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LEARN HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN CHINESE TAKEOUT DISHES AT HOME WITH THIS SPICY KUNG PAO CHICKEN RECIPE – SPICY AND PACKED FULL OF FLAVOR, THIS STIR FRY IS DELICIOUS AND SIMPLE TO MAKE!
This Spicy Kung Pao Chicken is inspired by Thai flavors of fish sauce and lime juice. I know, I know, fish sauce and lime juice are not traditionally used in kung pao chicken, but I think it adds and extra boost of umami flavor, and who can say no to that?
This spicy kung pao chicken is marinated in fish sauce, soy sauce, cornstarch and sherry, with the cornstarch added to help the sauce to thicken.
Made with honey, hoisin sauce, a touch of fish sauce, ginger and soy sauce, the kung pao sauce adds a delicious umami flavor to the dish. Add the toasted chilies and peanuts, and you have a perfect melding of spicy and savory.
Kung pao style dishes are traditionally served with white rice to counteract the heat in the dish, but I say serve it with whatever you like.
Oh, and just a warning, if you eat one of the chilies, you may be miserable the rest of the meal. Does not matter how much white rice you eat at that point. At least in my experience. But as I’ve stated on this blog more than once, my tolerance for spicy food has decreased immensely as I have gotten older.
Related Recipe: Kung Pao Calamari
With that said, let’s get started. Cut the chicken breast into 1 inch cubes. Combine the marinade ingredients and add the chicken. Refrigerate for 30-45 minutes.
While the chicken marinades, we are going to toast the chilies and peanuts, and prepare the sauce.
First, toast the sichuan peppercorns over medium heat until they are fragrant. Remove and grind them with mortar and pestle. Add more peppercorns for more of that tongue tingling feeling, if desired. Combine all sauce ingredients while chicken is marinating. Set the sauce aside.
Next we toast the chilies. Why you ask? Well, toasting the chilies helps to bring out the flavors and adds a slightly charred and smoky flavor to the dish. It will also extract heat from the chilies, adding a lovely level of spice to our chicken. Yes, I said lovely.
Heat a teaspoon of coconut oil in a skillet over medium high heat and add the dried chilies. Toast until they start to brown, being careful to not let them burn. Chilies will be browned, but not black.
I suggest using a fan because they will start to smoke and once you get that chili pepper smoke in your lungs, life becomes much less pleasant. Sometimes even downright miserable as I’m told by a “friend.” So much potential misery here.
As the chilies start to brown, add the raw peanuts. Toss continuously, being careful not to burn the peanuts. Once browned, remove from heat and set aside.
Heat another tablespoon of coconut oil in a wok over high heat until almost smoking. Add the marinated chicken breast, in batches, and brown on all sides, about 5-7 minutes. I typically use 2 batches to keep the heat from falling when the chicken hits the pan. Add the sauce once the chicken is cooked through.
Stir until the sauce thickens, then add the chilies and peanuts, mixing until well distributed.
Serve this spicy kung pao chicken with white rice, brown rice, vegetables or really anything your heart desires. Personally? I like to serve mine with these spicy asian style roasted brussels sprouts and perhaps some brown rice. But that’s me.
Variations: Chop a bell pepper (red, green or yellow) into 1 inch pieces and add while chicken is browning.
Did you make this recipe? Leave a comment below and let me know how it turned out!
Authentic Kung Pao Chicken Recipe
- Combine the marinade ingredients and add the chicken. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour up to 4 hours.
- Combine all the sauce ingredients in a bowl and mix well to combine.
- Drain the excess marinade from the chicken and heat a wok or large cast iron skillet over high heat. Add the cooking oil.
- Add the chicken in 3 separate batches (see notes) and cook for about 3-5 minutes, until browned on the outside and cooked through.
- Remove the chicken from the pan and cook the next batches the same. Set the chicken aside and turn the heat down to medium.
- Add 1 teaspoon of oil to the pan and add the Sichuan peppercorns, dried chilies and peanuts and fry for 1 minute, tossing regularly.
- Add the green onions and chicken back to the pan and cook for 30 seconds.
- Add the sauce and toss until everything is coated and sauce has thickened, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and serve immediately with steamed white rice.
- Be sure to make the sauce before you start to stir fry.
- If you're using whole fresh Sichuan peppercorns, you can either add them whole (perfectly acceptable), or you can use a mortar and pestle to grind them.
- Any high smoke point oil will work. I prefer canola or vegetable oil for this kind of cooking, but peanut oil, avocado oil or coconut oil also work well.
- The chicken must be cooked in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. We want the edges of the chicken to caramelize, and crowding the pan will cause the chicken to steam instead of fry.
- If the sauce is too thin, stir 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of water. Slowly add the cornstarch slurry to the chicken, stirring constantly, until the desired consistency is reached. The sauce should coat the chicken. Add more or less cornstarch slurry as necessary.
- Sprinkle the chicken with additional ground Sichuan peppercorns or this homemade Chili Oil.
- If you're using raw peanuts, toast them in the oven for 5-10 minutes on 400F OR saute them over medium in a pan with a teaspoon of oil for about 5 minutes, until the outsides are lightly browned.
- Add additional dried chilies for extra spice.
- Add vegetables like diced red peppers, onions, green pepper, water chestnuts, zucchini or broccoli. Add the vegetables to the wok after the chicken has cooked and cook for 2-3 minutes until just tender. Remove and continue with the rest of the instructions. Add the vegetables back in with the chicken at the end.
Check out some of these other great Chinese takeout recipes: