This Kung Pao Chicken recipe is so much better than take out! The sauce is spicy and sweet, with tender chicken that’s crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. This chicken dinner idea is so good your family won’t believe you made it at home!
Looking for more Chinese takeout inspired recipes? Try this Pork Chop Suey!
My Favorite Kung Pao Chicken Recipe
I love Chinese food! I especially love spending the night in with some take-out watching movies. Netflix and chill, anyone? What makes an at-home date night extra fun is making our take-out faves at home together!
When I order Chinese take-out, my go-to order is always Kung Pao Chicken. I love the sauce so much! It’s spicy, savory, and sweet. With the hot chili sauce, sugar, and Tamari – it’s a real roller coaster for the taste buds. So, obviously making my own take on this favorite was a must!
What is Kung Pao?
Kung Pao Chicken is a traditional Chinese chicken and vegetable dish. This knock-your-socks-off meal originated in the Sichuan province of China. Depending on your local Chinese restaurant, you may see it called Kung Po or Gong Bao. Unofficially, many people also call it Kung Pow!
Traditionally, this meal is made with chicken, chili peppers and stir-fried veggies. You’ll also likely see variations made with beef and shrimp with a sprinkle of peanuts.
Velveting: A Simple Trick that Makes this Recipe Stand Out!
One of the tricks that makes my easy Kung Pao Chicken taste just like the authentic Chinese dish is using the velveting process. What is velveting you ask? Let me tell ya! Velveting is a meat tenderizing technique used by all your fave Chinese restaurants. It’s super easy and pretty similar to marinating.
Here’s what you’ll need for the velveting process:
- boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
- Salt and fresh ground pepper
- Tamari or low sodium soy sauce
- dry sherry or Shaoxing wine
- granulated sugar
First up, cover your chicken pieces in your mixture of Tamari or soy sauce, salt, pepper, sherry, cornstarch, and sugar. Set it aside for 20-30 minutes. Then, when you fry the chicken, the coating keeps the chicken crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. That’s velveting, folks.
What You’ll Need for the Rest of this Recipe
For the Kung Pao Sauce:
I know, there’s a lot of ingredients here for a sauce. Trust me – it’s worth it! This sauce is sooo sooo good!
- Tamari or low sodium soy sauce
- dry sherry or Shaoxing wine
- white vinegar
- low sodium chicken broth
- hot chili sauce
For the Vegetable Stir Fry
One of the things that keeps Kung Pao Chicken from feeling heavy is the addition of crisp fresh veggies. Here’s what you’ll need:
- vegetable oil
- red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
- sugar snap peas
- garlic, minced
- fresh ginger
How to Make Kung Pao Chicken
Make the Kung Pao sauce: This is where the magic happens! Homemade Kung Pao Sauce is full of spicy and sweet flavors and pretty simple to make. All you need to do is whisk together soy sauce, sherry, vinegar, chicken broth, hot chili sauce, sugar, and cornstarch in a mixing bowl. Then, let it sit until you need it.
Velvet the chicken: To get started, combine chicken cubes, salt, pepper, soy sauce (or Tamari), dry sherry, sugar, and cornstarch in a large bowl. Give it a good toss to combine then cover it and set it aside for 20 to 30 minutes (this is the first step of the velveting process we talked about above).
Cook the chicken: When you’re close to the 20 minute mark, get your vegetable oil heating up in a large pan or wok over medium-high heat. Add the chicken to the hot oil in one single layer and cook on all sides until the chicken is done. This should take you about 4 to 5 minutes. Next, remove the chicken from the pan or wok and return the pan to heat.
Stir fry the veggies: Now, let’s add those veggies. Bring your oil back up to high heat and stir fry your veggies. Stir in peppers and sugar snap peas and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until just tender. Then add your minced garlic and ginger and cook for another 30 seconds, or so.
Add the chicken back into the pan and toss to all the goodies to combine.
Give your previously prepared sauce a stir and pour it over the chicken. Toss everything together to coat all ingredients. Continue to cook and toss for another minute or two, or until the sauce thickens.
Tips for Success
- Make sure your chicken and veggies are cut in uniform size so that they cook evenly.
- Heat your wok or pan to full heat before adding your chicken or veggies. You want it hot to start, you don’t want it coming to heat while stir-frying.
- Be sure to continually stir and toss your ingredients while you stir fry.
Ok so now you have this incredible Chinese takeout inspired dish, what do you serve it with? I have some suggestions!
How to Store and Reheat Leftovers
You can store your leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Simply pop it in the fridge and enjoy your leftovers when you’re ready. Beware: the spice will intensify as it sits! When you’re ready to eat it – just reheat in your microwave for a few minutes.
TOOLS USED IN THIS RECIPE
Easy Kung Pao Chicken
For the Chicken
- 1 pound chicken breasts, boneless, skinless, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- 1 tsp Tamari or low sodium soy sauce
- 1 tsp dry sherry or Shaoxing wine
- ½ tsp granulated sugar
- ½ tsp corn starch
For the Stir Fry
- 1 tbsp Tamari or low sodium soy sauce
- 1 tbsp dry sherry or Shaoxing wine
- 1 tbsp white vinegar
- ¼ cup low sodium chicken broth
- 1-2 tbsp hot chili sauce, (Use only if you like your Kung Pao spicy)
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 2 tsp corn starch
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil, divided
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
- 2 cups sugar snap peas
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
- 1 tbsp sesame oil, for garnish
- In a large mixing bowl combine chicken cubes, salt, pepper, soy sauce (or Tamari), dry sherry, sugar, and cornstarch; toss to combine, cover, and set aside for 20 to 30 minutes.
- In a separate mixing bowl whisk together soy sauce, sherry, vinegar, chicken broth, hot chili sauce, sugar, and cornstarch. Set aside.
- Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a large pan or wok over medium-high heat.
- Add chicken to the hot oil in one single layer; cook on all sides until done, about 4 to 5 minutes.
- Remove chicken from pan/wok and return pan to heat.
- Add remaining vegetable oil to the pan and heat over high heat.
- Stir in peppers and sugar snap peas; cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until just tender.
- Stir in minced garlic and ginger; cook for 30 seconds.
- Add chicken back into the pan and toss to combine.
- Stir previously prepared sauce and then pour it over the chicken; toss to coat all ingredients.
- Cook and toss for another minute or two, or until sauce thickens.
- Remove from heat.
- Drizzle with sesame oil.