Skip the greasy take-out order tonight and make homemade Kung Pao Chicken instead! This beloved Chinese chicken entree is easy to make with a medley of mouthwatering ingredients. Serve this savory, spicy, and sweet Kung Pao Chicken over rice for a perfect weeknight dinner.

A serving of kung pao chicken is presented with white rice on a striped plate.

Kung Pao Chicken

Bite sized pieces of chicken are lightly fried to golden brown perfection before being tossed in the most deliciously complex sauce alongside some hot peppers before being served over fluffy white rice… Are you drooling yet?! You’ve likely had Kung Pao Chicken a handful of times in your life, but believe me when I say that this homemade version is SO much better than the greasy stuff that comes in the little red and white take-out box.

Not to shame take-out, of course. I don’t know if anyone can survive their 20’s without it! Chinese take-out is the reason so many Americans know this dish at all. With that being said, did you know that Kung Pao Chicken is one of the only Chinese take-out staples that hasn’t been completely Westernized? This chicken dish was first created in the Sichuan Province of China and hasn’t changed much since it’s popularity grew here in the States.

While this Kung Pao Chicken recipe has a good amount of spicy ingredients in it, you can customize it to best fit your needs. That’s just another benefit about making it at home instead of ordering it off an app – at home, you can control exactly how spicy you’d like it! Also, you’ll notice that I’ve included ingredients like hoisin sauce and honey to balance out the heat a little so the flavor profile is well rounded.

A black skillet is filled with cooked kung pao chicken.

How to Make It

Prepare the chicken. Place the chicken in a large bowl and set aside. Season the cornstarch with salt and pepper. Pour the cornstarch over the chicken and toss to coat.

Fry the chicken. Heat the oil in a large wok or skillet over medium high heat. Shake off the excess cornstarch on the chicken and add it to the pan in batches being sure not to crowd the pan. Cook the chicken until golden brown and no longer pink. Transfer to a platter and repeat with the remaining chicken. Remove the last of the chicken from the pan and transfer to a platter. 

Cook the garlic, chili peppers, and peppercorns. Add the garlic and ginger to the pan. Cook for 1 minute. Stir in the red chili peppers. Cook for an additional 1-2 minutes. Add the szechuan peppercorns and dry chilis, cook until crisp, approximately 1 minute.

Make the sauce. Whisk together the soy sauce, vinegar, chili garlic sauce, hoisin sauce, honey, sesame oil and mirin. Pour the sauce into the pan and stir, cooking for 30 seconds. Turn off the heat.

Serve! Return the chicken to the pan and toss to coat. Sprinkle the chicken with the peanuts, scallions and sesame seeds. Serve immediately with rice, if desired.

A pile of kung pao chicken is stacked on top of a fluffy serving of white rice.

How long will Kung Pao Chicken stay fresh?

In an airtight container in the fridge, any leftovers you have will stay fresh for about 3-4 days. While you can reheat this chicken in the microwave, it’s best when tossed right back into the pan and warmed up over medium low heat. That way, your chicken stays crispy!

Is Kung Pao Chicken gluten free?

The only ingredients in this recipe that contain gluten are the soy sauce and hoisin sauce. The soy sauce can be replaced with coconut aminos or tamari, and most stores sell gluten free hoisin sauce. This can easily be made a gluten free recipe by replacing those two sauces.

A blue and white striped plate contains a serving of chicken and rice.

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A black skillet is filled with cooked kung pao chicken.

Get the Recipe: Kung Pao Chicken

Skip the takeout and this classic Kung Pao Chicken at home in less than 30 minutes. Adjust the spice level to suit your family's needs.
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Ingredients

  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp minced ginger
  • 15 red chili peppers, chopped, serrano, fresno, red jalapenos would all work well but be mindful of the heat level if you’re sensitive to spice.
  • 6 whole dried red chilis
  • 1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoon black vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon chili garlic sauce
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons mirin, sweet rice wine
  • 1/4 cup chopped peanuts
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions

Equipment

  • wok

Instructions 

  • Place the chicken in a large bowl and set aside.
  • Season the cornstarch with salt and pepper. Pour the cornstarch over the chicken and toss to coat.
  • Heat the oil in a large wok or skillet over medium high heat. Shake off the excess cornstarch on the chicken and add it to the pan in batches being sure not to crowd the pan.
  • Cook the chicken until golden brown and no longer pink. Transfer to a platter and repeat with the remaining chicken.
  • Remove the last of the chicken from the pan and transfer to a platter.
  • Add the garlic and ginger to the pan. Cook for 1 minute.
  • Stir in the red chili peppers.  Cook for an additional 1-2 minutes. Add the szechuan peppercorns and dry chilis, cook until crisp, approximately 1 minute.
  • Whisk together the soy sauce, vinegar, chili garlic sauce, hoisin sauce, honey, sesame oil and mirin. Pour the sauce into the pan and stir, cooking for 30 seconds. Turn off the heat.
  • Return the chicken to the pan and toss to coat.
  • Sprinkle the chicken with the peanuts, scallions and sesame seeds. Serve immediately with rice, if desired.

Notes

Kung Pao Chicken can be made up to 3 days in advance. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Reheat either in a skillet over medium heat or in the microwave for 3 minutes. 
Calories: 375kcal, Carbohydrates: 25g, Protein: 30g, Fat: 17g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g, Monounsaturated Fat: 9g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 73mg, Sodium: 1853mg, Potassium: 733mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 10g, Vitamin A: 506IU, Vitamin C: 14mg, Calcium: 39mg, Iron: 2mg