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 cooked 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.
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 availability of ingredients.
Tips on How to Make Kung Pao Chicken:
This 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 cooks in one pan, it delivers restaurant flavors without a lot of effort.
While roasted peanuts and dried chilies are common ingredients in kung pao, I highly recommend the addition of zucchini and water chestnuts along with the bell peppers. The crisp texture of the vegetables provide the perfect foil for the sauce’s big, bold flavors!
One key step you shouldn’t skip is marinating the chicken in the cornstarch and egg white mixture. This process called velveting is a Chinese technique that keeps meat moist and succulent in stir-fries.
My cast iron wok (this is an affiliate link) is my can’t-live-without kitchenware as I cook practically everything in it but if you don’t have one, you can still make a successful stir-fry with a large skillet! Use one with a wide bottom and slanted sides to give ingredients room to make contact with the heated surface and to allow easy distribution without spilling.
What to Serve with Kung Pao Chicken?
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!
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 garlic and ginger and cook for another 30 seconds or until fragrant.
- 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.”