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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 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

  • 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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