How To Cook Kung Pao Chicken? Kung Pao Chicken Recipe

Kung Pao chicken is a famous Chinese dish made with diced chicken, chilies, and peanuts. In some Western countries, this world-famous dish is synonymous with Chinese cuisine.

Ingredients and Seasonings

Main ingredients: 400-500g chicken, 100g peanuts

Seasonings: dried red chilies, 5 green onions, a piece of ginger, 5 pieces of garlic, 30g cooking oil, 15g thick broad-bean sauce, 5g cooking wine, 15g cooking starch, 2g salt, 5g rice vinegar, 10g soy sauce, and 5g sugar

The amounts of the seasonings can be adjusted according to personal taste. 

(Omit the chilies for a non-spicy Kung Pao chicken.)

Preparation

1. Clean the chicken breasts and dice them.

2. Stir together the cooking wine, cooking starch, and salt, and marinated the chicken cubes in the mixture for half an hour.

3. Soak peanuts in hot water for 10 minutes and remove the peanut skins.

4. Clean the dried red chili peppers and cut them into small pieces. Clean and chop the green onions. Clean and dice the ginger and garlic.

5. Make a bowl of starchy sauce with the sugar, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and cooking wine.

Cooking Instructions

1. Use a moderate amount of oil to fry the peanuts until they turn yellow, drain them, and set them on a plate to cool. Cool peanuts are crisper.

2. Using high heat, heat oil in a hot wok, then add the chicken cubes, and fry until they turn slightly brown. Drain them and remove them to a plate.

3. Leave some cooking oil in the wok, and using a high heat stir-fry the dried chilies for 30 seconds to release the spice.

4. Then re-add the fried chicken cubes and add the diced garlic and ginger, and the thick broad-bean sauce. Stir-fry until the sauce becomes red.

5. Add the starchy sauce and chopped green onions, and re-add the cool fried peanuts. Stir-fry together for 30 seconds.

6. Serve it on a plate.

The History of Kung Pao Chicken

It is said that the dish was created by Ding Baozhen (1820–1886), a governor of Sichuan Province during the Qing Dynasty. He came from Niuchang Town, Zhijin County, Bijie City, Guizhou Province.

According to the legend, Ding Baozhen was very interested in cooking. He liked eating chicken and peanuts, and especially loved spicy flavors. He created a delicacy made of diced chicken, red chilies, and peanuts while in office.

It was originally a Ding family recipe, but as time passed it became a well-known dish. However, few people know why it is named Kung Pao…

Ding Baozhen was a good governor during his 10-year service in Sichuan, contributing a lot to the local people’s wellbeing. So the Qing government conferred upon him posthumously an official title: Kung Pao (Wade-Giles romanization of 宫保 Gōng Bǎo ‘Palace Defender’), which meant an officer who tutors the crown prince.

Therefore, Ding’s delicacy was named “Kung Pao chicken” to commemorate his great contributions.

Travel with Us and Learn to Cook Traditional Chinese Dishes

Our customers are learning cooking Chinese food in Yangshuo.

Our customers are learning cooking Chinese food in Yangshuo.

If you want to learn to cook traditional Chinese dishes in China, China Highlights offers you the opportunity. See our most popular food tours, with cooking classes alongside must-see sights:

The Flavor of China — a 12-Day Beijing, Xi’an, Guilin, and Hong Kong cuisine tour

A Culinary Adventure — an 8-Day Beijing, Chengdu, and Guangzhou tour

Or you can contact us and we can add the experience of learning to cook Chinese dishes to your very own tailor-made China tour.

How To Cook Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao chicken is a famous Chinese dish made with diced chicken, chilies, and peanuts. In some Western countries, this world-famous dish is synonymous with Chinese cuisine.

Ingredients and Seasonings

Main ingredients: 400-500g chicken, 100g peanuts

Seasonings: dried red chilies, 5 green onions, a piece of ginger, 5 pieces of garlic, 30g cooking oil, 15g thick broad-bean sauce, 5g cooking wine, 15g cooking starch, 2g salt, 5g rice vinegar, 10g soy sauce, and 5g sugar

The amounts of the seasonings can be adjusted according to personal taste.

(Omit the chilies for a non-spicy Kung Pao chicken.)

Preparation

1. Clean the chicken breasts and dice them.

2. Stir together the cooking wine, cooking starch, and salt, and marinated the chicken cubes in the mixture for half an hour.

3. Soak peanuts in hot water for 10 minutes and remove the peanut skins.

4. Clean the dried red chili peppers and cut them into small pieces. Clean and chop the green onions. Clean and dice the ginger and garlic.

5. Make a bowl of starchy sauce with the sugar, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and cooking wine.

Cooking Instructions

1. Use a moderate amount of oil to fry the peanuts until they turn yellow, drain them, and set them on a plate to cool. Cool peanuts are crisper.

2. Using high heat, heat oil in a hot wok, then add the chicken cubes, and fry until they turn slightly brown. Drain them and remove them to a plate.

3. Leave some cooking oil in the wok, and using a high heat stir-fry the dried chilies for 30 seconds to release the spice.

4. Then re-add the fried chicken cubes and add the diced garlic and ginger, and the thick broad-bean sauce. Stir-fry until the sauce becomes red.

5. Add the starchy sauce and chopped green onions, and re-add the cool fried peanuts. Stir-fry together for 30 seconds.

6. Serve it on a plate.

The History of Kung Pao Chicken

It is said that the dish was created by Ding Baozhen (1820-1886), a governor of Sichuan Province during the Qing Dynasty. He came from Niuchang Town, Zhijin County, Bijie City, Guizhou Province.

According to the legend, Ding Baozhen was very interested in cooking. He liked eating chicken and peanuts, and especially loved spicy flavors. He created a delicacy made of diced chicken, red chilies, and peanuts while in office.

It was originally a Ding family recipe, but as time passed it became a well-known dish. However, few people know why it is named Kung Pao…

Ding Baozhen was a good governor during his 10-year service in Sichuan, contributing a lot to the local people’s wellbeing. So the Qing government conferred upon him posthumously an official title: Kung Pao (Wade-Giles romanization of 宫保 Gōng Bǎo ‘Palace Defender’), which meant an officer who tutors the crown prince.

Therefore, Ding’s delicacy was named “Kung Pao chicken” to commemorate his great contributions.

Travel with Us and Learn to Cook Traditional Chinese Dishes

Our customers are learning cooking Chinese food in Yangshuo.

If you want to learn to cook traditional Chinese dishes in China, China Highlights offers you the opportunity. See our most popular food tours, with cooking classes alongside must-see sights:

Or you can contact us and we can add the experience of learning to cook Chinese dishes to your very own tailor-made China tour.

Best Ever Kung Pao Chicken · I Am A Food Blog

Lately we’ve been eating all the spicy food! On the menu is always spicy red chili oil wontons and more often than not, this kung pao chicken.

Kung pao chicken is the perfect quick weeknight dinner for warming up: spicy, tangy, just a hint of sweet, and so, so addictive.

What is kung pao chicken?

Kung pao chicken is a classic Chinese stir fry dish with diced chicken, dried chilis, and peanuts. It comes from the land of fire-y spicy hot Chinese food, Sichuan. It’s also a really popular Americanized Chinese dish that is one of the most popular Chinese takeout dishes. Everyone loves kung pao chicken and it’s not hard to understand why, with its tender bits of chicken and complex sauce of salty, sweet, tangy, and spicy flavors.

This particular kung pao isn’t quite the way it’s made in Sichuan: instead of going the classic route dry-frying route with just a touch of sauce, it’s a saucy riff off of takeout style American Chinese kung pao, perfect for eating with rice.

Most of the ingredients in this kung pao chicken can be found at your usual grocery store: chicken thighs (or breast if that’s your fancy), soy sauce, rice vinegar, cornstarch, sugar, garlic, ginger, scallions, and peanuts (or your nut of choice). The other handful of ingredients can be found at your friendly Asian grocery store, online, or in places like Whole Foods.

Shaoxing wine: This is the secret ingredient that all your Chinese food needs to taste like restaurant style Chinese food. Shaoxing wine is a sweet, nutty, earthy rice wine that will make your kung pao taste amazing. Read more about it via our ultimate guide to Shaoxing wine.

Hoisin sauce: Hoisin is pretty much sold everywhere now, from Target to your basic grocery store. It’s a thick, sweet brown sauce that’s used in marinades and as a dipping sauce. It’s super flavorful: sweet and savory, tangy, and full of umami. Hoisin can taste different based on brand, and for us, the best brand of hoisin is Lee Kum Kee. Bonus, it comes in a squeeze bottle!

Whole dried chilis: These are completely optional, but if you want your kung pao to look authentic, you’ve got to have dried chilis! They sell whole Chinese dried chilis online and in Asian grocery stores (we use heaven facing chilis) but you can sub the chile de árbol you see in the Mexican aisle too. Most people don’t actually eat the dried peppers, but some do (only a couple!), especially if the peppers are high quality, toasty, and good.

Peanuts: Peanuts are the classic nut in kung pao and they key is to fry them a bit before using them as garnish. I went for a peanut-free kung pao with cashews and you can sub any nut (or leave the nuts out entirely.) To fry the peanuts: heat a bit of oil in a non-stick pan or wok. Stir fry, moving constantly for 2-3 minutes until they start to smell roasty and delicious. Remove from the pan and set aside. You can also sub roasted nuts and skip frying them.

This stir fry comes together super quick and easy, but that’s only after you prep all of the ingredients. If you want do this faster than takeout will arrive at your door, just get everything in order before you even start cooking.

First off, make some rice. Unless you’ve smart and have rice meal-prepped in your fridge. Then in that case, skip this step because you’re already winning at life.

Cut up your chicken into bite sized pieces and place in a bowl with the marinade and set aside while your prep the sauce ingredients.

Prep the aromatics and whisk up all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup. This is the step that will probably take the most time if you’re not really a prep machine. Use a garlic press for the garlic and a ginger grater for the ginger. Both are huge time savers. This recipe has the green onions cut into sections, so that’s pretty fast.

Time to cook! It’ll take just a few minutes: basically once the chicken is cooked through, about 5-6 minutes on medium high, you add the sauce, let it reduce a bit 2-3 minutes, and you’re ready to eat.

I like to use a non-stick pan because cornstarch has the tendency to stick to regular pans and with a non-stick you have the option of not using as much oil. I know that some people think that non-stick pans are not professional, because they don’t give you the same kind of maillard reaction (or wok hei, if you’re going that deep) you’d get with a regular pan, but when you’re making stir fry, not steak, it’s not really an issue. Plus, the name of the game is ease and if you have an annoyingly difficult to wash pan after dinner is done, that’s not easy. These pans are my favorite.

Bonus Pro Tip

It’s really nice having two cutting boards that are dishwasher safe (and with feet, so they don’t slip). That way, you don’t have to cut up your vegetables first before cutting your meat. With two cutting boards, you can cut your chicken, pop that cutting board in the dishwasher, then move on to your second cutting board to prep the aromatics without worrying about cross contamination. ( These are the ones we use). It’s one of the things I love having multiples of: cutting boards and dish towels.

What to serve with kung pao chicken

Kung Pao Chicken, The Authentic Way (宫保鸡丁)

One of the most famous Chinese dishes, Kung Pao chicken is getting increasingly popular in restaurants (and take-away/take-out) outside China. I’ve seen and tasted some produced with all kinds of adaptations. I’d like to share my recipe which is based on the traditional Sichuan formula. It’s inspired by conversations with professional chefs, cooking classes on my Culinary Tours of China, as well as by cookbooks on Sichuan cuisine.

Kung Pao Chicken (also transcribed as Gong Bao or Kung Po)/宫保鸡丁 originates from Sichuan province, China. It’s believed to be named after Ding Baozhen/丁宝桢, a governor of Sichuan in late Qing Dynasty whose private chef invented this dish. Consisting of cubes of chicken, chunks of scallions & peanuts, it’s seasoned with dried chilli, Sichuan pepper and a tasty sauce.

The Cooking Procedure

It takes 4 simple steps to cook Kung Pao chicken. Here is a summary of what to expect in each step:

Marinate the chicken. Cut the chicken into bite-size cubes then mix with cornstarch, water and sesame oil.

Toast the peanuts (or cashew nuts) in a pan until lightly brown.

Mix the sauce with the following ingredients: light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, black rice vinegar, Shaoxing rice wine, sugar, cornstarch & water.

Stir fry the dish by adding the ingredients to the wok in the following sequence: ① Oil, dried chilli & Sichuan pepper; ② Marinated chicken; ③ Scallions, garlic & ginger; ④ The sauce; ⑤ Toasted nuts.

How to Prepare the Chicken

Personally, I prefer chicken thighs for Kung Pao chicken, or other stir-fry dishes alike (eg. Black Pepper Chicken). It’s a flavoursome cut that contains a moderate amount of fat. Buy boneless, skinless thighs if possible. Trim off any excess fat if you wish.

That said, please feel free to use chicken breast. Marinate & stir-fry the same way. Be attentive not to overcook as chicken breast tends to have a drier texture than chicken thigh. So the timing is more crucial.

How to Achieve the Perfect Kung Pao Flavour

Now let’s talk about other ingredients that make Kung Pao chicken distinctly different from other chicken dishes. Consisting of common Chinese condiments, spices and nuts, they create a sophisticated and addictive flavour: savoury, umami, sour, sweet, spicy, mouth-numbing, smoky & nutty.

The spices

Dried chilli & whole Sichuan pepper are used to create hot and numbing flavour. Also, they add a hint of smokiness if fried properly (see the section below for more information about these two spices).

Scallions, ginger & garlic

Indispensable in Chinese kitchens, these three ingredients are used generously in Kung Pao chicken. Scallions, in particular, are essential if you wish to make the dish authentic. Use the stem part only and chop them in chunks to match the chicken pieces (the leftover part can be used to cook Scallion Pancakes).

The sauce

It’s very important to get the sauce balanced. Through tests, I’ve come up with the following ratio which I think is perfect in taste. For making 2 servings, you’ll need:

If this is your first time making Kung Pao chicken, I highly recommend you follow this formula and measure precisely to get a ‘test taste’. Then please feel free to adjust based on your own preferences.

The nuts

Authentic Kung Pao chicken also calls for peanuts (toasted or deep-fried) which adds another layer of flavour. You may replace them with cashew nuts. It’s important that you add the nuts at the very end of the stir-frying process. Otherwise, they would lose their crunchiness.

How to Choose Dried Chilli & Sichuan Pepper

However, the tanginess of Kung Pao chicken is not as high as other mala classics, such as Sichuan Boiled Beef or Chongqing Mala Chicken, etc. People with mild tolerance to spicy food would also enjoy it (that’s one of the reasons why it has become popular worldwide). I usually use a combination of two types of dried chillies (see image above): Facing Heaven chillies (Chao Tian Jiao/朝天椒) which has a high spiciness and Lantern chillies (Deng Long Jiao/灯笼椒) which only has a hint of spiciness but are rather aromatic.

Please feel free to use any types of dried chillies that suits your hotness tolerance and are easily available to you. The key point is to choose the fresh-looking ones: vibrant and shiny in colour. I find chillies of Indian origin work very well.

Regarding Sichuan pepper, please check out my ultimate guide ” Sichuan Pepper: Your Questions Answered “. It provides information on all aspects of this unique Chinese spice. A purchasing guide is included.

How to Stir-fry to Perfection

Set your wok over high heat and fry dried chillies & Sichuan pepper in oil first. Keep a close eye to avoid burning. As soon as you sense the fragrance of the spices, add the marinated chicken. At this point, the chillies should still look red. They will darken later on and produce a hint of smokiness. If they look dark already at this stage, you are likely to burn them in the end.

Fry the chicken pieces for about 30 seconds, then add scallions, garlic & ginger. Make sure you stir constantly to evenly heat the ingredients. When the chicken completely loses its pinkness, they should be cooked. Use the spatula to cut a piece to check if you’re not certain.

Pour in the sauce (Give it a good stir beforehand). It will thicken pretty quickly (in about 20 seconds). Turn off the heat immediately.

The last thing is to add the toasted peanuts (or cashew nuts). Stir to evenly distribute then dish out to serve.

Questions You May Have

Based on the questions I frequently receive, I’d like to list some of them which are related to this dish. Hope you’ll find them helpful.

Q: I love Kung Pao flavour but I’m vegetarian/vegan, is it possible to adapt this recipe?

A: That’s totally doable. King oyster mushroom is a great option. Also, you may use tofu to replace the chicken. Pan-fry the tofu pieces, like how I do it for the recipe ” Pan-fried Tofu with Garlic Sauce ” before stir-frying with other ingredients.

Q: Can I use other meat instead?

A: Yes, beef, pork, fish, scallop would work too. I have written tips on how to maximise the tenderness of beef and pork in recipes for ” Beef & Chinese Broccoli Stir-fry” and ” Shredded Pork with Garlic Sauce “.

Q: I don’t have a wok. Can I use a frying pan instead?

A: Yes, you can. However, a traditional carbon steel wok does produce a more authentic taste.

Q: Can I add some vegetables to the dish?

A: Yes, please feel free to do so. The traditional recipe doesn’t call for vegetables other than scallions. However, increasingly restaurants (particularly the ones outside China) tend to add veggies, such as cucumber, bell pepper, onion, celery, etc.

Q: Can I replace black rice vinegar with balsamic vinegar or Shaoxing rice wine?

A: Not really. Chinese black rice vinegar has a quite unique taste which is very different from balsamic vinegar. Shaoxing rice wine is a type of cooking alcohol which has no similarity to vinegar.

Q: Is it customary to eat the dried chilli and Sichuan pepper in this dish?

A: No. They are for flavouring the main ingredients in the dish.

Other Classic Dishes Using Chicken

Looking for more inspiration? Have a look at the following recipes which also use chicken as the star ingredient.

Ca Salmon Kho To Xuan Hong

The cooks even heated up the clay pot to fool unsuspecting customers into believing it was the actual cooking vessel. Obviously many types of fish were available there, but certain dishes tend to stick to certain varieties or be influenced by local availability. This braised catfish is eaten at any time of the day, year-round. This fish is stronger smelling, so she balanced that by adding some tea!

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I need to experiment with more types for my own knowledge. Or at least venture into discovering better brands. Ca kho is a very rich and salty dish, so it goes well with many veggies to balance it out.

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Miso-Marinated Black Cod Recipe. I love the stories and connections people make over food like this. I forget who said it but, sometimes the best thing about a meal is who you share it with. I have never cooked with or eaten catfish before.

You definitely have got me curious to know what this tastes like… it does look delicious and jam packed full of flavour! Hey Thalia! But aside from that and Southern American food, I seen much of it. Thuy, great to see you here and thanks! Yeah the dish is one of those fairly simple ones, but the execution can tip the scales.

Cheers, Dinh. I made my confession to that above. Cracked pepper-yes! The recipe has been modded for this, which is definitely needed. I had a question about the thick soy sauce.

Is it actually thicker in texture, or is it just. Hey Diana!This is one of my favorite dishes at a local Vietnamese restaurant. I searched around the internet for the recipe and this is what a came up with. I just made this tonight and am quite surprised how close it taste to the restaurant version. It is normally made in a clay pot but a 2-quart saucepan will suffice.

Beware, fish sauce is a very pungent ingredient. Cholesterol Sodium Total Carbohydrate Protein Recipe by angelcakes.

Join In Now Join the conversation! Calories: Total Fat Remove pan from heat and stir the fish sauce into the caramel. It will smoke slightly. Return the pan to low heat and gently boil for about couple minutes while stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Stir in the shallots, chili and ginger. Add the fish in the caramel sauce and sprinkle with black pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pan.

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