Kung Pao Chicken

Tested & Perfected Recipes

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

Kung pao chicken, the popular Chinese takeout dish of stir-fried chicken, peanuts and vegetables, is traditionally made with lots of specialty ingredients, like Sichuan peppercorns, Chinese black vinegar, Chinese rice wine, and whole dried red chilies. My goal is always to share recipes that are easy to shop for, so, in this Americanized version, I’ve replaced those hard-to-find-ingredients with staples from your neighborhood supermarket. It still has all the same spicy, sweet, and sour flavors of traditional kung pao chicken. What’s more, kids seem to love it (though they may nudge the veggies and peanuts to the side, sigh), which 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

  • We had this for dinner the other night and it was delicious. We didn’t have any dry sherry, so we googled what to substitute for it and used red wine vinegar. It was a great dish and we will have it again and again

    • — Shelley Thompson on January 9, 2021
    • Reply
  • This was a really good alternative to other recipes that required Chinese ingredients my local grocery store unfortunately didn’t have (i.e. Sichuan peppercorns and Shaoxing Wine). Definitely recommend. Thanks!

    • — Dani on December 31, 2020
    • Reply
  • thank you for the recipe. it was really good.

    • — Julie y on December 29, 2020
    • Reply
  • Can I use oyster sauce instead of hoisin?

    • — Beth on December 11, 2020
    • Reply
    • You could but it may give the dish the slightest fishy flavor. There are a number of homemade options you could use in place of the hoisin. If you scroll down on this page a bit, the BBQ and molasses combination sounds easy and good. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on December 11, 2020
      • Reply
  • Made this for about the 100th time earlier this week. So easy & delicious. Huge hit in our house and often requested by my daughter!

    • — meredith on December 10, 2020
    • Reply
  • This is delicious. For the first time my husband did not add a single spice, sauce, etc. Every flavor spot on. I am excited to make it again and check out more of your recipes. Thank you!

    • — Shannon Fogle on November 18, 2020
    • Reply
  • Absolutely loved this recipe! Not too salty, which is one of my gripes about restaurant food. I omitted celery and added half large zucchini shredded and a large handful of sugar snap peas. I didn’t have any peanuts so I tossed in some sesame seeds. I’ll definitely be making this recipe again.

    • — Shortee409 on November 4, 2020
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,

    I made this tonight for me and my wife. I followed your recipe exactly, with the exception of the dry sherry. I used apple cider vinegar in lieu of the dry sherry, which I didn’t have. It was absolutely amazing! Your recipes never disappoint.

    Thank you for another amazing recipe!

    Ray

    • — Ray Moore on October 14, 2020
    • Reply
  • OOOMMMGGG, I am never ordering Kung Pao takeout again. This recipe is everything!

    • — Anisa on October 11, 2020
    • Reply
    • Amazing recipe! My family loved it!

      • — Vlatka Puljic on January 14, 2021
      • Reply
  • Another great recipe Jenn! This recipe was very easy and delicious. I substituted rice vinegar for the sherry because that is what I had on hand and it worked out fine. I also made sushi rice to go with this dish and would highly recommend that.

    • — Karin Walker on October 5, 2020
    • Reply
  • This was better than we have ever had in a chinese restaurant loved it.

    • — Greg and Sherry Heiden on September 29, 2020
    • Reply
  • Wow! I knew your recipes were good but this was a crowd pleaser. Both my son and husband loved it!

    • — Sylvia on September 24, 2020
    • Reply
  • This is an amazing recipe . My husband & I really enjoy it. Have made it twice now & definitely a keeper. Love your recipes 👍👍.

    • — Jackie on September 3, 2020
    • Reply
  • Way too sweet. I would not use basalmic vinegar but regular red wine. It’s not spicy enough. I added a teaspoon or more of pepper flakes and 2T. Chili sauce with garlic sauce. Still it could use more.

    • — Cathy hall on August 25, 2020
    • Reply
  • I chanced upon your site while looking for NY-style cheesecake (I will try to make one soon using your recipe!). Didn’t know what to cook for dinner so I checked your savory recipes and found this. After quickly scanning the ingredients list, it turned out I have almost everything in our pantry (replaced chicken with fish since it’s been sitting in our freezer too long). It turned out amazingly well! I also replaced the veggies on this recipe with eggplant because my hubby hates anything related to onion and pepper 🙄. I was afraid that it will fail because of the substitutions but it worked out fine. Thank you so much for the step by step guide and for sharing this recipe!

    • — Christine on August 22, 2020
    • Reply
  • Easy and delicious.

    • — Mary on August 17, 2020
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn – I don’t have dry sherry. What would make a good substitute? Or can I simply leave it out altogether? LOVE your recipes – they never disappoint! Thanks in advance!

    • — Monica on August 2, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Monica, The best substitute would be Shaoxing rice wine; if you don’t have it, it’s fine to just leave it out. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on August 2, 2020
      • Reply
      • O.M.G. This was incredible!!! Definitely will be making this again – and again and again!

        • — Danielle Robert on December 10, 2020
        • Reply
  • Very good recipe, easy and delicious. Just as I like it, thank you, Jenn

    • — katarina on July 29, 2020
    • Reply
  • This was delicious. I think the cooking times for the peppers and chicken was too long. I sautéed both over high heat for two minutes. Hate celery so I left that out. Also added some Siracha to the marinade. Definitely will make again.

    • — Laurie on July 28, 2020
    • Reply
  • Another great recipe that the family loved. Lots of flavor and added a bit more red pepper because my family loves the heat. I served with Jasmine rice.

    • — Janet on July 23, 2020
    • Reply

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