Healthier 25 Minute Kung Pao Chicken. Taking everyone’s favorite takeout order and making it healthier at home. And…using a little extra sauce and peppers too…because crispy, saucy Kung Pao chicken is best. Boneless chicken breasts tossed in a Chinese inspired marinade, then pan-fried until crispy with bell peppers, spicy chili peppers, peanuts, and the most delicious sweet, spicy, and tangy Kung Pao sauce. Serve this saucy Kung Pao chicken over steamed rice with plenty of green onions. This easy dinner comes together in minutes and is so delicious. It’s a meal the whole family will love. And honestly, it’s actually quicker and much healthier than ordering out!
I’ve been talking a lot about my family these days since a lot of my brothers are still here in Colorado. And, I’ve been doing a lot of my cooking with them in mind. Another silver lining from this past year is the ability for everyone’s schedules to slow a bit. My brothers have all been able to work more from Colorado, which means we’ve gotten to see everyone more this year than ever.
Currently, four out of my six brothers are all in town and staying with my parents. Red and Kai have X-Games next week. Creighton has been working remotely from Colorado since March…so almost a year now. It’s nice having everyone around. I have to say, I love cooking for them, it’s really why I started cooking all those years ago.
Anyway, with my brothers in town, I like to make recipes that they all will enjoy. Creighton is the brother that’s most excited about food. He really, really LOVES food. And his favorite kind of food? Any kind of Chinese or Indian takeout. Do you remember my Indian Butter Chicken? Yup, Creighton was the inpso behind that recipe, and today, he’s the inspiration behind this incredibly delicious and easy Kung Pao Chicken.
Creigh loves anything Chinese. He’s currently into chicken fried rice, but I know he really loves a spicy, saucy chicken. So I thought about making a homemade Kung Pao. I figured I could probably do it at home and I could probably make it healthier too.
And that’s just what I did.
When I got his daily text of, “soo, what did you make today?”, it was almost as though I could see his face light up with excitement through the message. And when he came over to the studio for his taste test? Well, then I did get to see his face, and geez, it was a true kid in a candy store moment. Never seen so much excitement over a chicken and rice dinner, but I will say, this sauce is really something special.
Making homemade Kung Pao chicken is simple.
First off, I want to note this is not authentic Kung Pao chicken, BUT, all of the same flavors are here. I read through a lot of recipes online, all using slightly different ingredients and measurements. My biggest goal when creating recipes to share with you guys is to make sure they’re made using easy to find ingredients and made relatively hassle-free.
With that in mind, I had to make a couple of ingredient swaps so I could use what I have in my pantry. Most Kung Pao chicken recipes call for Shaoxing wine, black Chinese vinegar, and both dark and light soy sauce. I don’t ever have these ingredients on hand, and I have a hard time finding them in my local stores. So instead of ordering these online, I figured out a few simple ingredients swaps and incorporated them into my recipe.
So all the same flavors, just a few slightly different ingredients to make creating a delicious Kung Pao chicken a bit easier to achieve at home!
Start with the chicken. It’s first marinated in a mix of soy sauce and dry sherry. If you don’t have dry sherry in the pantry, use a dry red wine, that works great too. Let the chicken marinate for a few minutes while you prepare the Kung Pao sauce.
The sauce is pretty simple but full of complex flavors. Just mix soy sauce, a dash more of dry sherry, honey, hoisin sauce, balsamic, lots of Sichuan peppercorns (or red pepper flakes), and a bit of arrowroot powder (or cornstarch). A lot of Kung Pao recipes call for hoisin sauce, but since most store-bought sauces include a lot of added sugar, I like to make mine at home. It’s easy to do and I love that I can adjust the sweetness to my liking.
Once the sauce is made, start cooking the chicken. The key is to get the chicken crisp and charred. So cook the chicken over a high heat until it caramelizes around the edges. Then toss in the bell peppers, spicy Fresnos, lots of garlic, and ginger. Cook until everything is super fragrant, then add the sauce, and simmer a bit until it thickens.
Finish it up.
While that is happening slice up lots of green onions, then pull the chicken off the stove and stir in the onions.
This dish is meant to be saucy, so while it should coat the chicken, there should still be sauce left in the pan. Serve everything over steamed rice and that’s it. So simple, quick, and easy, but still delicious and full of so many flavors.
The bell peppers and spicy Fresnos are the secret ingredients, and…they give the chicken a nice pop of color. But the sauce? The sauce is the star, it’s sticky and sweet, but not too sweet. It’s salty, but in a good way, and it has just the right amount of tangy spice. So very good.
Excited to have this quick dinner in my back pocket, I know I will be making it often!
Looking for more simple, takeout style dinners at home? Here are a few favorites:
Better Than Takeout Dan Dan Noodles
Better Than Takeout Garlic Butter Shrimp Pad Thai
25 Minute Wonton Soup with Sesame Chili Oil
Lastly, if you make these, Healthier 25 Minute Kung Pao Chicken, be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! Above all, I love to hear from you guys and always do my best to respond to each and every comment. And of course, if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram! Looking through the photos of recipes you all have made is my favorite!
Healthier 25 Minute Kung Pao Chicken.
Calories Per Serving: 428 kcal
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon arrowroot powder or cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons dry sherry or dry red wine
- 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce (homemade hoisin in notes)
- 1/2-2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns or red pepper flakes, use to your taste
- 4 tablespoons peanut or avocado oil
- 2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
- 1-2 red fresno peppers, seeded, if desired and thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
- 1 inch fresh ginger, grated
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 1/2 cup roasted peanuts
- 4 green onions thinly, sliced, plus more for serving
- 1. In a medium bowl, toss together the chicken, 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder/cornstarch, 1 tablespoon sherry, and 1 tablespoon soy sauce. 2. To make the sauce: Combine 1/2 cup water, 1/3 cup soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sherry, the honey, hoisin, balsamic, peppercorns, and 1 teaspoon arrowroot powder/cornstarch. 3. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add another 1-2 tablespoons oil, the chicken and cook, tossing 1-2 times, until it becomes crispy, about 5 minutes. Add the bell peppers, fresno peppers, garlic, and ginger, cook another 2-3 minutes. Pour in the sauce and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until the sauce thickens and coats the chicken, about 5 minutes. Stir in the sesame oil, peanuts and green onions, cook another 2 minutes. 4. Serve the chicken over bowls of rice. Top with with additional green onions.
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Homemade Hoisin: in a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce, 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter, 2 tablespoons honey, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon molasses, 1 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice powder, and a pinch of black pepper.
This was delicious! Lots of heat as I left the seeds in the pepper. But…I followed the recipe to a tee and I’m an experienced cook but the chicken didn’t crisp and the sauce was nothing like the picture depicts. I would decrease the water in the sauce to 1/4 cup and to crisp the chicken I’m going to try panko or flour. We loved the meal but I’m wanting it to match the picture more.
Happy Friday!! ☘️🌈 So glad to hear that this recipe turned out well for you, thanks so much for trying it out! You could add a cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce next time! xT
Thanks so much for your comment! I am thrilled to hear that this recipe was a winner, thanks so much for making it! xTieghan
This is so flavourful, sticky and a pleasure to eat. I’m going to share this recipe with everyone I like.
Happy Friday!! I love to hear that this recipe was a winner, thanks so much for giving it a try!! xTieghan
Loved the flavors on this, but something didn’t work out right with the chicken. We followed the directions, but it never crisped up. Instead, it made a sort of gravy and we had to drain it before adding the vegetables. Any idea where we went wrong? I think maybe the oil wasn’t hot enough.
Thanks so much for giving the recipe a try! What kind of pan did you use to cook in? Is it possible your chicken released a lot of juices that needed to be drained? Let me know! xTieghan
Same thing happened to me! I used a Le Creuset dutch oven 🙁 Which pan works best to crisp up the chicken?
I get best results using my Staub cast iron skillet. Is it possible the chicken just needed to cook longer?
Absolutely delicious. I added shredded carrots and celery to the dish.
Happy Wednesday!! I am thrilled to hear that this recipe was enjoyed, thanks so much for giving it a go!! ☘️Tieghan
Everyone loved it! Definitely plan to make again. We used 1 tsp Sichuan + 1 tsp red pepper flakes – the Sichuan peppercorns really add something nice. We also added celery and water chestnuts that we had on hand.
Fantastic! Thanks a lot for making this recipe, I love to hear that it was enjoyed! Have a great week:) xx
So I made this and my kids loved it! I was hoping for leftovers to take to work and there was none left! My picky toddler (who we just bought an online program to work on his picky eating) just asked me to make this again!!!
Thank you for helping me add to my rotation with something the kids will eat. I will try making the homemade hoisin sauce next!
Awesome!! Thanks a lot for making this recipe, I love to hear that it was a hit. Have the best week:) xx
Thanks for another great recipe. I was wondering if I could substitute the sherry with shaoxing wine?
I’ve never used this before, but let me know if you give it a try! xTieghan