This Kung Pao Chicken is all we want to eat right now! It’s spicy, sour, sweet and salty and has that signature heat from Sichuan peppercorns. A fantastic weekday meal, make this takeout favourite easily at home. Check out my tips on how to make kung pao sauce, how to cook the chicken right, and how to get those signature Sichuan flavours!
We are talking BIG flavours here!
In the authentic Chinese version, Kung Pao or Kung Bo is usually a dry stir fry served as an appetiser or accompaniment. But we made an Indianised version, something we're more familiar with - it's got more sauce, some mushrooms and bell peppers. And we promise it's worth a try!
What Does Kung Pao Taste Like?
A party in your mouth!
It has a sweet spicy sour sauce that pairs well with steamed rice or noodles. It’s got that signature heat and a mild anise-like flavour from the Sichuan peppercorns. I’ve added red bell peppers and mushrooms which taste so good with the sauce.
Note: I’ve made this kung pow chicken extra spicy coz that’s how I roll, but you can adjust spice levels according to your preference!
Ingredients That Make Kung Pao Taste So Good
- Red Chilli Paste: Dry red chilli paste is just what this kung pao stir fry needs for a hit of spice. It’s a simple blend of soaked dry red chillies and water. I’ve used the seeds of the chillies in the sauce for extra heat. If you want to reduce the heat level, just remove the seeds of the chillies before blending.
- Kung Pao Sauce: This Chinese spicy chicken has a spicy sweet salty gravy which is dangerously addictive. The sauce is a perfect balance of soy sauce, vinegar, hot sauce, ketchup, sesame oil and lemon juice.
- Dried Red Chillies - For a spicy, smoky hit
- Sichuan Peppercorns: These keep you coming back for more!
How to Cook Chicken for Kung Pao
I prefer using chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts because they stay tender and juicier during this double cooking process. We marinate and dry coat the chicken first, and then wok fry it on high heat to make it crispy outside and succulent inside.
Finally the chicken is stir fried with aromatics, veggies and sauces and tossed to coat it with that spicy sour Kung Pao Sauce.
To nail this chicken, here are some do's and don'ts:
- The wok and oil should be really hot before adding the chicken
- Don’t overcrowd the wok and fry the chicken in pieces so that they get enough space to crisp up
- Sear the chicken pieces on each side till they are golden and crispy
How To Get Signature Kung Pao Flavours
To get all those signature Kung Pao flavours going, I’ve used slivers of ginger, minced garlic, chopped celery, dry red chillies and sichuan peppercorns. I’ve kept the veggies simple and added only red bell peppers and mushrooms. You can add other veggies like beans, broccoli, etc if you like. A handful of roasted peanuts are a must and add distinct flavour and texture. This gongbao chicken recipe also uses some Veggie Broth or chicken broth for flavour and body!
Additional Tips To Keep In Mind
- Remove the seeds of dry red chillies if you want a less spicy dish, leave the seeds on for a hit of heat
- Sear the chicken in a wok and then use the same wok to put the dish together
- To adjust the consistency of the gravy - you can use more broth to make it thinner, or some more cornflour to thicken it
- You can substitute peanuts with cashews if you like
More Chinese Takeout Favourites
- Asian Veg Stir Fry
- Veg Hakka Noodles
- Chilli Garlic Noodles
- Thai Pineapple Fried Rice
- Chinese Chilli Chicken Dry
- Crispy Tofu Broccoli Stir Fry
- Burnt Garlic Mushroom Fried Rice
- One Pan Noodle and Manchurian Stir Fry
Watch how to make Saucy Kung Pao Chicken Recipe Video
Saucy Kung Pao Chicken
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- 1 Teaspoon Red Chilli Powder
- 1 ½ Tablespoon Cornflour
- 1 ½ Tablespoon All Purpose Flour
Red Chilli Paste
- 8 Dried Red Chillies
- 1 Cup Hot Water
- 1 Teaspoon Red Chilli Sauce or any other hot sauce
- 1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
- 1 Tablespoon Vinegar
- 1 Teaspoon Tomato Ketchup
- 1 Tablespoon Chicken Stock or water
- ½ Teaspoon Sesame Oil
- ½ Teaspoon Sugar
- 1 Tablespoon Cornflour
- ¼ Cup Water
- 250 Grams Chicken Breast or Thighs deboned and cut into cubes
- ¼ Cup Oil divided
- 6 Dried Red Chillies
- 1 Teaspoon finely chopped Garlic
- 2 inch pieces Ginger sliced
- 2 Tablespoons finely chopped Celery
- ½ Cup Bell Pepper chunks
- ½ Cup sliced Mushroom
- 1 - 1 ½ Cup Water or Chicken Stock
- ¼ Cup Roasted Peanuts
- 2 Teaspoons Sichuan Peppercorn
- ½ - 1 Teaspoon Salt
- 2 Teaspoons Spring Onions chopped for garnish
- Mix together red chilli powder, corn flour and all purpose flour in a bowl. Add the chicken and coat it well with the dry mix.
- Heat oil in a wok. Once hot, add the chicken pieces in batches and shallow fry for 1 - 2 minutes on each side or until the edges have browned. Stir only occasionally. Remove chicken from wok and keep aside. Don't discard the oil
Red Chilli Paste
- Soak the dry red chillies in 1 cup of hot water for 25-30 minutes or until the chillies have softened. Once softened, discard ¾th cup of water.
- Add the chillies and a little bit of the remaining water to a food processor and blend to a coarse paste. Use more water, little by little if necessary.
- Mix all the ingredients for the sauce to combine. Ensure the cornflour has dissolved. Set aside.
- Heat the oil remaining in the wok. Add garlic, ginger and red chilli and sauté for a minute. Next add the celery, bell pepper, red chilli paste and sauté for another minute.
- Add mushroom and sauté for 2 minutes, ensuring it browns slightly on the edges. Add the sichuan peppercorn, roasted peanuts and fried chicken and lightly sauté for 30 seconds.
- Now give the sauce a stir and add it to the wok while stirring continuously. Add the remaining water in parts while continuing to stir. Season with salt, garnish with spring onion and serve hot!
- Stir Fry happens quick and over high heat. Be sure to keep everything prepped and ready before you begin.
- Wok: A well seasoned wok adds an intense smoky flavour to the dish. I would suggest using a wok for Asian dishes in general. If you do not have one you can use a pan or a kadai.
- You can substitute the chilli garlic paste with 1.5 tbsp store bought chilli sauce but I highly recommend making it yourself. I used Kashmiri Red Chillies for this recipe which have more colour than heat
- Once you add the chilli paste to the wok, be sure to fry it until almost all of the raw aroma goes. This will help you avoid the raw chilli taste and smell in the dish.