Kung Pao Chicken is a Chinese takeout favorite that features stir-fried tender chicken, green bell pepper with crunchy peanuts in a bold and tangy dark sauce.
The origins of Kung Pao Chicken (also known as Kung Po Chicken or Gong Bao Chicken) can be traced back to the Sichuan province in China but this dish is popular in Chinese restaurants all around the world.
Kung Pao Chicken is believed to have been named after Ding Baozhen (whose nickname was Ding Gongbao), a governor of the Sichuan province in the 1800’s.
According to the tale, when Ding Baozhen was a young boy, he almost drowned in a river but a man dove in and saved his life. Many years later, governor Ding Baozhen went looking for this hero who saved his life and eventually found him. The man invited Ding Baozhen in for a meal and prepared this dish. Governor Ding loved it so much that he hired the man to be his chef!
The Western version of this dish is a lot less spicy than the original Sichuan version, and quite a bit sweeter but certainly does not lack in flavor. Tender marinated chicken with green bell pepper and crunchy peanuts are stir-fried in a flavorful tangy dark sauce. You’ll want to serve this dish with steamed rice to sop up every bit of that delicious sauce.
Skip the takeout and make this recipe right at home. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is.
For a twist on this recipe, try Kung Pao Shrimp!
Kung Pao Chicken Marinade
Cut 1 1/2 pounds of chicken breast or chicken thighs (boneless and skinless) into small bite-sized pieces.
Allow the chicken to marinate in this mixture for about 30 minutes at room temperature. The cornstarch will act as a barrier against the high heat of the wok, keeping the chicken super tender.
Sauce for Kung Pao Chicken
In a small bowl, prepare the sauce by combining 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce, 2 teaspoons brown sugar, 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce, 2 teaspoons sesame oil, and 1 teaspoon cornstarch. Stir, then set aside.
Kung Pao Chicken Stir-Fry
Heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil over medium-high heat. Add 1 small green bell pepper (cut into bite-sized pieces) and about 6 – 8 dried chilies (rinsed, then cut in half, or into thirds) to the wok.
Stir-fry slowly, allowing the skin of the bell pepper to blister, then remove the peppers and dried chili from the wok.
Add a couple more tablespoons of cooking oil to the wok again if it’s too dry, then add the marinated chicken in a single layer. Allow the chicken to sear for about a minute before flipping them over and stir-frying the batch.
When the chicken is mostly cooked, add 2 cloves of garlic (minced) and 2 tablespoons of julienned ginger to the wok. I add the ginger and garlic at this point to prevent them from burning.
Stir-fry until the chicken is cooked all the way through.
Add 1/4 cup of roasted peanuts.
Give the sauce a quick stir, then pour all of the sauce into the wok.
Return the bell pepper and chilies to the wok.
Stir to combine all the ingredients, turn off the heat, then add 2 stalks of scallions cut into 1-inch pieces.
I add the scallions after turning off the heat so that they don’t get too mushy in the dish. I like them with a bit of a raw bite.
Serve the Kung Pao Chicken immediately over steamed white or brown rice.
Kung Pao Chicken
- 1 1/2 pounds chicken breast or chicken thighs cut into bite-sized pieces
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Dash ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons cooking oil divided
- 1 green bell pepper cut into bite-sized pieces
- 6 – 8 dried red chilies rinsed, then cut into halves or thirds
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons ginger julienned
- 1/4 cup roasted peanuts
- 2 stalks scallions cut into 1-inch pieces
- In a small bowl, prepare the sauce by combining soy sauce, rice vinegar, hoisin sauce, brown sugar, dark soy sauce, sesame oil, cornstarch, and if you don’t mind this dish spicy, sriracha or chili oil.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Add green pepper and dried chili. Stir-fry slowly, allowing the skin of the bell pepper to blister, then remove the peppers and dried chili from the wok.
- Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of cooking oil if the wok is too dry, then add the marinated chicken in a single layer (stir-fry in two batches if needed; don’t overcrowd the wok).
- Allow the chicken to sear for about a minute before flipping them over and stir-frying the batch.
- When the chicken is mostly cooked, add garlic and ginger to the wok. Stir-fry until the chicken is cooked all the way through, then add the roasted peanuts.
- Give the sauce a quick stir, then pour all of the sauce into the wok.
- Return the bell pepper and chilies to the wok.
- Stir to combine all ingredients, turn off the heat, then add the scallions. Transfer to a serving dish.
- Serve immediately over steamed rice. Enjoy!
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