Kung Pao Chicken
Kung Pao Chicken
5 from 6 votes
Uncover the fascinating origins of Kung Pao chicken, an iconic dish rich in flavour and history. Learn how the traditional techniques and the robust ingredients blend together, creating a delectable journey of taste. This guide reveals the complexity behind preparing this masterpiece.
Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao Chicken, a beloved dish in Chinese cuisine, brings together a tantalizing mix of flavors and textures that never fail to impress. Originating from the Sichuan province of China, this dish has made its mark on menus worldwide for its bold, spicy, and slightly sweet taste profile.

Despite its complex flavors, preparing Kung Pao Chicken at home is simpler than you might think, making it an excellent choice for both weeknight dinners and special occasions.

While some may find the name intimidating, fear not, for this recipe breaks down the steps into manageable tasks, ensuring that even beginner cooks can achieve culinary success.

Marinating tender chicken breast in a blend of soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and honey infuses it with flavor and tenderness, setting the stage for the rich taste experience to come.

The magic truly happens when the marinated chicken meets the vibrant stir-fried vegetables and aromatic sauce, creating a symphony of flavors that dance on your taste buds.

With a touch of heat from red chili flakes and crunch from unsalted peanuts, each bite of Kung Pao Chicken offers a delightful balance of savory, sweet, spicy, and nutty notes.

Expert Tip: Adjust the amount of red chili flakes or dried red chilies according to your spice tolerance.


Chicken Breast: I choose chicken breast because it is lean, high in protein, and readily absorbs flavours. When marinated and cooked properly, it provides a tender, juicy bite. Alternative: If you want a richer flavour, chicken thighs would be a great substitute. 

Soy Sauce: This gives the marinade and sauce a savoury, umami flavour. Its dark colour also gives the dish a beautiful hue. Tamari is an excellent gluten-free alternative. 

Rice Vinegar: Its mild and slightly sweet flavour helps tenderize the chicken and adds a tangy note to the sauce. An alternative could be apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar. 

Cornflour: It helps to tenderize the chicken, give it a smooth texture, and thicken the sauce, making it cling to every piece. You could replace it with potato starch or all-purpose flour. 

Sesame Oil: This adds a subtle, nutty flavour to the marinade and sauce. Alternatives could be light olive oil or peanut oil. 

Honey: It gives a natural sweetness to balance the savoury and spicy elements. Maple syrup or brown sugar can be used as substitutes. 

Black Pepper: It’s mild heat and distinctive aroma enhances the other flavours. An alternative can be white pepper for a slightly different flavour. 

Hoisin Sauce: This sweet, tangy, and spicy sauce adds complexity to the Kung Pao sauce. You could substitute it with a mixture of soy sauce, peanut butter, and a little brown sugar. 

Red Chilli Flakes and Dried Red Chillies: These add heat to the dish, and their smoky flavour complements the other ingredients. Alternatives could be fresh chilli peppers or cayenne pepper. 

Peanuts: They add a crunch that contrasts with the softness of the chicken. Cashews or almond slices could be used as an alternative. 

Vegetable Oil: It’s used for stir-frying, and its neutral taste lets the other flavours shine. Canola or sunflower oil could be used instead. 

Bell Peppers and Onion: These provide a sweet crunch that contrasts with the tender chicken. You can use any colour of bell peppers or substitute them with other crunchy veggies like zucchini or snow peas. 

Garlic: It adds a distinct pungent and spicy flavour that deepens the taste of the dish. If needed, garlic powder could be used as an alternative. 

Spring Onions: Used as a garnish, they add a fresh, sharp flavour and a beautiful pop of colour. Chives or cilantro could be used as alternatives. 

Expert Tip: To achieve that signature wok hei (breath of the wok) flavor and texture, make sure your pan or wok is hot before adding the ingredients.

Serving Suggestions

  • Rice: Serve your homemade Kung Pao Chicken alongside steamed white or brown rice for a classic and comforting meal. The fluffy texture of the rice serves as the perfect base to soak up the flavorful sauce, creating a satisfying and hearty dish.
  • Noodles: For a delicious twist, pair your Kung Pao Chicken with cooked noodles such as lo mein or rice noodles. The chewy texture of the noodles adds a delightful contrast to the tender chicken and crunchy vegetables, creating a mouthwatering combination that’s sure to please.
  • Stir-Fried Vegetables: Round out your meal with a side of stir-fried vegetables such as broccoli, snap peas, carrots, and mushrooms. The crisp-tender veggies complement the bold flavors of the Kung Pao Chicken, adding color, nutrients, and freshness to your plate.
  • Fortune Cookies: Add a fun and whimsical touch to your meal by serving fortune cookies as a sweet ending. Crack open these crunchy treats to reveal a hidden message or fortune, bringing an element of surprise and anticipation to your dining experience.
  • Hot Tea: Accompany your Kung Pao Chicken with a soothing cup of hot tea, such as green tea or jasmine tea. The warm and aromatic beverage helps cleanse the palate between bites, enhancing the overall enjoyment of your meal.
  • Fresh Fruit: For a refreshing and light dessert option, serve sliced fresh fruit such as pineapple, watermelon, or oranges. The natural sweetness of the fruit provides a satisfyingly sweet finish to your meal, leaving you feeling satisfied and refreshed.

Expert Tip: Marinate the chicken for at least 30 minutes: Allowing the chicken to marinate ensures that it absorbs the flavors of the marinade, resulting in tender, flavorful meat.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use other types of meat instead of chicken?

Yes, you can customize this recipe by using other proteins such as shrimp, beef, or tofu to suit your preferences or dietary restrictions.

Is Kung Pao Chicken very spicy?

The level of spiciness can be adjusted to your taste preferences by adding more or fewer dried red chilies or red chili flakes. You can also remove the seeds from the chilies for a milder heat.

Can I make Kung Pao Chicken ahead of time?

While Kung Pao Chicken is best enjoyed fresh, you can prepare the marinade, sauce, and chop the vegetables in advance to save time. Simply stir-fry everything together when you’re ready to eat for optimal flavor and texture.

Can I omit the peanuts from the recipe?

Yes, if you have a nut allergy or simply prefer not to use peanuts, you can omit them from the recipe. The dish will still be delicious without them, or you can substitute with another crunchy ingredient such as cashews or water chestnuts.

How can I make Kung Pao Chicken less sweet?

If you prefer a less sweet flavor, you can reduce the amount of honey or omit it entirely from the recipe. You can also adjust the sweetness by adding more or less hoisin sauce to suit your taste preferences.

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Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao Chicken

by Nabeela Kauser
Uncover the fascinating origins of Kung Pao chicken, an iconic dish rich in flavour and history. Learn how the traditional techniques and the robust ingredients blend together, creating a delectable journey of taste. This guide reveals the complexity behind preparing this masterpiece. 
5 from 6 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Chinese
Servings 4
Calories 439 kcal


For the Marinade:

  • 500 g Chicken Breast
  • 2 tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 2 tbsp Rice Vinegar
  • 2 tbsp Cornflour
  • 1 tbsp Sesame Oil
  • 1 tbsp Honey
  • Salt To taste
  • Black Pepper To taste

For The Sauce:

  • 2 tbsp Soy Sauce To taste
  • 2 tbsp Hoisin Sauce
  • 2 tbsp Rice Vinegar
  • 2 tbsp Honey
  • 1 tbsp Sesame Oil
  • 1 tsp Red Chilli Flakes
  • 60 g Peanuts Unsalted

For The Chicken:

  • 2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper Diced
  • 1 Green Bell Pepper Diced
  • 1 Medium Onion Diced
  • 3 Garlic Cloves Minced
  • 4-5 Dried Red Chillies
  • Salt To taste
  • Black Pepper To taste
  • Spring Onions Garnish


  • In a bowl add soy sauce, rice vinegar, cornflour, sesame oil, honey, salt, and black pepper in a bowl to make the marinade. Mix in the chicken pieces until coated well. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  • In a separate bowl, make the sauce by mixing together soy sauce, hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, honey, sesame oil, and red chilli flakes. Set aside.
  • Heat vegetable oil in a large frying pan or wok over medium-high heat. Add diced onions and bell peppers and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes until they soften.
  • Add minced garlic and dried red chillies to the pan and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
  • Add the marinated chicken to the pan and stir-fry for 5-7 minutes or until no longer pink. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
  • Pour the sauce into the pan, along with unsalted peanuts. Stir-fry everything for another 1-2 minutes until the sauce thickens and coats the chicken and vegetables evenly.
  • Finally, garnish the dish with chopped spring onions and serve hot with rice or noodles. Enjoy your homemade kung pao chicken!


Nutritional facts:
The provision of nutritional information is done so merely as a courtesy and should not be taken as a guarantee.


Calories: 439kcalCarbohydrates: 32gProtein: 28gFat: 23gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0.01gCholesterol: 64mgSodium: 2566mgPotassium: 693mgFibre: 3gSugar: 18gVitamin A: 343IUVitamin C: 30mgVitamin D: 0.1µgCalcium: 45mgIron: 2mg
Keyword Chicken, Cooking, Food, Recipe
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Cook with Nabeela

Hi, I'm Nabeela!

I love to cook! I want to share with you my favourite, delicious family-friendly recipes. I want to inspire you to create fantastic food for your family every day.

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