Hunan chicken is a classic Chinese stir fry with chicken and vegetables in a tangy, spicy sauce. Make this recipe for an easy Asian dinner!
Like many other stir fry recipes, this Hunan dish can be made with chicken, pork, or beef. In this case, it's chicken breast stir fried with an assortment of vegetables. If you prefer beef, you might want to make my recipe for Chinese curry beef stir fry
What I love the most about this easy Asian dinner is that it doesn't take long to make. Also, the recipe is very simple to customize.
This means it’s a great dish to make with whatever fresh veggies you already have in your fridge. Even the spicy heat can be adjusted to your preferences.
Cuisine: Chinese (Hunan province)
Hunan, which in English means "south of the lake" is located in the central part of China. It is also sometimes referred to as Xiang, after the Xiang River which runs through the province.
Hunan was the birthplace of Mao Zedong, a communist revolutionary who became the founding father of the People's Republic of China. Apparently his love for spicy food was well known.
"You can't be a revolutionary if you don't eat chiles."~ Chairman Mao Zedong
Difficulty: Easy 🥄
Pieces of chicken breast stir fried with bell peppers, carrot, baby corn. and chiles, tossed in hot and sour Hunan sauce.
Ingredient notes and substitutions
- Chicken- I prefer boneless skinless chicken breasts, but boneless skinless chicken thighs may be substituted.
In many traditional Chinese chicken recipes, the meat is shaved in thin slices to provide a larger, thinner surface area. This helps them to cook more quickly.
Feel free to slice your chicken that way if desired. To make the job easier, freeze the chicken breasts for 20 minutes or so before slicing.
Feel free to use my choices of broccoli, carrot, baby corn and bell peppers. Or, add your favorite stir fry veggies to the Hunan chicken!
Zucchini, green beans, scallion, and water chestnuts are good options.
- Red chiles- Hunan cuisine dishes are typically made with fresh chiles rather than dried. I had dried on hand, so used them instead of fresh chiles.
Fresh Bird's Eye chilis would be a great choice for this chicken stir fry recipe.
- Peanuts- Nuts are an optional ingredient. Feel free to omit them, or substitute another nut of your choice, like cashews.
Hunan sauce ingredients
Authentic Chinese versions of Hunan chicken don't include a sauce. Here in America, it's rare to find a recipe that doesn't include Hunan sauce.
The sauce is a combination of basic stir fry sauce ingredients; oyster and soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, chicken broth, and cornstarch.
- Doubanjiang is an optional ingredient for the sauce. It's a savory bean paste. I highly recommend using it for the wonderful umami flavor it adds to Hunan chicken.
- Hot chili paste- My favorite type is sambal oelek, but any chili paste will work.
Video: making Hunan chicken
Like most stir fries, this recipe comes together very quickly. To see it in action, watch the video located in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- Prep before you start cooking. Stir frying is a quick cooking method, so you won't have time to stop and prep anything after you start making the Hunan chicken.
- Cut vegetables in similar sizes- Try to cut the vegetables relatively similar in size so that everything cooks evenly.
- Cook the meat in batches- Unless you have a nice large wok or skillet, it's best to cook the chicken in batches. Overcrowding the pan leads to the meat steaming instead of browning.
- Have leftover Hunan sauce? The sauce can be used to make other Chinese chicken recipes or for different versions of Hunan. Make the recipe the same way, using pork or beef instead!
Freeze the sauce in an ice cube tray, then transfer the frozen cubes to a zip-top freezer bag. This way, you can use exactly the amount you need!
Hunan chicken stir fry FAQ
The spicy hot and sour flavors of Hunan chicken are typical for dishes of Hunan cuisine. Unlike the fiery, burning heat of Sichuan and other Chinese chicken dishes, this stir fry has a pleasant, "dry heat".
Absolutely! After allowing the dish to cool, transfer it to an airtight, freezer-safe container. Frozen stir fries will keep well for up to 4 months.
Hunan Chicken + Video
- 1 lb chicken breasts cut into 1-inch bite sized pieces (See Note 1)
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 3 tablespoon vegetable oil divided
- 6 red chilies dried or fresh
- 3 cloves garlic minced (1 tablespoon minced)
- 1 tablespoon ginger paste
- 2 cups broccoli florets
- 1 large carrot peeled, thinly sliced on diagonal
- 1 green bell pepper cut into bite sized pieces
- 1 red bell pepper cut into bite sized pieces
- 15 oz baby corn drained
- ¼ cup roasted peanuts optional
- ½ cup chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 3 tablespoon soy sauce
- 3 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon Doubanjiang optional (See Note 2)
- 1 tablespoon Sambal Oelek
- In a bowl dissolve cornstarch in chicken broth. Combine remaining sauce ingredients and stir to combine. Set aside.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet or wok over high heat.
- In a bowl, toss the chicken with cornstarch then stir fry until the chicken starts to turn golden brown on the outside. Remove chicken from the pan, set aside
- Add remaining tablespoon of oil, then add the chiles, garlic and ginger. Stir fry quickly for about 5 seconds, then add broccoli and carrots. Stir fry 3 minutes, then add the bell peppers. Stir fry 2 minutes, then add baby corn, peanuts (if desired) and the Hunan sauce.
- Toss to coat and continue cooking until sauce thickens. Serve over steamed rice.
- In many traditional Chinese chicken recipes the meat is sliced thinly against the grain. Feel free to slice your chicken that way if desired. To make it easier to slice, freeze the chicken breasts for 20 minutes or so.
- Doubanjiang is a savory, spicy and salty bean paste. I highly recommend using for this recipe for its wonderful umami flavor. Read more about Doubanjiang.
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.