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Kung Pao Chicken, a Chinese-American takeout classic features tender chunks of chicken tossed in a sweet, sour, and slightly spicy sauce along with crunchy roasted peanuts, bell peppers, onions, and red pepper flakes. Every bite packs in a bunch of flavor and there is just the right amount of heat to keep things spicy!

finished kung pao chicken in a cast iron skillet topped with chopped peanuts
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Look, I totally get that it’s tempting to order take-out! Whether you just had a long day or want to relax on the weekends, Chinese takeout usually sounds like a good idea.

Now, what if I told you this recipe for Kung Pao chicken recipe wasn’t just more delicious and fresher than takeout, but it was also incredibly easy to whip up?! In the time that you spend waiting for your DoorDash order to reach your house, you could’ve made a way better dinner!

ingredients for kung pao chicken

Ingredients for Kung Pao Chicken

  • Vegetable oil
  • Chicken breast – use boneless skinless chicken breasts here or if you prefer chicken thighs, you can substitute for that as well.
  • Bell peppers – a variety of colors makes this dish vibrant! I used red and green. Feel free to use all of the same or mix it up to whatever you can find.
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Low-sodium soy sauce – if you’re gluten-free, tamari is a great substitute.
  • Dry sherry – if you can’t have alcohol, you may omit this or if you can find sherry vinegar, it could work. Just make sure you taste the sauce – doubling the vinegars may make it too tangy.
  • Rice wine vinegar – this gives the sauce that tangy bite. You may substitute with white vinegar if you don’t have rice vinegar.
  • Dark brown sugar – for that sweetness!
  • Cornstarch – this helps thicken the sauce to coat every ingredient!
  • Crushed red pepper flakes – add more or less if you like. If you have red chilies, you can use those instead for an even more fiery kick!
  • Roasted peanuts – add as much as you want!
  • Green onions – this is for garnish and extra flavor. It’s optional.
  • Cooked rice – white rice for serving! Try my easy jasmine rice.

How to Make Kung Pao Chicken

  • Make the sauce. Whisk together all the ingredients for the sauce in a medium bowl or measuring cup and set aside.
  • Brown the chicken. Set a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat and add vegetable oil. Add the chicken to the wok and cook until browned on the outside and mostly cooked on the inside. Remove from the wok and set aside. It’s okay if the chicken isn’t fully cooked through yet.
  • Sauté the vegetables. Add in the bell peppers, onion, and garlic and cook until softened.
  • Bring it all together. Add the chicken back in and pour the sauce into wok. Allow the heat to activate the cornstarch and thicken the sauce. Toss and stir to mix completely. Sprinkle chopped peanuts on top before serving and chopped green onions for garnish (optional).
kung pao chicken and rice in a pink bowl with plastic chopsticks on the edge of the bowl

Tips for Success

  • Chop all the ingredients ahead of time. This saves you time and since this dish comes together so quickly, you’ll be ready to go!
  • Use high heat. High heat in Asian cooking is always a must. This helps with the flavor and also gets those ingredients all nice and cooked fast.
  • Adjust the sauce to taste. As with all sauces, you want to adjust to taste before pouring it all over your dish! You can easily adjust prior but you can’t take it out!


Why is it called Kung pao chicken?

Kung pao chicken takes its name from a famous early 20th century Chinese governor and military leader named Ding Baozhen. He had the title “Gongbao” which is where “kung pao” comes from. Apparently he was a real spice lover and had his personal chefs create this fiery stir-fry dish for him.

what is the difference between general tso and kung pao chicken?

Mainly in the sauce and how it’s prepared. General Tso sauce is thicker and sweeter while Kung Pao sauce is thinner, slightly spicier, and uses more vinegar.

General Tso also uses battered, deep-fried chicken pieces while Kung Pao doesn’t. General Tso also contains no veggies and Kung Pao has a lot of veggies.

is general tso’s hotter or kung pao?

Kung Pao is generally spicier than General Tso’s mainly because of the origins of Kung Pao.

what is the kung pao flavor like?

Savory, tangy, and spicy.

kung pao chicken in a pink bowl with white rice and plastic chopsticks

Storage Instructions

Allow leftovers to cool before transferring to an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 4 days in the refrigerator. To reheat, place in the microwave and warm through or pour the leftovers into a skillet and reheat on the stove.

Serving Suggestions

Kung Pao chicken is best served with white rice but fried rice would be SO good as well. To make a big Chinese takeout feast at home, I highly recommend making some Crab Rangoon or Cream Cheese Wontons for an appetizer!

5 from 6 votes

Easy Kung-Pao Chicken

No need to order take-out tonight! This homemade easy Kung Pao chicken is even better than what comes in the little white box.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 4


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 pound (454 g) boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup (37 g) roasted peanuts
  • Sliced green onions, for optional garnish
  • Cooked rice, for serving
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  • In a small bowl whisk together soy sauce, dry sherry, rice vinegar, dark brown sugar, cornstarch, and crushed red pepper flakes. Set aside.
    kung pao chicken sauce in a clear bowl with a metal whisk
  • In a 12-inch skillet set over medium-high heat add vegetable oil.
  • When the oil is hot, add in the chicken and cook until browned on the outside and almost fully cooked, about 5 minutes.
    browned chicken pieces in a cast iron skillet
  • Remove the chicken from the pan and add-in bell peppers and onion.
    bell peppers, onions, and garlic in a cast iron skillet
  • Saute until the peppers and onions just start to soften. Add in the garlic and saute for another 30 seconds until fragrant.
  • Add the chicken back to pan.
  • Pour the sauce into the skillet and lower the heat to medium. Cook just until the sauce starts to thicken and coats the chicken and vegetables.
    chicken and vegetables in a cast iron skillet with sauce being drizzled on top
  • Remove from the heat and stir in peanuts and garnish with green onions (if using).
  • Serve over cooked white rice.


Serving: 1serving (247 grams), Calories: 304kcal, Carbohydrates: 15g, Protein: 29g, Fat: 15g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g, Monounsaturated Fat: 4g, Trans Fat: 0.1g, Cholesterol: 73mg, Sodium: 473mg, Potassium: 765mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 7g

This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For the most precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator based on the actual ingredients you used in the recipe.

The default measuring system for this website is US Customary. Unit conversions are provided for convenience and as a courtesy only. While we strive to provide accurate unit conversions, please be aware that there may be some discrepancies.

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Photographs by Meg McKeehan Photography

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Recipe Rating


  1. This is every bit as good as the restaurant dishes I have eaten and I get to make it in my own home!?! Wonderful!

  2. Your recipes have become my go-to for quick meals. I really love this one! Better than takeout, super easy, and even the leftovers are top notch!

  3. I’ve just made this and it’s incredibly delicious. I didn’t have cornstarch but allowed the sauce to thicken on its own, and we ate a big plate with rice.

  4. What can I substitute for the rice vinegar and sherry? If I buy them they will just end up expiring on a back shelf somewhere. I don’t like buying ingredients that I probably will not use anymore