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Horizontal image of a cooked meat and vegetable dinner in a white bowl garnished with chopped nuts and herbs next to scallions, chopsticks, and a yellow towel.

Quick and Easy Kung Pao Chicken

  • Author: Fanny Slater
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x


Skip the takeout and try this kung pao chicken. Our speedy stir fry packs a punch with citrusy Szechuan peppercorns and fiery chilies.


  • 612 dried Chinese red peppers, or chiles de árbol
  • 5 tablespoons cornstarch, divided
  • 1/4 cup low sodium chicken (or vegetable) stock
  • 5 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce (or substitute hoisin)
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese Shaoxing rice wine (or substitute mirin or dry sherry)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 8 boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 2 pounds), cut into bite-sized cubes
  • 1/2 cup chopped unsalted peanuts
  • 4 tablespoons neutral cooking oil (such as vegetable, canola, or peanut oil)
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 large green bell pepper, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 5 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 4 green onions, green tops only, rough chopped
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, divided (optional)


  1. Remove the stems and seeds from the dried chilies, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Select as many as you would like to use to set your spice level, according to taste. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, make a cornstarch slurry by vigorously whisking together 1 tablespoon of the cornstarch and the stock. In a separate small bowl, whisk the peanut oil, soy sauce, dark soy sauce, Shaoxing rice wine, and honey together to make the sauce for the dish. Set aside.
  3. In a dry wok (or large skillet with angled sides) over medium heat, toast the Szechuan peppercorns until fragrant and lightly golden, about 1 minute. Using a mortar and pestle or rolling pin, grind the peppercorns into a fine powder. 
  4. In a large bowl, combine the toasted ground Szechuan pepper and the remaining 4 tablespoons cornstarch. Toss the chicken in the cornstarch mixture until each piece is thoroughly coated.
  5. In a dry pan over medium heat, lightly toast the peanuts, tossing occasionally until golden brown and fragrant, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from the pan, rough chop, and set aside.
  6. Prepare a paper towel-lined plate. Heat the wok (or skillet) over medium-high heat and add the cooking oil. When it begins to shimmer, add the chicken and fry, tossing occasionally and working in batches so you don’t crowd the pan and lower the heat of the oil, until cooked through, about 6-8 minutes. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and place on the paper towel-lined plate to drain.
  7. Pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of the liquid in the pan and lower the heat to medium. Add the red and green bell peppers and the dried chilies. Saute until lightly golden, about 2 minutes.
  8. Stir in the garlic and ginger, and saute for an additional minute.
  9. Move the peppers to the perimeter of the wok and then pour the soy-honey sauce in the center of the pan. Bring to a boil, and stir in the cornstarch slurry. Once the sauce has thickened, about 1 minute, return the chicken to the pan, tossing to reheat and coat with the sauce. 
  10. Divide among plates and garnish with the peanuts, green onions, and cilantro if desired.
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: Chicken
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Chinese

Keywords: kung pao, chicken, garlic, ginger, bell pepper