Kung Pao Chicken: A Classic Sichuan Delight

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Kung Pao Chicken, a staple of Sichuan cuisine, is a beloved dish that has won the hearts of food enthusiasts worldwide. Known for its bold flavors, this dish features a delightful combination of tender chicken, crunchy peanuts, and spicy chili peppers, all brought together by a savory, tangy sauce. While it may seem complex, making Kung Pao Chicken at home is quite manageable with the right ingredients and techniques. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you create this mouthwatering dish in your own kitchen.


For the Marinade:

  • 500g boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch

For the Sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons water

For the Stir-Fry:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 10-12 dried red chilies
  • 1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 inch ginger, minced
  • 1/2 cup unsalted roasted peanuts
  • 2-3 green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced (optional)


1. Marinate the Chicken

In a medium bowl, combine the soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, and cornstarch. Add the chicken pieces and mix well to coat. Let the chicken marinate for at least 20 minutes, allowing the flavors to penetrate and tenderize the meat.

2. Prepare the Sauce

In a small bowl, mix together the soy sauce, dark soy sauce, rice vinegar, Shaoxing wine, sugar, cornstarch, and water. Stir until the sugar and cornstarch are fully dissolved, creating a smooth, homogenous sauce. Set aside.

3. Heat the Oil and Fry the Chilies

Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot but not smoking, add the dried red chilies and Sichuan peppercorns. Stir-fry for about 30 seconds, or until the chilies darken slightly and become fragrant. Be careful not to burn them, as this can make the dish bitter.

4. Stir-Fry the Chicken

Add the marinated chicken to the wok. Stir-fry for about 4-5 minutes, or until the chicken is browned and cooked through. Ensure that each piece is seared properly for maximum flavor.

5. Add Aromatics and Vegetables

Add the minced garlic and ginger to the wok, stirring continuously to release their aroma. If using red bell pepper, add it at this stage and stir-fry for another 2-3 minutes until it starts to soften.

6. Combine with Sauce and Peanuts

Pour the prepared sauce into the wok, stirring quickly to coat the chicken and vegetables evenly. The sauce should thicken almost immediately due to the cornstarch. Add the roasted peanuts and green onions, stirring everything together for another minute until well combined and heated through.

7. Serve

Transfer the Kung Pao Chicken to a serving dish. Garnish with additional chopped green onions or a sprinkle of crushed peanuts if desired. Serve hot with steamed white rice or your favorite fried rice.

Tips for Success

  1. Choose Quality Ingredients: The quality of your ingredients can significantly impact the final dish. Use fresh chicken, high-quality soy sauce, and authentic Sichuan peppercorns for the best results.
  2. Control the Heat: Kung Pao Chicken is known for its spiciness, but you can adjust the heat level by varying the number of dried chilies and Sichuan peppercorns. Remove the seeds from the chilies for a milder dish.
  3. Stir-Fry Techniques: Stir-frying is a fast process. Make sure all your ingredients are prepped and ready to go before you start cooking. Use high heat and keep the ingredients moving to achieve the perfect texture.
  4. Marination Time: Allowing the chicken to marinate for at least 20 minutes ensures it absorbs the flavors and remains tender during cooking.
  5. Balance of Flavors: The beauty of Kung Pao Chicken lies in its balance of flavors—spicy, savory, tangy, and slightly sweet. Taste the sauce before adding it to the wok and adjust the seasoning to your preference.


While traditional Kung Pao Chicken is made with chicken, you can experiment with other proteins like shrimp, tofu, or pork. Vegetables such as zucchini, carrots, or mushrooms can also be added for extra nutrition and texture.


Kung Pao Chicken is a dish that brings together a symphony of flavors and textures, making it a favorite in Chinese cuisine. By following this recipe, you can recreate this classic dish at home, impressing your family and friends with your culinary skills. Enjoy the bold, vibrant taste of Sichuan right from your own kitchen!

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Written by Robert Zelesky

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