Real Deal Kung Pao Chicken Recipe

Homemade Kung Pao chicken is marinated with soy sauce, fresh ginger, and spices before cooking in a smoking hot wok.

This classic Chinese chicken stir-fry is laden with Sichuan peppercorns, chili peppers, and spices. Cooking the mixture in a very hot wok gives it that extra smokiness known as wok-hai.

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat, and cut into 1/2 to 3/4-inch pieces

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce, divided

  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine, divided (or dry sherry, if unavailable)

  • 1 tbsp cornstarch, divided

  • 1/3 cup peanut oil

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns toasted in hot skillet for 30 seconds until fragrant, divided (see note)

  • 3 scallions, whites finely minced, and greens finely sliced, reserved separately

  • 1/2 cup fried fresh peanuts or roasted unsalted peanuts

  • 2 cloves minced garlic (about 4 teaspoons)

  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

  • 1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar (or distilled white vinegar if unavailable)

  • 1 tablespoon Sichuan fermented chili-bean paste (or generic Asian chili-garlic sauce if unavailable)

  • 2 teaspoons sugar

  • 12 hot Chinese dry chile peppers, seeded

  • 2 small leeks, white and light green parts only, cut into 1/4-inch slices (about 1/2 cup total)

  1. Combine chicken, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 2 teaspoons Shaoxing wine, and 1 teaspoon cornstarch in medium bowl and mix thoroughly. Allow to marinate in fridge for at least 30 minutes, and up to two hours.

  2. Grind half of Sichuan peppercorns in mortar and pestle. Combine with scallion greens and reserve. Combine scallion whites, garlic, and ginger in small bowl. Combine remaining soy sauce, remaining Shaoxing wine, remaining corn starch, black vinegar, chili-bean paste, and sugar in small bowl and mix until cornstarch is fully dissolved.

  3. Set fine-meshed strainer over small heat-proof bowl. Heat peanut oil in wok over high heat until shimmering. Add remaining Sichuan peppercorns and dried chiles and cook until fragrant, about fifteen seconds. Drain in strainer. Pick out chiles and reserve. Discard peppercorns.

  4. Return wok to high heat until smoking. Add 1/4 of oil and immediately add half of marinated chicken. Spread in even layer with spatula. Cook without moving for 1 minute, then cook, stirring and tossing constantly until barely cooked through, about 1 minute longer. Transfer to a medium metal bowl. Wipe out wok with paper towel, add another 1/4 of oil, and repeat with remaining chicken. Wipe out wok with paper towel, add another 1/4 of the oil, and cook leeks until charred in spots but still slightly crisp, about 1 minute. Add peanuts, reserved chiles, reserved chicken, and remaining oil to wok and push to side to make space in the center of the wok. Add garlic/ginger mixture and cook, stirring mixture constantly until aromatic, about 15 seconds. Toss entire contents of wok together and add sauce. Cook, stirring and tossing constantly until chicken is coated in glossy layer of sauce. Stir in scallion greens and ground Sichuan pepper. Transfer to serving plate and serve immediately with steamed white rice.

    Serious Eats / Melissa Hom

Special Equipment



You can find Sichuan peppercorns online at The Mala Market.

This Recipe Appears In

  • Wok Skills 101: Stir-Frying Basics
  • The Food Lab: For the Best Stir-Fry, Fire Up the Grill
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
608 Calories
40g Fat
18g Carbs
48g Protein

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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 608
% Daily Value*
40g 52%
Saturated Fat 9g 43%
208mg 69%
816mg 35%
18g 6%
Dietary Fiber 4g 16%
Total Sugars 4g
Vitamin C 6mg 31%
Calcium 88mg 7%
Iron 3mg 18%
Potassium 794mg 17%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

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