Easy Kung Pao Chicken


This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

Jump to Recipe

Roasted peanuts, ginger, garlic, and spicy red chilies give this easy kung pao chicken a kick that makes it quite unique.

Kung Pao chicken is savory and sweet with as much spiciness as you might desire. The peanuts provide an additional nutty flavor that really brings it all together.

close up of kung pao chicken stir fry in large stainless skillet

My husband and kids devoured their servings, peppers and all. I simply left the peppers on my plate and the stir fry was the perfect level of heat for my taste.

Save The Recipe

Want to save this recipe?

Enter your email and I’ll send this recipe right to your inbox! Plus, I’ll send you new recipes every week!

I found this recipe for the best-ever kung pao chicken over ten years ago and it’s been a family favorite for all of these years. I’ve learned to double this recipe since I first started making it.

The recipe below is already doubled from the original. If you’ve made it in the past and prefer a smaller recipe, use the slider in the recipe card to reduce the serving size to 3.

Easy Kung Pao Chicken

My favorite flavors these days are found in Asian foods and I am always looking for more stir fry ideas. I never can resist the ready-made freezer meals at Trader Joe’s and their Kung Pao Chicken and Orange Chicken have both been staples in our freezer for many years.

That said, it was well past time for me to try my hand at authentic kung pao chicken, so I was thrilled to find this easy recipe. While the ingredient list is a little long at first glance, like most stir-fry recipes the dish comes together very quickly.

The ingredients in this recipe may be a little different from what you’re used to, but they are all very easy to find in an Asian market or online. I typically shop in the stores (because I love to see the variety in person!) but if there isn’t a nearby option or if you want a visual before shopping, I’ve linked to a few similar products here.

Thai chili peppers in skillet

Kung Pao Chicken Ingredients

There are several ingredients in Kung Pao Chicken that are adaptable to what you might have on hand. Black soy sauce is thick and almost syrupy and just the teaspoon of it in this recipe does make a difference. However, I’ve made this without it when I didn’t have it on hand, and it is still delicious with regular soy sauce.

I don’t typically use Chinese black vinegar, because with only ¼ teaspoon in the recipe, it isn’t something I’m likely to purchase just for this recipe. I use balsamic vinegar, which is the recommended substitution and it works great.

chicken stir fry on stovetop

Kung Pao Sauce

There are two parts to the sauce that makes up a Kung Pao stir fry. First, you’ll marinate the chicken in a combination of rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and oil.

When you’re ready to cook the chicken, you’ll need the following ingredients for the sauce:

  • low sodium soy sauce
  • dark or black soy sauce (see note above)
  • sugar
  • Chinese black vinegar or balsamic vinegar
  • water
  • cornstarch
close up of chicken stir fry with Thai peppers and onions

What Peppers Are Used in Kung Pao Chicken?

The dried red chiles used here are very small, about one inch in size. (Don’t mistake them for the dried Mexican red chiles used here.) My preference here is dried Thai chili peppers and they tend to be very spicy.

I’ve also used these dried Szechuan Chinese red chili peppers. They are significantly milder and the resulting dish will have no noticeable heat at all. It boils down to personal preference here.

Is Kung Pao Chicken Spicy?

The spiciness of Kung Pao Chicken is in your hands now. While the peppers can be spicy at times, the recipe is easily adapted for more or less heat.

My family enjoys a good bit of heat, so when I can find them, Thai chili peppers are my first choice. Both ways of making this kung pao chicken are delicious and we never have any leftovers.

close up photos of Kung Pao Chicken

Chicken Stir Fry Recipes

Saucy bites of chicken are tossed with crispy tender bok choy and a diced jalapeno in this flavorful chicken and bok choy stir fry.

Saucy noodles, crisp hot vegetables, and tender bites of chicken are tossed together in this easy stir fry. A late-night Chinese food craving inspired this recipe for stir fry noodles with chicken and vegetables.

Sweet and just a little bit spicy, this honey sriracha chicken stir fry is filled with bite-size sticky sweet chunks of chicken and tender-crisp peppers. The whole recipe comes together in under 20 minutes.

Tender bites of chicken, salty bacon, and crisp bell peppers are tossed in a fantastic sweet and spicy sauce to make one of the most popular stir fry recipes on this site. Just a little bit of bacon adds a huge amount of flavor to this meal. It takes almost no extra work and the unexpected salty bites are irresistible.

This sweet and spicy chicken stir fry is filled with broccoli and peppers and tossed in a terrific barbecue sauce for a savory sweet meal we all love.

This zucchini stir fry with chicken is an easy dinner that delivers a whole lot of great flavor. Served on its own or over rice or noodles, we all really enjoy this meal.

Get New Recipessent to your inbox!
We never share your information with third parties and will protect it in accordance with our Privacy Policy.
close up photo of Kung Pao Chicken

Easy Kung Pao Chicken

Roasted peanuts, ginger, garlic, and spicy red chilies give this easy kung pao chicken a kick that makes it quite unique.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 6 servings


Stir-fry Ingredients

  • 2-2½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs cut into ¾" pieces
  • 10-20 dried red chilies split in half lengthwise and de-seeded
  • 4 tablespoons light flavor olive oil or coconut oil divided
  • 3 inches fresh ginger cut into matchsticks or minced
  • 6 cloves garlic sliced very thin
  • cup roasted peanuts
  • 3 green onions sliced thin, about ¼ cup

Marinade Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 4 teaspoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons light flavor olive oil

Sauce Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon Chinese black vinegar or balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch


Chicken Marinade Instructions

  • Place the chicken in a bowl and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Toss to coat. Add the remaining marinade ingredients: rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and olive oil. Toss again to coat. Place the chicken in the fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes.

Sauce Instructions

  • While the chicken is marinating, whisk together the sauce ingredients: tablespoons soy sauce, dark soy sauce, sugar, balsamic vinegar, water, and cornstarch. Set aside next to the stove.

Stir Fry Instructions

  • Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until lightly browned and almost cooked through, about 3 minutes. Stir occasionally while the chicken is cooking. Remove the chicken to a bowl and add the remaining the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the skillet.
  • Add the ginger and garlic to the pan and stir to coat. Add the chilies and stir fry until they are aromatic, about 2 minutes.
  • Add the chicken back to the skillet, along with the peanuts. Add the sauce and toss to coat. Stir until the chicken is well-coated.
  • Cook for 1-2 minutes to slightly reduce the sauce, adding 1-2 tablespoons of water only if needed to help scrape up the tasty browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the green onions, stir to combine, and serve warm.


I’ve learned to double this recipe since I first started making it. (The recipe below is already doubled from the original.) If you’ve made it in the past and prefer a smaller recipe, use the slider in the recipe card to reduce the serving size to 3.


Calories: 391kcal · Carbohydrates: 8g · Protein: 44g · Fat: 20g · Saturated Fat: 3g · Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g · Monounsaturated Fat: 11g · Trans Fat: 0.02g · Cholesterol: 121mg · Sodium: 665mg · Potassium: 846mg · Fiber: 1g · Sugar: 2g · Vitamin A: 117IU · Vitamin C: 5mg · Calcium: 32mg · Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @barefeetkitchen or tag #barefeetkitchen!

{originally published 12/19/12 – recipe notes and photos updated 5/1/23}

recipe adapted from and with thanks to Rasa Malaysia (This is an awesome website full of easy authentic Chinese recipes. Check it out!)

close up of chicken stir fry with Thai peppers

Filed under: , , ,

Share this Article


Related Posts

Mary Younkin

Mary Younkin

Hi, I’m Mary. I’m the author, cook, photographer, and travel lover behind the scenes here at Barefeet In The Kitchen. I'm also the author of three cookbooks dedicated to making cooking from scratch as simple as possible.

Reader Interactions

7 Comments Leave a comment or review

    Rate & Comment


  1. Jenn says

    Yum! Kung Pao anything is one of my favorite dishes. I've tried a few different recipes and found one I like, but this one I have got to try for sure. I like the different ingredients in this. Thanks for posting!

  2. The Mom Chef says

    Oh my gosh, that looks so amazing. I'm with Jenn. I love Kung Pao too. I'm going to have to look for that soy sauce and give this a go. I might even seek out the vinegar (I love my vinegars). Thanks for sharing your delicious dish.

  3. Sandy H says

    I am going to make this and try the black vinegar that I finally found. I am curious on how 1/4 teaspoon can even be noticed with those chiles in the dish.