Home Articles What Is Kung Pao Chicken? (+ Easy Recipe)

What Is Kung Pao Chicken? (+ Easy Recipe)

Whether you’ve tried it or not, you’ve likely heard of this saucy dish.

But what is Kung Pao chicken? And how do you make it at home?

Kung Pao chicken (also Gong Bao or Kung Po) is a stir-fried Sichuan dish featuring chicken, peanuts, and vegetables in a sweet-spicy sauce. With peppercorns and chili peppers, the sauce is lightly spiced but not overwhelmingly so. Instead, it’s well-balanced with soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar.

Kung Pao Chicken in a Wok Made With Chicken Meat, Red Bell Pepper and Onion

Kung Pao chicken has been a beloved staple of Chinese (Sichuan) cuisine for centuries. 

And it certainly packs a flavorful punch.

Not only is it delicious in its classic form, but it can also be adapted to suit modern tastes, with variations ranging from mild to fiery hot. 

So let’s learn more about this fantastic dish, including my go-to recipe!

What Is Kung Pao Chicken?

Kung Pao chicken is a classic Chinese dish from the Sichuan province of southwestern China. It typically consists of diced, marinated chicken stir-fried with vegetables such as onions, bell peppers, and celery in a spicy sauce. Peanuts and chestnuts are often included for added flavor and crunch. 

The name “kung pao” is derived from a late Qing dynasty court official, Ding Baozhen, who served as governor of Sichuan province in the late 1800s and early 1900s. 

Best served over steamed white rice, it’s characterized by its bold flavors and mild spiciness. 

In some parts of China, Kung Pao chicken is served as a breakfast dish. But it’s tasty any time of day.

Kung Pao Chicken in a Bowl Garnished Chopped Onion Leaves

What Does Kung Pao Chicken Taste Like?

Kung Pao chicken tastes sweet, savory, and lightly spiced. There’s plenty of umami notes from the soy sauce and Chinese seasonings, with a lot of warmth from the Sichuan peppercorns and chilies.

Balanced with sugar, starts off sweet and savory, but the heat creeps in the more you eat.

Meanwhile, the garlic adds a sharp bite that’s tamed by the nutty flavor of peanuts.

Finally, chopped green onions add a pleasant but subtle oniony aroma. 

You simply can’t beat the flavor combination.

What Is Kung Pao Sauce Made Of? 

Kung Pao sauce is made with a spicy mixture of garlic, chili peppers, cornstarch, vinegar, sugar, and sometimes peanuts or sesame oil. The result is an addictively savory flavor that works well as a dipping sauce for egg rolls and dumplings or tossed in noodles.

No matter how you use it, Kung Pao sauce definitely packs a punch!

Kung Pao Chicken Topped on a White Rice

What Is the Difference Between Kung Pao Chicken and General Tso’s Chicken? 

When it comes to Chinese takeout staples, Kung Pao chicken and General Tso’s are two of the most popular choices. 

But what exactly is the difference between them? 

Well, one way to think about it is that Kung Pao is all about spice, while General Tso has a milder flavor. 

  • Kung Pao traditionally contains diced chicken that’s stir-fried with veggies and peanuts in a spicy chili pepper sauce for a hint of heat. 
  • General Tso’s has a sweet and tangy sauce made mostly from soy sauce and vinegar. 

So if you’re looking for something more flavorful and fiery, Kung Pao is the way to go. 

But if you want something a bit sweeter, try General Tso’s! 

One thing’s for sure, both dishes are delicious and make great takeout options.

More Chicken Dishes You’ll Love

Princess Chicken
Chicken Fajitas
Firecracker Chicken
Nashville Hot Chicken

What Is Kung Pao Chicken? (+ Easy Recipe)

Whether you’ve tried it or not, you’ve likely heard of this saucy dish. But what is Kung Pao chicken? And how do you make it at home?


  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tablespoons of water

  • 2 tablespoons white wine, split in half

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce, split in half

  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil, split in half

  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – cut into chunks

  • 1 ounce hot chile paste

  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar

  • 1 (8-ounce) can water chestnuts

  • 4 ounces chopped peanuts

  • 4 green onions, chopped

  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic


  • Make a slurry by mixing the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water. Mix until smooth, then set aside.
  • In a separate small bowl, mix 1 tbsp wine, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp sesame oil, and 1 tbsp of the water-cornstarch slurry.
  • Add the chicken and coat it well in the mixture. Then, cover the dish and place it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  • After 30 minutes, combine the remaining wine, soy sauce, sesame oil, and water-cornstarch mixture in a medium-sized bowl.
  • Stir in the chili paste, brown sugar, and vinegar. Then stir the chestnuts, green onions, peanuts, and garlic until everything is well coated. 
  • Pour the mixture into a skillet and set the heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant.
  • While the water chestnut mixture cooks, set a larger skillet over medium-high heat. Then, add the chicken (discard the excess marinade), and cook for 5-7 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink.
  • Pour the water chestnut mixture into the larger skillet and mix everything well. Cook until the sauce thickens.
  • Serve over white rice or with noodles, and enjoy!
What is Kung Pao Chicken?

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Kim - InsanelyGood
Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

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