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Kung Pao Chicken

  • Serves: 6
  • Prep Time: 30 min
  • Cook Time: 20 min
  • Calories: 405
cast iron skillet of kung pao chicken

Our Kung Pao chicken recipe swaps in cashews for the traditional peanuts, and gets extra balance from some added veggies. All the spicy Kung Pao goodness that you crave, no day-after regrets.

What is Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao chicken is so popular here in the U.S., it’d be tempting to assume that it’s a Chinese-American dish, but in fact this spicy Chinese chicken stir-fry is an authentic Sichuan dish. Preparations vary widely, but some version of this dish has existed since at least the late 19th century. At its core, Kung Pao chicken is a simple dish of chicken breast, cut up and stir-fried in “Kung Pao sauce”, primarily flavored with soy sauce, vinegar and a bit of sugar.

ingredients for kung pao chicken in small bowls

What's in Kung Pao Chicken?

In Sichuan province—and in many Chinese restaurants here in America—this simple chicken stir-fry would get its unique and powerful spicy heat from a handful of Sichuan (also spelled Szechuan) peppercorns. We’re calling for dried chilies instead, because they’re easier to find. Not only did we want our version of Kung Pao chicken to be easy, we also wanted to opt for healthy Kung Pao chicken ingredients when possible. A little less oil that they’d use in a restaurant (actually, probably a LOT less) and a few extra veggies. Here’s what’s in our Kung Pao chicken recipe:

  • Boneless skinless chicken breast
  • Soy sauce (or tamari)
  • Vinegar (rice vinegar or sherry vinegar)
  • Cornstarch
  • Granulated sugar
  • Toasted sesame oil
  • Red & green bell peppers
  • Green onions
  • Cashews
  • Dried red chili peppers
  • Fresh garlic & ginger
raw chicken breast in a glass bowl with a kung pao marinade
chicken cooked in a cast iron skillet for kung pao chicken
red and green bell peppers in a cast iron skillet
bell peppers, green onions, cashews, and herbs in a cast iron skillet for kung pao chicken
bell peppers with onions and cashews with kung pao sauce in a cast iron skillet
kung pao chicken in a cast iron skillet

How to Make Kung Pao Chicken

Some Kung Pao chicken recipes require you to marinate the chicken in the Kung Pao sauce before stir-frying, but we wanted this easy Kung Pao chicken recipe to be one that you can turn to on even the busiest weeknight, so we skipped that step and found that the resulting dish was no less tasty. Here’s how to make our quick, easy Kung Pao chicken stir-fry:

  1. Make the Kung Pao sauce: mix the soy sauce, vinegar and sugar in a bowl. (yeah, it’s that simple.)
  2. Prep the chicken! Cut the boneless, skinless chicken breast into uniform strips. This is a little easier to do if your chicken is slightly frozen. Then, toss it in a little soy sauce and cornstarch to coat.
  3. Cook the chicken until crispy! Working in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan, stir-fry the chicken pieces in sesame oil until they're cooked through and gorgeously crispy.
  4. Stir-fry! Stir-fry the bell peppers until they're a little soft. Then add the scallions, cashews, ginger, garlic, and dried chili peppers. Stir fry all of that for a minute or two, and then stir in the Kung Pao sauce and cooked chicken.
  5. Simmer. Let all of the flavors meld over the heat for a few more minutes. The Kung Pao sauce will thicken slightly and really coat the veggies and chicken, which is what you want.
  6. Serve! We love to serve this over steaming bowls of white or brown rice.
kung pao chicken

Tools You’ll Need:

kung pao chicken over white rice on a plate with chop sticks

Other Take-Out Copycat Recipes!

Yeah, getting take-out is pretty easy. But staying home and cooking in your PJs is even easier.

New Favorite?

Quick, easy, and saves time and money—we hope you’re as into this Kung Pao recipe as we are! Snap a photo of your stir-fried Kung Pao chicken and tag us on Instagram using @themodernproperand #themodernproper so we can celebrate your cooking victories! Happy eating!

kung pao chicken in a cast iron skillet

Kung Pao Chicken

  • Serves: 6
  • Prep Time: 30 min
  • Cook Time: 20 min
  • Calories: 405


  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast, thinly sliced (about 3 chicken breasts)
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce (or tamari)
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 3 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, cubed
  • 1 green bell pepper, cubed
  • 1 bunch green onions, white and green parts, cut into 3" pieces
  • 1/2 cup cashews (or peanuts)
  • 10 dried red chili peppers, cut in half to release their heat
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced or grated
  • cooked rice for serving, optional

Kung Pao Sauce

  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce (or tamari)
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar (or sherry vinegar)
  • 2 tbsp sugar


  1. Make the Kung Pao sauce: combine 1/4 cup of soy sauce, rice or sherry vinegar and sugar in a bowl. Stir to combine and set aside.
  2. Combine the remaining 1/4 cup of soy sauce or (tamari) with cornstarch in a large bowl and whisk until the mixture is smooth and uniform. Toss chicken breast pieces in the soy sauce-cornstarch mixture to coat and set aside.
  3. In a large skillet, heat the sesame oil over high heat. Working in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan, stir-fry the chicken pieces until lightly browned and cooked through—about 3-4 minutes total. Remove the chicken from the pan and set it aside.
  4. Once all of the chicken is cooked, use the same skillet to finish the dish. Heat one tablespoon of sesame oil over medium heat. When the pan is hot, stir-fry the bell peppers for about four minutes, until they begin to soften. Add the green onions, cashews, ginger, garlic, and dried chili peppers. Stir-fry the vegetables for 2 minutes before adding the Kung Pao sauce and the cooked chicken breast. Bring the pan to a simmer, and cook until the sauce has thickened— about 2 minutes. Serve over white or brown rice. Enjoy!

This recipe is dairy-free, kid-friendly and comes together in 30 minutes or less!

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories 405
  • Protein 39 g
  • Carbohydrates 18 g
  • Total Fat 16 g
  • Dietary Fiber 2 g
  • Cholesterol 87 mg
  • sodium 818 mg
  • Total Sugars 9 g

Kung Pao Chicken

Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

  • James R Delaney

    Shouldn't this recipe include Szechuan peppercorns for authentic Kung Pao?

    We don't include them in o ur recipe but you can definitely add them in if you prefer! Hope you enjoy James!



    Can I substitute arrowroot powder for the cornstarch? If so, do I have to double the measurement?


    Yes, that should be fine Anna! We haven't tried it with arrowroot but it usually is recommended to double the amount when subbing for corn starch for the same results. Hope you enjoy!

  • K. Romano

    Haven’t made yet. For less heat could you sub jalapeño w/o seeds?

    Absolutely, or you can just leave out the dried red chili peppers. Hope you enjoy!

  • CHUI

    is it white or black rice vinegar?

    Hi Chui, white rice vinegar. Hope you enjoy!

  • Dee turner

    Hi should I use toasted sesame or plain sesame oil

    Either! But toasted has more flavor!

  • Munira Gandhi

    Loved it....easy to make, healthy as there is no market sauce. It was delicious, and my family loved it.

    When i made it, couple of things that i changed is that i used chicken thighs instead of breasts. And I used some additional little extra chilli garlic paste (quarter of a teaspoon) when I added ginger garlic. More for chilli taste.

    Thanks Munira, we are so happy you enjoyed this recipe!

  • Eta

    Everyone loved it. Although I used dark soy sauce as that was all I had in my pantry and seaseme seeds to garnish. Thanks for sharing your recipe

    Glad everyone enjoyed it Eta!

  • Heather Ivey

    Been cooking 28 years; this is the best Chinese dish I have ever cooked! I threw in the hot peppers at the last 30 seconds because I have 3 kids who might have been sensitive to the heat. I bought “pre thin sliced chicken breast” in the fresh meat department and that saved me valuable time. I followed every step. Definitely a new “keeper”!

    Thank you Heather!! We are so happy you loved it and think it is the best! So smart saving time with the pre-sliced chicken, love that!

  • J G

    This was quite good. Had some boneless chicken thighs and was hungry for Kung pao. Had to tweak amounts a bit because I only had about a pound and a quarter of chicken meat. I pretty much made it according to recipe otherwise. I did ad a little thinly sliced carrot and celery just because I had them on hand. Overall, it came out really tasty. Similar to what I’ve eaten at Asian restaurants. Next time I make this I will double taste test the sauce, mine could have used a bit more sweetness. Also will add more or hotter dried chilies next time as I like it spicier. This is a great, easy recipe to make. Thanks for sharing this!

    Thanks J G! We are so glad you liked it and will be making it again!

  • Bunnie Schwartz

    Love it

    Thanks Bunnie!