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.

Chopsticks on a bowl of Kung Pao chicken with rice.

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.

Chopsticks on a bowl of Kung Pao chicken 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 loved this recipe. Very doable with easily availed of ingredients. I also liked stir frying the vegetables first, then the chicken later. I could better control how cooked I wanted all the ingredients.

    • — Jami on May 28, 2024
    • Reply
  • I had a premarinated pork loin and a bag of mixed veggies (mostly broccoli and carrots) and followed your sauce and cooking directions, turned out very well and lots of leftovers for tomorrow. I also used some regular and some ginger turmeric honey instead of sugar, and it was great.

    • — Mark on May 13, 2024
    • Reply
  • Yum! I followed this recipe almost perfectly, I used boneless skinless chicken thighs because that’s what I had on hand and I omitted the balsamic vinegar because I didn’t have any and it still turned out delicious. Will definitely make again. Even the picky eaters in my house liked it and went back for seconds.

    • — Claire on April 24, 2024
    • Reply
  • It’s so easy to make and so delicious – excellent recipe, thank you ❤️

    • — Julka on April 23, 2024
    • Reply
  • I was skeptical when I saw balsamic vinegar on the list of ingredients; I tried this recipe anyway and it really is a dead ringer for restaurant Kung Pao chicken. The only thing I changed was I used dark soy sauce instead of regular because I couldn’t find the other bottle anywhere. We loved it and I will make it again.

    • — Pati on April 21, 2024
    • Reply
  • Made this recipe tonight—it was delicious!! Followed the recipe exactly except added about a tablespoon of fresh minced ginger with the garlic and scallions and also cooked it in my wok. My husband is a huge fan of Asian food and he loved it. Will definitely keep this recipe in my rotation of favorite dishes!!

    • — Lynn Mathews on April 8, 2024
    • Reply

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