This kung pao chicken recipe is our favorite trustworthy and time-tested stir-fry dish. With the irresistible flavors of the kung pao sauce, this meal is on regular rotation in our home!
Forget Chinese takeout and add this to your meal plan for the week. You will not regret it. This easy kung pao chicken recipe is on our regular rotation and has rave reviews from our readers over the years. Serve it over white rice and maybe a side of egg rolls for a complete meal.
Why We Love Homemade Stir-Fry
Making stir-fry at home is such an easy task and creates a very fresh dish versus ordering takeout. You can control the ingredients, the amount of sodium and spice, and you're saving money! Stir-fry is actually a very cheap dinner meal when made at home.
(full printable recipe at end of post)
Kung pao chicken is made with the following simple ingredients. You can find all of these at any grocery store.
- boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or you can use chicken thighs)
- sesame oil
- red bell peppers
- green onions
- red pepper flakes
- rice wine vinegar
- soy sauce
What is Kung Pao Sauce?
Kung pao sauce is a mixture of taste of sweet, savory and spicy. The sauce ingredients include garlic, ginger, vinegar, soy sauce and sesame oil. Finally, a dash of dried red chilies is added for heat.
Is Kung Pao Spicy?
You can control the spice level when making this homemade kung pao chicken, but American kung pao is just mildly spicy. Some use sichuan peppercorns, a even milder option, instead of red pepper flakes.
What is the Difference Between Kung Pao and General Tso's?
Kung Pao and General Tso's are pretty similar with sweet and sour sauces, but Kung Pao includes peanuts and has a more spicy sauce. The chicken in Kung Pao is only lightly fried in a saute pan while the chicken in General Tso's is more deeply fried. Therefore, you may conclude that Kun Pao is a slightly more healthy option.
How to Make Kung Pao Chicken
This recipe can be made in 20 minutes. Scroll to the bottom of the post for the full recipe details, the general steps are as follows:
- Cut chicken into small pieces and coat with cornstarch.
- Cook the chicken, remove from pan; set aside.
- Cook the veggies, add sauce ingredients to the pan, cook just a minute or two.
- Add chicken back to the pan, stir in peanuts. Heat thoroughly.
- Serve over white rice.
I do not have a wok and was able to easily make this in my sauté pan. So, do not hesitate to try this recipe out if you don't own a wok.
You do NOT have to eat this with chopsticks. I don't! But, you most definitely can if you want.
Storage and Leftovers
You can store any leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat in a saute pan over high heat until crispy and heated through.
More Asian Inspired Recipes
- Teriyaki Salmon
- Healthy Sweet and Sour Meatballs
- 3-Ingredient Sweet and Sour Chicken
- Asian Wonton Salad
- Grilled Pork Kabobs with Southeast Asian Marinade
- Thai Chicken Pizza
Made this recipe?
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This article was originally published March 2009 and updated September 2022 with new photos and recipe tips, and no changes to the recipe.
Photography by Lindsay Evers.
Kung Pao Chicken
- 1.5 lb boneless-skinless chicken breasts (cut into 1” pieces)
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1 medium red bell pepper , chopped
- 3 tablespoons green onions , chopped
- 3 garlic cloves , minced
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 3 teaspoons sugar
- ⅓ cup dry roasted peanuts
- Toss the chicken and cornstarch in a small bowl to coat; set aside.
- Heat the sesame oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add chicken and cook 5 to 7 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove chicken from pan; set aside.
- If the pan is too dry, heat a little more oil. Add the red bell peppers and cook 5 minutes, until just soft. Mix in the green onions, garlic, red pepper flakes and ginger. Cook 1 minute.
- Whisk the vinegar, soy sauce and sugar in a small bowl. Add the sauce to the pan. Return chicken to the pan and toss with the sauce. Stir in roasted peanuts. Heat thoroughly.
- Serve with rice. Garnish with additional green onions, if desired.
- If you like more sauce, just double the vinegar, soy sauce and sugar.
- Nutrition information is an estimate only, calculated without the rice and based on one serving being ¼th of the total dish.