Skip takeout and make Kung Pao Chicken at home! This easy, spicy and salty dish will be ready in just 30 minutes!
30 Minute Kung Pao Chicken
What is Kung Pao Chicken?
First of all, I’ll admit that in all my recipe notes I wrote Kung Pow (how you pronounce it) and not Kung Pao. Oops. I’m also not using a wok for this recipe but I promise it turns out beautifully in a skillet, even if not totally authentic.
Anyway, kung pao chicken is a spicy, stir-fried Chinese dish made with chunks of chicken, peanuts, vegetables, and chili peppers.
The classic Sichuan dish originated in the Sichuan Province of south-western China and includes Sichuan peppercorns. This is my take on the original.
What does Kung Pao Chicken taste like?
Kung pao chicken is spicy but you can easily adjust the heat by how much chili paste and how many peppers you include. It is a savory dish that is salty with a touch of sweetness. The peanuts add a nutty crunch. If you don’t like spice, you can totally omit the peppers.
To make this dish even faster, I use CHEF’S CRAFT® Grilled Chicken Breast Chunks. They come frozen but are fully cooked and when added to the skillet, they’re ready in just minutes.
“Easy to find ingredients” is my thing around here but this recipe may require a trip to the market for a few specialty items. They should be readily available at any market.
Below is an overview of the key ingredients, some helpful tips, and possible substitutions. Scroll down for the full recipe card with instructions.
- CHICKEN – I am using frozen chicken to make this dish super-fast but you can saute chicken breast pieces.
- SOY SAUCE – Low-sodium soy sauce to add saltiness and umami.
- MIRIN – Mirin is a rice wine popular in Japanese cooking and it pairs well with soy sauce. If you don’t have any, you can use a dry sherry or a sweet marsala wine.
- SAMBAL OELEK – Sambal oelek is an Indonesian chile paste made up of crushed raw red chiles, a little vinegar, and salt. After you use it for this dish, add it to your macaroni and cheese to take it up a notch.
- ZUCCHINI – I like to add chopped zucchini to my kung pao chicken. I use half of a medium zucchini, chopped into moon shapes. If you don’t have zucchini (or like it), you can sub snap peas, baby corn, broccoli, green beans…most veggies will work.
- BELL PEPPERS – Chop up half each of a red and green pepper, or use whatever combination you have on hand. You’ll want about a cup total, chopped.
- DRIED CHILIES – If you can’t find dried red chilies at your market (you should be able to), you can even order them from Amazon. They are very hot – I dice two up to use in this dish. Add more or less to your taste. You can sub cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes if you have that on hand.
Equipment you’ll need
- Large Skillet – Though a wok would traditionally be used, I don’t have one, and a skillet works just fine.
- Wooden Spoonula – I love using a wooden spoon for stir frying so you don’t scratch up your pan.
- Santoku Knife – A high quality knife for chopping up your veggies.
How to make shortcut Kung Pao Chicken
- STEP ONE: Make the sauce by whisking together the soy sauce, chicken broth, mirin, and sambal oelek in a small bowl. Set aside.
- STEP TWO: Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and drizzle in olive oil (or sesame oil). Add the chopped zucchini and peppers and stir fry for approximately 3 minutes. Add in the chopped garlic and chilies and continue to cook for 2 minutes.
- STEP THREE: Pour in the frozen CHEF’S CRAFT® Grilled Chicken Breast Chunks and stir fry for approximately 6 minutes. Cover with a lid and continue cooking for another 3 minutes. Check chicken to ensure it is fully cooked through and your veggies are tender.
- STEP FOUR: Pour the sauce and peanuts into the pan and stir to distribute.
- STEP FIVE: Make a slurry to thicken the sauce by whisking together the cornstarch and rice wine vinegar to a small bowl. Pour into the sauce, stir, and let simmer for a couple minutes to thicken.
Serve over rice or noodles!
How to store it
Leftovers can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Can you freeze it?
Yes, you can freeze kung pao chicken in freezer bags for up to 3 months. When ready to eat, thaw it in the fridge and then heat either in the microwave or pour it into a skillet to stir fry.
Need more easy chicken recipes? Try these:
Click here for my entire collection of chicken recipes.
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Thank you to CHEF’S CRAFT® Gourmet Chicken for originally sponsoring this post. As always, all opinions are my own.
I am very picky about frozen foods (especially meats) and I was so pleasantly surprised by CHEF’S CRAFT® chicken. It is produced by Wayne Farms with 100% farm-raised, antibiotic-free, vegetarian-fed chickens. The chicken is minimally processed, gluten-free, preservative free, and all-natural.
You don’t have to worry about nitrates, MSG, or artificial ingredients. There are none to be found in this chicken. These chicken breast chunks are perfect to keep in the freezer for salads or just on their own with a side dish. I obviously suggest making this easy kung pao sauce.
WHERE TO FIND CHEF’S CRAFT CHICKEN
My fellow Michiganders (& Midwesterners) will be happy to know that CHEF’S CRAFT® products are in Meijer stores! You can also find them at Walmart and Food Lion. Check their store locator to find the closest location to you. They also make chicken breast fillets and breaded chicken chunks.