Homemade Kung Pao Chicken

This is one of those recipes that really deserves to be a part of the regular dinner rotation.  It’s got texture, it’s got a flexible amount of heat, and it’s got a ton of flavor.

Kung Pao Chicken

What is Kung Pao Chicken?

Kung Pao chicken is a Sichuan Chinese chicken dish, which may be called Gong Bao or Kung Po.  When something is made in the Kung Pao style it means that the food is fried and then served with a spicy red chili pepper sauce, sometimes also including Sichuan peppercorns, usually with crunch from peanuts.  Sliced scallions are also frequently part of the dish, sometimes along with other vegetables.

I like my Kung Pao chicken on the spicy side, hence the generous amount of dried red chilis or red chili flakes, but if your family is not a bring-on-the-heat family, start with a smaller amount, taste, and add more if you wish.  

Kung Pao Chicken

Other Kung Pao recipes might also include hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, or chili sauce, and those would all be fine additions.  I wanted to keep the ingredient list tighter, so I stuck with a more streamlined recipe, but you can add and play and fine-tune to your heart’s content.

Vinegar in Chinese Stir Fries

You will notice that this recipe has the surprising addition of balsamic vinegar, not all that traditional in Asian-inspired recipes.  The first time I added balsamic vinegar to a Chinese recipe it was by accident.  I thought I was reaching for the soy sauce bottle and before I realized what I was doing I had added a hefty glug to the pan.  And it turned out to be terrific, adding a bit of sweetness and acidity and depth, all things that are an integral part of what makes much Asian cooking so great.  If you have Chinese black vinegar, please use that instead.

Kung Pao Chicken: This version of a classic and beloved Sichuan Chinese dish contains pan-fried chicken with scallions, peanuts, and a spicy red chili pepper sauce.

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Kung Pao Chicken

How to Make Kung Pao Chicken

In a large bowl mix the cornstarch with 1 tablespoon soy sauce, then add the chicken and toss to combine and coat the chicken well.  Marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes, if you have the time.  In a small bowl or container mix the sauce ingredients together.  

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and stir fry until the pieces turn white, but are not all the way cooked through, about 2 minutes for breast meat, 4 minutes for thigh.  Remove to a plate with a slotted spoon.

Kung Pao Chicken

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the bell pepper and stir fry for 1 minute, then add about 2/3 of the scallions, the garlic, ginger, ½ cup peanuts and the chili peppers or flakes and stir fry for another minute until you can smell the garlic and ginger.  

Kung Pao Chicken

Add the chicken, stir fry for another minute, then re-stir the sauce to blend and add that to the pan.  Cook, stirring frequently for about 2 more minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thickened.

Kung Pao Chicken

Serve sprinkled with the remaining scallions and additional peanuts.  Serve over hot rice, if desired.

What to Serve with Kung Pao Chicken:

Kung Pao Chicken

Other Asian Chicken Recipes:

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Kung Pao Chicken

This version of a classic and beloved Sichuan Chinese dish features pan-fried chicken with scallions, peanuts, and a spicy red chili pepper sauce.
Yield: 4 People
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Optional Marinating Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce , divided (preferably less-sodium)
  • 1 pound boneless chicken breasts or thighs , diced into bite-sized pieces (about ¾-inch)
  • 3 tablespoons dry sherry or mirin (slightly sweet Japanese cooking wine)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ¼ cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar or Chinese black vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons peanut , vegetable or canola oil, divided
  • 1 red bell pepper , cored, seeded and diced
  • 5 scallions , white and green parts, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, divided
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • ½ cup salted peanuts , plus more for garnish
  • ½ cup small dried red chili peppers or 1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes, or to taste
  • Hot cooked rice to serve (optional)

Directions

  • In a large bowl mix the cornstarch with 1 tablespoon soy sauce, then add the chicken and toss to combine and coat the chicken well. Marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes, if you have the time.
  • In a small bowl or container mix together the remaining 3 tablespoons soy sauce, sherry, chicken broth, balsamic vinegar and sesame oil. Set aside.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and stir fry until the pieces turn white, but are not all the way cooked through, about 2 minutes for breast meat, 4 minutes for thigh. Remove to a plate with a slotted spoon.
  • Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bell pepper and stir fry for 1 minute, then add about 2/3 of the scallions, the garlic, ginger, ½ cup peanuts and the chili peppers or flakes and stir fry for another minute until you can smell the garlic and ginger. Add the chicken, stir fry for another minute, then re-stir the sauce to blend and add that to the pan. Cook, stirring frequently for about 2 more minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thickened.
  • Turn into a serving dish and sprinkle with the remaining scallions and additional peanuts. Serve over hot rice, if desired.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 541kcal | Carbohydrates: 38g | Protein: 36g | Fat: 29g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 73mg | Sodium: 1244mg | Potassium: 1172mg | Fiber: 12g | Sugar: 21g | Vitamin A: 9009IU | Vitamin C: 51mg | Calcium: 73mg | Iron: 4mg

The nutrition values are provided as an estimate. It is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional.

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