This Kung Pao Chicken recipe is the perfect balance of sweet, savory and spicy, all stir-fried together in about 30 minutes. Adjust the spiciness level to your liking and serve alone, over white rice or fried rice.
I am so thrilled to be sharing this Kung Pao Chicken recipe with you today! My husband loves his Chinese food and Kung Pao Chicken is no different. While we are suuuuper weak when it comes to the spiciness of a dish, our 11 year old daughter lives for spicy food. So, when I first started testing this recipe, I wanted something we all could enjoy. Whether you love spicy food or can only handle a little bit here and there, this is the recipe for you!
But first, what is Kung Pao Chicken?
Kung Pao Chicken is a sweet and spicy Chinese dish made up of stir fried chicken, peanuts, dried chili peppers and vegetables. Man oh man is it good! This version isn’t as greasy as the take-out version with definitely more flavor.
Traditional Chinese Kung Pao Chicken Recipe
I’ll be the first one to admit that this is a not a traditional Chinese Recipe…not because I don’t know how or can’t make it traditional but because I know a lot of the ingredients needed for Kung Pao Chicken can be hard to find. Plus, odds are I’d only buy them to use in one recipe and then be left to expire and collect dust on my pantry shelf.
Here are the three main ingredients that would be needed to make this traditional:
- Dark Soy Sauce-from all the research and testing I’ve done on this recipe, dark soy sauce is an ingredient mainly used for coloring. The local grocery stores I regularly shop at don’t carry this but all the Asian Markets do. Feel free to substitute half the regular soy sauce for dark soy sauce in this recipe.
- Sichuan Peppercorns– these peppercorns don’t add spice, but add a slight lemony flavor while creating a tingly numbness sensation in the mouth. Again, slightly hard to find, but do add a great flavor. If you’d like to add Sichuan Peppercorns to this recipe, simply grind peppercorns into a powder and sprinkle in 1 teaspoon.
- Dried Chilis– here comes the heat! These chilis can get spicy real quick. I have found some ‘mild’ dried chilis as well as medium and hot chilis at the Asian market but really, these are all relative to how much spice you can handle. I’d recommend starting with a small number of these and working your way up, especially if this is a new to you ingredient.
Main Ingredients Needed
Here are the basic ingredients needed for this Kung Pao Chicken:
- Chicken-obviously this is on the list
- Onion– adds great flavor
- Red Bell Pepper– adds a little crunch and good substance to the dish
- Dried Chili Peppers-adds lots of heat; use cayenne if you can’t find these whole dried chiles.
- Scallions– pop of bright onion flavor
- Sauce Ingredients– lots of obvious culprits in here like soy sauce, hoisin, Worcestershire and sesame oil.
Do I have to make Kung Pao Chicken spicy?
Nope! You can add or take away spice as you like.
When I ventured out to make my own Kung Pao Chicken recipe for my spice-hating palate, it was a bit of a challenge. I wanted to make it flavorful with the right amount of spiciness that would be simple enough to add or take away heat. Whole dried peppers are the classic ingredient added in to Kung Pao Chicken to make this dish spicy. These peppers are sometimes harder to find because not all grocery stores carry them.
In order to make this recipe work and appeal to as many people as possible, I decided cayenne pepper (ground dried chilis) would be the best substitute. In the recipe card notes, I’ve given good guidelines for adding in the cayenne pepper. Basically, start with a very small amount and work your way up until it’s as spicy as you’d like.
Love this recipe? Try these other Asian favorites:
- Easy Fried Rice
- Crispy Sesame Beef
- Asian Slaw with Peanuts
- Grilled Asian Sweet and Spicy Chicken
- Super Mom Stir Fry
So there you have it! A fabulous and simple Kung Pao Chicken recipe that you can adjust and change as much as you’d like to make it as spicy or authentic as you’d like.
Be sure to pin/bookmark/print/share this recipe because you’re not going to want to lose this. Have a great day, friends!
Kung Pao Chicken
This Kung Pao Chicken recipe is the perfect balance of sweet, savory and spicy, all stir-fried together in about 30 minutes.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 large yellow onion diced (about 1 1/4 cups)
- 1 whole red bell pepper diced
- 1 pound chicken tenders or boneless, skinless breasts
- salt & pepper to taste
- red dried chiles* to taste
- 3 scallions sliced thin
- 1/4 cup salted and roasted peanuts
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute onion and red pepper.
While veggies are cooking, cut chicken into bite-sized pieces and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add in the hot pan to cook thoroughly to brown.
In a small bowl, whisk all sauce ingredients together. Pour into hot pan with dried chiles. Simmer to thicken sauce. Before serving, toss together with scallions and peanuts.
Serve over white rice.
*red dried chiles can add a lot of heat but can be hard to find. If you are wanting a spicier dish and don't want to add the chiles, sprinkle in cayenne pepper to taste. Start with 1/8 teaspoon, taste and adjust.