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Kung Pao Chicken

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Kung Pao chicken, a classic Chinese takeout dish of stir-fried chicken, peanuts, and vegetables, is easy to make at home.

Kung Pao Chicken

Kung pao chicken is a popular Chinese restaurant dish of stir-fried chicken, peanuts and vegetables. It’s traditionally made with specialty ingredients, like Sichuan peppercorns, Chinese black vinegar, Chinese rice wine, and whole dried red chilies. This Americanized version replaces those hard-to-find-ingredients with staples from your neighborhood supermarket. It has all the same spicy, sweet, and sour appeal of traditional kung pao chicken, and it makes a really nice weeknight dinner with a side of rice.

What you’ll need to Make Kung Pao Chicken

ingredients for kung pao chicken

How to Make Kung Pao Chicken

As with any stir-fry, you want to do all of your prep ahead of time because the cooking goes very quickly.

Since the chicken needs to marinate for 15 minutes, get that started first. In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, dry sherry, and cornstarch until the cornstarch is dissolved. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

marinating kung pao chicken

Meanwhile, chop the bell pepper, celery, scallions, and garlic.

mise en place for kung pao chicken

In another medium bowl, prepare the sauce by whisking together all of the sauce ingredients: balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, sugar, cornstarch, red pepper flakes, ground ginger, and water.

sauce for kung pao chicken

Heat a large nonstick skillet over high heat until very hot. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and swirl to coat. Add the bell pepper, celery, and salt.

sauteing veggies for kung pao chicken

Cook, stirring frequently, until slightly softened and starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a large bowl and set aside.

sauteing veggies for kung pao chicken

Add an additional 1/2 tablespoon of oil to the pan and set over high heat. Add half of the chicken (it’s important not to crowd the pan) and brown on one side, about 1-1/2 minutes.

searing chicken for kung pao chicken

Turn the chicken pieces and continue cooking for about 1-1/2 minutes more, or until the chicken is just cooked through. Transfer the chicken to the bowl with the peppers and celery. Add another 1/2 tablespoon of oil to the pan. Add the remaining chicken and cook until golden on one side, about 1-1/2 minutes.

searing chicken for kung pao chicken

Turn the chicken pieces over and cook for 1 minute. Add 1/2 tablespoon more oil to the pan, along with the garlic and scallions.

adding scallions and garlic for kung pao chicken

Cook, stirring with the chicken, for about 30 seconds more.

cooking scallions and garlic for kung pao chicken

Add the reserved vegetables and reserved chicken to the pan, along with the sauce.

cooking kung pao chicken

Reduce the heat to low. Cook until the chicken and vegetables are warmed through and the sauce is thickened, about 30 seconds.

adding peanuts to kung pao chicken

Stir in the nuts. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary, and serve with rice.

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Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao chicken, a classic Chinese takeout dish of stir-fried chicken, peanuts, and vegetables, is easy to make at home.

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 10 Minutes
Total Time: 30 Minutes

Ingredients

For the Marinade

  • 1½ tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dry sherry
  • 2 teaspoons corn starch
  • 1½ lb chicken tenderloins, cut into 1-in pieces

For the Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce, best quality such as Kikkoman or Lee Kum Kee
  • 1 tablespoon Asian/toasted sesame oil
  • 1½ tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (use half the amount for a milder sauce)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ⅓ cup water

For the Stir-fry

  • 2½ tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 5 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • ⅓ cup whole roasted unsalted peanuts or cashews

Instructions

  1. Marinate the chicken: In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, dry sherry, and cornstarch until the cornstarch is dissolved. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Prepare the sauce: In another medium bowl, whisk together all of the sauce ingredients until the cornstarch is dissolved (it can stick to the bottom of the bowl so be sure to scrape it up).
  3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over high heat until very hot. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and swirl to coat. Add the bell pepper, celery, and salt and cook, stirring frequently, until slightly softened and starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a large bowl and set aside.
  4. Add an additional ½ tablespoon of oil to the pan and set over high heat. Add half of the chicken (it's important not to crowd the pan) and brown on one side, about 1½ minutes. Turn the chicken pieces and continue cooking for about 1½ minutes more, or until the chicken is just cooked through. Transfer the chicken to the bowl with the peppers and celery. Add another ½ tablespoon of oil to the pan. Add the remaining chicken and cook until golden on one side, about 1½ minutes. Turn the chicken pieces over and cook for 1 minute. Add ½ tablespoon more oil to the pan, along with the garlic and scallions, and cook, stirring with the chicken, for about 30 seconds more.
  5. Add the reserved vegetables and reserved chicken to the pan, along with the sauce. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the chicken and vegetables are warmed through and the sauce is thickened, about 30 seconds. Stir in the nuts. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary, and serve. (Note: the sauce will thicken as it sits; thin it with a few tablespoons of water, if necessary.)

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (4 servings)
  • Calories: 692
  • Fat: 45 g
  • Saturated fat: 7 g
  • Carbohydrates: 42 g
  • Sugar: 10 g
  • Fiber: 5 g
  • Protein: 31 g
  • Sodium: 1639 mg
  • Cholesterol: 70 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

Gluten-Free Adaptable Note

To the best of my knowledge, all of the ingredients used in this recipe are gluten-free or widely available in gluten-free versions. There is hidden gluten in many foods; if you're following a gluten-free diet or cooking for someone with gluten allergies, always read the labels of your ingredients to verify that they are gluten-free.

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Comments

  • I made this for a Chinese new year lunch today and everyone loved it!

    • — Linda Schwab on February 10, 2024
    • Reply
  • This dish was fantastic, and the recipe was easy to follow and quick to prepare for a weeknight meal. Based on comments from other reviewers, I cut the sugar down from 1.5 to 1 Tblsp but otherwise followed the recipe exactly. Served with a side of brown rice. Delicious! Will make again.

    • — Terena G on February 10, 2024
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  • Always intimidated by Chinese cooking due to cookware, high heat, and speed of cooking.
    NOT this time, you made it doable and so delicious! Thank you!!! 🙂

    • — Ellen on January 22, 2024
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  • I made this in my new wok–the first batch of chicken I cooked without touching, and then it stuck when i went to flip it—the 2nd batch of chicken i ‘stir fried’ which i thought was better as it didnt get as crispy, and i was able to cook until I was more confident it was cooked through, without burning the outside.
    Will definitely make again, but thinking about doubling the sauce (extra to put on our sides of steamed broccoli and rice!) and possibly doubling the peppers & celery as well
    All, in all, thanks for the confidence and technique to make chinese food at home!

    • — Raquel on January 22, 2024
    • Reply
  • I made this tonight. Didn’t have Dry Sherry and someone said to substitute with Apple Cider Vinegar- which I did. The final taste was way too full of a vinegar taste which I didn’t like at all. The concept of this meal is definitely good but don’t use vinegar as a substitute. The balsamic vinegar may have added to the bad taste at the end too. Not sure I would use this recipe again without all the original recipe ingredients.

    • — Angela Cowardin on January 21, 2024
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  • Super easy, super good.

    Made it for “date night” (I always cook and I always use a new recipe – many of which come from this site) and it was outstanding.

    • — Stan on December 10, 2023
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  • Wow! I was skeptical but this recipe is awesome. Didn’t have hoisin so I used oyster sauce. Also used roasted cashews. Did it all in a wok over extreme flame. Ten times better than any good Chinese restaurant around here.

    • — Kevin Schoeler on November 30, 2023
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  • Pretty good, but a little sweet for me. I would leave out the sugar next time since the balsamic is already sweet. I added some smoked paprika because I was missing the smokiness from those little peppers in kung pao. Appreciate the recipe with ingredients I already have around the house!

    • — Molly on November 30, 2023
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  • Very good recipe! I added broccoli, fresh ginger and used chicken thighs. Would make again!

    • — Nancy Powell on November 27, 2023
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  • Straightforward & delicious. Good bang for your buck.
    I added some whole dried chilli (fried separately before the chicken stage in order to improve their flavour release), & then added back in with the sauce & veggies.
    Made it with pork & was a winner.

    • — Edward Kennedy on November 10, 2023
    • Reply
  • This is delicious and the chicken is so soft! We loved it and my husband said it was like going to a Chinese Restaurant! I did add a thinly sliced carrot as wanted more veg and thought my kids would like carrot more than celery and pepper. Definitely a keeper!

    • — Vanessa on October 29, 2023
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  • My family absolutely loves this recipe! We have adapted it to be Gluten Free and it’s ALWAYS a hit!

    • — Shannon Craft on October 23, 2023
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  • I have made your kung pao chicken numerous times. My family loves it. My question is why do you use balsamic vinegar in your recipe.

    • — Lila on October 20, 2023
    • Reply
    • Glad you like it! It’s the closest substitute for Chinese black vinegar, which can be difficult to find in many supermarkets.

      • — Jenn on October 20, 2023
      • Reply
  • Well mixed reviews here. Not sure if it is the hoisin or the balsamic but it did smell vinegary and I think the hoisin gave it an aftertaste. I followed the recipe exactly and sort of liked it but not sure I will make it again. Someone suggested leave out the hoisin so might be what I can try. It was easy and quick to make but I need to figure out what is in the sauce that is not working for us. Thank you for your recipes. Have made several with excellent results!

    • — JuLee on October 8, 2023
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    • Same here, used fresh chopped ginger, consistency good, attractive dish but something didn’t work for us. I do like many of Jen’s recipes usually with good results.

      • — Francesca McAndrew on December 3, 2023
      • Reply
  • Amazing recipe!! Family loved it so much. Easy to follow and some things can be prepped in advance (I marinated the chicken, made the sauce and prepped the garlic and ginger ahead). Thanks so much for sharing this recipe!

    • — Sarah on October 2, 2023
    • Reply
  • This was terrible !!! I’m a chef and I thought let’s try this . DON’T !!!
    It ended up in the trash . Balsamic vinegar in Asian ??? Um no! .
    Bad on every level 🤮

    • — Sam on September 5, 2023
    • Reply
    • Weird that us non-chefs, who follow the ingredient list and instructions, have this recipe turn out great with delicious flavour 😂

      • — Amelia on October 2, 2023
      • Reply
  • I made this as written except I did add extra peanuts. It was not complicated at all and I had all the ingredients on hand. It was delicious and I highly recommend. I wouldn’t change a thing!!

    • — Sally on August 23, 2023
    • Reply
  • So delicious! Will definitely make again!

    • — Sara on August 13, 2023
    • Reply
  • This recipe is great! I cooked this last weekend for my husband and I, not being as confident as I normally am when cooking. What a surprise for us both. My husband said it was amazing! Thank you, and I look forward to cooking more of your recipes.

    • — Cendie Fawcett on August 13, 2023
    • Reply
  • This is my go to recipe for Kung Pao Chicken. I double the sauce because we like it saucy. It is perfect and better than the restaurant. Sometimes I have to substitute ingredients but it still comes out good.
    Thank you so much!

    • — G on July 8, 2023
    • Reply
  • Jenn,
    As you know, I am already a huge fan of yours. My husband and I made this recipe last night for the second time. We love it – easy, amazing flavor and leftovers are great too! And, it is gluten free – I made it with Tamari. Thank you, as aways.
    Nancy Jacob from Laurel NY

    • — Nancy Jacob on July 4, 2023
    • Reply
  • This is the best Kung Pao chicken! My husband likes it better than the one from the Chinese restaurant 😉

    • — Joanne on June 26, 2023
    • Reply
  • Loved it, easy to follow and tasted fab!!!!!

    • — Marika on June 24, 2023
    • Reply
    • This was really good. The only thing I did differently was subbed fresh ginger (1/2 tsp) for the ginger powder. I also added a very coarsely chopped yellow onion in addition to the green onion. Because we love onions and it felt right to add them and I’m glad I did. Otherwise, it was made as written. The prep time is understated like most any other recipe out there. It took about 35 minutes or so.

      Next time we’re going to double the sauce to make it saucier to put over hot jasmine rice. Thank you for a great and very tasty dish. Also relatively easy.

      • — Gwyn L on June 25, 2023
      • Reply
  • Turned out great! I substituted red wine vinegar for sherry wine. I am very sensitive to the taste of sesame oil so I only added about a 1/2 teaspoon then added additional hoisin, sou sauce and sugar as it was over powering. I also added chili garlic sauce. Turned out yummy! Will make it again

    • — Kristina on June 11, 2023
    • Reply
  • Excellent recipe, came out really well, thank you so much

    • — Jill C on June 10, 2023
    • Reply
  • Made this recipe with a couple of deletions/substitutions and it came out outstanding. I didn’t have the wine, so I simply deleted it. We don’t drink and rarely cook with wine so I went without. I had no hoisin sauce, so I substituted Sweet Baby Ray’s bbq sauce. For veggies I used regular onion, chopped up some of those sweet snacking peppers, celery, garlic, and green beans. Instead of red pepper flakes, I ground up some dried arbol chiles we had in the pantry. Finally, I replaced the peanuts with roasted salted almonds. Success! So good!

    • — Eric Nelson on May 28, 2023
    • Reply
  • My 13 year old (picky) son asked me to buy Kung Pao Chicken because he saw a video on Tik Tok. I suggested that I could make it instead and he said “it better be good”. Well it definitely was! Everyone (besides my daughter who doesn’t eat meat) in my household loved this, including me! I will be making this again! I am glad that I doubled the recipe as I am eating leftovers for lunch! Thank you so much!

    • — Katelyn on May 23, 2023
    • Reply
  • This is not good. I followed the recipe without any substitutions, but I definitely will not make this again. It smells like balsamic vinegar and I can make regular chicken that taste better than this horrific dish.

    • — Nannette on May 17, 2023
    • Reply
  • Hi Jen, another successful recipe! Love your recipes, always come out great! Made this today, everyone loved it,definitely a keeper, but then again all your recipes are! Thanks!

    • — Hiba on May 10, 2023
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn! Could you please recommend a non-alcoholic substitute for dry sherry? Or should I just omit it? Thank you

    • — Maria on April 25, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Maria, You can omit it — the dish will still be good. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on April 25, 2023
      • Reply
    • I used apple cider vinegar and it turned out amazing!

      • — Katelyn on May 23, 2023
      • Reply
  • The sauce should 1.5 teaspoons sugar not 1.5 tablespoons

    • — Roger on April 22, 2023
    • Reply
  • I liked this, but did not love it. With the ingredients, I was expecting more flavor. Found it bland.

    • — Nancy on March 24, 2023
    • Reply
    • Update: Ate leftovers tonight. More flavorful and a little spicier. A good make ahead dish.

      • — Nancy on March 25, 2023
      • Reply
  • Awesome recipe! will be a new favorite on rotation thank you!

    • — Natalie on March 11, 2023
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    • This was a fantastic recipe. Much better than others I’ve tried. A definite keeper.

      • — JoAnn Black on April 23, 2023
      • Reply
  • Dry Sherry is not in the ingredient list. Can anyone tell me how much to use?

    • — Alisa Macht on March 5, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Alisa, sounds like you just overlooked it (it’s under the soy sauce in the ingredient list). You’ll need 1 tablespoon. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on March 6, 2023
      • Reply
  • Easy and one of my favorites, thank you!

    • — Rich on February 25, 2023
    • Reply
  • Wonderful! I”d like to use dried whole red chilis like I”ve had in restaurants. How would you incorporate them in cooking this dish? Thanks!

    • — Martha Connors on February 9, 2023
    • Reply
  • Very tasty and very easy to make will repeat

    • — Leslie V on January 27, 2023
    • Reply
  • I’ve made this dish many times for my family and it’s always great! I have added other vegetables individually on occasion(bokchoy, spinach, broccolini), sometimes I didn’t have celery, and it’s tasty no matter what. I have also made it with both shrimp and chicken. I have used Japanese Sake in place of the cooking sherry with great success.

    • — Rachel on January 19, 2023
    • Reply
  • I have made this many times, it’s become a staple in our house that makes everybody happy. I usually have everything on hand except for the celery and those times I cut the stalk off broccoli and cook it as if it is celery.

    I have started using this chicken marinade from this recipe in my other Asian recipes because it works so well at getting the restaurant style mouth feel. Thanks for another great recipe!

    • — Samantha Saunders on January 16, 2023
    • Reply
  • Fairly easy recipe to follow. Tastes pretty good even with my low skill cooking. Used a Chardonnay instead of cooking Sherry but would not repeat or recommend the same substitution to others. Next time I’ll try with real Sherry and update rating accordingly.

    • — Steven on January 15, 2023
    • Reply
    • Thanks for the warning but note that Jenn uses real Sherry, NOT cooking sherry. Very important to use the real thing. Any “cooking” wine is full of sodium and tastes terrible!

      • — Tory on January 26, 2023
      • Reply
  • I have made this a number of times, one of my favorite meals. I add carrots, yellow onion and mushrooms along with the celery and bell peppers. I double the sauce. Thank you for this wonderful recipe.

    • — Bev Power on January 9, 2023
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,

    I’d like to double this recipe. I have the same all-clad nonstick pan but I’m afraid it won’t hold everything. I have a 13” cast iron that should hold but not sure if it would change the flavor or cooking time. Please let me know if you have any suggestions. Thank you so much for your amazing recipes and generous tips! ♥️

    • — Oleda on January 6, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Oleda, it should be fine to use the cast iron, and won’t impact flavor or cooking time. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on January 7, 2023
      • Reply
      • I have made this many times, it’s become a staple in our house that makes everybody happy. I usually have everything on hand except for the celery and those times I cut the stalk off broccoli and cook it as if it is celery.

        I have started using this chicken marinade from this recipe in my other Asian recipes because it works so well at getting the restaurant style mouth feel. Thanks for another great recipe!

        • — Samantha Saunders on January 16, 2023
        • Reply
  • I made this recipe the other night and it was a huge hit! I loved making the sauce instead of a pre-made bottled sauce. The flavors were exceptional! Very easy to follow recipe. I will be making this again. In fact, I’m looking at your other recipes for dinner ideas tonight. I want to thank you for sharing your talent!

    • — Cindy on December 7, 2022
    • Reply
  • REALLY TASTY…LOVED THIS RECIPE.

    • — KATE on November 25, 2022
    • Reply
  • Made this tonight – massive hit. Swapped chicken for tofu and it was vegan, no other substitutes required.
    Lots of Asian cooking calls for random ingredients but I had everything in my cupboard. Absolute winner

    • — Kirsty on November 17, 2022
    • Reply
  • Another awesome recipe! Thanks, Jenn!

    • — Miranda on November 9, 2022
    • Reply
  • This is a fabulous recipe; one of my husbands favorites! Colorful and delicious.

    • — Paula Sklazeski on October 31, 2022
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, would it be ok to marinate the chicken for a few hours in advance? Or is it better to marinate just before cooking? Thanks for your help 🙂

    • — Mel on October 24, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Mel, I’m concerned that the soy sauce will make the chicken taste too salty — sorry!

      • — Jenn on October 24, 2022
      • Reply
  • Can this be made a day in advance and reheated?

    • — laura on October 18, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Laura, I think this is best if cooked right before serving, but Chinese food reheats well so you could make it all ahead and reheat it when you’re ready to serve. Another option is to have everything chopped and prepped and just quickly cook it right before serving. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on October 19, 2022
      • Reply
    • Hi Laura, when I make this I am the only one who eats it, husband a meat and potato guy, I add carrot, yellow onion and mushrooms to the celery and peppers, I love lots of veggies. I also double the sauce and always reheat the veggies and sauce for leftovers the next day and the day after that. Love this recipe, I make new Basmati rice for the leftovers and is as tasty as the first day.

      • — Bev Power on January 9, 2023
      • Reply

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