Skip take-out and make this Kung Pao Chicken at home! This spicy, sweet Chinese stir-fry is made with hot chilis, Szechwan peppercorns, garlic, ginger, and unsalted peanuts. Serve with rice for a weeknight meal.

What Is Kung Pao Chicken?

Kung Pao Chicken recipe, also known as Gong Bao or Kung Pow, is a beloved dish that is often associated with Chinese cuisine in America. It is considered to be one of the most authentic dishes found in Chinese restaurants, and its fiery flavor can be attributed to two key ingredients: chilis and Szechuan peppercorns.

If you have a penchant for spice, then this dish is perfect for you. While you have the freedom to choose any dried red chilies, the Szechwan peppercorns are highly recommended as they truly enhance the dish. There is simply no good substitute for their unique flavor. Other essential ingredients include sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and unsalted peanuts.

Similar to any stir-fry, Kung Pao Chicken is a quick, affordable, and delicious option. It exemplifies the flavors of Szechwan cuisine by combining sweet, sour, salty, and spicy tastes. For a satisfying weeknight meal, serve it alongside rice and complement it with a hearty dark beer. Enjoy!

Side view of a plate of kung pao chicken with rice.
Simply Recipes / Eliezer Martinez

The Chilies for Kung Pao Chicken

The Tien Tsin chilies are the most commonly used chili peppers in Chinese cooking Kung Pao Chicken. They are known for their spiciness and earthy flavor. If you can’t find these specific chilies, don’t worry! You can easily substitute them with any dried red chiles.

Did you know that Szechwan peppercorns were actually banned by the FDA until 2005? This was because they had the potential to carry citrus canker. However, now they are allowed for import, but only after they have been heat-treated.

Unlike regular peppers and chilies, Szechwan peppercorns have a unique citrusy taste and create a tingling sensation instead of a burning one. It’s like the tingle you feel on your tongue when you drink a carbonated beverage.

If you’re looking for these spices, you can find them in Asian markets or order them online. Penzeys is a great source for both Tien Tsin peppers and Szechwan peppercorns. You can also find Shaoxing rice wine and Chinkiang vinegar at Asian markets or order them online. But if you don’t have them, don’t worry! Sherry and apple cider vinegar can be good substitutes.

The Best Kung Pao Chicken for This Stir-Fry

Boneless skinless chicken breasts work just fine for this recipe, Kung Pao Chicken though you could swap in boneless skinless thighs if you prefer. The exact weight of your chicken breasts doesn’t matter too much; just get two good-sized breasts and you’ll be fine.

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Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao Chicken


  • Author: Jeanine
  • Total Time: 25 mins
  • Yield: 4 1x

Description

Skip take-out and make this Kung Pao Chicken at home! This spicy, sweet Chinese stir-fry is made with hot chilis, Szechwan peppercorns, garlic, ginger, and unsalted peanuts. Serve with rice for a weeknight meal.


Ingredients

Scale

For the marinade

  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sherry, or Shaoxing rice wine
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch

For the sauce

  • 3 teaspoons of Chinkiang vinegar, or 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch

For the chicken

  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 8 dried chili red peppers (preferably Tien Tsin variety)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon whole Szechwan peppercorns (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 6 green onions, chopped
  • 2/3 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts

Instructions

  1. Marinate chicken:

    Mix together the marinade ingredients. Chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces, toss them in the marinade, and set aside.

    Chopped chicken marinating in a glass bowl to make kung pow chicken
    Simply Recipes / Eliezer Martinez
  2. Whisk together sauce ingredients:

    Combine all the ingredients for the sauce, whisking well to ensure the cornstarch is fully incorporated. Set aside.

    Making the sauce for kung pao chicken.
    Simply Recipes / Eliezer Martinez
  3. Prep the seasonings:

    Break the chilies open and discard the seeds inside, then cut them into a few large pieces (the dish will already be very hot, keeping the seeds will make it near inedible).

    Chopping chilis for kung pao chicken.
    Simply Recipes / Eliezer Martinez
  4. Stir-fry chilies and peppercorns:

    Place the 2 1/2 tablespoons of sesame oil in a wok or large sauté pan and place over medium-high heat. Add the chilies and Szechwan peppercorns, if using. Stir-fry for a few second until they become fragrant being careful not to burn them.

    Stir frying chilis to make kung pao chicken.
    Simply Recipes / Eliezer Martinez
  5. Add the chicken and aromatics:

    Add the chicken. As soon as the pieces have separated, add the ginger, garlic, and green onions. Stir-fry for a few minutes until the chicken is cooked through.

    Making kung pao chicken in a wok.
    Simply Recipes / Eliezer Martinez
    Making compow chicken in a wok.
    Simply Recipes / Eliezer Martinez
  6. Finish the stir fry:

    Add the sauce and toss. When the sauce becomes thick, add the peanuts, toss, and serve.

    Wooden spoons mixing compow chicken in a wok.
    Simply Recipes / Eliezer Martinez
    Gong bao chicken inside a wok.
    Simply Recipes / Eliezer Martinez
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 10 mins
  • Category: Main Course, Side Dish
  • Cuisine: Fusion

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 4 servings

Keywords: kung pao chicken, kung pao chicken recipe, kung pao chicken panda express, what is kung pao chicken, trader joe’s kung pao chicken, panda express kung pao chicken,

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