1 Tbsp. soy sauce, 2 tsp. sesame oil and 1 Tbsp. cornstarch/water mixture and mix together. Add chicken pieces to mixture. Toss to coat. Cover bowl and place in refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
- Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet. Add zucchini and peppers and saute for a minute or so (don't let them get too soft or they will become soggy). Add garlic and saute another minute.
- In a small bowl, combine remaining broth, soy sauce, oil and cornstarch/water mixture. Stir in chili paste, vinegar and sugar.
- Add sauce mixture to skillet with the sauteed veggies. Add green onion, water chestnuts, peanuts, and red pepper flakes. Heat sauce slowly over medium heat.
- Remove chicken from marinade and saute in a medium skillet until meat is white and juices run clear.
- Add sauteed chicken to sauce and simmer together until sauce thickens. If the sauce is too thick, add a little bit of chicken broth a little at a time until sauce reaches desired thickness.
- If you want to make an easy slow cooker meal, just sauté the chicken and veggies over high heat for a minute or two, whisk the sauce ingredients together in a medium bowl and then throw it all in the slow cooker! This super easy method saves lots of time and tastes just as good!
- If stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, you can enjoy leftovers for up to three days. Just microwave a portion on a plate and enjoy.
- If you have kids who don’t love all the heat, cut back on the chile paste. Instead of three tablespoons, try just one. Don’t use dried chiles, or serve them on the side.
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I am on my way to buy some chopsticks because that is how I would like to eat this chicken dish. 🙂 It looks delicious and so easy to make – just what I need right now!
This is a favourite for me! Always a hit with the family as well. Thanks for the recipe!
This is such a great homemade takeout favorite that’s easy to make and delicious too.
This is a great one for families and freezer meal prep! What a great mix of spicy : sweet. Well done on recreating such a classic recipe.
Kung Pao chicken is one of my families favorites. This looks so good and I can see me having to double the recipe for my family. They are going to love this.
making it with the changes of drumsticks/ cubed chicken, 10 green onions/ 5 green onions, baked chicken 35 min. @ 425°/ frying it, canned chili peppers rinsed/ bell pepper and chili paste/ kung pao’s Thai chilis, pine nuts and minced raw peanuts/ roasted whole peanuts, and 1 hour marinating/ ~30 min.
absolutely delicious. However I did make changes based on what I had on hand. I diced onion, carrots, celery and red pepper into tiny cubes. I diced already cooked chicken breast into cubes. I combined all of the wet ingredients into a separate bowl, as well the cornstarch slurry in a seperate bowl. I fried the vegetables added chicken a few mins later and the wet mix and slurry. I suggest decreasing the brown sugar in half a little to sweet for Kung pao. Otherwise omg you will be blown away with this recipe!
Actually your suggestion in substitutes sounds a little bit healthier (carrot, celery, etc). I am toying around with carrots and Brussel sprouts (my boyfriend loves them and I am not a fan but I can eat when doctored up). Plus I can get rid of a few things that have been sitting (still good but you get tired of looking at it in the fridge already). Thank you for encouraging to go outside the box!
I’ve made this twice now and each time it was a HIT! Love, love, love it.
This was so great! Fantastic recipe. 🙂
This dish was delicious! Had a good amount of heat – just like Kung Pao should. I’m not sure if it tasted exactly like Kung Pao, but it had a similar flavor that I really enjoyed. I forgot to get scallions, so I skipped those. Did add in the water chestnuts – great addition! I’ve been looking for a make-at-home Kung Pao chicken recipe for years and finally found one that hits the spot. Will definitely be making again! But be warned – this does have some spice that I’m not sure everyone will like. Delicious!!!!
Oh my! This is one of my husband’s favorite meals but last time I searched online for a recipe it was a big failure, so I can’t wait to try this out. I know it has to be good like everything else I’ve tried from your site. 🙂