Packed full of spice and umami flavor, this kung pao calamari is super easy to make and absolutely delicious!
This recipe for kung pao calamari is based on a classic Chinese takeout dish known for its fiery hot chilies, flavorful sauce, and crunchy peanuts. Served with rice to tone down the spice, I find this dish to be incredibly comforting.
I eat an extraordinary amount of chicken throughout the week in an attempt to eat healthy. Because chicken starts to get boring when you eat it every day, I am always looking for healthy alternatives.
Calamari has quickly become a go-to substitution due to its low calorie and fat content, high protein content, and low mercury content. However, this recipe for kung pao calamari will easily work with chicken, beef, shrimp, fish, pork, or tofu.
Calamari has a reputation for being chewy, but if cooked right can be quite tender. The key is to cook it quickly over very high heat to keep it tender.
Coconut oil is wonderful for high temperature cooking because of it’s high smoking point. Peanut oil, sunflower oil and avocado oil can also be used. It is important to keep the heat high, so cook in smaller batches if you are using a smaller pan.
While the toasted chilies add a level of heat to the dish, it is the szechuan (sichuan) pepper (also known as Chinese coriander) that provides that tongue tingling, numbing sensation we love so much.
Combine marinade ingredients in a bowl. Add calamari and marinade for 30 minutes.
Heat wok or cast iron skillet on medium-low heat. Add the chilies and peanuts and toast, stirring constantly to avoid burning (about 2-3 minutes). The chilies will likely start to smoke, so I recommend turning on a fan. In my experience, inhaling that smoke is not a pleasant experience! Remove from heat and set aside.
Combine all the sauce ingredients and mix well.
Heat 1/2 tbsp. coconut oil over high heat until smoking.
Add green peppers and stir fry for 1 minute; remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add remaining 1 tbsp. of coconut oil and let pan return to smoking.
Add calamari and stir fry for 2-3 minutes. Cooking the calamari for a short time over very high heat will help to keep it tender.
Add green peppers and stir fry another minute.
Add sauce and cook until thickened. Add peanuts and chilies, toss and remove from heat.
Top with green onions and serve with rice, noodles, or just by itself (if you are going for a low carb option). For a healthier option, this kung pao calamari can also be served with brown rice.
Did you make this recipe? Lave a comment below and let me know what you think!
- 1 lbs. calamari cut in 1 inch pieces
- 2 green bell peppers chopped
- 1 cup dried chilis
- 3/4 cup raw peanuts
- 2 tbsp. green onion
- 1 1/2 tbsp. coconut oil
- 1 tbsp. dry sherry
- 1 tbsp. dark soy sauce Pearl River Bridge Superior Dark Soy Sauce
- 2 tsp. cornstarch
- 2 tsp. granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp. hoisin sauce
- 1 tsp. fresh grated ginger
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. ground szechuan sichuan pepper
- 1 tsp. sesame oil
- 2 tsp. light soy sauce
- 1 tsp. white vinegar
- 1/2 tsp. fish sauce
- Combine marinade ingredients in a bowl. Add calamari and marinade for 30 minutes.
- Heat wok pan over medium-low heat. Add the chilies and peanuts and toast, stirring constantly to avoid burning (about 2-3 minutes). Remove and set aside.
- Combine the sauce ingredients and mix thoroughly.
- Heat 1/2 tbsp. coconut oil over high heat until smoking. Add green peppers and stir fry for 1 minute; remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
- Add remaining 1 tbsp. of coconut oil and let pan return to smoking. Add calamari and stir fry for 2-3 minutes.
- Add green peppers and stir fry another minute.
- Add sauce and cook until thickened. Add peanut and chilies, toss and remove from heat.
- Top with green onions and serve with rice, noodles, or by itself (for that low carb option).
How did your calamari turn out? Was it nice and tender? Did you adjust the seasoning at all? If so, what variations did you make? I would love to hear how it turned out!
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