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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!

overhead photo of Healthier 25 Minute Kung Pao Chicken

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.

prep photo of chicken marinating

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!

Healthier 25 Minute Kung Pao Chicken cooking in the skillet

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.

overhead close up photo of Healthier 25 Minute Kung Pao Chicken

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!

overhead photo of Healthier 25 Minute Kung Pao Chicken

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.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories Per Serving: 366 kcal

Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.

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  • 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.


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. 
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Healthier 25 Minute Kung Pao Chicken

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    1. Hi Lenny! I’m so sorry to hear that! Is there anything you did differently? Yes, adding more corn starch would definitely help! 🙂 xTieghan

    1. Hey Sarah,
      Happy Sunday!! I am delighted to hear that this recipe was enjoyed, I truly appreciate you giving it a try! xTieghan

    1. Hey Marcy,
      Happy Sunday! Thanks so much for making this recipe, I love to hear that it was enjoyed! xxTieghan

    1. Hi Rachael,
      It should be fine for a couple weeks in the fridge. I hope the recipe turns out amazing for you. Please let me know if you have any other questions! xTieghan

  1. Absolutely delicious! We like it spicy so I used 1 and 1/2 tsp of red chili flakes. I can’t wait for leftovers at lunch tomorrow 🙂

  2. 5 stars
    Just made this tonight! This recipe is flexible for subs (no fresno peppers at the store so I used jalapeño & habanero). No sherry either so I used rice vinegar and all still turned out fine. I love recipes like these that with flavors off the chart, but still light enough to take to work for lunch. 100% will make again!

    1. Hey Kelli,
      Happy Thursday! Thanks so much for making this recipe, I am delighted that it was enjoyed! xTieghan

  3. Is there something that can be substituted for the Chinese 5 spice powder in the hoisin sauce?

    1. Hey Michelle,
      You could try using garam masala with star anise. I hope you love the recipe, please let me know if you have any other questions! xTieghan

    1. Hey Julie,
      Happy Friday!! I am so excited that this recipe was enjoyed, I appreciate you giving it a try!! xTieghan

  4. 4 stars
    Great depth of flavour. My sauce didn’t thicken enough but would def make again for the ease and taste.

  5. 5 stars
    I’ve made this probably five times now and really love this recipe! It’s so quick and easy yet very flavorful. The whole family loves it!

  6. Hi! Quick question-I ended up accidentally using all the hoisin sauce instead of the 1 tablespoon it says on the ingredients list. It tasted fine but are you really supposed to just use 1 tablespoon and save the rest?

    1. Hey Keron,
      Yes, that 1 tablespoon is correct. I hope you love the recipe, please let me know if you have any other questions! xTieghan

  7. 5 stars
    Delicious as well as super quick and easy to whip up. It was simple to make gluten free too. I couldn’t find fresno peppers so I subbed jalapeno and it was very nice.
    This one’s in my regular mid-week dinner rotation, thanks Tieghan!

    1. Hey Michele,
      I am absolutely delighted that you enjoyed the recipe, thanks for making it! Have the best week☀️ xTieghan

  8. 3 stars
    FYI, traditional Kung pao chicken is not unhealthy. If you simply substituted some of the sauces you used for real Chinese sauces, (black Chinese vinegar instead of balsamic, Chinese rice wine instead of sherry) and added some Sichuan peppercorns you’d be much closer to the actual Asian dish without adding anything that you’d consider not good for you.

    1. Hey Jill, thanks so much for this info! I have a hard time finding some of the ingredients traditional used, so I had to make some substitutions based on what I could find. I am going to try and order these online though! xTieghan