Kung Pao Chicken

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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!!

overhead view of kung pao chicken in a metal skillet

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.

chinese kung pao chicken in a metal skillet

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
  • Cornstarch

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! 

close up of chicken swimming in kung pao sauce

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: 

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Serve with white rice, cauliflower rice, or quinoa and dig in! 

overhead view of kung pao chicken in a metal skillet

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. 

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!!

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. 

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!!

Serving Suggestions 

Serve your better-than-takeout Chinese kung pao chicken with one or more of the following sides: 

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!!

Pin This Recipe

Yield: 4

Kung Pao Chicken

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!!

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!!

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes

Ingredients

Chicken

  • 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

Sauce

  • 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

Instructions

Chicken:

  1. 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.
  2. While the chicken and peppers are cooking, make the sauce.

Kung Pao Sauce:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Optionally garnish with peanuts and/or green onions and serve immediately.

Notes

Chicken will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 4 months.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 611Total Fat: 32gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 24gCholesterol: 145mgSodium: 972mgCarbohydrates: 23gFiber: 2gSugar: 14gProtein: 57g

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About the Author

Welcome to AverieCooks! Here you’ll find fast and easy recipes that taste amazing and are geared for real life. Nothing fussy or complicated, just awesome tasting dishes everyone loves!

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Please note: I have only made the recipe as written, and cannot give advice or predict what will happen if you change something. If you have a question regarding changing, altering, or making substitutions to the recipe, please check out the FAQ page for more info.

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Comments

  1. Made this tonight. It’ll be going into the regular meal rotation. Very delicious. Not as good as the better than takeout cashew chicken but it’s a close second!

    Rating: 5
    1. Thanks for the 5 star review and glad you enjoyed this one! The cashew chicken and this one have really different flavor profiles but I appreciate hearing which one you put in 1st vs 2nd place. Glad this one is a close second!

  2. Thank you SO much for this wonderful recipe!! I made it last night and we all loved it.  My daughter asked to put it in our weekly meal rotation.  I have been a fan since I tried your Chicken Lettuce Wraps recipe – which is absolutely amazing as well. Thanks again for all the work you do!

    Rating: 5
    1. Thanks for the 5 star review and glad your daughter loved it so much that she wants it in your weekly meal rotation! You’re welcome – and thank YOU for reading and coming to my site for my recipes!

  3. This was so good! I doubled the recipe and put some in the freezer for next week. I love the crunchy peanuts and cilantro on top. This was just what I needed today!

    Rating: 5
    1. Great to hear that you doubled it and that you loved it! The crunchy peanuts and cilantro add a great touch and now you have extras for the freezer. thanks for the five star review and have a great weekend Paula!

  4. Loved the Kung Pao chicken. Made 4 servings for two, my husband  said he would have eaten more. Restaurant quality! I can see this translating well with cauliflower and chick peas.Thanks

    Rating: 5
    1. Thanks for the 5 star review and glad that you and your husband loved it!

      I have a Kung Pao Cauliflower version that I linked to in the blog post! It’s wonderful.

  5. The sauce sounds fantastic–I have everything except the chili garlic and hoisin sauces….and I need some Asian flavors this weekend!

    1. It was so good! Can’t remember if you made the cauliflower version of this dish, I think you did, but this one is the chicken cousin to it and since going out to eat isn’t even a thing right now, this is actually better! :)

  6. Hi, Just made your kung pao chicken, yum! Made more of the sauce and added lots of veggies including broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, onions. Served over brown rice. Thanks for the delicious recipe.

    Rating: 5
    1. Kung Pao chicken is generally a fairly “pow” kind of dish. Not sure what to use to not make it spicy. You could omit it and see what happens and if you like the flavor or not.

  7. Hi! This recipe for Kung Pao Chicken sounds delicious and I will definitely be making it. Thank you! I have been following you for quite some time and love most of your recipes but can never figure out how to share them on Facebook and Twitter. Your site is harder to navigate than most – too much jumping around. Maybe I just need the obvious pointed out to me when it comes to sharing?

    1. That makes me feel disappointed because I just went through a big site remodel and relaunched last week.

      Not sure how hard it would be copy this link https://www.averiecooks.com/kung-pao-chicken/ and then go to your Facebook and paste it in? That’s what I do whenever I share anyone’s stuff to FB.

      Twitter, I really don’t use too much. I used to in like 2013 but those times have passed. It’s just not a visual-based medium like Pinterest (or to lesser degrees FB) is.

      Pinterest, every single image has floating Pinterest buttons in the top upper corners of the photos.

      Not sure if you’re on my mailing list but I sent an email to the 100k people who have signed up for my email list about all the great changes on my site.

      Specifically what makes it harder? And specifically what makes it ‘too much jumping around’? Specific feedback is helpful to make changes but more vague statements like those without real specifics make it impossible to really know what/where the issues are.

  8. Thank you Averie for the recipes you send, they have been a god send while being in qt here in England. I have made a few of your ideas and they are fab. Keep up the good work and stay safe.

    Rating: 5