kung pao chicken

kung pao chicken (better than Panda Express!)

Kung pao chicken is an addicting stir-fried chicken dish filled with crisp veggies and crunchy peanuts! It's a traditional Sichuan dish that has popularized all over China as well as the US, and is super simple to make at home! If you enjoy Panda Express kung pao chicken, I think you'll LOVE this one and my mushroom chicken Panda Express recipe.

If you've never had kung pao chicken, the dish consists of juicy bites of chicken, crisp veggies, and crunchy, roasted peanuts -- all deliciously coated by a sweet, tangy, and savory sauce.

My mom taught me to use cashews instead of peanuts. The buttery texture of cashews goes so well with the rest of the dish! You can always use peanuts if that's what you prefer.

Can I substitute different veggies in this dish?

Yes! Celery is also a popular option. Or just use whatever you have in the fridge -- this sauce would be delicious on almost anything 🙂 

What're the key ingredients to a delicious kung pao sauce?

 Soy sauce, oyster sauce, spicy chili crisp or oil, sesame oil, a touch of sugar, and my personal favorite: Chinese black vinegar. Compared to regular rice vinegar, Chinese black vinegar's flavor is deeper, more robust, and more fragrant. It has similar notes to balsamic vinegar, and is used often in my Chinese sauces and recipes. I highly recommend getting it if you plan to cook a lot of Chinese food! 

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kung pao chicken

Kung Pao Chicken (better than Panda Express!)

A perfect pairing for rice, this saucy kung pao chicken is addicting and so much better than takeout!
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Chinese
Servings 4 people


for the chicken

  • 8 oz boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoon Shaoxing wine
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon neutral oil

other ingredients

  • 1 cup zucchini diced
  • 1 cup red bell pepper diced
  • ½ cup onion diced
  • 4-5 cloves garlic minced
  • dried red chilis and/or Sichuan peppercorn powder (to taste)
  • cup roasted, unsalted cashews or peanuts
  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil for cooking


  • cup low sodium chicken stock (or water + chicken bouillon)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • ½ tablespoon Chinese black vinegar (can sub rice vinegar)
  • ½ tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon spicy chili crisp (I'm using laoganma)
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch


Prepare the ingredients

  • Dice chicken thigh into ½ inch cubes. Marinade diced chicken in soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, and cornstarch. Mix thoroughly, add neutral oil to seal in the marinade, and mix again. 
    8 oz boneless skinless chicken thighs, 2 teaspoon soy sauce, 2 teaspoon Shaoxing wine, 1 teaspoon cornstarch, 1 teaspoon neutral oil
  • Mince garlic. Dice all other veggies into ½ inch cubes: zucchini, red pepper, onion. If using dried red chilis, either leave them whole (for less spicy) or cut them up into ½ inch pieces. 
    1 cup zucchini, 1 cup red bell pepper, ½ cup onion, 4-5 cloves garlic
  • Mix together all the sauce ingredients and set aside. 
    ⅓ cup low sodium chicken stock, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon oyster sauce, ½ tablespoon Chinese black vinegar, ½ tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon spicy chili crisp, ½ teaspoon sesame oil, 1 teaspoon cornstarch

Time to cook!

  • Heat up 1 tablespoon of oil in a pan on medium heat, and add marinated chicken. Cook about 3-4 minutes or until cooked through and it turns lightly golden brown. Remove from the pan. 
    1 tablespoon neutral oil
  • Add more oil if needed, then add diced zucchini, bell pepper, and onion. Season with a pinch of salt. Cook for 2-3 min or until slightly softened and slightly translucent. Add minced garlic and stir fry another 1-2 min. 
  • Add dried red chilis and roasted, unsalted cashews or peanuts. Stir your sauce in its bowl (to dissolve any settled cornstarch), then add into the pan. Cook 1 min or until sauce slightly thickens. Mix and enjoy over rice! 
    ⅓ cup roasted, unsalted cashews or peanuts, dried red chilis and/or Sichuan peppercorn powder
Keyword chinese takeout, kung pao chicken, panda express copycat
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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