Easy Kung Pao Chicken Recipe with moist chicken, crisp zucchini, crunchy water chestnuts and peanuts, and vibrant peppers in a sweet and savory sauce. All the bold flavors of your favorite restaurant takeout ready in one pan and in under 30 minutes!
What is Kung Pao Chicken
Kung Pao chicken is a Chinese stir-fry made with marinated chicken, roasted peanuts, vegetables, dried red chiles tossed in a spicy, fragrant sauce. This easy recipe uses simple ingredients you probably already have in your pantry or can easily find in neighborhood grocery stores. Ready in minutes and cooks in one pan, it delivers restaurant flavors without a lot of effort.
Although authentic Kung Pao (also transcribed as Kung Po) derives its distinctive flavor from Sichuan peppercorns, this Szechuan dish has been heavily adapted over the years to accommodate western tastes and the availability of ingredients.
This easy Kung Pao Chicken recipe uses simple ingredients you probably already have in your pantry or can easily find in neighborhood grocery stores. Ready in minutes and cooked in one pan, it delivers restaurant flavors without a lot of effort.
- Vegetables– While roasted peanuts and dried chilies are common ingredients in kung pao, I highly recommend the addition of zucchini and water chestnuts along with bell peppers. The crisp texture of the vegetables provides the perfect foil for the sauce’s big, bold flavors!
- Chicken– the recipe calls for chicken breast, but you can also boneless chicken thighs. One key step you shouldn’t skip is marinating the meat in the cornstarch and egg white mixture. This process, called velveting is a Chinese technique that keeps it moist and succulent in stir-fries.
- Stir-fry sauce– this sweet and savory sauce is made with broth, soy sauce, Chinese cooking wine, rice vinegar, and brown sugar. Cornstarch is added as a thickener as well as a dash of chili oil to kick up the spice. I like to use chicken broth to boost flavor, but water will work fine. Most of the ingredients are easily sourced from major supermarkets, except for the Chinese cooking wine (Shaoxing wine). You can order it online or substitute with dry sherry.
If you want a more authentic taste, toss in about 1/2 teaspoon ground Sichuan pepper during stir-frying.
Equipment to use
A wok is best to use as its unique design allows even heating and easy distribution of ingredients. But you can still make a successful stir-fry with a large skillet if you don’t have one! Use one with a wide bottom and slanted sides to allow ingredients to make contact with the heated surface and move around without spilling.
I find plain steamed rice the perfect canvas for the spicy flavors of the dish, but if you want to recreate the full takeout experience at home, make it a combo and check out my shrimp fried rice recipe, complete with helpful tips plus my Panda Express chow mein which is a spot-on copycat!
Storage and reheating instructions
- This kung pao chicken stir-fry stores well and is great for meal planning. Allow leftovers to cool completely and transfer to an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 2 months.
- Reheat in a wide pan over medium heat to 165 F. Or microwave at 2 to 3-minute intervals until heated through, stirring well to redistribute heat.
For the Marinade
- 1 large egg white
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast or thigh meat, cut into 1 inch
For the Sauce
- 1/4 cup Chicken broth
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon chili oil
For the Stir-fry
- 4 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
- 1/2 cup peanuts
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 thumb-size ginger, peeled and minced
- 1 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into half and sliced into 1/4-inch thick
- 8 ounces sliced water chestnuts
- 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 8 pieces dried Chinese chili peppers
- In a bowl, combine marinade ingredients: egg white, soy sauce , rice wine, canola oil, cornstarch, and salt. Whisk together until well-blended. Add chicken and stir to fully coat.
- In another bowl, combine sauce ingredients: chicken broth, soy sauce, rice wine, rice vinegar, brown sugar and cornstarch. Whisk together until well-blended. Set aside.
- In a wide skillet or wok over high heat, add about 2 tablespoons of oil and swirl to coat bottom. Heat oil until shimmering.
- Add chicken and cook until lightly browned. Remove from pan and keep warm.
- Wipe down wok and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Heat until shimmering.
- Add peanuts and cook, tossing regularly, for about 30 seconds or until lightly browned. Remove from pan and set aside.
- Add garlic and ginger and cook for about 30 to 40 seconds or until aromatic.
- Add zucchini and chestnuts and cook, tossing regularly, for about 1 to 2 minutes or until tender yet crisp.
- Add bell peppers and cook for another 1 minute. Remove vegetables from wok and keep warm.
- Wipe down wok as needed. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and swirl to coat bottom of pan. Heat oil until almost smoking.
- Add chili peppers and cook, stirring regularly, for about 10 to 20 seconds or until peppers begin to blacken and oil is slightly fragrant.
- Add sauce ingredients (whisk again to disperse cornstarch which may have settled in the bottom) and bring to a boil.
- Add chicken, peanuts, and vegetable mixture. Continue to cook, stirring regularly, for about 1 to 2 minutes or until heated through and sauce is thickened.
- Serve hot.
“This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.”