This delicious Kung Pao Chicken recipe is quick and easy to make, and tastes even better than the restaurant version!
Ka-POW! It’s Monday!!
I seriously don’t know how the weekends seem to be zooming by so quickly lately. But yet again, the beginning of another week seems to have arrived. (Plus another new month — oh hey, August!) And with that, my to-do list for the week is already brimming with new missions to accomplish. (I’ll give you one guess as to which blockbuster I saw this weekend — oh hey, Tom Cruise!)
So for anyone looking for a quick and seasonal meal to fuel you for another new week ahead, I thought it would be fun to feature a favorite Chinese restaurant dish that’s just as fun to say as it is to eat — Kung Pao Chicken!
My dad ordered this dish religiously at our neighborhood restaurant growing up, and it has long been one of my favorites as well. Because tender chicken, sauteed up with tons of bell peppers (or your choice of veggies) and peanuts, and then tossed in a slightly-spicy brown sauce? Let’s just say that for years, I thought it was called “Ka-POW Chicken”, and that it was perfectly named. I never get tired of this dish!
As it turns out, it’s also exceptionally quick and easy to make at home, and my naturally-sweetened version lets you check those processed sugars at the door. Let’s make some!
Kung Pao Chicken Recipe | 1-Minute Video
Really, this recipe is about as versatile as you’d like to make it.
Don’t love chicken? Feel free to sub in shrimp or beef or pork or even tofu.
Don’t love tons of bell peppers? You can easily sub in whatever veggies are in season — asparagus, zucchini, green beans, broccoli, whatevs.
Allergic to peanuts? They’re not incorporated into the sauce with this dish, so feel free to nix them entirely, or just use cashews or a different nut.
The key to this recipe is mostly the sauce. I’m a big believer in using actual whole dried red chiles in this dish, because I feel that their flavor helps give it more of an authentic taste. You can buy them in almost any Asian or Mexican food section of the store (get dried, not fresh!). The key is just to remove the seeds before using them, unless you want a super Ka-POWWWW level of heat. Once the seeds are removed, just give them a nice chop, or saute them up whole if you’re feeling brave.
If you can’t find the peppers, though, traditional crushed red peppers (the kind used on pizza) will work as a substitute. See the note below the recipe.
I’m generally in a hurry when I make this dish, so I skip marinating the chicken. And frankly, the dish is so flavorful that I think you hardly miss that step. Just saute everything up together, adding in the sauce at the end, and within literally just about 20 minutes (less than the amount of time to run and pick up carry-out)…
This Kung Pao Chicken recipe is quick and easy to make, naturally sweetened, and full of the classic flavors of the dish we all love!
Kung Pao Chicken Ingredients:
2 Tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, cored and diced
1 green bell pepper, cored and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup peanuts
4 dried red Chinese or arbol chili peppers, seeds removed and finely chopped*
1 batch Kung Pao Marinade (see below)
garnishes for serving: thinly-sliced green onions, toasted sesame seeds
Kung Pao Marinade Ingredients:
1/4 cup water
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon cornstarch or arrowroot powder
1 Tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
To Make The Kung Pao Chicken:
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wok or large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken breast pieces and saute for 5 minutes, flipping occasionally, or until the chicken is completely cooked through and no longer pink inside. Transfer cooked chicken to a separate plate and set aside.
Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan. Then stir in the red and green bell peppers, garlic, peanuts and chopped red chili peppers. Saute for 3-4 minutes, or until the garlic is fragrant and the peppers are slightly softened, stirring frequently. Stir in the Kung Pao Marinade, and then let the mixture simmer until the marinade has thickened (about 1 minute). Add the cooked chicken back in and toss to combine. Remove from heat.
Serve immediately with rice or quinoa, topped with garnishes if desired.
To Make The Kung Pao Marinade:
Whisk all ingredients together until combined.
*If you don’t want to work with whole dried chiles, you can substitute 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes.
The weekends really ARE flying too fast..it’s the WORST.
On that note, what I actually want to fly REALLY REALLY fast is this super awesome chicken, right into my MOUTH!
This is a favorite takeout dish of mine, and I love that I can make it at home! Pinned!
I have a feeling I will make this not once, but dozens of times! It looks fantastic!
Thanks Ali, we hope you love it!
Fond memories of Saturday lunches at Lotus Gardens. Ke POWie!
Yum! Looks so delicious, I have to make it for our dinner:)
Thanks Ilona, we hope you love it!
This!! This looks like an awesome weeknight dinner–tons of flavor and easy ingredients. Pinning!
Thanks Erin, it’d definitely a great weeknight dinner – we hope you enjoy!
YUM – this looks delicious! Can’t go wrong with Chinese.
Josh | The Kentucky Gent
Our thoughts exactly! :)
this looks amazing!
Mmm I love Kung Pao chicken! This looks amazing!
hi am new to your site found on bloglovin am going to try this recipe tomorrow many thanks regards sue UK follower cheers
Hi Sue, thank you, and we hope you love it! :) Cheers!
I just checked the date & didn’t believe Aug 4th was staring me in the face! Seriously, where has the entire year gone?!?!! Think I’ll have to comfort myself with your awesome, healthier, yummier version of Ka POW! :)
Right?! We hope you enjoy the rest of your summer, and that you love the recipe! :)
Yumm!!! This looks very delicious, Ali!
Kung Pao Chicken is one of those things that I LOVE ordering for takeaway but something I never make! I definitely am inspired to try it out myself – this recipe loos delicious.
Thanks Thalia, we hope you love it as much as we do! :)
I made this tonight for me and my girlfriends and it was amazing!! Definitely bookmarking this for many more dinners to come!
Thanks Ariana, we’re happy to hear you and your friends enjoyed it! :)
This looks awesome! I will definitely be trying this recipe as soon as possible. I don’t think that rice wine vinegar is sold in my country though, so do you have any suggestions for an alternative that won’t compromise the taste of the dish?
Thanks Hoda, we’re happy to hear that! You could use mirin (very similar to rice wine, if you can find it), or white vinegar. We hope that helps, and that you enjoy!
I made this for dinner last night and it was awesome! Thanks for another great recipe. So quick, easy, and FLAVORFUL!
Tried it and it was wonderful!!
Thanks Silvia, we’re glad you liked it!
Hi Ivette, we’re sorry but we are unsure of the nutrition facts/amount of calories in this recipe. We currently are not publishing nutrition facts on the site, as the nutrition calculators available are not 100% accurate, and we never want to publish anything that might be misleading. However, a lot of our readers love the My Fitness Pal nutrition calculator, so feel free to try that for an estimate. We hope that helps!
I made this tonight and it was DELICIOUS. I added an onion, but otherwise followed the recipe exactly. What a tasty dinner. Thank you for the great recipe.
Hi Esther, we’re happy to hear you liked this!
Made this tonight and it was SO DELICIOUS! Thanks so much! I cooked with rice noodles which was yummy!
I made this for dinner last night and it was so tasty!! I added broccoli and carrots and served over rice…can’t wait for the lunch leftovers.
Thanks for sharing Jess, we’re happy you liked this! :)
Made this last week and really enjoyed it! I think next time around I’ll add a bit more heat though :)
Thanks Beata, we’re happy to hear that! :)
no kidding–this was absolutely delicious!!!
Thanks Robyn, we’re happy you liked it!
Made this and it was awesome! Simmered some sesame seeds (ran out of oil) and red pepper flakes in a bit of oil to infuse the flavor and heat before i stirfried the chicken. Halfed the chicken and added shrimp for a Kung Pao combo! Perfection!!
Thanks for sharing TJ, we’re glad you enjoyed it! Also, we think the half chicken, half shrimp sounds like a delicious combo! :)
Allie! I made this for dinner last night and it was such a hit! I just wanted to say thank you so much! Its being added to our regular rotation along with your awesome enchiladas. x
Thanks for sharing Jessica, Ali and I are happy you liked this!
Just made this last night and it was amazing! Thank you for providing such an easy and great tasting recipe. Never need to order Chinese take out again! :)
Awesome!! Cheers to homemade! :)
Oh… my… goodness. You have done it again! This was fantastic! I made a few small alterations (i.e. added some veggies and doubled sauce), but yow-za. Love!
Thanks Meredith, we’re so glad you enjoyed this! :D
OMG… made this last night and what a great and easy recipe! This will be going into regular rotation for when we’re craving Chinese! Thanks for sharing.
Yay! We’re so happy you enjoyed it Amanda! :)
Looks awesome! How do you think it would taste with seasoned rice vinegar instead of rice wine vinegar? I have everything to make it except the rice wine vinegar.
Thanks Debi! We think this would be delicious with seasoned rice vinegar – we hope you enjoy! :)
I made this tonight for dinner and was loved by everyone. I added mushrooms and sliced carrots,also doubled the sauce so there was plenty
for your rice or pasta. Thanks for the great recipe!!!
We’re so glad to hear that Beverly, thanks for sharing! :)
This is delicious! I added a tiny bit more chicken and some onion to mine. Mmmmm! As someone who is strict with counting macros, this was a fantastic addition to my recipe repertoire. I didn’t eat it with rice, just by itself….superb! It ends up being less than 300 calories per serving. What a deal! Thank you for another outstanding recipe!
Thanks for sharing Erica, we’re so glad you enjoyed it! :)
Quick question: raw peanuts, roasted/salted or roasted/unsalted? Thanks.
Also, I see no instructions for marinating, How long?
I’ve made so many of your recipes over the last 6 months and this one was the dinner tonight. Yum. The whole family complimented it through the whole meal. Thank you so much for a variety of healthy, scrumptious, uncomplicated, normal ingredient using recipes that make my friends and family happy. That makes me happy :)
Awww we’re so happy you and your family enjoyed this Karin — thanks for taking the time to share! :)
This was AMAZING!!! We could not stop eating it! Serious incredible! Thank you!!!
Thanks Rebecca — we’re happy you enjoyed it! :)
Yum! I made this in an experiment to try some quick and simple recipes that work with my crazy schedule (work full time and grad school) and this will totally be added to my slow growing list of weeknight options. My boyfriend has been making Trader Joes freezer bag version of this and I keep complaining that if he made it fresh it would be so much better! This proved me right again! Thanks for another great recipe.
We’re so happy you enjoyed this Holly — thanks for giving it a try, and we wish you luck with work and grad school! :)
I’ve made this a bunch of times. It’s so easy! Everyone loves it.
We’re so glad to hear that, Elizabeth! :)
I have made this several times and it’s great!
We’re glad you enjoy it!
Full of flavor.
This is my ultimate Fakeaway night treat. I love it. So easy and delicious. Thank you.
We’re so glad you enjoy it, Wendy!
can I freeze this meal well?
Hi Julia! Yes, you can freeze this, but we’d recommend freezing it without the cashews mixed in. We would just add those fresh. We hope you enjoy!
Loved it – even my picky son ate it minus the bell peppers for him.
HI Hayle, we absolutely loved your recipe! It was quick, easy and healthy! Thanks for sharing it!
So this is my first Kung Pao recipe I’ve tried and it was really good. I make tons of Chinese recipes but I’m glad I have a new one to add to my collection. Thank you .
I had no thawed chicken so I used chickpeas instead. I skipped the peanuts and didn’t add all the sauce. It was wonderful!!! Pinned!!! Thank you for sharing.
That’s interesting! How did you sub with the chickpeas?
I am trying out this recipe for the first time and I’m so excited. It looks delicious and reviewers seem to agree! Can I ask, for the Kung Pao marinade – for “Ground Ginger” do I use the dry spice for this or (fresh from the produce section) Ground Ginger (peeled and micrograted)? And if I use the dry spice, do I adjust down from the 1/2 tsp amount? Thanks!
I love this recipe and have made it so many times! When I bring leftovers to work for lunch everyone comments on how good it looks and smells!
Kung Po Chicken needs green onion, si-chuan pepper powder, and ginger when making it. Before cooking chicken, it needs me to marinated with starch, cooking wine and white pepper powder. Then cook the chicken in first, add si-chuan pepper powder for light numbing taste, then red pepper flakes. Till chicken changes color and cooked almost all way through, take chicken out and then put oil in, stir fry the green onion, garlic, and ginger, then put the sauce in until thickened a little bit to put in the chicken and stir fry it. Add roasted peanuts the last so it will keep the crunchy texture. Kung Po chicken shouldn’t have Green/red sweet pepper in. Chopped cucumber (English cucumber) is better than Sweet Peppers.
Can’t wait for leftovers at lunch tomorrow.
I made this for dinner tonight and my whole family loved it. Amazing recipe! Just as good or better than takeout. I will be making this again and I highly recommend it.
I have been making this for a few months now. I make exactly as written, but, always double the sauce and add extra chilies and serve with brown or white rice. My whole family loves this.
Was looking for comments about adding more sauce as I like it saucy and spicy. Thank you!