kung pao chicken

$6.27 recipe / $1.16 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
5 from 5 votes
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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


Kung Pao Chicken

5 from 5 votes
Make the take-out classic kung pao chicken at home. Tender chicken, stir fried vegetables, and a tangy sauce all over warm jasmine rice.
Servings 6
Prep 1 hr
Cook 15 mins
Total 1 hr 15 mins

Ingredients

  • 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)

Instructions 

  • 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.

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Notes

Serve the chicken and vegetable mixture over the cooked rice. Garnish with sliced green onions.

Nutrition

Serving: 1ServingCalories: 455.37kcalCarbohydrates: 53.68gProtein: 28.23gFat: 19.98gSodium: 822.23mgFiber: 3.75g
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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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  1. Love the old Kung Pao Chicken with Vegetables recipe that was an updated version of this one… was that recipe removed from the site? I had planned to make it for dinner tonight but can’t find it now?

  2. To reduce calories, I left the oil out of the marinade and only used one tbsp in my giant cast iron, which was sufficient. The chicken was pretty liquidy and didn’t brown much. I took it out of the pan before putting the vegetables in so it didn’t overcook (easy to do with breasts vs thighs). I wish I would have added the peanuts before the veggies to toast them a bit more, but it was still delicious! Great way to use up green onions. 

  3. Hi Beth, 

    I absolutely love your page and have been cooking and sharing your recipes for years! I loved your original recipe for this Kung Pao chicken and made it weekly when I was in university. 

    It’s now been years since then and over time I had completely forgotten about this gem of a recipe. I looked it up and noticed that you’ve updated it and made some slight changes – do you by any chance have a link to or copy of the original recipe that was made with broccoli and peppers? 

    I’m excited to try the new version, but I don’t have access to Sambal right now and was also looking forward to a trip down memory lane with the “original” version. 

    Thanks so much for your time! 

  4. This was the first recipe I ever cooked from Budget Bytes more then 4 years ago and STILL my favorite recipe. What made me fall in love with Beth and 4 years later, still the only site I go to for recipies.

    But the Kung Pao Chicken is the perfect blend of sweet and spicey, and plan to keep making for at least another 4 years.

  5. Delicious! I made this with half the amount of rice vinegar as per others’ suggestions and added half a bag of stir fry veggies I found in my freezer in addition to the veggies called for to help bulk it up. We served it over some leftover ham fried rice (also found in the freezer). This basically became a great “clear out the fridge and freezer” meal. The only thing I will change next time is to reduce the sugar a bit, maybe to 1.5 tablespoons . It was just a tad bit too sweet for our liking.

    1. Yes, if you reduce the vinegar you’ll definitely need to reduce the sugar. :) The sugar acts as a balance to the acidity of the vinegar.

  6. Hey there. Is there a good non-alcoholic substitute for the rice wine ? I’ve made this before (with much success) using rice vinegar, but since I’m planning on tripling this recipe for a dinner party, I am concerned that such a large amount of rice vinegar will totally alter the taste. Thoughts?

    1. Hmm, it’s hard to say without testing out ingredient substitutions. Rice vinegar can work, but it’s MUCH tangier than rice wine, so I usually reduce the amount some. But again, it’s hard to say without actually taste testing it.

      1. Ok. I think someone mentioned using rice vinegar in the comments but halving the amount…so I’ll give that a whirl. The recipe definitely works with rice vinegar…just gotta figure the right amount. Thanks!!

  7. In one of your other recipes you had mentioned being able to substitute chicken broth for the rice wine- is that possible here? I’m not sure how often I’d use rice wine and I don’t want to buy a whole bottle just for this recipe :)

    1. For this one I think you really need the tang of the rice wine. But it stays good for a REALLY long time, so maybe you’ll get more use out of it than you expect. :D