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. A delicious and family-friendly weeknight dinner.

kung pao chicken

Authentic Kung Pao Chicken — the classic Chinese takeout dish of stir-fried chicken, peanuts, and vegetables — calls for many specialty ingredients, like Sichuan peppercorns, Chinese black vinegar, Chinese rice wine, and whole dried red chilies.

My Americanized version replaces these hard-to-find-ingredients with staples from your neighborhood supermarket, so this recipe is not only easy to shop for, but also easy to make. It still has the same salty, spicy, sweet, and sour flavors of the restaurant version, yet it’s so much better for you. 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 family 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.

kung pao chicken in serving bowl 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. A delicious and family-friendly weeknight dinner.

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 10 Minutes
Total Time: 30 Minutes

Ingredients

For the Marinade

  • 1-1/2 tablespoons soy sauce (use gluten-free if needed)
  • 1 tablespoon dry sherry
  • 2 teaspoons corn starch
  • 1-1/2 lb chicken tenderloins, cut into bite-sized cubes (about 1 inch, no larger)

For the Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (use gluten-free if necessary)
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce (use gluten-free if necessary)
  • 1 tablespoon Asian 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.

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.

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Reviews & Comments

  • Again, another incredible recipe from Once Upon a Chef. Following the recipe exactly and it was absolutely delicious. Perfect flavor, no need to change a thing. I did add some broccoli florets and as another reviewer suggested steaming first. Next time I will not steam as the broccoli was too “soggy” when added to the sauce

    • — carol oneill on May 24, 2019
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  • Better than take out! I substituted asparagus for the celery and it still turned out great. I will definitely make this again . . . and again.

    • — Alyssa on May 9, 2019
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  • Jenn your recipes are amazing! I especially like the tried and perfected.
    If it’s possible, could you put the recipe instructions and the ingredients on one view.
    I’ve used it on another recipe site and it makes cooking so easy. Without a doubt you are the best recipe site out there. This change would make you so much better then all the rest. Cheers Wayne

    • — wayne kinsella on April 27, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Wayne, So glad you enjoy the recipes! It sounds like you are just looking at the portion of the page that has the pictures with some instructions underneath. If you scroll down a bit to under the pictures, you’ll find the full recipe. Alternatively, at the very top of the page, to the right of the recipe name, you’ll see an icon that looks like a notepad – if you click on that, it will take you directly to the recipe. Hope that clarifies! 🙂

      • — Jenn on April 29, 2019
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  • This was very easy to make. If you know you will have leftovers before adding cashews, divide in half and only add cashews to one half. When you reheat the leftovers add the cashews, this way they won’t get soggy. Also if you like extra sauce on your rice make a double recipe. I’m really not a big chicken eater but this was wonderful. I have made it 2 weeks in a row. Also very good with noodles instead of rice.

    • — Karen Kosec on April 11, 2019
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  • Thank you so much for your quick response as to substitutions for the Hoisin sauce. I had tried googling but didn’t find any good subs. I used the BBQ sauce minus the pinch of Chinese 5 Spice (since I didn’t have that) your search turned up. It was delicious. If anyone is worrying about the heat of the dish, it’s really a rather mild version – I’m the one in my family that “can’t take the heat” lol, but it wasn’t too hot at all for me. I will be making this again and again (like I do your Chipotle Lime Corn Salad!)

    • — Timaree on March 7, 2019
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    • So glad you enjoyed it, Timaree – thanks for the follow-up! 🙂

      • — Jenn on March 8, 2019
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  • Hi Jen! What are your thoughts on adding vegetables to this dish? Broccoli/carrots/cauliflower? Saute or steam and then add?

    • — Nader Jazayeri on March 7, 2019
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    • Yes and yes!

      • — Jenn on March 7, 2019
      • Reply
  • I made it as directed but as with all recipes, I had to make 1.5 times the amount to ensure there was enough to satisfy the appetite of two 15 year old boys. All recipes need a teen boy stomach calculator. They loved it and it and as with many of your recipes, it will be a regular in the rotation.

    • — Lisa on March 2, 2019
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  • Can you eliminate the sugar for this recipe?

    • — Mary on February 1, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Mary, I think the sugar helps to balance out the other flavors in the sauce – if possible, I’d just reduce it instead of completely omitting it. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on February 1, 2019
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  • This is phenomenal! Even if celery isn’t necessarily your thing, try it in this dish, as it really takes on the flavor of the delicious sauce, and adds a wonderful crunch to every bite. I doubled the amount of the sauce-used about 2/3t. red pepper flakes, and the amount of veggies (yep, even the scallions and garlic), but kept with 1.5 LBS of chicken. Set the timer on my phone to a minute and thirty seconds and dared to cook the chicken at high heat as directed. Perfect. When I got to the stage of adding the sauce, it hit the pan and thickened up within seconds beautifully. The sauce is not too sweet, not too salty, and for us, pleasantly spicy with the amount of pepper flakes I used. Served it over plain old long grain rice because that’s what I had in the house. The complexity of the flavors is amazing. Thank you Jenn for another outstanding dinner. You have transformed our family dinners. You get the golden buzzer ( I think that’s what it’s called on AGT) for this one!

    • — Mary M. on February 1, 2019
    • Reply
  • Hi. We love your recipes! I am wondering if you have any tips for doing this ahead of time? I would love to use it for a dinner party. Thanks!

    • — Kate on January 23, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Kate, I really think this is best if made right before serving, but Chinese food reheats nicely so you could make it all ahead and reheat before sitting down to eat. Another option is to have everything chopped and prepped and just quickly cook it immediately before serving. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on January 25, 2019
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  • Love it! Turned out excellent.

    • — Olga on January 5, 2019
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  • My husband and I prefer to make Chinese recipes at home; this recipe for Kung Pao Chicken had super flavor and honest ingredients. I would not change a thing!

    • — Gemma Jablonski on December 20, 2018
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  • Delicious! Flavorful and the chicken is so tender. I will be making this again and again.

    • — Laurie R on December 17, 2018
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  • Very tasty! Yet another great recipe. Thank you. The only variation I did was to add thin strips of carrot plus used Maggi Original Seasoning Sauce instead of soy as it has a ‘sharper’ flavour.

    • — Karen on October 22, 2018
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  • Thank you for such an authentic recipe. It’s become a family favourite.

    • — Jane on October 4, 2018
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  • I’m no stranger to your recipes. I made this tonight and I have to say it is spot on! Perfect. Served with some white rice. Thanks so much to all you contribute. I have yet to try a recipe that disappoints.

    • — Jason Stoner on October 1, 2018
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  • Hey Jenn! My family LOVED this dish. Five stars all around. This is the second time I made it and the chicken sticks to the bottom of the pan and I have to switch pans halfway through. What am I doing wrong? The end product was delicious I want to avoid having to use two pans. Not enough oil? Too hot? I honestly don’t know why it happened twice.

    • — Christine Chippindale on August 27, 2018
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    • Hi Christine, So glad your family enjoyed. Are you using a nonstick pan?

      • — Jenn on August 27, 2018
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      • Yep…sure am. Crazy right?

        • — Christine on August 27, 2018
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        • Is there a chance that the pan is losing its nonstick quality? I’ve had to replace mine once every several years.

          • — Jenn on August 27, 2018
          • Reply
  • Just made this tonight for supper and it was a hit with the whole family! Every recipe I’ve made on this site is delicious and I keep coming back. The only substitute I made was rice vinegar in place of the dry sherry for the marinade.

    • — Caroline Bange on July 13, 2018
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  • We’ve made this twice now and loved it both times! Really appreciate that there are not too many exotic ingredients. It’s often difficult for me to buy ingredients for ethnic dishes in my small, rural grocery. Also pleased we could so readily tweak the heat. Some of us can’t take the spicy foods. Looking forward to making Kung pao chicken again.

    • — HARRIET MUZLJAKOVICH on June 28, 2018
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  • Every time I cook and/or bake one of your recipes, I feel like a professional chef! Thank you for all of the delciousness. I cannot wait to try this recipe tonight! I truly appreciate you including an estimated nutritional value in all of your recipes, but would there be anyway in the future you could include an estimated serving size as well?

    • — Anna J. on June 20, 2018
    • Reply
    • So glad you like the recipes, Anna! Yes, I will try to remember to measure out servings for new recipes before posting them – thanks for your suggestion. Hope you enjoy the chicken!

      • — Jenn on June 20, 2018
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      • Another. Home. Run. Thank you!

        • — Anna J. on June 21, 2018
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  • This was amazing! My husband was really impressed. My only change was to sub carrots for celery. I’m buying your cookbook-your site is hands down the best I visit and your recipes are favorites in my house. Thanks!

    • — Amy on May 24, 2018
    • Reply
    • So glad you enjoy the recipes (and thanks in advance) for buying the book- I hope you find lots of new favorites to prepare!

      • — Jenn on May 25, 2018
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  • Jenn’s Kung Pao Chicken will be my go-to homemade Chinese dish from now on. I have Celiac disease and substituted gluten-free hoisin and soy sauce. I also used fresh ginger. My family loved it! Thanks Jenn.

    • — Andrea Murdock on May 23, 2018
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  • This was so much better than any Kung Pao I’ve had in restaurants. I had a small zucchini in the refrigerator so I chopped and added it too.

    • — Suzon on May 17, 2018
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  • Wow. Really good. 1/4 t. of red pepper flakes gave it just the right amount of heat. Didn’t have powdered ginger so I used a micro plane to grate the same amount of fresh ginger. Otherwise made exactly as written.

    • — Steven on May 16, 2018
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  • Delicious and I didn’t change a thing! Perfect as is!

    • — Julie K. on May 15, 2018
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  • Out of this world amazing! Just enough spice with amazing flavours. I used boneless chicken thighs with great success and served over Chinese noodles. It’s a keeper!

    • — Gilda on May 15, 2018
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  • Outstanding! I like it extra spicy, so I doubled the garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes. Absolutely perfect with basmati rice and toasted sesame seeds. Thank you so much!

    • — Sarah Pfennigs on May 15, 2018
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  • I made this tonight. My middle son, the picky eater, was skeptical since he’s never had Kung Pao chicken. I told him that the recipe is by “The Broccoli Beef Lady.” (That’s you Jen!) He said, “I’m in!” Of course, the whole family loved this dish. It was so flavorful and the chicken was very tender. Another winner that I’ll make again and again!

    • — Laurie Reilly on May 14, 2018
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  • This was VERY good! We didn’t change a thing. I will say- the leftovers tasted even better the next day! Thanks, Jenn!!

    • — Alana on May 14, 2018
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  • Made this dish for my husband and it received rave reviews. Definitely, will be making again!

    • — Sandy on May 14, 2018
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  • Hi Jenn,
    would it be fine to use chicken breast and double the recipe if I cook for 6?
    Just got your book today and I am looking forward to try new recipes you perfected.
    Thanks
    A fan

    • — lyne guilbert on May 13, 2018
    • Reply
    • Sure, Lyne – that’ll be fine. Just be sure not to crowd the pan when cooking the chicken. Hope you enjoy the recipe and the book! 🙂

      • — Jenn on May 14, 2018
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  • Hi Jen,

    I don’t love celery. Do you think it will be ok if I just add other veggies to this chopped in the same size? Was thinking of adding carrots.

    Thanks!

    Elizabeth

    • — Elizabeth on May 13, 2018
    • Reply
    • Definitely! Hope you enjoy. 🙂

      • — Jenn on May 13, 2018
      • Reply
  • This was good—but flavors not really complex enough for us

    • — Sandy on May 12, 2018
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    • I understand what you are saying. However, if one is used to msg added to their Chinese dishes? Then, this may be why!? This dish was delicous.

      • — Gail on June 6, 2018
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  • I made this last night and it was amazing and so flavourful. I didn’t have sherry so I used rice wine vinegar instead and it tasted great. I’m a big fan of your website and just received your new cookbook so looking forward to making some of your new recipes.
    I noticed you were traveling to Toronto for a book signing…any chance you are heading out west to Vancouver? You have lots of fans here 🙂

    • — Jude A on May 12, 2018
    • Reply
    • So happy you enjoyed this dish, Jude. I’m not headed to Vancouver this trip…they are keeping me on the East coast. But, who knows, maybe over the summer or in the fall. 😊

      • — Jenn on May 12, 2018
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  • Hi Jen,
    Any suggestion on what to replace the dry sherry with? Cant find that in Tunisia.
    Also, on an unrelated note, I can’t wait to finally put my hands on your cookbook! Ordered and shipped to France, my mum is supposed to bring it over next week =) Best of luck on the book tour!

    • — Marine on May 11, 2018
    • Reply
    • Ah! Sorry, slow internet and I see someone else has already asked that question. Never mind!

      • — Marine on May 11, 2018
      • Reply
    • Hope you enjoy the book, Marine! ❤️

      • — Jenn on May 11, 2018
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  • This dish is so pro! Chinese food is one of my all time favs and we all know how good Chinese recipes are!! Well, Chef Jenn did them proud! She did her homework and you have got to try her recipe to believe how good it is!

    • — Sarah on May 10, 2018
    • Reply
  • Thanks for another great recipe Jenn. I made this for dinner tonight and my wife and I both enjoyed it. The only thing that I did different was that I didn’t serve it over rice. We sort of made Kung Pao Wraps. I put it on flour tortillas and made wraps out of it. Very tasty! Thanks again for sharing your knowledge and expertise with us! Loving the book!!!!

    • — Jim Orvis on May 10, 2018
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  • Hi Jenn! So excited to make this! I feel like I should give it five stars already – it looks so good. Do you think cooking sherry from the grocery store would be okay, or should I get something better like what’s in the picture? Thanks. Good luck with the tour. Your book is lovely!

    • — Carol on May 10, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi Carol, I’d get a good dry sherry. It keeps forever so you won’t be sorry. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on May 10, 2018
      • Reply
  • This looks great! Is there a substitution you could recommend for the dry sherry?

    • — Rachel Hartman on May 10, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi Rachel, The dry sherry is actually a substitute for Chinese rice wine. It’s fine to omit it; the dish just won’t have quite as much depth of flavor.

      • — Jenn on May 10, 2018
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      • Thanks! I ended up using rice wine vinegar as Jude A suggested. Delicious Sunday dinner!

        • — Rachel Hartman on May 13, 2018
        • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, Is dry Sherry considered to be alcohol? If it is, is there a substitute for it to use in the recipe? Thanks, Madhuri

    • — Madhuri Krothapalli on May 10, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi Madhuri, It’s fine to omit the sherry; the dish just won’t have quite as much depth of flavor, but will still be good!

      • — Jenn on May 11, 2018
      • Reply
  • Jenn,
    One thing I absolutely LOVE about your recipes is that when a new one comes up on the blog you have taken the time to “fix” it for the average home cook and all the ingredients are usually in the pantry/fridge/freezer! I will be making this soon! LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the cookbook! Already given 4 as gifts and have mine ready to have you sign as soon as I can make a trip to one of your signings! So enjoyed helping test recipes! Belinda

    • — Belinda Hunter on May 10, 2018
    • Reply
    • Thanks so much for all the kind words, Belinda – so glad you enjoy the recipes and find them to be “accessible” for the home cook – that’s definitely my goal! Happy to hear you’re enjoying the cookbook, too — I really appreciate the support. 💗

      • — Jenn on May 10, 2018
      • Reply
      • This was easy, and delicious. I served it over cauliflower rice to which I added a little cilantro, salt and pepper. Yummy!

        • — Karen C on May 19, 2018
        • Reply
        • Forgot to mention, I am loving the cookbook. So fun to read, and recipes are great. The tips on the side are very useful and I have learned many new tips.

          • — Karen C on May 19, 2018
          • Reply

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