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May 22, 2024

Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao Chicken is one of my all time favorite stir fries, and this is the absolute best version I have tried so far. 

Kung Pao Chicken in a bowl.

I love the underlying heat, the amazing sauce, and, of course, the peanuts. 

While this is an homage to take-out Kung Pao Chicken, I'd still consider it to be fine dining Kung Pao Chicken. The melding of all of the flavors from so many essential ingredients is key to the deliciousness of the dish. 

Hints for a Successful Stir-Fry: 

First, read the recipe all of the way through before preparing. 

Second, write out each step in large print with the timing next to each step. Trust me. This will save you when you are furiously stir-frying. I actually write the simplified version with times in the cookbook. 

Third.... mise en place. The cooking time is only about three or four minutes. Follow the Boy Scout motto. "Be Prepared." 

Fourth, clean up everything except your mise en place bowls before beginning to stir fry. While not necessary, you will enjoy your meal so much more knowing that you won't have a huge pile of prep dishes to wash right after dinner. 

Finally, while you can prepare this meal in a 12-inch skillet, a 14-inch flat-bottomed carbon steel wok makes preparing this dish so much easier. 

Kung Pao Chicken in a bowl with scallions on top.

My kids and grandkids love Chinese food, so making it is a great way to lure them to my house for a meal. 

I served this as part of multi-course meal that included steamed rice, hot pepper beef, and cellophane noodles, some fresh strawberries, and tiny homemade poptarts for dessert! 

Ingredients in this Kung Pao Chicken:

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs. You could substitute chicken breasts, but the thighs are so much juicier and flavorful. 

Pantry Ingredients: sugar, salt, and peanut or vegetable oil. 

Red Bell Peppers: Just red bell peppers are standard, but I used a combination of red, orange, and yellow peppers. 

Minced Ginger and Garlic: You can either mince fresh ginger and garlic or use the prepared versions that come in jars or tubes.

Chicken Broth: If you don't have prepared broth available, using a chicken broth base like Better than Bouillon with some water will work just fine. 

Scallions: You will incorporated a good handful in the stir-fry and also garnish the final dish with more finely chopped scallions. 

Roasted Peanuts: I used lightly salted roasted peanuts. 

Kung Pao Chicken ingredients including sesame oil, vinegar, dark and light soy sauce, and shaoxing rice wine.

Asian and Specialty Ingredients: 

Easy to Find: Standard soy sauce and sesame oil. You can typically find them in any grocery store. 

Harder to Find: Dark soy sauce, Chingkiang Vinegar, Shaoxing (or Shao Hsing) rice wine, Szechuan peppercorns, and red chile peppers. 

I found the dark soy sauce in my local Asian grocery store, but you can find it online as well. It's a sweeter, thicker, and darkers soy sauce that has been aged longer. My favorite brand is Pearl River Bridge

You'll have to find the Chinkiang Vinegar at your local Chinese grocery store as well. It's dark and lightly sweet. If you can't find it, you can substitute balsamic vinegar. 

The Szechuan peppercorns are actually berries, not peppers, and they add a subtle peppery tingly heat. You can also find these at an Asian market, but if you have a Penzey's Spices store nearby, you can find them there too. The trick is to remove the tiny stems before roasting and crushing them. It's very tedious but worth it for the flavor. 

For the dried chiles, I used Chiles de Arbol from a Mexican market. You can also substitute a teaspoon or two of crushed red pepper flakes, which are easy to find. You could also use fresh Thai chiles that you've allowed to sit for a bit to age. 

Finally, you can find the Shaoxing rice wine in a Chinese grocery store or online. It's an interesting ingredient and is ubiqutious in Chinese stir-fries. It's made with rice and a bit salty (and not fit for sipping). You can substitute inexpensive dry sherry (easiest to find), or Japanese cooking sake. Mirin will also work but it is sweeter. 

Kung Pao Chicken in a bowl with peanuts.


First, combine the chicken (which has been cut into bite-sized pieces), ginger, garlic, cornstarch, soy sauce, some of the rice wine, sugar, and salt, along with a bit of water in a medium bowl. 

Next, in a small bowl, combine the chicken broth, vinegar, dark soy sauce, sesame oil, and the rest of the rice wine. 

After that, heat the wok with one tablespoon of the oil and add the chiles and peppercorns and stir for 15 seconds. Then, add the chicken mixture, press it against the sides of the wok in a single layer, and let cook, undisturbed for 1 minute. Next, stir fry for one minute. 

Add the rest of the oil, the bell peppers, and the broth, and stir fry for about a minute. Add the peanuts, the scallions, the rest of the sugar and salt, and stir fry for an additional 30 to 60 seconds. 

Finally, garnish with a small handful of scallions. 

Kung Pao Chicken bowl.

Welcome to the Alphabet Challenge! 

We are now on the letter "K!" Be sure to check out everyone's recipes!

Kung Pao Chicken in a bowl with a red and green cloth.

P.S. If you're a big fan of Kung Pao, be sure to try Kung Pao Shrimp

Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao Chicken
Yield: 4 servings
Author: Karen's Kitchen Stories
Prep time: 30 MinCook time: 5 MinTotal time: 35 Min
Kung Pao Chicken is one of my all time favorite stir fries, and this is the absolute best version I have tried so far.


  • 1 pound of boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cold water
  • 2 tablespoons chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
  • 4 to 8 (depending on your heat tolerance) dried red chiles, such as chiles de arbol, stems cut off
  • 1/2 teaspoon roasted and ground Szechuan pepper corns, stems removed before roasting
  • 1 large red bell pepper cut into 1 inch squares
  • 1/4 cup dry roasted unsalted (or lightly salted) roasted peanuts
  • 1/2 cup minced scallions plus more for garnish


  1. Stir together the chicken, ginger, garlic, cornstarch, soy sauce,1 teaspoon of the rice wine, 1 teaspoon of the sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and 1 teaspoon of cold water.
  2. In a small bowl or cup, combine the broth, vinegar, dark soy sauce, and sesame oil. Add the remaining tablespoon of rice wine/sherry.
  3. Heat the wok over high heat until a drop of water, when added, vaporizes immediately.
  4. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and swirl it around.
  5. Add the chiles and peppercorns and stir for 15 seconds. Push the mixture to the side.
  6. Add the chicken and spread it out into an even layer. let it cook, undisturbed, for 1 minutes.
  7. Stir fry the chicken and chile mixture for 1 minute.
  8. Add the remaining liquid mixture. Stir fry for 1 more minute. The chicken should be just cooked at this point.
  9. Add the peanuts, scallions, the rest of the sugar and salt, and stir fry for about 30 seconds.
  10. Garnish with a handful of fresh scallions.

Nutrition Facts



Fat (grams)

17 g

Sat. Fat (grams)

3 g

Carbs (grams)

11 g

Fiber (grams)

2 g

Net carbs

9 g

Sugar (grams)

5 g

Protein (grams)

26 g

Cholesterol (grams)

108 mg
stir-fry, kung pao, chicken, wok
main dish
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First published April, 2015 and updated May, 2024. 

Recipe adapted from Stir Frying to the Sky's Edge, The Breath of a Wok, and Fine Cooking Magazine, June/July, 2019 (out of print). 

Would you like to comment?

  1. Looks super yummy and so easy to prepare!

    1. Thanks Medeja! The prep takes some time, but the stir-fry take minutes!

  2. I absolutely LOVE Kung Pao Chicken but have never attempted it at home - Cannot wait to try it - Pinned!

  3. Oooooohhh! This recipe looks insanely amazing! Now I can't make any more excuses not to make my favorite 'take out' food! oxox

  4. One of my favorite dishes, which forever will make me think of a certain Seinfeld episode.. ;-)

    I made it from scratch twice, loooong time ago. Time to re-visit!

  5. Kung Pao is a family favorite and now I can add this recipe to my repertoire.

  6. Now I'm definitely craving kung pao chicken! I need to make this...maybe with carrots in lieu of bell pepper. This recipe is a keeper for sure!!!

  7. I am loving this dish! This is a great and easy meal!

  8. We lost our favorite Chinese place a few years back and haven't had this since, so excited for this one, it looks awesome!

  9. Karen this easy peasy tasty kung pao chicken recipe is what I can prepare for my hubby. He loves anything with soy sauce and peanuts.


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