Kung pao chicken recipe consists of some Asian elements: wok-fried chicken pieces, tangy herbs, and most specifically worth mentioned – the vital sapid spicy sauce. It is absolutely a true well-known American Chinese cuisine.
What Is Kung Pao Chicken?
Kung pao chicken, which originally named Gōngbǎo Jīdīng (宫保鸡丁), was descended from Sichuan, a southwest province in China.
Kung pao is said to be an innovation of Din Bao Zhen, a governor-general of Sichuan province under Emperor Guangxu’s rule. From a home dish of the Din’s family, Gongbao Jiding soon diffused rapidly among the locals.
After Din Bao Zhen passed away, he was honored by the government for his remarkable achievements throughout years on active duty. His honor is one of the “Gong Bao” titles provided at that time. That’s why the very genuine chicken that he had created before was also named after that.
“Chicken” it is, but spices can not be taken negligibly here. Together with a few splashes of herbs like scallions, garlic, and ginger, kung pao merely has the notorious qualities of Chinese cuisine.
While chili furnishes the final touch of heat for the dish, the great balance between the ingredients is actually what foregrounds it all.
Is Kung Pao Chicken Spicy?
Kung pao chicken recipe has a strong flavor with a unique heat from the pepper. Speaking of chilies, not all of them have an equal spiciness. You should taste them and decide which type and how much you can handle.
If you don’t like chilies, simply omit them. However, note that, without a slight numbing of spiciness from chilies, the dish could be less attractive and visually appealing.
Is Kung Pao Chicken Healthy?
Yes, our kung pao chicken recipe is healthy. We measure the ingredients and monitor the number of calories, saturated fat, and sodium in each one.
Each serving of this kung pao chicken offers 487 calories which are a bit lower for the main dish. Serving the dish with some soup, salad, and juice is a healthy, yet tasty way to reach 750 calories.
There are only 18 grams of carbohydrate, which means 6% of the recommended intake daily, in one serving of kung pao. This makes the dish an ideal choice for a low carb or keto diet.
Kung Pao Chicken vs General Tso
Kung Pao Chicken is originally an authentic Chinese dish that was westernized later when introduced into the US. Therefore, it is much older than General Tso’s Chicken.
Poles apart from Kung Pao, General Tso was actually rooted in the Upper East side of the US (New York City), then spread out among Chinese restaurants all across America in those 1980s. That should make some sense as General Tso’s Chicken is pretty popular here. I suppose everybody who’s been in a Chinese food store in this country could also have bumped into it once.
Pretty much a surprising fact: At the first place, the native Chinese didn’t know a thing about how General Tso’s Chicken was generated – at least not until US chefs brought it to China.
Both of these two require boneless chicken cut into cubes or small pieces. But distinct from the unique hot and spicy flavor of Kung Pao, General Tso is much sweeter and less spicy, and of course, with a brighter-colored sticky sauce (often more orange-ish than Kung Pao’s dark brown sauce). There’s also no peanut in General Tso’s Chicken ever.
How to Make Kung Pao Chicken
Step 1: Stir-fry chilies
Heat cast iron pan on medium-high heat, stir dry chilies and transfer them into a bowl.
Step 2: Stir-fry bell pepper
Add olive oil to the pan, add bell pepper. Stirring occasionally until crisp-tender. Remove from heat.
Step 3: Stir-fry chicken
Heat olive oil in the pan, add cubed chicken, and fry on medium heat. Stirring until the edges are golden brown. Remove from heat.
Step 4: Add garlic and ginger
Add olive oil into the pan, stir in garlic and ginger.
Step 5: Season with spices
Then pour in rice wine, hoisin sauce, dark soy sauce, lite soy sauce, and sugar. Bring them to a boil while stirring.
Step 6: Combine chicken and veggies with sauce
Once the sauce begins to thicken slightly, add the chicken and pepper back into the pan.
Step 7: Toss with peanuts
Stir in rice vinegar, scallion, white pepper, and sesame oil. Toss well with unsalted peanuts for a further 1 minute.
Step 8: Serve
Serve immediately with cooked rice.
Sauce for Kung Pao Chicken
Originally, Sichuan pepper, soy sauce, and hoisin sauce are the most common leading ingredients to enhance Kung Pao’s one-off flavor. But after westernization, Kung Pao Chicken came out with many more variations.
Sichuan pepper is swapped out for prevalent domestic ingredients such as zucchini or red/green bell pepper (which I used in this recipe). As a result, the sauce tastes much less spicy but sweeter in contrast. Feel free to check out the below ingredient list of mine for more details.
Unlike some sweetly glazed Western dishes like honey butter chicken, kung pao, on the other hand, is a combination of sweet and sour tasting. It’s starchy and a bit intense at the tip of your tongue but not too spicy, bringing out a great balancing taste to hook people up for a sure deal.
Of course, it’s not out of line to eat kung pao on its own. However, siding it with steamed white rice, plainly cooked quinoa or a veggie salad can be a great venture trial.
Kung Pao Chicken Ingredients
Don’t be intimidated by the list of ingredients from our kung pao recipe, they are all simple, versatile, and you can easily buy from any Asian market.
Authentic kung pao recipe calls for Sichuan peppercorn and dried chilies for an extra spicy flavor. We have Americanized it and use popular dried chilies which you can easily find at supermarkets. It may not be authentic but is as mouth-watering as any Chinese restaurant takeout.
Peanuts may not be an essential ingredient in the original kung pao chicken but it’s a staple in the American version. Nuts give additional crunchy texture which makes your experience even more enjoyable.
Adding fresh and bright flavor to the dish, veggies are a part of kung pao. The great thing is that you can use any veg you like from carrots, chestnuts, celery, zucchini, or broccoli. Just make sure that you have enough sauce to cover them.
Protip: double the sauce recipe if you are going to add more veggies.
Kung pao chicken sauce is a tasty blend of sweetness from sugar and slight acidity from vinegar. Spoon this luscious over hot cooked rice and there are never any leftovers when you have the dish this way.
How Long Does Kung Pao Chicken Last?
At room temperature, kung pao chicken should be eaten within 2 hours of serving to reduce the risk of food-borne illnesses.
For longer storage, keep the dish in an airtight container and place it in the fridge. This way your kung pao can last for up to 3 days.
What to Serve with Kung Pao Chicken
1. Shrimp Egg Drop Soup
Soup is an easy way to sneak more vegetables into your daily meal and this classic Chinese soup is a great accompaniment for any rice dish.
2. Watermelon Smoothie
A nice way to complete your fulfilling meal is to have a glass of smoothie. It provides a healthy dose of vitamins and oxidants, plus offers a wonderfully refreshing mouthfeel.
Here are the nutrition facts of the whole meal:
If you are looking for a healthy Chinese chicken recipe, sesame chicken is a great option.
Kung Pao Chicken Recipe
- 3 dried chili pepper halved
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 12 oz skinless boneless chicken thigh cut into 1-inch cubes
- 10 oz bell pepper 2 medium, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 tbsp scallion chopped
- 1 tbsp garlic 3 cloves, chopped
- 1/2 tsp fresh ginger minced
- 2 tbsp white wine
- 1/4 tsp white pepper
- 1 tsp dark soy sauce
- 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 1 1/2 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1/3 cup unsalted peanuts
- 3 cups cooked medium-grain rice
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- Heat cast iron pan on medium-high heat, stir dry chilies for about 30 seconds and transfer them into a bowl.
- Add ½ tablespoon olive oil to the pan, add bell pepper. Stirring occasionally for about 2 minutes until crisp-tender. Remove from heat.
- Heat ½ tablespoon olive oil in the pan, add cubed chicken and fry on medium heat for 15-20 minutes. Stirring until the edges are golden brown. Remove from heat.
- Add remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil into the pan, stir in garlic and ginger.
- Then pour in rice wine, hoisin sauce, dark soy sauce, lite soy sauce, and sugar. Bring them to a boil while stirring.
- Once the sauce begins to thicken slightly, add the chicken and pepper back into the pan.
- Stir in rice vinegar, scallion, white pepper, and sesame oil. Toss well with unsalted peanuts for a further 1 minute.
- Serve immediately with cooked rice.
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