This Kung Pao Chicken takes just 30 minutes to whip up and is a healthier alternative to a classic Chinese-American takeout dish!
This kung pao chicken is a dream come true. Not only is it loaded with flavors and textures, but it’s healthier, tastier (in my humble opinion), AND faster than takeout. PLUS, it’s way more customizable.
Skip the delivery and make it yourself. It’s so worth it, I promise!
What is kung pao chicken?
Kung pao chicken is a classic stir-fried Chinese dish made with chicken, peanuts, and vegetables. It’s also a popular Chinese takeout dish in the U.S.
This kung pao chicken recipe is my version of the Chinese-American takeout dish: cubed chicken tossed in a thick, sweet and slightly spicy sauce with veggies, nuts, and served over perfectly fluffy rice.
Lean chicken, a simple sauce, and veggies . . . this simple ingredient list makes a flavor packed meal that even the kids will love!
- Chicken Breast – I use boneless, skinless chicken breasts. This lean protein is the perfect base for a healthy stir fry.
- Water and Cornstarch – makes the cornstarch slurry which helps to thicken the sauce.
- Chicken Broth, Seasoned Rice Vinegar, and Soy Sauce – the base of the sauce/chicken marinade. Adds flavor, tang, and a great, salty umami flavor.
- Brown Sugar – offsets the tanginess of the vinegar and saltiness of the soy sauce with some molasses-y sweetness.
- Garlic – gives a nutty flavor.
- Sriracha – to taste! The more you add, the spicier the dish will be. Don’t have sriracha? Try chili garlic paste or red pepper flakes!
- Ground Ginger and Black Pepper – a simple seasoning combination that adds a little extra heat.
- Olive Oil – used to cook the chicken and veggies.
- Yellow Onion, Bell Pepper, and Celery – the classic veggie combo for kung pao chicken. The crunch from the bell pepper and celery can’t be beat!
- Roasted and Salted Peanuts, Green Onions, Cilantro, and Rice – for serving and garnish. The peanuts add a great crunch, while the green onions and cilantro adds a much needed fresh, bright flavor!
How to make
We’re killing two birds with one stone by whisking together a sauce that gets used two different ways!
- Whisk water and cornstarch in a large bowl then add in chicken broth, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, sriracha, ginger, and pepper.
- Put chicken into a large ziplock baggie or bowl then pour half the marinade over the chicken. Marinate the chicken for at least 8 hours in the fridge.
- Cook chicken (with marinade) and veggies in a large skillet.
- Add in remaining sauce and simmer until thickened then serve and enjoy!
Can you use chicken thigh?
You can! Some people prefer using chicken thighs because they’re cheaper and more tender than chicken breasts. If that’s your preference, use boneless, skinless chicken thighs to replace the chicken breasts in this recipe.
The cook time should not be affected but be sure to use a meat thermometer to check that your chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165ºF before serving.
Can you use frozen chicken?
Yes! Just make sure you thaw it fully before using it in this recipe.
To quickly thaw chicken, place the frozen chicken breasts in a sealed ziplock bag then submerge the bag in a bowl of cool water. Change the water every 30 minutes so it doesn’t get too warm. This should only take about an hour!
Is kung pao chicken gluten-free?
This kung pao chicken recipe is NOT gluten-free. However, it can easily be! Simply substitute the soy sauce for a gluten-free alternative such as liquid aminos or Tamari!
- Use a different protein. Try another meat – beef might be delicious – or make it vegetarian with some cubed tofu!
- Add more veggies. Any stir fry veggies will work. Try broccoli, snow peas, mushrooms, carrots, etc. Keep in mind, some veggies – like carrots – may take longer to cook.
- Use a different grain. Try quinoa, cauliflower rice, brown rice, etc.
- Make it gluten-free. Simply sub the soy sauce for a gluten-free alternative!
What to serve with kung pao chicken
My favorite way to eat this kung pao chicken is over a bed of rice. However, if white rice isn’t your thing, it’s also DELICIOUS with quinoa, cauliflower rice, brown rice, etc.
You can also fill out your meal even more with one of these side dishes:
How to store
Fully cooked and cooled kung pao chicken can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for 2-3 months.
To reheat, let it thaw completely in the fridge (if frozen), then microwave or reheat on the stove until heated through.
Kung Pao Chicken
Equipment for this recipe
- 2 pounds boneless and skinless chicken breasts cubed
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar
- 1/2 cup soy sauce or gluten-free alternative
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar plus more to taste
- 2 cloves garlic minced or pressed
- 1 tablespoon sriracha more or less to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 yellow onion finely diced
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- 1 green bell pepper diced
- 2 stalks celery finely diced
- roasted, salted peanuts for garnish
- green onions for garnish
- cilantro for garnish
- cooked rice for serving
- Place chicken into a gallon-sized ziplock baggie. Set aside.
- Whisk together water and cornstarch in a large bowl.
- Whisk in chicken broth, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, sriracha, ginger, and pepper.
- Pour half over chicken. Reserve the other half.
- Marinate chicken for 8 hours in the fridge.
- Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.
- Pour in chicken (with marinade from the baggie), onion, bell peppers, and celery.
- Cook, stirring regularly, until the chicken has cooked through and the veggies are tender (about 10 minutes.)
- Add in remaining sauce and simmer until the sauce has thickened (about 5 minutes.)
- Serve with garnishes and rice and enjoy!
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*Note: Nutrition information is estimated and varies based on products used.