Kung Pao Chicken Recipe

Posted on

Kung Pao Chicken Recipe

World Cuisines


Prep time

Cooking time

Total time


Kung Pao Chicken, known for its bold flavors and harmonious blend of textures, is a beloved Chinese dish that has captured the hearts and taste buds of people worldwide. This iconic dish is a perfect example of Sichuan cuisine, which is renowned for its spicy, savory, and numbing flavors. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the origins of Kung Pao Chicken and provide you with an authentic recipe that you can easily recreate in your own kitchen. Get ready to embark on a culinary journey to China as we uncover the secrets of this mouthwatering dish.

The History of Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao Chicken, also spelled as Gong Bao or Kung Po, has a fascinating history that dates back to the Qing Dynasty in China. The dish is named after Ding Baozhen, a late Qing Dynasty governor of Sichuan province. Ding Baozhen had the official title “Gong Bao” or “Kung Pao,” which is how the dish got its name. While its origins are linked to Sichuan, Kung Pao Chicken’s popularity has spread far and wide, and it has become a staple in Chinese-American cuisine.

Ingredients for Kung Pao Chicken

Before we dive into the cooking process, let’s gather all the essential ingredients for our Kung Pao Chicken recipe:

For the Marinade:

1 lb (450g) boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces.
1 tablespoon light soy sauce.
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine or dry sherry.
1 tablespoon cornstarch.
1/2 teaspoon salt.
1/4 teaspoon white pepper.
For the Sauce:

2 tablespoons light soy sauce.
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce.
2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar (or substitute with balsamic vinegar).
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce.
1 tablespoon sugar.
1/4 cup chicken broth.
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch (to thicken the sauce).
For Stir-Frying:

2 tablespoons peanut oil (or any high-smoke-point oil).
3-4 dried red chili peppers, seeds removed and cut into halves.
1/2 cup unsalted roasted peanuts.
3 cloves garlic, minced.
1-inch piece of ginger, minced.
2-3 green onions, white parts chopped and green parts sliced for garnish.
Sichuan peppercorns (optional, for a numbing sensation).
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil.
Now that we have our ingredients ready, let’s move on to the step-by-step cooking process.

Preparing and Marinating the Chicken

Begin by cutting the chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces and place them in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine the light soy sauce, Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry), cornstarch, salt, and white pepper to create the marinade.

Pour the marinade over the chicken pieces and mix well to ensure each piece is coated evenly.

Allow the chicken to marinate for at least 20-30 minutes. This will help tenderize the meat and infuse it with flavor.

Creating the Kung Pao Sauce

In a small bowl, whisk together the light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, Chinese black vinegar (or balsamic vinegar), hoisin sauce, sugar, chicken broth, and cornstarch. This mixture will form the savory and slightly sweet sauce that makes Kung Pao Chicken so irresistible.

Stir-Frying Kung Pao Chicken

Heat a wok or a large skillet over high heat until it becomes smoking hot.

Add the peanut oil to the hot wok and swirl it around to coat the bottom evenly.

Toss in the dried red chili peppers and stir-fry for about 30 seconds until they become fragrant. Be cautious not to let them burn, as this can make the dish overly spicy.

Add the marinated chicken pieces to the wok. Spread them out in a single layer to ensure they cook evenly.

Allow the chicken to sear undisturbed for about 1-2 minutes until it develops a golden-brown crust. Then, stir-fry the chicken continuously until it’s no longer pink, which should take about 5-7 minutes.

Add the minced garlic, minced ginger, and white parts of the green onions to the wok. Stir-fry for another minute or until they become fragrant.
If you enjoy the numbing sensation of Sichuan peppercorns, add a pinch at this stage.

Pour the prepared Kung Pao sauce over the chicken and stir-fry for an additional 2-3 minutes. The sauce should thicken and coat the chicken pieces nicely.

Toss in the unsalted roasted peanuts and stir-fry for another minute until they are heated through.

Finally, drizzle a bit of sesame oil over the dish for a delightful aroma and nutty flavor.

Serving and Garnishing

Transfer the cooked Kung Pao Chicken to a serving plate.

Garnish with the sliced green parts of the green onions for a pop of color and freshness.

Serve hot with steamed jasmine rice or noodles of your choice.

Tips for the Perfect Kung Pao Chicken

Adjust the level of spiciness to your preference by adding more or fewer dried red chili peppers.

For an extra smoky flavor, you can use a wok over an open flame if you have a gas stove.

Sichuan peppercorns provide a unique numbing sensation, but they are optional. Use them sparingly, as they can be quite potent.

For a healthier option, you can use boneless, skinless chicken breast instead of chicken thighs.

Kung Pao Chicken is a delightful culinary adventure that combines bold flavors, textures, and a hint of spiciness. This iconic Chinese dish has a rich history and has earned its place as a beloved classic in Chinese cuisine. By following our authentic recipe, you can recreate the magic of Kung Pao Chicken in your own kitchen, impressing your family and friends with your culinary skills. So, don your apron, gather your ingredients, and embark on a journey to discover the joy of homemade Kung Pao Chicken.

Variations and Customizations

While the classic Kung Pao Chicken recipe we’ve provided is a delicious choice, there’s room for creativity and personalization. Here are some variations and customizations you can explore to make this dish your own:

Vegetarian or Vegan Kung Pao: Substitute chicken with tofu or tempeh for a vegetarian or vegan version of Kung Pao. You can also use mushrooms, such as shiitake or king oyster, for a meaty texture.

Protein Choices: Beyond chicken, you can experiment with other proteins like shrimp, beef, or even pork. Adjust the cooking time accordingly to ensure the protein is properly cooked.

Nut Choices: While peanuts are the traditional choice, you can try other nuts like cashews, almonds, or even pine nuts for a different flavor and texture.

Heat Levels: If you love spicy food, feel free to increase the number of dried red chili peppers or add some chili paste or flakes to intensify the heat. Conversely, you can reduce the spiciness by using fewer chili peppers or removing the seeds.

Additional Vegetables: Enhance the nutritional value of your Kung Pao Chicken by adding vegetables like bell peppers, zucchini, or broccoli. Simply stir-fry them along with the chicken.

Gluten-Free Option: To make this dish gluten-free, use gluten-free soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and vinegar.

Low-Sodium: If you’re watching your sodium intake, opt for low-sodium soy sauce and adjust the amount of salt accordingly.

Serving Ideas: While Kung Pao Chicken is often served with rice, you can also pair it with noodles, such as lo mein or udon, for a satisfying meal.

Garnish Creatively: Experiment with different garnishes like fresh cilantro, toasted sesame seeds, or thinly sliced red bell peppers to add color and flavor.

Sweet and Sour Twist: Add a touch of pineapple juice or sweet chili sauce to the sauce for a sweet and sour variation.

Make it Healthier: Reduce the amount of oil used for stir-frying and use skinless, boneless chicken breast for a leaner option.

Kung Pao Chicken, with its versatility and rich flavors, provides ample room for culinary exploration. Feel free to tailor the recipe to your preferences and experiment with different ingredients to create your own signature version.

A Culinary Journey Worth Taking

Kung Pao Chicken is more than just a dish; it’s a culinary journey that invites you to explore the diverse and vibrant flavors of Chinese cuisine. From its storied history rooted in the Qing Dynasty to its modern-day popularity around the globe, this dish has stood the test of time, leaving an indelible mark on food enthusiasts everywhere.

By following the step-by-step instructions provided in this article and experimenting with variations to suit your taste, you can master the art of Kung Pao Chicken in your own kitchen. Whether you’re cooking for a special occasion or simply indulging in a weeknight dinner, the savory, spicy, and slightly sweet flavors of this dish are sure to satisfy your palate and transport you to the heart of Sichuan province.

So, don your chef’s hat, embrace the spirit of adventure, and embark on your culinary journey to create the perfect Kung Pao Chicken. From your first aromatic stir-fry to the satisfying crunch of roasted peanuts, every step along the way will be a testament to the artistry and joy of Chinese cuisine. Enjoy your flavorful creation, and savor the rich history and tradition that comes with each delicious bite of Kung Pao Chicken.


Beginner-friendly recipes / Coffee Recipes / Easy Recipes / foods / Kung Pao Chicken Recipe / Quick recipes / Recipe collections / Tea recipes

You might also like these recipes