Kung Pao Chicken — An easy, BETTER-THAN-TAKEOUT recipe with juicy chicken and such a flavorful sauce!! Don’t call for takeout when you can make this HEALTHIER version at home in 20 minutes! So AUTHENTIC tasting!!
This recipe is a spinoff from my Kung Pao Cauliflower. I loved it so much and knew that most people would probably be into a chicken version.
Both are great and I can make a meal out of either one, even the cauliflower version!
What Is Kung Pao Chicken?
The chicken is tender and juicy with crisp-tender red bell peppers, topped with crunchy peanuts, green onions, and a thick kung pao sauce. I’m not lying when I said it’s better-than-takeout.
It’s salty and savory with a touch of sweetness from brown sugar and a hint of acid from rice vinegar. It’s so good I could spoon it over everything. This recipe makes plenty of sauce and extra sauce is perfect over rice.
This healthier-than-takeout kung pao chicken recipe is salty, sweet, tangy, and spicy, all rolled into one. It will be a family favorite in no time and is perfect for busy weeknights.
Kung Pao Chicken Ingredients
The kung pao sauce recipe is very simple with just a handful ingredients. All of the ingredients are available at most mainstream grocery stores in the ethnic or Asian section.
To make the kung pao chicken sauce, you’ll need:
- Hoisin sauce
- Soy sauce
- Brown sugar
- Rice vinegar (or substitute with another vinegar)
- Chili garlic sauce
- Sesame oil
For the rest of the dish, you’ll need:
- Chicken breasts
- Red bell pepper
- Olive oil
- Chopped peanuts and green onions (for garnish)
Tip: The full ingredients list (with measurements) can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of this post!
How to Make Kung Pao Chicken
The great thing about this easy kung pao chicken is that it’s definitely healthier than a Chinese restaurant or take-out would be, and it’s gluten-free.
If you are extremely gluten-sensitive or preparing this for people who are, make sure you read the labels and select gluten-free products, notably the hoisin and soy sauces!
Here’s how the recipe comes together:
- To a large skillet, add the chicken pieces and red peppers, olive and sesame oil, and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.
- While that’s going, to a separate stockpot, add the kung pao sauce ingredients, whisk together, and allow the mixture to boil and thicken for a couple minutes.
- Add the kung pao sauce to the chicken and peppers, and allow it to boil for a couple minutes before garnishing with chopped peanuts and green onions.
- Serve with white rice, cauliflower rice, or quinoa and dig in!
Tips for the Best Kung Pao Chicken
The great thing about the kung pao chicken sauce is that you can customize it to be as mild or spicy as you prefer by altering the amount of chili garlic sauce you use.
I used 3 tablespoons and our chicken was pretty spicy, but we adore spicy food. We put the pow in pao. Anything kung pao for us needs to have that pow but adjust the heat level to your liking by playing with the chili garlic sauce.
For the average person, I would go with 1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce, see how the sauce tastes, and work up from there.
Is Kung Pao Chicken Spicy?
Yes! The sauce is meant to be spicy. However, this particular recipe is “flavorful spicy” and not “burn your mouth off spicy.”
You can make the sauce more or less spicy adjusting the amount of chili garlic sauce in the recipe.
How Long Does Kung Pao Chicken Last?
This copycat Chinese kung pao chicken will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 4 months.
Can I Double This Recipe?
Very easily! As written, the recipe yields 4 servings. You can double all the ingredients and follow the directions as written to make 8 servings.
Serve your better-than-takeout Chinese kung pao chicken with one or more of the following sides:
- Rice (brown, white, or cauliflower rice)
- Steamed or roasted broccoli
- Fresh Spring Rolls
- Cauliflower Fried Rice (omit the chicken)
- Classic Fried Rice (omit the chicken)
- Sweet and Sour Asian Noodles
Pin This Recipe
- 1.25 to 1.50 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, diced into bite-sized pieces
- 1 medium/large red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 to 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- salt and pepper, optional and to taste
- 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
- 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 2 to 3 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar (white or apple cider vinegar may be substituted)
- 1 to 3 tablespoons chili garlic sauce, or as desired (use 1 tablespoon if you're sensitive to spicy food and work up if desired)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 3 teaspoons cornstarch, dissolved in 3 teaspoons water (called a slurry)
- 2 to 4 tablespoons chopped salted peanuts, optional for garnishing
- 1 to 2 tablespoons green onions, sliced into thin rounds; optional for garnishing
- To a large skillet, add the chicken, red peppers, oils, optionally season with salt and pepper (there's plenty of salt and spice in the sauce for me), and saute over medium-high heat for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until chicken is done and cooked through. Stir and flip frequently to ensure even cooking.
- While the chicken and peppers are cooking, make the sauce.
Kung Pao Sauce:
- To a medium high-sided stock pot, add the hoisin and soy sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar, chili garlic sauce (start slowly if you're sensitive to heat; you can always add more later but you can't take it away), sesame oil, cornstarch slurry. Whisk to combine.
- Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, and allow mixture to boil for about 2 to 3 minutes, whisking nearly continuously. Mixture will thicken up slightly as it cools. Set mixture aside until chicken and peppers are cooked.
- Add the sauce to the skillet with the chicken, stir, and allow sauce to simmer for about 2 to 3 minutes, or until slightly reduced and thickened; scrape the sides of the skillet with a rubber spatula to prevent the sauce from burning.
- Optionally garnish with peanuts and/or green onions and serve immediately.
Chicken will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 4 months.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 611Total Fat: 32gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 24gCholesterol: 145mgSodium: 972mgCarbohydrates: 23gFiber: 2gSugar: 14gProtein: 57g
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