Authentic Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao Chicken is one of the most widely recognized of dishes in Western Chinese restaurants, but it’s actually an authentic, traditional dish from the Szechuan Province – unlike a lot of other restaurant menu offerings, which were invented to satisfy the Western palate.

The Best Kung Pao Chicken Recipe | Foodal.com

There are a number of variations made with different vegetables, but they’ll always contain the primary ingredients: cubed chicken, peppers and peanuts.

Its taste will vary a bit depending on where it’s made. At home in Szechuan, it will be spicier than dishes prepped elsewhere, with Chinese cooks using local (and very hot) peppers and peppercorns. Outside of its native region, the heat backs off a little, or sometimes a lot.

Authentic Kung Pao Chicken | Foodal.com

Easy to make and with a short cooking time, you can be creating authentic Chinese cuisine in your own kitchen in no time. And, it’s easily adaptable to variations made with prawns or tofu, for a slight change in flavor and texture.

Serve with fried rice, lightly steamed vegetables, and green tea.

This recipe includes Szechuan peppercorns. You should know that these aren’t really peppercorns. Instead, they’re a husk from the Chinese prickly ash bush.

It has a unique fragrance, but its real claim to fame is the numbing sensation it creates around the mouth, which allows the diner to enjoy the full, fruity flavor of the capsicum in the chili peppers – another Szechuan staple.

Szechuan Pepper Tin available on Amazon.

Not readily available in most grocery stores today, if you’re having a hard time finding a source, you may need to make a trip to an Asian market. It’s also called Flower Pepper, Chinese Pepper, Dried Prickly Ash and a few other names, but the best bet is to ask for it by its Chinese name – Hua Jiao. The shopkeepers will know what you’re asking for.

And, you can also find sources online, including Amazon.

Also, a good vegetable peeler will make things sooo much easier when it comes time to tackle the ginger root. Trust me, if you’ve always used el cheapos, then try a good peeler. They’re not very expensive, and you’ll thank yourself every time you use it.

The Best Authentic Kung Pao Chicken Recipe | Foodal.com
Authentic Kung Pao Chicken
Votes: 11
Rating: 4.45
You:
Rate this recipe!
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
4 people 15 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 people 15 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
The Best Authentic Kung Pao Chicken Recipe | Foodal.com
Authentic Kung Pao Chicken
Votes: 11
Rating: 4.45
You:
Rate this recipe!
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
4 people 15 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 people 15 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns *
  • 8 skinless boneless chicken thighs (about 1 ½ pounds), cut into bite sized cubes
  • 5 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 large piece of ginger approximately 3 square inches, peeled and minced
  • 4 green onions diced
  • 1 green pepper cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 red pepper cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 small zucchini cut into bite size pieces
  • 6 - 12 dried red chillies adjust heat to suit
  • 2 teaspoons cilantro minced
  • 5 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 5 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 4 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup shelled unsalted peanuts
Servings: people
Units:
Instructions
  1. Lightly toast the Szechuan peppercorns in a dry wok over medium heat just until golden. Grind to a fine powder with a rolling pin. Pick through and discard any large bits, then place into a medium mixing bowl.
  2. Add 4 tablespoons of cornstarch and stir with peppercorns to combine. Toss in the chicken cubes and coat.
  3. Heat a wok to medium high heat. Add 4 tablespoon of peanut oil and the chicken and fry for 6 – 10 minutes depending on their size, or until cooked through and no pink remains.
  4. Using a straining spoon, remove the chicken and drain on a double layer of paper towels. Pour off about ½ of the oil, leaving approximately 2 tablespoons and return to medium high heat.
  5. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté for a couple of minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Stir in the green onions, red and green peppers, zucchini and whole chillies and sauté for another minute.
  6. In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and 4 tablespoons of water. Stir in the soy sauce, vinegar and honey then add to the wok. Bring the mixture just to a boil and simmer lightly for a few minutes to thicken a bit.
  7. Give the peanuts a roll over with the rolling pin to break them up a bit. Add the peanuts to the wok and return the chicken, stirring until well coated and until warmed through.
  8. Transfer to a serving dish and scatter with the cilantro before serving.
Recipe Notes

Looking purchase a wok for your home? Take a look at our article on picking out the best wok for your kitchen.

The Best Authentic Kung Pao Chicken Recipe | Foodal.com

 

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About Lorna Kring

Recently retired as a costume specialist in the TV and film industry, Lorna now enjoys blogging on contemporary lifestyle themes. A bit daft about the garden, she’s particularly obsessed with organic tomatoes and herbs, and delights in breaking bread with family and friends.

21 thoughts on “Authentic Kung Pao Chicken”

  1. I’ve only ever had western kung pao chicken, but this looks and sounds so much more delicious. There are a number of other authentic Chinese dishes I have tried, and I’ve almost always preferred them to the westernized versions (exception: orange chicken, it’s so delicious I can’t help it). Now I REALLY want to get a hold of a good wok, haha.

    • The authentic versions might take a bit of extra effort to source some of the ingredients, but well worth the effort for the amazing flavors.
      And check out the new post on how to choose a good wok!

  2. I love authentic Chinese cooking, and Kung Pao is definitely one of my favourites! You have a really good recipe here that knocks the socks off any of the westernised versions. It also looks very colourful and appetising – I will definitely have a go at making this in the next few weeks.

    • Thanks for your comments Portia88, it’s a very flavorful dish… let us know how it turns out for you.

  3. I love how colorful your dish looks. I do have a decent peeler, but might consider buying one specifically for ginger and those tougher items I occasionally need to peel. I’m not sure I could handle the heat of the Szechuan peppercorns, but it looks and sounds so delicious that I might give it a try. I’m fortunate to have a decent Asian market nearby.

    • Kung Pao defnately has some heat, but can be easily reduced to suit tastes… and you are lucky to have a nearby Asian market, I have to go out of my way to reach mine but, I do it anyway.

  4. I think it’s interesting that its made of chicken thighs. Every other recipe calls for chicken breast. I really like that. It won’t be as easy to cut up, but it’ll keep the thighs from going bad. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure my skill level is high enough to successfully make this. I wouldn’t mind giving it a try, though. My family loves chinese

    • I really like that too! Brown meat is my favorite part of a bird — a bit more fat, more tender, more… good. Haha.

      • The dark meat really does make for a richer taste, despite the extra prep time to de-bone the thighs. And it’s not a difficult dish to make, just have everything ready to go before you start cooking and time the other dishes to finish with it. Pretend you’re a Chinese cook and have fun with it!

  5. It’s always nice to see a recipe for Chinese food which doesn’t involve countless noodles and beansprouts. I can’t say I’ve ever eaten this dish before but it looks really easy to cook so I’ll be trying it out soon.

  6. Oh, Chinese food, my guilty pleasure! Too bad this doesn’t feature any noodles of some sort, they are my favorite. However, this doesn’t mean I would refuse such a meal. Excellent recipe! 🙂

  7. I tend to use a spoon to scrape my ginger as opposed to using a vegetable peeler. It’s amazingly easy and efficient. People tend to call this a ‘hack’ but honestly it’s just what I’ve been doing for years because it’s a ton easier than any other method – you lose less of the meat.

    • A spoon, that’s a good idea. I usually use a thin blade paring knife as it gives me more control than a peeler, but still lose a bit of flesh. Will have to give the spoon hack a go!

  8. Oh, I ate this delicious dish at a local Chinese restaurant. It was called the Sechuan Chicken, and was pretty spicy.
    I loved every bit of it! Haven’t considered preparing it at home. Looking at the list of ingredients, I think that it’s cheaper to eat at the restaurant. Things like Sechuan peppercorns are impossible to buy here. If those ingredients were cheaper, I would sure try out your recipe!

  9. This does look delicious and I like that it contains a whole mix of vegetables. The colors always look fantastic and they are also tasty. I love my vegetables and spicy rice is also nice. I often make a dish that is similar to this and it also goes a long way.

  10. I’m not a huge lover of Chinese foo, but I do enjoy Kung Pao chicken. The only thing I don’t like when I order it in is that it’s never hot enough, so making it myself would allow me to add enough chillies to satisfy my palette.

  11. I made this last night with shrimp and it was terrible; we had to throw it away. It would have been very good, but 2 TBLS of Szechuan peppercorns ruined it completely for us. It was WAY WAY WAY too much. It practically bubbled in our mouths in a frothy way and completely overpowered all the other ingredients. If I do this again I will use 1/8th of a tsp. I purchased a very good quality of peppercorn off the internet. Other recipes I see use much less of that spice.

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