Kung Pao Chicken

5 from 1 vote

This recipe for kung pao chicken is spicy, sweet, and tangy. Marinated chunks of chicken are stir-fried with crunchy peanuts, crisp veggies, and red chiles. The whole dish is infused with the bold flavors of garlic, ginger, hoisin sauce, chili paste, and more.

overhead: a hand holding a colorful ceramic plate of kung pao chicken

My kung pao chicken recipe is a DIY version of this authentic Chinese dish. No more waiting for takeout my friends! Featuring tender chicken, crunchy peanuts and crisp vegetables in a spicy, sweet-and-sour sauce, kung pao chicken is a total crowd-pleaser.

If you are new to cooking Chinese Cuisine, don’t worry. This kung pao chicken recipe is a great place to start. Simply follow the steps and you’ll knock it out of the park. I even have a video for you to watch how to make it!

This authentic homemade Chinese dish is fancy enough to impress any crowd and simple enough to make on a weeknight. I daresay, this version is even better than takeout!

closeup: kung pao chicken recipe on a colorful ceramic plate with chicken and vegetables shown

How to make Video Below

Watch how to make this amazing Kung Pao Chicken from start to finish in the video below in the recipe card!

For more classic Chinese dishes, check out my Moo Shu Pork, Hunan Chicken, and Chinese Steamed Chicken.

overhead: ingredients needed for this kung pao chicken recipe

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Chicken – Boneless, skinless breasts are ideal for this recipe.
  • Egg White – Tenderizes the chicken, giving it a succulent, velvety texture. 
  • Soy Sauce – Light soy sauce adds umami-infused tanginess while dark is a bit sweeter. I like to use both light and dark soy sauce for a deeper, more complex flavor. 
  • Vegetables – This dish features fresh green onions, crisp celery, sweet red bell peppers, freshly chopped ginger root, and zesty garlic cloves. 
  • Peanuts – Give the dish an enticingly crunchy texture and earthy, nutty flavor. 
  • Red Chiles Feel free to adjust the amount and type according to your tastes. 
  • Hoisin Sauce – Brings a bold, salty, and slightly sweet flavor to the mix. 
  • Chili Paste – Adds a concentrated dose of spicy, salty flavor with a hint of sweetness. 
  • Sauce – A mix of water, cornstarch, vinegar, wine, sugar, and sesame oil thickens the dish and adds the final touches of sweet, salty, and tangy flavors.
overhead closup: cooking kung pao chicken in a skillet

How to Make Kung Pao Chicken

  1. Marinate the Chicken. Combine the egg whites, both soy sauces, salt, and pepper in a bowl and whisk together. Add the chicken to the mixture, tossing to coat. Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes. 
  2. Prepare the Veggies. Wash and chop the green onions, celery, and bell peppers. Use a teaspoon or vegetable peeler to scrape the skin off the outside of the ginger, slice into thin strips, and then mince. Mince the garlic as well.  
  3. Make the Cornstarch Mixture. Combine the water, cornstarch, wine, vinegar, sugar, and sesame oil in a small bowl. Mix together and set aside. 
  4. Cook the Chicken. Set your wok over high heat along with some vegetable oil. Toss in the minced ginger and garlic and stir fry for about 30 seconds before adding the chicken. Stir fry and cook the chicken until it turns white, then mix in the hoisin sauce and chili paste. Toss to mix and coat evenly. 
  5. Stir in Vegetables. Now, toss in the celery, green onions, bell peppers, peanuts, and chili peppers. Cook the vegetables for a minute before adding the chicken stock and bringing the mixture to a boil. 
  6. Add the Cornstarch Mixture. Add in the cornstarch mixture, stirring well to fully incorporate and coat all ingredients. Cook for another minute or so as the sauce thickens. 
  7. Serve. Spoon kung pao chicken and veggies over the steamed rice of your choice.
overhead: a hand holding a colorful ceramic plate of kung pao chicken

Tip From Kevin

This Recipe is Fiery…Without Going Overboard

A lot of traditional kung pao recipes also include Sichuan peppercorns, which add another layer of spiciness. This version contains white pepper instead, which cuts down a bit on the heat level. Be sure to check out my tips below for amping up the heat if you do love very spicy foods.

extreme closeup: kung pao chicken with chicken and vegetables shown

Frequently Asked Questions

Is kung pao chicken really spicy?

While not overly spicy, this kung pao chicken recipe has a bit of a spicy kick thanks to the inclusion of chili paste and dried red chile peppers. It is the perfect amount of heat to complement the sweet, sour, and salty flavors in the dish. 

Feel free to dial the heat factor up or down depending on your tastes. You can easily switch the white pepper for crushed Sichuan peppercorns, the chile peppers for a hotter or milder variety or use more or less chili paste. Craft your kung pao to be exactly the way you want it!

Oh, and just in case all those stir-fried chile peppers are intimidating you, don’t fret. They infuse the dish with flavor but aren’t actually supposed to be eaten. No scorched taste buds required!

Why is it called kung pao chicken?

The English translation of kung pao is palace guardian.

There is debate over the exact details of kung pao’s creation. However, it is commonly agreed that the dish was named for Ding Baozhen, who was the governor of the Sichuan province and protector of the prince in the mid to late 1800s. 

Some myths say he was introduced to the dish by a family that had once saved his life, while others say it was crafted on purpose by his chefs. Either way, this palace guardian fell in love with the spicy diced chicken dish. Its popularity exploded and is still going strong today.

What to serve with kung pao chicken?

This kung pao chicken recipe is excellent when served with a simple side of steamed rice. Beyond that, it will pair perfectly with any of your favorite Asian side dishes. Check out a few of these recipes for a little inspiration:

– Serve with a side of Crispy Chinese Egg Rolls or Spring Rolls.
– Enjoy with appetizers like Crab Rangoon, Scallion Pancakes or Pork Pot Stickers.
– Pair with soups like Hot and Sour or Egg Drop Soup.
– Have alongside a Chinese Cucumber Salad or other fresh salad. 
– Add more vegetables with a side of Asian Green Beans or Bok Choy.

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Kung Pao Chicken

5 from 1 vote
Kung pao chicken features tender poultry, crisp vegetables, peanuts, and red chile peppers in a spicy sweet sauce. No need for takeout!
Servings: 4
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 12 minutes
Marinate Time: 30 minutes
Total: 57 minutes


Cornstarch mixture


  • In a bowl whisk together the eg white, both soy sauces, salt and pepper. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Cover with wrap and set aside for 30 minutes.
  • Prep and cut the green onions, celery, bell pepper. Using a teaspoon, scrape the skin off the ginger and slice into thin strips. Mince ginger and garlic.
  • In a small bowl mix together the water, cornstarch, wine, vinegar, sugar and sesame oil. Set aside.
  • Heat wok over high heat and add vegetable oil. Add the minced ginger and garlic, stir fry 30 seconds and add chicken. Cook until chicken turns white. Add the hoisin sauce and chili paste, tossing to coat.
  • Add the cut green onions, celery, bell pepper, peanuts, chili peppers and cook for another minute. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.
  • Stir in to the cornstarch mixture and toss to coat. Cook for another minute or until sauce thickens.
  • Serve with steamed rice of choice.



  1. For a more authentic, spicier version, use crushed Sichuan Peppercorns for more heat.


Calories: 556kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 62g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 8g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 0.03g | Cholesterol: 146mg | Sodium: 1033mg | Potassium: 1362mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 1552IU | Vitamin C: 46mg | Calcium: 72mg | Iron: 2mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Course: main dishes
Cuisine: Chinese
Author: Kevin
Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!
titled image (and shown): kung pao chicken stir fry


I was bitten by the cooking bug as a kid cooking and baking along side my mom. After an ROP restaurant course in high school, I went to work in restaurants and catering. My love of travel and food has led me across the world and I love to share those foods with family and friends.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Kevin, this was so good! I saw my morning email and I had to come home at lunchtime to make this. Had everything on hand so lucky me. I tasted it and was in the love. Now I have an incredible dinner in a few hours besides, my snacking for lunch.