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 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 makes it 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

  • 1-1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dry sherry
  • 2 teaspoons corn starch
  • 1-1/2 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
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (use half the amount for a milder sauce)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/3 cup water

For the Stir-fry

  • 2-1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 5 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 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 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. 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. 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, 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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Reviews & Comments

  • Wow!! Really delicious . My mouth said “more, more, more” but my stomach said “burp no more room.”

    • — Suep on June 15, 2021
    • Reply
  • A very nice dish. My only substitute was using fresh ginger.

    • — Phyllis on June 12, 2021
    • Reply
  • Easy and so very tasty. Well rounded flavor. I added Chinese red peppers too.

    • — Shmuel Birnham on May 24, 2021
    • Reply
  • Made this for the 2nd time last night. My husband and I loved it! I increased the sauce amount about 50% and followed the rest exactly. Will be part of my regular rotation. I’m so happy I found your website Jen! Thanks for the recipe!

    • — Kim in Chicago on April 29, 2021
    • Reply
  • I don’t prefer white meat, but I had some, and this worked out. As others have said – if I did this again, I’d make a bit more of the sauce.

    I didn’t add any sugar, and didn’t notice anything amiss. There is already sugar in some of the other ingredients.

    • — happy on April 24, 2021
    • Reply
  • I made this last night. The only change I made to the recipe was doubling the sauce. It was fantastic – spicy and crunchy and flavorful. I think the leftovers tonight were even more delicious! Thanks for all of your great recipes!

    • — Frances on April 14, 2021
    • Reply
  • I made this tonight. It is soooo delicious. Thank you so much for your amazing recipes.

    • — Mary Lou on April 8, 2021
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  • My first time making this recipe so I was a little unsure but it turned out very good! My husband went on and on about how delicious it was! Thank you once again…we have enjoyed many of your tasty and easy to follow dishes.

    • — Sandra M Thompson on March 31, 2021
    • Reply
  • Not bad, but for me this was NOT “an easy dinner” as some others have commented. It takes lots of ingredients, chopping, measuring, and various steps to prepare and I found the results unexceptional.

    To be fair I’m not very familiar with Kung Pao chicken, I was just looking to try something new, so maybe I’m just not a fan.

    • — Nicole on March 29, 2021
    • Reply
  • This is an A double plus recipe. It ranks with your Sweet and Sour Shrimp at the top of my recipe file. This dish explodes with flavor. I used Sake instead of sherry, fresh ginger instead of ground, and brown sugar instead of white. Next time I will double the sauce. Hard to believe anything this easy to prepare tastes this good. I discovered you web site quite by accident searching for a shrimp recipe to prepare during lent and I am glad I did. I have learned a lot about cooking from you over the past two months. Thank you.

    • — Philip Cottell on March 29, 2021
    • Reply
  • As always another amazing recipe! This will become a staple for sure, it’s the perfect taste profile, and better than a restaurant! I added extra peppers, broccoli florets, and thinly sliced carrots, and doubled the sauce.

    • — Michel Proulx on March 7, 2021
    • Reply
  • This was amazing. We doubled the peppers by adding a mix of some orange, yelloew and green with the red and 4 stalks celery. Everything else stayed the same. Excellent recipe.
    Thank you

    • — Gail T Blue on March 7, 2021
    • Reply

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