Hunan Chicken Recipe

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This quick and easy Hunan Chicken stir fry recipe pairs juicy chicken and tender vegetables with the best sweet and spicy Hunan Sauce!

preparing hunan chicken in a black skillet


 

For lovers of Chinese food and especially Hunan cuisine, this Hunan chicken recipe might already be a familiar favorite. Its light yet flavor-packed spicy sauce, combined with the succulent chicken and colorful veggies, is what makes this saucy stir-fry a regular feature on takeout menus everywhere. Now, with my easy recipe, you can whip up a batch of restaurant-quality Hunan style chicken right in your own kitchen! If you’re craving a dinner that’s as zesty as it is uncomplicated, this chicken stir fry will be your new go-to.

Why We Love This Stir Fry Recipe

  • Budget-Friendly: This recipe uses affordable, easy-to-find ingredients that won’t break the bank.
  • Takeout Fakeout: Enjoy the taste of Hunan Chicken without leaving your home.
  • Quick Dinner: This dish comes together fast, offering a delicious and hearty meal that’s ready in minutes.
up close shot of hunan chicken with broccoli, peppers, and mushrooms

Hunan Chicken vs Szechuan Chicken

Hunan Chicken and Szechuan Chicken come from different regions of China and use different ingredients. While Szechuan Chicken uses dried chilies (and sometimes special Szechuan peppercorns) for a fiery kick, Hunan Chicken is spicy thanks to a special fermented chili paste. Also, Hunan Chicken is a tangier, saucier dish, and includes more veggies, while Szechuan Chicken tends to be sweeter and has less (or even no) sauce. Another difference is in the chicken itself: typically, Szechuan Chicken is prepared with fried chunks of chicken, while Hunan Chicken is made with sliced, velveted chicken breast.

Ingredients You’ll Need

I really enjoy whipping up Asian dishes at home, especially classics from Chinese restaurants like Chinese Boneless Spare Ribs, Sesame Beef and Broccoli, or Pork Chop Suey. They are all very easy to make so long as you have all your ingredients prepped and ready to go before you start cooking.

  • Vegetable Oil: For sautéing.
  • Chicken: Thinly slice about a pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but you could also use chicken thighs. Pork, beef, and shrimp are also great alternatives.
  • Cornstarch: For texture, we will toss the sliced chicken with cornstarch before cooking.
  • Salt and Black Pepper: To taste. You could also use white pepper, which is commonly used in Chinese dishes, preferred for its distinct and milder flavor.
  • Broccoli: I use two cups of small broccoli florets in this dish.
  • Bell Peppers: Dice up one small red bell pepper.
  • Mushrooms: You’ll need one cup of thinly sliced mushrooms.
  • Garlic: Two minced garlic cloves round out the savory flavor and create the garlic sauce that ties the dish together.
  • Broth: To make the dish saucy, you’ll need half a cup of chicken or vegetable broth.
  • Soy Sauce: A couple of tablespoons of low-sodium soy sauce adds a salty, umami flavor.
  • Oyster Sauce: This handy condiment is mild, salty, and has a great seafood flavor.
  • Rice Vinegar: Light and fragrant, rice vinegar is useful for stir-fries.
  • Chili Paste: Hunan Chicken usually includes Doubanjiang paste, but you can substitute sambal oelek or gochujang if they’re easier to find.
  • Cornstarch: To thicken the sauce, you’ll need two teaspoons of cornstarch.
  • Sugar: A little sugar gives this sauce the finishing touch. Feel free to substitute honey, if you prefer.
  • Sliced Green Onion: For garnish.

How to Make Hunan Chicken

This dish is just a straightforward combo of tender chicken and fresh vegetables, all tossed in the iconic Hunan sauce that’s known for its perfect balance of tangy, sweet, and spicy flavors.

  1. Prep the Chicken. Place the chicken slices and cornstarch in a zip-top bag. Seal the bag and shake everything around to coat.
  2. Cook the Chicken. Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or a large skillet set over high heat. Add the chicken in one single layer, season it with salt and pepper, and cook for about 7 minutes or until done. You’ll need to cook the chicken in batches if your skillet isn’t big enough. 
  3. Cook the Vegetables. Remove the chicken from the wok and set it aside. Cook the broccoli, pepper, and mushrooms for 4 to 5 minutes or until they are tender. Stir in the garlic, and cook for 15 seconds or so. 
  4. Make the Sauce. While the veggies are cooking, whisk together the chicken broth, soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice vinegar, chili paste, cornstarch, and sugar in a small bowl.
  5. Combine All the Ingredients. Return the chicken to the skillet. Pour the sauce over the chicken and veggies, and bring it to a simmer. Continue to cook for a couple minutes, or until the sauce is thickened. 
  6. Enjoy! Remove the finished stir fry from the heat. Garnish with green onions, if using, and serve.
preparing hunan chicken in a black skillet

Recipe Tips And Variations

  • Mise en Place: This French cooking term means “everything in its place,” and it’s super helpful to remember when making stir-fry! Having all of your ingredients chopped, measured, and ready to go before cooking makes the process a breeze.
  • Hot Wok: Here’s the thing about stir-fry—to get the ingredients tender and perfectly cooked, you must have the pan nice and hot. The ingredients should sizzle and keep sizzling when they hit the oil.
  • Pop the chicken breasts in the freezer for a bit before slicing. This little trick makes dicing or cutting it into thin pieces a breeze.
  • More Vegetables: Feel free to pack this savory dish with any veggies you love. For a bit of inspiration, consider adding snow peas, baby corn, zucchini, water chestnuts, cabbage, or bean sprouts to the mix.
  • Spice Level: You may like it really spicy or really mild. Simply adjust the amount of chili paste to your preference.

Serving Suggestions

I like to serve this over white rice or noodles. You can go with lo mein or try these easy stir-fried Zucchini Noodles. Also, pairing Hunan Chicken with my Kimchi Fried Rice or our original Shrimp Fried Rice and this Cauliflower Shrimp Fried Rice is a pretty darn delicious idea. If you’re looking for something more nutritious and low-carb, this cauliflower rice is the perfect accompaniment.

How to Store and Reheat Leftovers

To store leftovers, place everything in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to three days. I advise you not to freeze Hunan Chicken once it’s all cooked together because the vegetables will get mushy due to the sauce. To reheat, place leftovers in a covered skillet and heat on low until just heated through. Do not overcook.

up close shot of mushrooms, chicken pieces, and broccoli

What’s The Best Oil for Hunan Chicken?

Choosing the right oil for Hunan Chicken is key for flavor and cooking performance. I prefer vegetable oil due to its high smoke point, which allows for high-heat cooking without burning. Canola oil is another good option due to its high smoke point and lower levels of saturated fats, but some choose to avoid it due to concerns over GMOs. Avocado oil, on the other hand, offers the highest smoke point and is nutrient-rich, but it’s also pricier than the rest and has a stronger taste that might not suit everyone.

More FAQs

What’s the difference between Hunan chicken and Kung Pao chicken?
Hunan chicken is spicy and sour, focusing on chili peppers, oyster sauce, and garlic. Kung Pao chicken, from Szechuan cuisine, is sweet, savory, and less spicy, with a bit of tingle from Sichuan peppercorns and a nice crunch from peanuts.

Is Hunan spicy or sweet?
Hunan is predominantly spicy, emphasizing hot and sour flavors without a lot of sweetness.

What vegetables are commonly used in Hunan Chicken?
Common vegetables in Hunan chicken include bell peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, carrots, and zucchini, chosen for their ability to complement the dish’s spiciness.

Can Hunan chicken be made gluten-free?
Yes, by using gluten-free soy sauce or tamari, chili oil, and making sure all other ingredients, like broth or cornstarch, are gluten-free.

What can be done with extra broth?
Transform it into a soup by adjusting seasonings and adding vegetables or noodles. It serves as a soothing side, balancing the Hunan chicken’s spice.

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4.56 from 18 votes

Hunan Chicken

This easy Hunan Chicken recipe pairs juicy chicken and tender vegetables with a spicy, sweet, and savory Hunan sauce.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients 

For the Chicken and Veggies:

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts,, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, , divided
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper,, to taste
  • 2 cups bite-sized broccoli florets
  • 1 small red bell pepper,, diced
  • 1 cup thinly sliced mushrooms
  • 2 cloves garlic,, minced

For the Sauce:

  • ½ cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chili paste
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • sliced green onions,, for garnish
  • sesame seeds,, for garnish, optional
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Instructions 

  • Place sliced chicken and 2 tablespoons cornstarch in a ziploc bag; seal and shake to coat.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a wok or a large 12-inch skillet set over high heat. Add the chicken to the heated oil in one single layer; season with salt and pepper and cook for about 6 to 8 minutes or until cooked and browned on all sides. Cook the chicken in batches if your skillet isn’t big enough.
  • Remove chicken from the wok/skillet and set aside.
  • To the same skillet, add remaining oil, broccoli, pepper, and mushrooms; cook for 4 minutes or until veggies are tender. Stir in garlic and cook for 20 seconds. Add the chicken back to the skillet.
  • In the meantime, in a small bowl, whisk together the chicken broth, soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice vinegar, chili paste, cornstarch, and sugar. Pour the sauce over the chicken and veggies and bring to a simmer.
  • Continue to cook for a couple minutes, or until sauce is thickened.
  • Remove from heat. Garnish with green onions and sesame seeds, and serve.

Notes

  • Vegetable Oil: Don’t use olive oil. Choose oils with a high smoke point, like vegetable, peanut, sesame, or canola oil. They can handle the heat and won’t break down.
  • Sauce: Adjust the consistency of your Hunan sauce as per preference. If it’s too thick, a splash of chicken broth or water can help to thin it out; for a thicker sauce, a quick cornstarch slurry does the trick.
  • Veggie Choices: Feel free to get creative with vegetables. Stick to the classics or toss in your favorites for a personal touch. Just ensure they are cut uniformly for even cooking.
  • Prep Ahead: Adopt the “mise en place” approach, which translates to “everything in its place.” Prepping and measuring all ingredients beforehand ensures a smooth cooking experience, especially for stir-fries.
  • Hot Pan: A hot pan is essential for that perfect stir-fry. Ensure your wok or pan is heated adequately so that ingredients not only sizzle upon contact but continue to do so as they cook. And don’t forget to stir.
  • To store leftovers, place everything in airtight containers and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Nutrition

Serving: 6ounces | Calories: 259kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 73mg | Sodium: 693mg | Potassium: 758mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 905IU | Vitamin C: 67mg | Calcium: 39mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutritional info is an estimate and provided as courtesy. Values may vary according to the ingredients and tools used. Please use your preferred nutritional calculator for more detailed info.

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22 Comments

  1. Cheryl says:

    Delicious! I couldn’t find Chile paste so I used tomato paste and added Chile garlic sauce.

    1. Katerina says:

      Great improvisation! Using tomato paste with chili garlic sauce sounds delicious. Glad you enjoyed it! Thank YOU! 🙂