This delicious Kung Pao Chicken is naturally sweetened and full of incredible, bold flavors.Moist tender chunks of chicken with peppers and bronzed peanuts coated with a piquant sauce is to die-for! And Can You Believe it? Its Gluten-free. Also, it’s way better than takeout!When I think about ordering take-out on any given day during the week, I often ask these two questions of myself: (a) is this something I can make at home?; (b) if I can, do I have all the ingredients I need? If I can’t satisfy either of these requirements, then I’m usually on the phone in a hurry ordering whatever happens to fancy my appetite. Growing up, that choice was almost always Chinese take-out, and spicy, stir-fry Kung Pao chicken was by far the most ordered dish in the house. There seemed something so exotic and intricate about the sweet and savory flavors found in Kung Pao chicken that my family never really thought twice about trying to replicate it at home.
But wow, have things changed.
Chinese cooking has come a long way in many of today’s home kitchens. As the popularity of this Asian cuisine grew over the last few decades, so did the process of demystifying how to make these meals right in the comfort of your own home. There are countless dishes served at Chinese restaurants that you can make, all own your own – that won’t break your budget and won’t take forever to serve and set on the table. For me, and maybe for you too, nothing brings back warmer memories of a Saturday night kitchen table strewn with white box containers filled with rice and, yes, my favorite – Kung Pao chicken.
I’d like to tell you that you are brave and noble for choosing Kung Pao chicken to stir up in your kitchen, but really, there couldn’t be a simpler dish to whip up! So, you’ll just have to settle for wise.
Now, let’s break it down…
INGREDIENTS AND PREPARATION
Kung Pao chicken is typically a spicy stir-fry of chicken, peanuts, vegetables and chili peppers. Nowadays, restaurants and home cooks have come up so many different variations on this dish Sichuan beauty from south western China adding or subtracting your choice protein or vegetables is entirely up to you. My recipe stays true to the more traditional methods used in making Kung Pao chicken, which includes a chicken marinade, garlic and bell peppers for my veggies, and a Kung Pao sauce to add at the end.
One of the great things about preparing your own Kung Pao chicken is how quickly you are able to pull together this delicious meal in no time at all (about 30 min or so, to be a bit more precise). Chicken (thawed) is typically marinated for 10 minutes before hitting the hot pan. Like almost every aspect of this dish though – your choice for marinating ingredients is up to you. If you’re craving a slight sweet taste to your Kung Pao chicken, think about adding some honey to the marinade. Whatever you decide, make sure to let the chicken sit and marry with the ingredients, giving the chicken a toss every once in a while so it soaks up the juices.
A Kung Pao chicken stir fry is typically completed with a sauce ladled over the dish and stirred in thoroughly once you are ready to add the peanuts.
Chicken and Veggies
The best part of a chicken to use for this dish is the chicken breast. The breast tends to be the firmer part of the chicken and is lighter in taste compared to other parts, which is great since it’s going to be joined with so many other flavors in this recipe.
Traditionally, vegetables found in Kung Pao chicken are diced red and green peppers. While I wouldn’t forgo these wonderful and healthy veggie options, you could also add snow peas instead and maybe even some broccoli, or other cruciferous vegetables if you like. If you are going to go heavy (and further away from traditional methods) with the veggies you add, make sure you prepare enough sauce to cover all of your ingredients at the end of your cooking process.
Now, I think I mentioned that Kung Pao chicken is a spicy, stir-fry. While I love the anticipation of hot peppers exploding (within reason!) in my mouth, clearly, not everyone is the same. So, if you want a milder spicy, pepper flavor for your dish I’d recommend adding a dash or two of red pepper flakes. Or, if you’re going for that brave and noble thing I spoke about earlier, then pick less than a handful of dried (de-seeded) chili peppers and toss them in with the veggies and garlic when they are next up for their turn in the stir-fry.
Some people shy away from making foods not native to their home or place of origin because they don’t have the necessary ingredients, which is completely understandable. The great thing about trying your hand at making Chinese food is that once you buy certain staples, such as hoisin and soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar, you’ll find that these ingredients are used quite frequently in Chinese cooking and are well worth having stored in your pantry.
It’s amazing how a dish that I’ve admired for so long and can create all on my own in less than 30 minutes can be as satisfying as Kung Pao chicken. Sitting down with friends and family, and serving this tasty dish with cooked rice and healthy side dishes such as stir-fried kale or green beans is a perfect meal in my opinion, for any day of the week.
*Hoisin sauce – a sweet and sour flavouring – is very commonly used in Chinese cooking and can be found at your local supermarket in the international or Asian market aisles.
KUNG PAO CHICKEN RECIPEPrint
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