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

  • 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

  • Wow! This meal was a HIT with our family. I tripled the recipe for meal preps for the week and dinner tonight. Will definitely make this one again.

    • — Julie on August 29, 2022
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  • Another hit! I added some grated carrots and broccoli florets to spread the dish a little farther for my 4 hungry teens . Otherwise, followed exactly and was delicious!

    • — Sara on August 25, 2022
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  • Made this tonight for dinner. Wonderful!!! Hubby loved it and had seconds. We’re average eaters but had ‘healthy’ portions. There is a small portion left that we’ll probably fight over.
    Next time we’ll increase the pepper flakes to 3/4 tsp as we like a bit more heat.
    Home run, Jen!

    • — Laurie on August 24, 2022
    • Reply
  • Made this for my family tonight, and there was not a single bite left. The kids and hubby both loved it! My daughter said that it was way better than our favorite Chinese restaurant. Thanks for such an easy and delicious recipe!

    • — Angela P. on August 23, 2022
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  • Beautiful recipe. I made it last night, and I am looking forward to eat the leftover.. we had one pound of chicken for two, made the recipe as is, and add some cilantro on top…thank you…

    • — Lyse on July 22, 2022
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  • Just made this delicieus kung pao recipe. Only replaced the corn starch with corn flour. My family loved it. And that means something. I regularly try out different recipes. And this one is certainly one of the best! Thanks for sharing. Really deserves at least 5 stars.

    • — Marcel on June 20, 2022
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  • Jenn,
    We made this last night and it was amazing! I made it exactly as written on our Blackstone and it was perfect! It was better than takeout! Thanks for another tried and true recipe. Five stars.

    • — Tinalea Hamilton on June 14, 2022
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  • I made this last night. Family loved it! Prepped an hr or 2 ahead of cooking. Came together quickly, easily. The only change – I used chopped zucchini from my garden instead of celery and adjusted the pepper heat. I’ve been tweaking another recipe for a couple of years but this is now my home favorite. Thanks Jenn!

    • — Jude on June 4, 2022
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  • Another great recipe. Adapted recipe slightly to make it gluten free by using gluten free soy sauce and hoisin sauce.

    • — Julie on May 22, 2022
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  • Fantastic!

    • — Susan on May 19, 2022
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  • Wish I had taken a photo – it was truly wonderful and looked just like yours! Thanks for all your inspiring recipes👏👏👏

    • — Pam Gibson on May 9, 2022
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  • This was quite good, very pretty with the red peppers and celery. I made it exactly as written, next time I may add more heat.

    • — Martha Sperling on April 7, 2022
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  • This was EXCELLENT, despite having to use Oyster sauce instead of Hoisin since the three supermarkets in my neighborhood didn’t carry it. Kids loved it too. Will definitely make again. Greetings from Munich, Germany

    • — Charlotte on March 12, 2022
    • Reply
  • AMAZING!! I love all your recipes, but this one was my most recent and so delicious with a hint of a kick. As an added note: I did have to freeze this recipe and therefore, I did not add the peanuts during cooking. After unfreezing and heating up, I then added the peanuts. This recipe is just what I wanted and everyone loved it. Thank you so much for yet another amazing recipe of yours and look forward to always seeing more.

    • — Victoria on March 9, 2022
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  • Just made this. Added hot sauce instead of chili flakes and added zucchini, but otherwise followed the recipe, and it tasted perfect. Thank you!

    • — Yasmin on February 21, 2022
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  • So flavourful and delicious! I actually tripled the sauce because I had more chicken and added a few more veggies along with fresh ginger. This tastes so much better than bottled stir fry sauce. Will definitely be making this again! Thanks Jenn for another great recipe!

    • — Linda on February 7, 2022
    • Reply
  • It’s a keeper. Used dried thai bird chilies rather than the pepper flakes …I like the flavor/burn more. The family loved it. Thanks for sharing!
    Roberto

    • — Roberto on February 5, 2022
    • Reply
  • Delicious. Next time I will adjust slightly to my preferential palate by adding fresh ginger (heavenly smell and sweet taste) but this recipe was truly outstanding as you had provided. I feel like I am a pretty good cook !

    • — Maggie on January 29, 2022
    • Reply
  • I just made this dish for dinner. I’m not sure what happened but it came out far too salty. I did double the marinade, as I had nearly two pounds of chicken. I also double the sauce as recommended. I’m not sure whether I will make it again. If I so, I’ll probably use less soy sauce and perhaps a splash of acid, perhaps more balsamic vinegar, or maybe a little lemon juice to balance out the saltiness.

    • — Tai on January 11, 2022
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  • I made this recipe. There was not enough flavor or sauce for the dish. The balsamic vinegar gave it an unusual taste that we did not care for. It was not authentic for us. I’ll stick to going to authentic ethnic people for recipes. 🙁

    • — Ms. Desi on January 8, 2022
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  • This looks and sounds delicious, can’t wait to try it. But please, Jennifer…do not use vegetable oil in your recipes! It is a highly toxic oil. (Google it!) You can use avocado oil for high heat.

    • — Melanie Riley on January 6, 2022
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  • Was wondering what could be used in place of the sherry. Once I know that I can make this great sounding dish . . . and all the positive comments, well, I can’t wait to make it.

    • — Nancy on January 6, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Nancy, The best substitute is Shaoxing rice wine; if you don’t have it, it’s fine to just leave it out. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on January 6, 2022
      • Reply
  • Absolutely love Jenn’s recipes, I use them all the time! This one was absolutely fabulous!!!!! I omitted the celery and used pak choi instead, and also added some onions and fresh ginger And crispy chilli oil in the sauce. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED THESE ADJUSTMENTS. But 5/5 would definitely make again! Thanks so much!!

    • — Jasmyn on December 16, 2021
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  • Delicious

    • — Trisha on November 15, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hey, Would cocktail peanuts work in a pinch?

    • — Trisha Esnard on November 15, 2021
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    • Hi Trisha, I’m assuming cocktail peanuts are salted? If so, I’d omit the salt from the stir fry and then add it to taste when serving. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on November 16, 2021
      • Reply
  • This was vey good and had so much flavor. Thank you!

    • — Jennifer on November 10, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sorry I forgot to rate this

      • — Jennifer on November 10, 2021
      • Reply
  • Excellent recipe, had to make a couple substitutions but still came out great.

    • — Bill Packer on November 5, 2021
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  • Quickly did the prep this morning which made it easy to put it all together this evening! Nice! I doubled the sauce as others suggested…..perfect! I accidently doubled the marinade and made a note not to do that again…..the chicken had a slight ‘twang’….but was still so delicious!! Also, made the Basmati Rice recipe and couldn’t have been more pleased…..my rice was actually fluffy and so easy to serve from the bowl…..not clumpy!! Both recipes are in my ‘go to’ file now! Thank you, Chef Jenn, for making this so easy!

    • — Barbara K on October 29, 2021
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  • This was so…. much better than takeout. Very easy to put together and tasty. Thanks Jenn for another great recipe.

    • — Diane P. on October 13, 2021
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  • I love this dish! It’s so flavorful and satisfying. I’m wondering, have you ever tried to freeze it? I would it doesn’t work well as a make-ahead dish, but I haven’t tried it and am curious to know if you have. Thanks!

    • — Janelle on October 4, 2021
    • Reply
    • So glad you like it, Janelle! I’ve never frozen this so I can’t say from experience, but it doesn’t have any ingredients in it that I think would be problematic to freeze so I think it’s worth a try (but keep in mind that it’s probably much better fresh). Please LMK how it comes out if you freeze and reheat it!

      • — Jenn on October 6, 2021
      • Reply
      • Did it! Made it, froze it, and reheated; and it was great. Next time, I’ll leave out the nuts and add them after reheating. They’re the one ingredient that didn’t reheat well.

        • — Janelle on October 10, 2021
        • Reply
        • Happy to hear it reheated nicely — thanks for taking the time to report back!

          • — Jenn on October 11, 2021
          • Reply
  • I’m in the UK and get really confused with red pepper flakes used in American cooking. I presume it’s bell pepper flakes and not red chilli pepper flakes but you say to lessen the amount if you don’t want it too spicy. Help!

    • — Jan Rutledge on September 9, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Jan, They are red chili pepper flakes (and they are hot!).

      • — Jenn on September 9, 2021
      • Reply
  • This is the best stir fry recipe ever! I added diced carrots and white onion to get more veggies packed in and used cashews for an extra splurge. Wow! I don’t think I can ever go back to take out versions. It’s virtually foolproof and highly versatile.

    • — Sandy on September 5, 2021
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  • I like that it is prepared with widely available ingredients.

    • — Roger on September 2, 2021
    • Reply
  • This is the first time I was successful in making Chinese dish. I followed the recipe as is except I used Tamari instead of soy sauce and didn’t add any salt. Everyone loved it.

    • — Natalie D on August 30, 2021
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  • Wow!! Really delicious . My mouth said “more, more, more” but my stomach said “burp no more room.”

    • — Suep on June 15, 2021
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  • 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
    • Reply
  • 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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