Make this classic Chinese take-out dish at home! This Easy Kung Pao Chicken recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, and fast enough for busy weeknight dinners.
One of the first Chinese food dishes I made on my own in college was Kung Pao Chicken.
I had this thin, half-sheet little cookbook called Favorite Recipes: Chinese Cooking. Dining out in Boston, Massachusetts as a college kid was expensive, so once Alain and I moved into our own apartment, we started trying to cook more meals at home.
This Easy Kung Pao Chicken recipe is one of those dishes. And now, many (MANY) years later, it's one that is still delicious and fast enough to make on busy weeknights.
And if you like this recipe, you might try making Air Fryer Crab Rangoon, Wonton Soup, and Shrimp Lo Mein. These restaurant copycat, better-than-take-out recipes are all easy to make at home, saving you time and money without sacrificing flavor!
Table of contents
What is Kung Pao Chicken?
Kung Pao Chicken is a Chinese dish that originated in the Sichuan Province of China, then brought over to America.
The traditional Sichuan version consists of chicken, Shaoxing wine, Sichuan peppercorns, Sichuan-style chili peppers, and peanuts.
The Westernized version of Kung Pao Chicken adds more vegetables to the classic recipe.
Kitchen tools and equipment
For this recipe, you just need a few basic kitchen tools:
Mixing bowls - You'll need a large bowl to marinate the chicken, and a smaller bowl to whisk together a cornstarch sauce mix to use when cooking the chicken.
Whisk - Use a sturdy whisk to whisk together the marinade, and then to whisk together the cornstarch sauce mix.
Wok - You'll need a wok or a large skillet with high sides to cook this dish. The shape of the wok helps to stir-fry the chicken and other ingredients quickly.
Ingredients you need to make kung pao chicken
Chicken - I prefer to use chicken thigh meat (boneless, skinless) because it has more flavor, but you can use chicken breast meat if that's what you have on hand. Be sure to chop the chicken into equal sized pieces, about 1-inch thick.
Soy sauce - You can use your favorite soy sauce or coconut aminos.
Dry sherry - You can use any dry sherry you have on hand, including cooking sherry.
Chicken broth - Use homemade chicken stock or store-bought chicken broth to add flavor to the sauce. If you don't have chicken broth, use vegetable broth or water (it will be less flavorful).
Ginger - Freshly minced or grated ginger works in this recipe. Do not substitute ground ginger unless you absolutely have to, as the fresh ginger is what really gives this kung pao chicken recipe that flavorful little kick.
Cornstarch - This helps thicken the sauce a bit. Use more if you want a thicker sauce.
Sugar - A little bit of granulated sugar helps balance out the tartness of the vinegar and sherry.
Vegetable oil - I use vegetable oil in the wok because it has a neutral flavor and a high smoke point, which is perfect for stir frying food. But, you can use any other cooking oil that has a high smoke point, like canola oil, peanut oil or soybean oil.
Dried chiles - You can usually find a package of dried red chilis either in your grocery store's produce aisle, near Asian ingredients, and sometimes, in the spice aisle.
Vinegar - You can use either red wine vinegar or white wine vinegar in this recipe. What you choose will affect the taste, so use white for a lighter, slightly sweeter taste or red wine vinegar for a slightly richer color and flavor.
Peanuts - Crush up one half cup of salted peanuts. You could use unsalted as well.
Green onions - You can slice green onions as thick or as thin as you like.
How to make kung pao chicken
Exact measurements of ingredients and instructions are in the printable recipe card toward the bottom of this post. Here are some helpful tips to guide you as you make this recipe.
Make the marinade & marinate the chicken
In a large bowl, whisk together 3 teaspoons of the soy sauce, 2 teaspoons of the sherry, 2 teaspoons of the cornstarch, and salt.
Add the chicken, toss to coat, cover, and let stand for 30 minutes.
Make the cornstarch mixture
Meanwhile, in a small to medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 3 teaspoons coconut aminos, 3 teaspoons sherry, the red wine vinegar, chicken broth, sugar and remaining 1 teaspoon of cornstarch. Set aside
Cook the kung pao chicken
Heat a wok or a large skillet with high sides over medium heat, then add 1 tablespoon of the oil.
Add the peanuts and cook, stirring regularly, for about 2 to 3 minutes. Once the peanuts are golden brown, remove from the pan and set aside on a bowl or plate.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the wok. Then stir-fry the chili peppers just until they begin to lightly char, about 1 minute.
Add the chicken. Stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes, lightly browning all sides.
Add the ginger and stir-fry until the chicken is cooked through, about 1 minute more.
Add the green onions and peanuts. Then pour in the cornstarch mixture and stir until the sauce boils and thickens, about 1 to 2 more minutes.
Garnish with sesame seeds and red chili flakes, if desired. Serve immediately.
One of the best things about making this Kung Pao Chicken recipe at home is that you can determine how mild or spicy the dish is. Traditionally, it is served in the medium-spice to spicy range. This recipe is low on the spice spectrum, so feel free to add more chili peppers if you want it spicier.
Allow the meal to cool completely at room temperature. Then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four or five days.
If using the stovetop, reheat leftover Kung Pao Chicken in a skillet over medium-high heat, stirring until warmed throughout.
If using a microwave, place leftovers in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for 1 minute. Stir. Then reheat again until the meat is heated throughout.
What to serve with kung pao chicken
We love enjoying this Kung Pao Chicken over simple white rice or Instant Pot Garlic Rice. It's also delicious with Filipino Fried Rice or Pineapple Chicken Fried Rice.
You can add more veggies and serve this with Air Fryer Broccoli or Garlic Lemon Asparagus.
Enjoy it with a bowl of hot homemade Wonton Soup or a side of Beef Lo Mein.
Best wine pairings for Chinese food
Like most Chinese food, I really enjoy this Kung Pao Chicken with a dry or off-dry Riesling.
You could also serve this with an unoaked Chardonnay, a Sauvignon Blanc, a Pinot Gris, or a dry Rosé.
More Chinese-style recipes that are better than take-out!
Easy Kung Pao Chicken
- 6 teaspoons coconut aminos, divided Or use soy sauce if you don't want/need this to be gluten-free
- 5 teaspoons dry sherry, divided
- 3 teaspoons cornstarch, divided
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces Or use boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons chicken broth Or use water
- 1½ teaspoons sugar
- 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- ½ cup salted peanuts
- 6 - 8 small dried hot red chili peppers
- 1½ teaspoons minced fresh ginger
- 3 green onions, cut into 1 to 1½-inch pieces
- Optional: Sesame seeds, red chili flakes
Make the marinade & marinate the chicken
- In a large bowl, whisk together 3 teaspoons of the soy sauce, 2 teaspoons of the sherry, 2 teaspoons of the cornstarch, and salt. Add the chicken, toss to coat, cover, and let stand for 30 minutes.
Make the cornstarch mixture
- Meanwhile, in a small to medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 3 teaspoons coconut aminos, 3 teaspoons sherry, the red wine vinegar, chicken broth, sugar and remaining 1 teaspoon of cornstarch. Set aside
Cook the kung pao chicken
- Heat a wok or a large skillet with high sides over medium heat, then add 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the peanuts and cook, stirring regularly, for about 2 to 3 minutes. Once the peanuts are golden brown, remove from the pan and set aside on a bowl or plate.
- Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the wok. Add the chili peppers and stir-fry just until they begin to lightly char, about 1 minute.
- Add the chicken and stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes, lightly browning all sides. Add the ginger and stir-fry until the chicken is cooked through, about 1 minute more. Add the green onions and peanuts, then pour in the cornstarch mixture and stir until the sauce boils and thickens, about 1 to 2 more minutes.
- Garnish with sesame seeds and red chili flakes, if desired. Serve immediately.
Nutrition information is a general estimate. Actual nutrition details may vary depending on the exact foods & brands you use to make this recipe. It does not take into account any substitutions, toppings, or optional ingredients.
Kim Kluempke says
I would’ve given it a 5 ⭐️ but I think there was too much ginger for our taste. And it didn’t get the reddish color. Maybe brown sugar would do that?
Overall it was easy to make and everyone said they’d try it again (with less ginger & more heat).
Amy McGeachy says
Delicious. We made rice and broccolini to go with it and the plater was empty after my family all went back for seconds.
Marlynn Jayme Schotland says
So glad it was a hit with the whole family, Amy! 😀
Sara Welch says
Enjoyed this for dinner last night and it did not disappoint! Quick, easy and delicious; way better than take out, too!
This looks better than any takeout I've had. Looking forward to making this deliciousness.
This recipe came right in time! I've recently gone gluten and dairy free so I'm excited to have a tasty dish as an option!
Love how easily I can make this at home instead of going out to get it!
What a delicious and flavorful dinner idea!