Bowl of Kung Pao Chicken with a hand holding chopsticks in front of a small bowl of white rice
Dinner, Lunch, Under 20 Minutes

Authentic Kung Pao Chicken

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So, you think you know Kung Pao chicken? Sorry, a punch card at Panda Express doesn’t count. Actually, a key ingredient to the dish, Sichuan peppercorns, was outlawed in the US until 2005, so the Kung Pao you grew up with… well, how can I say this? It might not be all that authentic. 

China has some of the most ridiculously delicious food on the face of the planet and has been churning out amazing food for millennia. Seriously, after the first week living and eating in Beijing, my wife and I gave up on saying, “Wow! This is delicious! I’ve never even heard of this dish!” and just ate in blissful silence.

Don’t believe me? Grab your chopsticks and hop on a plane. 

Note: Jack, our Chinese friend and culinary wizard, guided us through the flavors, traditions, and deliciousness of the country while we lived there. This is his recipe, and all credit goes to him.

Thanks, Jack! 

Bowl of Kung Pao Chicken in front of chopsticks and a plate of Kung Pao Chicken with white rice



Dice your chicken into small cubes. Think something about twice as large as playing dice. Then throw in three tablespoons of cornstarch and 128 grains of salt. Count the grains! I kid. A pinch. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and stir up the starchy [almost Kung Pao] chicken. 

Set that off to the side and get your prepping pants on!

Clean your leek and slice off the leafy bit. We only need the stem. Slice it in 1/2-inch slices and put them in a medium bowl (you’re going to mix your sauce in this bowl [spoiler]). Green onions get cleaned and sliced to an inch long. Don’t agonize about getting them perfect, we’re just going for a size that can easily be picked up with your chopsticks.

Use a spoon to peel your ginger, and slice it into thin wafers. If you can’t imagine a thin wafer, grab two pennies, sterilize them, then try to get your ginger to that thickness. The same goes for your garlic. Two pennies thick (that’s a scientific unit of measurement. I checked!).

Now, you’ve just done the heavy lifting for your Kung Pao Chicken.

Combine all your prepped veggies, and everything else on the list, save for your chili pods and Sichuan peppercorns in a bowl and stir it. Don’t worry if your sugar is still a bit grainy, the heat from the wok will melt those stubborn grains, and your sauce will emerge like a spicy phoenix from the bubbling cauldron.


Throw your wok on medium-high heat (if high is 10, shoot for 7 to 8) then dump in about ¼ cup of oil. In China, I learned that there isn’t such a thing as too much oil. I use avocado oil for my wok, because it is a high heat oil (it’s not virgin and won’t smoke, separate, and ruin the dish), and it doesn’t skew any flavors. 

Toss in your peanuts and keep them moving! Don’t stop stirring! Don’t you dare! It’s hard work, but the pay off is worth it.

When your peanuts are a nice off gold color, strain them off and return the oil to your pan.

Now, throw in your chicken. Scratch that. Gently put your chicken in the wok in a way that won’t spray grease all over you and your kitchen.

Keep the chicken moving and cook until it turns white. When that happens, dump in your sauce with all the rest of the ingredients. Don’t forget about your Sichuan peppercorns or fiery chilies! Everything in!

Stir and stir and stir until your sauce turns a slight caramel color. Don’t overcook it! You’re going for Kung Pao perfection in a bowl.


Pull from the wok and eat immediately! You rice should be done so it can act as a tongue saver. A life raft in the tumultuous sea of spice. A beacon of icy relief after a blast in the inferno of Sichuan fire! A—

Okay, I’m done.




What can I substitute for Tien Tsin chiles?

If you don’t have Tien Tsin chiles, you can use Thai chiles or chile de arbol. This will change the flavor ever so slightly, but honestly, with all the powerful flavors in this Kung Pao Chicken, you’ll barely notice.

I don’t like spice. How can I make this without the heat?

Great question! If you don’t enjoy the heat of these chiles lighting up your tastebuds, don’t add the Tien Tsin chiles or Sichuan peppercorns. Instead, add 1/2 cup of bell peppers with the rest of your veggies (step 8 below).

What can I substitute for Chinese cooking wine?

You can substitute this with rice wine vinegar. So, you’ll need 3 teaspoons of rice wine vinegar total for this Kung Pao Chicken recipe.


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Bowl of Kung Pao Chicken with a hand holding chopsticks in front of a small bowl of white rice

Authentic Kung Pao Chicken

  • Author: Ben
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 2 1x


Kung Pao Chicken: Chicken with leeks, green onions, ginger, garlic, chiles, and Sichuan peppercorns. A delicious mix of spicy authentic Chinese flavors.


  • 1 chicken breast, or 4 chicken tenders, or two boneless chicken thighs. Pick a chicken, any chicken! 
  • 1 TBS (15 ml) corn starch
  • 1/2 tsp (5 ml) kosher salt
  • 1 leek 
  • 2 green onions
  • 1/8 cup (30 ml) slivered ginger
  • 1 head of garlic slivered
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) soy sauce
  • 2 TBS (30 ml) chicken broth
  • 2 tsp (10 ml) rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) Chinese cooking wine (Hua Tiao)
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) oil (Canola or Avocado are best)
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) Tien Tsin chiles*
  • 1/8 cup (30 ml) Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) raw unsalted peanuts


  1. Dice your chicken into small cubes.
  2. Mix chicken cubes with cornstarch and salt, stir and set aside.
  3. Clean your leek and cut off the leafy part; slice the stem in 1/2-inch slices.
  4. Clean your green onions and slice them about an inch in length.
  5. Peel the ginger and slice into thin wafers.
  6. Peel the garlic and slice into thin wafers.
  7. Combine the leeks, green onions, ginger, and garlic with the soy sauce, chicken broth, rice wine vinegar, and Chinese cooking wine; stir.
  8. Turn your wok on medium-high heat and dump in your oil.
  9. Once your oil is hot, toss in your peanuts and keep stirring; remove when they are a nice off-gold color; strain and return the oil to your wok.
  10. Place the chicken cubes in your wok; keep stirring until they turn white.
  11. Once the chicken cubes are white, stir in your sauce and veggies.
  12. Add the Tien Tsin chiles, Sichuan peppercorns, and peanuts.
  13. Stir until the sauce turns a slight caramel color.
  14. Take off the heat, serve and enjoy! 🙂 Enjoying this with a side of white rice.



  • *I’ve used Thai chiles, chile de arbol, and eaten it with the real stuff, Tien Tsin chiles. So, you can have fun mixing and matching. If you can’t handle spice, I’d suggest chile de arbol (15,000 scovilles) vs Tien Tsin which come in at a lip incinerating 75,000 scovilles. It’s your mouth and your call.
  • This is best enjoyed with a side of white rice. I suggest putting your rice on to cook first so it’s finished cooking by the time you are finished making this Kung Pao Chicken.
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 minutes
  • Category: Lunch
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Chinese

Keywords: kung pao chicken, chicken, Chinese, Asian, under 20 minutes, quick

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