kung pao chicken

I’m really not sure how authentic this recipe is but I’m calling it kung pao chicken because it’s spicy and it has peanuts. That’s good enough for me. Ha!

Okay, aside from that, it’s really super delicious… and easy. Well, easy if you’re not trying to figure out how to use your new mandoline like I was. I spent a good half hour just trying to assemble the correct blades, another 15 minutes or so trying to use it and then another 30 minutes trying to disassemble, clean, and then fold up the mandoline for storage. I got some beautifully thin carrot strips but it wasn’t worth an hour of my day and almost slicing my thumb wide open. Nope. Next time I’m just going to stick to a knife. *sigh* Lesson learned.

Because I get this question every time: Buy your chicken in large family sized packs to get a super low price. When you get it home, divide it up into 1-2 lb. portions and freeze for later use. I just pop two breasts into quart size ziplock bags, label them, and toss them in the freezer. It’s really nice to have the meat on hand the next time you’re ready to cook and it’s at least a dollar less per pound when purchased in bulk (usually a 5 lb. package). Sometimes, when they are approaching their “sell by” date, they’ll be even more deeply discounted and as long as you freeze them that day, they’re completely safe. Even Whole Foods sells “Family Packs” of chicken for a lower price per pound.

Kung Pao Chicken

kung pao chicken place on a bed of white rice on a white plate

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5 from 5 votes

Kung Pao Chicken

Make the take-out classic kung pao chicken at home. Tender chicken, stir fried vegetables, and a tangy sauce all over warm jasmine rice.
Author: Beth - Budget Bytes
Prep Time: 1 hr
Cook Time: 15 mins
Total Time: 1 hr 15 mins
Servings: 6


  • 1 lb boneless chicken breasts ($2.48)
  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil, divided ($0.12)
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce, divided ($0.18)
  • 3 Tbsp rice wine, divided ($0.41)
  • 2 Tbsp corn starch, divided ($0.12)
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar ($0.06)
  • 2 Tbsp sambal (chili sauce) ($0.30)
  • 2 tsp minced garlic ($0.13)
  • 1 tsp sesame oil ($0.12)
  • 1 bunch green onions ($0.75)
  • 1 medium bell pepper ($0.69)
  • 1/2 lb carrots ($0.49)
  • 1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts ($0.42)
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked jasmine rice ($0.42)


  • Prepare the marinade for the chicken. Dissolve 1 Tbsp of corn starch in 1 Tbsp of water and then add 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil, 1 Tbsp of soy sauce, 1 Tbsp of rice wine, and 2 tsp of minced garlic. Stir to combine.
  • Cut the chicken into small chunks and place it in a bowl or small container. Pour the marinade over top, stir to coat, cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  • While the chicken is marinating, prepare the sauce. The sauce is very similar to the marinade but with a couple more ingredients to amp up the flavor. So, again, start by dissolving 1 Tbsp of corn starch in 1 Tbsp of water. Then add 2 Tbsp soy sauce, 2 Tbsp rice wine, 2 Tbsp sambal, 2 Tbsp brown sugar, and 1 tsp sesame oil. Stir to combine and dissolve the brown sugar. Set the sauce aside until you’re ready to use it.
  • Prepare the vegetables. Dice the bell pepper and slice the carrots into strips as thin as possible. Slice the green onions, both the white and green will be used. Measure out 1/2 cup of peanuts.
  • Begin to cook the rice. Add 1.5 cups of dry jasmine rice to a medium pot with 2.5 cups of water. Place a lid on top and bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as it reaches a boil, reduce the heat to the lowest setting and let simmer for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, turn the heat off and let the rice sit undisturbed until it is ready to use. Fluff with a fork just prior to serving.
  • Heat 2 Tbsp of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is very hot (it will look wavy on the surface), add the white half of the sliced green onions. Stir and cook for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the marinated chicken. Cook and stir until the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes. It will feel firm when it is cooked through.
  • Add the vegetables and peanuts and stir to combine with the chicken. Immediately add the sauce and cook until the sauce has thickened (2-3 minutes). I prefer the vegetables still crunchy so I didn’t really let them cook before adding the sauce.


Serve the chicken and vegetable mixture over the cooked rice. Garnish with sliced green onions.
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Serving: 1 ServingCalories: 455.37 kcalCarbohydrates: 53.68 gProtein: 28.23 gFat: 19.98 gSodium: 822.23 mgFiber: 3.75 g
Nutritional values are estimates only. See our full nutrition disclaimer here.

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Top view of kung pao chicken placed on a bed of white rice on a white plate

Step By Step Photos

chicken diced into cubes on cutting board with knife
Okay, so I actually diced the chicken first but that is trivial. Cut it into small chunks, it will go further that way. This was two large, boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

corn starch and water in mixing bowl
Start the marinade by dissolving 1 Tbsp of corn starch in 1 Tbsp of water.

chicken marinade ingredients in mixing bowl
Then stir in the rest of the ingredients (1 Tbsp vegetable oil, 1 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 Tbsp rice wine, 2 tsp minced garlic).

chicken and marinade mixed together in mixing bowl
Combine the chicken and marinade and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

kung pao sauce in mixing bowl with bottles of ingredients in background
While the chicken is marinating, make the sauce. It is very similar to the marinade, just combine the ingredients in a bowl: 1 Tbsp corn starch + 1 Tbsp water, 2 Tbsp soy sauce, 2 Tbsp rice wine, 2 Tbsp brown sugar, 2 Tbsp sambal, and 1 tsp sesame oil.

Close up of sambal chili paste jar
This is the sambal that I used in the sauce. You can find it in the Asian section of most major grocery stores. It is basically a paste/sauce/relish made of red chili peppers. You can also use a chili garlic sauce like the one I used for these chili garlic breakfast quesadillas.

chopped vegetables
Prepare the vegetables. I just diced up the bell pepper, sliced up all of the green onions and then… struggled for an hour with my new mandoline to achieve those beautifully julienned carrots. Cut the carrots any way you can. Forget julienning. Just get it right out of your head. It’s not worth it.

diced green onions in pan with hot oil
Anyway… Heat up 2 Tbsp of vegetable oil in a large skillet until it’s very hot (it should look wavy on the surface). Add the bottom half of the green onions (the white half) and stir fry for about a minute.

Marinated chicken added to hot pan
Add the marinated chicken…

cooked chicken in pan
Stir and cook the chicken until it is cooked through. It will feel firm when the insides of the chunks have completely cooked.

vegetables added to pan with chicken
Add the vegetables and the peanuts. Stir to combine. I wanted my veggies crisp so I didn’t really let them “cook,” I just stirred them in.

sauce added to pan with chicken and veggies
Just after adding the vegetables, I added the sauce. Stir and cook until the sauce is thickened. This should only take a few minutes. The veggies will cook a little during those few minutes but they should stay relatively crisp.

Top view of Kung Pao chicken served over a bed of jasmine rice on plate
Serve over cooked jasmine rice.

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