Easy, Authentic Kung Pao Chicken
Discover how to make authentic Kung Pao Chicken at home with this easy, step-by-step recipe. Enjoy the bold flavors of Sichuan cuisine in your kitchen with juicy chicken, fiery dried chilies, and crunchy peanuts. Beginner-friendly!
Kung Pao Chicken is one of my favorite Sichuan-style chicken dishes. It features tender chicken thigh meat, zesty Sichuan peppercorns, fiery dried chilies, and crunchy peanuts.
Found in Chinese takeout menus, Kung Pao Chicken, along with mapo tofu, is highly popular Chinese stir-fry dish. However, Chinese-American restaurant versions differ from the authentic flavors in native regions, like Sichuan province and other Chinese-populated areas in Asia.
As someone who has tried the authentic dish in Sichuan province many years ago, I fell in love with its flavors.
This recipe is a simplified version of the traditional dish. I’ve added some crunchy vegetables to make it a more complete and hearty meal.
Kung Pao Chicken comes to life in this easy-to-make recipe that transports you straight to the heart of Sichuan cuisine. This might become one of you favorite Asian chicken recipes.
What is Kung Pao Chicken?
Known as 宫保鸡丁 (Gong Bao Ji Ding) in Mandarin, this dish is a famous Chinese chicken dish from Sichuan province. It boasts a perfect balance of spicy, sweet, and savory flavors, captivating food enthusiasts worldwide.
Kung Pao Chicken stands out with its unique mix of ingredients: chicken, dried chili, Sichuan peppercorn, and peanuts. Together, they create an irresistible blend of flavors and textures.
Authentic Sichuan Kung Pao Recipe Made Easy
This recipe invites you to discover the authentic Sichuan flavors, moving beyond typical Chinese-American style found in local takeout.
To make the dish hearty and satisfying, I’ve added celery and pepper to the chicken. They provide a nutritionally well-balanced meal that still carries the authentic taste. If you prefer your dish made with only chicken and peanuts, simply omit the vegetables.
Even novice cooks easily recreate the bold, vibrant taste of the classic dish with this simple recipe, preserving its essence.
Kung Pao Sauce
The key to the good Kung Pao Chicken is the sauce, made from a mix of savory ingredients. While cooking the chicken and vegetables, the smooth sauce effortlessly coats each piece, imparting a delicious and flavorful touch.
The blend of spicy, savory flavors, honey’s sweetness, and fragrant Sichuan peppercorns achieves a perfect balance, making each bite exceptional.
Sauce Ingredients and Substitutions
- Soy sauce: Staple in Asian cuisine, soy sauce adds a rich, salty flavor to the dish. No substitution is necessary.
- Shaoxing wine: Chinese rice wine, Shaoxing wine imparts depth to the dish. Substitute with rice wine if unavailable.
- Potato starch: Potato starch gives the dish a beautiful sheen. If not available, use cornstarch as a substitute.
- 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 vinegar. If unavailable, use rice wine vinegar as a substitute.
- Honey: Adds a subtle sweetness to the dish. No substitution is necessary.
- Sesame oil: Imparts a nutty fragrance to the dish. No substitution is necessary.
- Chicken stock: Contributes more flavor than water, but plain water can be used if stock is unavailable.
- Sichuan peppercorn powder: Delivers the unique taste and fragrance of Sichuan cuisine. If unavailable, substitute with freshly cracked black pepper.
- Chicken Thigh Meat: The star of the show, chicken thigh meat is juicy and tender, providing a succulent base for the dish. It is cut into small cubes and marinated to ensure maximum flavor penetration.
- Sichuan Peppercorn powder: These unique peppercorns are responsible for the signature numbing sensation in Kung Pao Chicken. Toasted and ground into a fine powder, they enhance the overall taste profile of the dish. Substitute with black pepper if not available.
- Dried Chili: Bringing the heat, 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.
- Peanuts: Essential for 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.
- Celery and red bell pepper: They lend savoriness and crunch to the dish, while also contributing to its nutritional balance.
- Garlic, ginger, and green onion: Savory additions.
Essential Tips for Chinese Stir-Fry Technique
- Cut ingredients into uniform sizes: Cut vegetables, meats, and other ingredients into uniform sizes to ensure even cooking.
- Prep all ingredients before cooking: Preparing all ingredients in advance, including washing, cutting, and measuring. It makes cooking a stir-fry quick and easy.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Add sauces at the end: Add sauces and seasonings towards the end of cooking to prevent them from burning or evaporating too quickly.
- Serve immediately: Serve the stir-fry immediately after cooking to preserve the flavors and textures of the ingredients.
How to make Kung Pao Chicken
Step 1. Marinate the chicken:
Combine the chicken with all the marinade ingredients in a bowl and let it rest for 10 minutes.
Step 2. Prepare the sauce:
In a small bowl, mix all the sauce ingredients together and set aside.
Step 3. Stir-fry chicken
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok over high heat. Add the chicken and sear until fully cooked. Transfer the cooked chicken to a bowl and set aside.
Step 4. Aromatic and vegetables
Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the wok. Add garlic, ginger, crushed chilies, and green onion and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add celery and pepper and stir-fry for 1 minute.
Step 5. Return chicken and the sauce
Return the chicken to the wok and 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.
Step 6. Add peanut and serve
Add peanuts, toss well, and serve immediately. To enjoy the full flavors, serve it immediately with freshly cooked short grain rice.
5 Delicious Chinese Dishes You Must Try
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!
- Mapo Tofu
- Twice Cooked Pork:
- Cumin Beef
- Beef and Pepper Stir-Fry in Black Bean Sauce
- Three Cup Chicken (San Bei Ji)
Easy, Authentic Kung Pao Chicken
- 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)
- 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
To marinate chicken
- Combine the chicken with all the marinade ingredients in a bowl and let it rest for 10 minutes.
To make kung pao sauce
- In a small bowl, mix all the sauce ingredients together and set aside.
To stir-fry kung pao chicken
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok over high heat. Add the chicken and sear until fully cooked. Transfer the cooked chicken to a plate and set aside.
- Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the wok. Add garlic, ginger, crushed chilies, and green onion and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add celery and pepper and stir-fry for 1 minute. Return the chicken to the wok and 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. Add peanuts, toss well, and serve immediately with rice.