Make Kung Pao Chicken, a classic Chinese takeout dish of stir-fried chicken, crunchy peanuts, and vegetables at home with this easy recipe. Enjoy the bold flavors of Sichuan cooking—perfect for beginners!

Sichuan Kung pao chicken served on a platter with a bowl of rice.

Every time I order Kung Pao chicken at a Chinese restaurant, I often end up disappointed because the flavor isn’t quite right. Having tried the authentic dish in China and other Chinese-speaking countries, I know how Kung Pao chicken should taste.

So, I’m excited to share a new and improved Kung Pao Chicken recipe with you. My version captures the bold and authentic flavors of the classic Sichuan dish, yet it’s still easy to make at home.

Known in Mandarin as 宫保鸡丁 (Gong Bao Ji Ding) and sometimes called Kung Po, this dish is from Sichuan province and is famous for its use of Sichuan peppercorns, adding a unique tingling sensation.

It offers spicy, sweet, and slightly sour flavors, featuring tender chicken, crunchy peanuts, and fiery chili peppers. This dish makes a perfect weeknight dinner, especially when served with a side of rice.

Kung Pao chicken stir-fried in a Chinese wok.

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

While authentic Chinese condiments are typically found in Asian markets, not everyone has access to them. For an easier American version, I’ve provided substitute ingredients that you can find in your local supermarket.

Main ingredients for making Kung Pao chicken.
  • Chicken Thighs: Chicken thigh meat is juicy and tender, providing a succulent base for the dish. Cut into small cubes for the maximum flavor penetration when marinating.
  • Sichuan Peppercorn powder: These unique peppercorns are responsible for the signature numbing sensation in Kung Pao Chicken.
    • Substitute with black pepper if not available.
  • Dried Chili: Dried chilies are essential in achieving that spicy kick. If you prefer lesser heat, remove the seeds from the chili before adding to the stir-fry.
    • Substitute with red pepper flakes if dried chilis are not available.
  • Peanuts: Adding a delightful crunch, peanuts are a key component of this dish. To save time, try store-bought unsalted dry roasted peanuts.
    • Substitute dry roasted cashews if peanuts are not available.

Kung Pao Sauce

The secret to great Kung Pao Chicken lies in the sauce. It’s a mix of rich soy sauce, sweet honey, tangy Chinkiang vinegar, aromatic Sichuan peppercorns, and other spices. Here are some substitution ideas for those hard-to-find ingredients.

Condiments presented for making Kung Pao sauce.
  • Shaoxing wine: Substitute with rice wine or dry sherry if unavailable.
  • Potato starch: Potato starch gives the dish a beautiful sheen. If not available, use cornstarch.
  • Dark soy sauce: Enhances the dish with a savory flavor and dark color. Replace with regular soy sauce if needed.
  • Chinkiang vinegar: Dark, flavorful Chinese black vinegar. Use balsamic vinegar as a substitute.

How to make Kung Pao Chicken

Prepare Chicken

Marinate chicken and prepare sauce. Combine the chicken pieces with all the marinade ingredients in a bowl and let it rest for 10 minutes. In a small bowl, mix all the sauce ingredients together and set aside.

Stir-fry chicken. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add the chicken and sear until fully cooked. Transfer the cooked chicken to a bowl and set aside.

Stir-fry vegetables

Start with aromatics. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the wok. Cook garlic, ginger, crushed chilies, and green onion and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Stir-fry celery and pepper for 1 minute.

Add Chicken and Sauce

Add chicken. Heat through for about 30 seconds. Pour the sauce into the wok (stir it beforehand to reincorporate any settled cornstarch) and stir-fry for another minute. The sauce should thicken quickly.

Finish off with peanuts

Add peanuts. Toss well, and serve immediately. To enjoy the full flavors, serve it immediately with freshly cooked short grain rice.

Helpful Stir-frying Tips

  1. Cut ingredients into uniform sizes: Cut vegetables, meats, and other ingredients into uniform sizes to ensure even cooking.
  2. Prep all ingredients before cooking: Preparing all ingredients in advance, including washing, cutting, and measuring. It makes cooking a stir-fry quick and easy.
  3. Use a high heat: A high heat is essential for stir-frying, as it allows the ingredients to cook quickly while retaining their textures and flavors.
  4. Cook in batches: Avoid overcrowding the wok or pan by cooking in batches. This ensures that each ingredient gets cooked evenly and maintains its texture.
  5. Use the right oil: Use an oil with a high smoke point, such as peanut or vegetable oil, for stir-frying. This prevents the oil from burning and smoking, which can ruin the dish’s flavor.
  6. Add sauces at the end: Add sauces and seasonings towards the end of cooking to prevent them from burning or evaporating too quickly.
  7. Serve immediately: Serve the stir-fry immediately after cooking to preserve the flavors and textures of the ingredients.
A top view of authentic Kung Pao chicken served over rice.

More Chinese Recipes

Looking to explore the flavors of Chinese cuisine beyond your usual takeout order? Try these five mouth-watering Chinese dishes and take your taste buds on a culinary adventure!

Kung pao chicken is served on a platter with a bowl of rice on the side.

Easy and Authentic Kung Pao Chicken

Make Sichuan Kung Pao Chicken at home with this easy recipe. Enjoy this classic Chinese dish of stir-fried chicken, crunchy peanuts, and vegetables, perfect for beginners!
5 from 20 ratings

Recipe Video

Ingredients

  • 1 lb (450 g) boneless skinless chicken thigh, cut into small pieces
  • 3 tbsp oil, divided
  • 4 green onion (white to light green parts), chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 thin slices ginger, minced, or 2 tsp of ginger paste
  • 4-6 dried chili, crushed (seed removed if needed) or use 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
  • 2 celery sticks, chopped
  • 1 small red pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cups (70 g) unsalted dry roasted peanuts, or cashews

For Marinating Chicken

For Kung Pao Sauce

Instructions 

To marinate chicken

  • Mix the chicken pieces with all the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl and allow them to sit for 10 minutes.

To make kung pao sauce

  • In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients for the sauce and then put it aside.

To stir-fry kung pao chicken

  • Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok or large frying pan on high heat. Cook the chicken in it until it's thoroughly done. Then, move the cooked chicken to a separate bowl and keep it aside.
  • Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil back into the wok. Then, put in the garlic, ginger, crushed chilies, and green onions, and stir-fry them for 30 seconds. Next, toss in the celery and pepper, and continue to stir-fry for another minute.
  • Put the chicken back into the wok and warm it up for around 30 seconds. Before adding the sauce to the wok, give it a quick stir to mix in any cornstarch that may have settled. Then, stir-fry everything for another minute. The sauce will thicken up fast.
  • Toss in the peanuts, mix everything well, and serve right away. For the best taste experience, enjoy it immediately alongside freshly cooked white rice.
Calories: 397kcal, Carbohydrates: 13g, Protein: 28g, Fat: 26g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g, Monounsaturated Fat: 14g, Trans Fat: 0.1g, Cholesterol: 108mg, Sodium: 851mg, Potassium: 573mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 1280IU, Vitamin C: 41mg, Calcium: 41mg, Iron: 2mg
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