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Kung Pao Chicken (Healthy!)

This Kung Pao Chicken Recipe is savory, saucy, and sensational. It’s one of our favorite healthy and fast chicken recipes for any busy weeknight. This amazing Kung Pao Chicken is doubly delicious over a bowl of fluffy rice. 

Kung Pao Chicken in a Bowl with Rice
Homemade Kung Pao Chicken is so much tastier and healthier than takeout.

What is Kung Pao Chicken?

Kung Pao Chicken is now a popular dish on the menu at most Chinese restaurants. It may have originated from the province of Sichuan, where flavors are bold and spicy. Today’s kung pao chicken recipes tend to include cut-up bite size chicken that is stir fried with onions, and dried chili peppers.

This Kung Pao Chicken recipe has been modified to be mildly spicy, and balanced out with bell peppers for color and texture. This is one of those chicken recipes that your family will gobble up as quickly as you dish it up. It’s fast, healthy, and way better than takeout.

Watch Us Make Kung Pao Chicken

How to Make Kung Pao Chicken Healthier

Popular Chinese takeout items like Orange Chicken and Kung Pao Chicken may have a less than healthy reputation. However, you can absolutely serve up these mouthwatering takeout dishes at home in just 30 minutes and feel great about what you’re serving up.

There’s zero need for excess grease, added MSG, or unwanted fat. Here are a few pantry staples we use:

  • Use boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, fully trimmed.
  • Add fresh bell peppers, which give this dish a crisp vegetable boost.
  • Use Tamari soy sauce, which is known for its deep umami flavors, with less sodium than regular soy sauce and is typically gluten-free.
  • Use real, raw honey instead of sugar.
  • Use olive oil for quickly stir frying.

Kung Pao Chicken in a Pan
Kung Pao Chicken is packed with bold flavors; this saucy dish is amazing over jasmine rice.

What you’ll love about Kung Pao Chicken

We think your family will sprint to the kitchen when they smell the savory aroma of kung pao chicken wafting through the air. Here’s what else they (and you) will love:

  • This dish comes together quickly and easily, once you have all ingredients ready.
  • The sauce can be made days in advance and chilled until ready to use.
  • Kung pao chicken boasts aromatic, bold flavors with just the right amount of kick.
  • It’s loaded with veggies and protein all in one.
  • This saucy dish is amazing over a bed of fluffy rice.
  • Because kung pao chicken can be made ahead of time, it’s ideal for meal prep.
  • This Kung Pao Chicken recipe happens to be gluten free and dairy free, so everyone can enjoy.
Kung Pao Chicken in a Bowl with Rice
Serve saucy Kung Pao Chicken with a bed of fluffy Jasmine rice.

Kung Pao Chicken
Commonly Asked Questions

What does kung pao chicken taste like?

Kung pao chicken is famous for its deeply savory, umami flavors and spicy kick. It typically has a fragrant sauce that’s infused with garlic, ginger, and green onions.

What chili peppers are in kung pao chicken?

We love dry Sichuan red chili peppers, which have a medium-spicy kick to them. Use as many or as little as you like, depending on taste.

What vegetables are in kung pao chicken?

This dish classically contains brown or yellow onions, but sometimes includes bell peppers. This recipe uses bell peppers and green onions.

Where did kung pao chicken originate?

This dish has its origins commonly traced back to the province of Sichuan in China.

Can I make kung pao chicken in advance?

Like most stir fry dishes, kung pao chicken is great for meal prep. You can make a big batch and keep them in airtight containers in the fridge for up to several days.

More to Eat

Kung Pao Chicken in a Bowl with Rice

Kung Pao Chicken

5 from 48 ratings
This Kung Pao Chicken Recipe is savory, saucy, and sensational. It's one of our favorite healthy and fast chicken recipes for any busy weeknight. This amazing Kung Pao Chicken is doubly delicious over a bowl of fluffy rice.
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 9 mins
Total Time: 24 mins
Servings: 6

Ingredients  

For Chicken Marinade:

For the Sauce:

To Cook:

  • 4 TB olive oil
  • 5-6 dried chili peppers, preferably Sichuan style
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tsp freshly minced ginger
  • 1 large bell pepper, red, yellow, or orange seeded and chopped
  • ¼ cups green onions, thinly sliced
  • Optional: 1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts, for garnish

Instructions

  • Dry the Chicken: Towel dry chicken pieces to remove excess liquid. Place chicken in a bowl and add all Marinade ingredients, stirring until all cornstarch is fully dissolved. Set aside.
  • Make Sauce: In a bowl, combine all Sauce ingredients and stir well until cornstarch is fully dissolved. Set aside.
  • Cook and Stir: In a large wok or large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat until oil is hot. Add chilies, garlic, and ginger, continually stirring 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add marinated chicken and keep stirring until no longer pink in center, 3-5 minutes. Add bell pepper, stirring 1 minute. Add your Sauce, stirring to coat well and heat through, about 2 minutes.
  • Serve: Sprinkle on the green onions and transfer to serving dish or individual plates. Garnish with roasted peanuts if desired. Serve over cooked white or brown rice.

Notes

Sauce can be made 1-2 days in advance. Warm it up a bit and stir prior to using. 
Feel free to use reduced sodium tamari soy sauce, if you're watching salt intake but enjoy the umami flavor of soy sauce. 
If you enjoyed this recipe, please come back and give it a rating ♡

Nutrition

Calories: 368kcal | Carbohydrates: 11.6g | Protein: 35.5g | Fat: 19.7g | Saturated Fat: 3.1g | Cholesterol: 110.4mg | Sodium: 448.4mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 7.2g
Course: chicken, Main Dish
Cuisine: Asian, Chinese
Diet: Gluten Free
Method: Stovetop

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Recipe Rating




41 comments

    • Wendy Hampton

    I would like to try this recipe and have a question about the chilis. What is the name of the chilis I should use. Or do I just look for a small red chili?

      • chewoutloud

      Hi, Wendy! If your store carries Szechuan, Tianjin, or Thai red peppers, those are great options. Otherwise, any kind of dried small red chilies will work. Start with 5-6 chilies the first time, in case they are on the spicier side. Increase as needed 🙂 Hope you guys love this dish! 🙂

        • Wendy Hampton
        • 5 stars

        Excellent! Thanks so much for your help. There were just too many types of chilis and I wasn’t sure which I needed. Appreciate the advice to start with 5-6 chilies also! My husband cannot wait for me to try this! Cheers!

    • miljance93mommysup

    This is one of my favorites!

    • Dia Darling

    This looks good. I don’t like soy sauce so I’d probably mix some other sauce to add more flavor. I love editing recipes for my picky tastes.

    • Jennifer Prince

    That looks so delicious and moist! Sometimes when I cook chicken like that it surprisingly gets dry. I’ll have to try it this way! 🙂

    • Rochkirstin Sioco (@rochkirstin)

    I love kung pao chicken that has a lot of heat and with nuts. It’s the version I grew up with. The classic dish in Sichuan cuisine originated in the Sichuan Province of south-western China and includes Sichuan peppercorns.

    • Emily Fata

    Word to the wise: Don’t read your posts when you didn’t have the chance to eat lunch yet! Haha! I need to get over to the grocery store ASAP to pick up the ingredients to make this. It looks soooo yummy!

    • Kendra

    I love kung pao chicken and always thought it was too hard to make. I have to try out your recipe because it looks so good!

    • Bhushavali

    Looks good. Yeah, when a meal has both proteins as well as minerals/vitamins of veggies, its a best food. Add the carbohydrate from rice or bread, that’s wholesome.

    • Lyosha Varezhkina

    Rice and chicken is probably my favorite combo! very nice recipe!

    • Alicia Taylor at Taylorlife.com

    OH! I would love to try this with shrimp. It would replace my takeout nights!

    • Holly Lasha

    This looks awesome. I love kung pao chicken…I definitely need to try this recipe.

    • wanderlustbykelley

    Yummy, it does look and sound so delicious! I would change the chicken for a veggie substitute:)

    • Ithfifi Williams / IthinityBeauty

    Oh my goodness this looks so delicous. Its currently snowing here in the UK and that would make for such a warming and tasty dinner, yummy!

    • Thelittlelai: Beyond limits

    Wow, this healthy Kung Pao Chicken really looks luscious with a hot rice on the side. i truly admire those people who really know how to cook. Thank you so much for sharing your delicious recipe with us, such a kind of you.

    • Angela Ricardo Bethea

    Wow!! This Kung Pao Chicken recipe looks delicious and worth to try. I will definitely try to cook this for my hubby. He would really love this for sure.

    • Rose Mont

    I bet it is better then takeout. I don’t have the Asian rice vinegar or cooking wine. I have only made fried rice so another Asian dish would be fun!

    • alainamonster

    This looks like such a great recipe for busy families like mine. Sure to be a crowd pleaser. Pinned to include in my menu next week!

    • Courtney from Antipodean Adventurer

    Oh my lord this looks so delicious! Kung Pao chicken is one of my favorite dishes and I would always get it at Panda Express in America. Now I’m not in the USA anymore so I’ll just have to make this recipe instead! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • lucicoo

    Omg, this looks so delicious. I know my family would like this so I got to make this for them. Plus is super easy to make.

    • Megan

    Yummmm! This looks terrific 🙂 This looks so quick and easy!

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