Is it just me or does it seem like its getting harder and harder to find good Chinese food? Maybe it’s because my tastebuds have changed? Or I just live in a city without a whole lot of great Chinese restaurants? IDK what it is, but I have been searching for a great, go-to Chinese restaurant for a while now, with no luck. So in the meantime I have been forced to make our own Chinese food at home (and y’all know how much I just hate to have to cook my own meals 🤣). Enter in this amazingly delicious Kung Pao chicken.
Alright. I admit, this recipe is not quite as easy as some of my other recipes. It has a few steps to it and you will probably make a nice little stack of dishes while cooking this Kung Pao chicken. But the good news for you is, the new rule at your house is the chef does not have to do the dishes. Unless you live alone. Then I can’t really help you out there. But I can promise that this Kung Pao chicken will be worth the 15 minutes or so you have to spend at the sink getting pruney fingers.
And, you can totally do most of the prep work for this dinner the night (or even the weekend!) before, making it a fairly easy go-to weeknight meal. OK, I admit that it won’t be as easy as ordering takeout, but it will be much more delicious, healthy, and budget-friendly. FTW!
Plus, my Kung Pao chicken has a secret ingredient: sake. It gives this dish just a hint of sweetness and that craveable umami flavor that is slightly salty, slightly fermented, and 100% perfection. If you’re not a fan of the taste of sake, don’t worry – I promise you won’t taste anything but deliciousness. The alcohol cooks out and the flavor really mellows with all the other ingredients we’ve got going on. But if you just don’t trust me (which is whatever…) you can absolutely leave out the sake and sub in more rice vinegar instead. Although we may need to get together to do some trust exercises or something.
A couple of recipe notes for the Kung Pao chicken:
- The chicken can totally marinate while you’re at work and be ready to go once everyone gets home and is starving for dinner.
- Sauce thickness is really a matter of preference – we like our sauce fairly thick so it actually sticks to the chicken and veggies. For that reason I cook my sauce until it reaches about the consistency of warmed-up jelly. If you like your sauce even thicker than that you can cook it longer and/or add more cornstarch to your slurry. If you prefer a thinner sauce, don’t cook it as long and/or add less cornstarch to your sauce slurry. Easy enough.
- I usually do garlic, ginger, onions, red and green bell peppers, and water chestnuts in my veggies for my Kung Pao chicken – but feel free to modify to your preferences and use whatever you have on hand. Mushrooms would be great in here (just make sure you cook out all the water before tossing the stir fry mixture with your sauce or you will make your sauce runnier than you wanted it to be). So would zucchini or squash. Maybe even eggplant? IDK, get crazy with it y’all.
Kung Pao Chicken
For the Chicken
- 1 lb chicken breasts cubed
- 1 T sake
- 1 T soy sauce
- 1 T cornstarch
- 1 T water
For the Stir Fry Veggies
- 4 T sesame oil
- 5 garlic cloves minced
- 1 T ginger
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- 1 green bell pepper diced
- 1 onion diced
- 1 can water chestnuts drained and roughly chopped
For the Sauce
- 1/3 c chicken broth
- 1 T sake
- 1 T soy sauce
- 1 T rice vinegar
- 1 T brown sugar
- 1 t chili paste
- 1 T cornstarch
- 1 T water
- 1 c peanuts lightly toasted
- 2 T sesame seeds lightly toasted
To Prepare the Chicken
- In a small bowl combine 1 T. of sake and 1 T. of soy sauce. In a separate, small bowl combine 1 T. of cornstarch and 1 T. of cold water – stir with a fork to make a cornstarch slurry. Add the slurry to the sake mixture. Cube your chicken breasts and place in a Ziploc bag. Pour the sake mixture over the chicken, seal the bag, and place on a plate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (up to 8 hours – it can marinate while you're at work!).
- Now is a great time to go ahead and toast your peanuts and sesame seeds as well. In a small skillet over medium heat, cook the peanuts until they begin to be lightly toasted – about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the sesame seeds and continue cooking until peanuts and seeds are golden brown and toasted (about 2 minutes more). Remove from heat and save to top your dish.
To Make the Chicken and Veggie Stir Fry
- Heat 4 T. of sesame oil over medium heat in a large skillet. While the oil is heating, drain the marinade off your chicken (set aside) and begin prepping your veggies. Once the oil is hot, add the cubed chicken, garlic, ginger, and onion and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until chicken begins to turn opaque. Add the bell peppers and water chestnuts. Continue to stir fry until chicken is cooked through and browned, stirring occasionally, – about 7 to 10 more minutes. Once the chicken and veggies are done, remove from heat and set aside.
To Make the Sauce
- While the chicken and veggies are cooking, make your sauce. In a saucepan combine the chicken broth, 1 T. of sake, 1 T. of soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, and chili paste. In a separate, small bowl combine 1 T. of cornstarch with 1 T. of cold water – stir with a fork to create a cornstarch slurry and set aside.
- Place the saucepan over high heat and bring sauce to a boil, stirring constantly. Once the mixture is boiling, whisk in the cornstarch slurry and then reduce the heat to medium low. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the sauce has thickened, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Finishing the Dish
- Once the sauce has thickened, pour it over the chicken and veggie mixture. Serve with rice (or riced cauliflower) and top with toasted peanuts and sesame seeds, and green onions. Enjoy!
- NOTE: This is a great dish to meal prep the night before (or on the weekend) so that everything is easy-peasy for a weeknight dinner!1. Cube your chicken and dice up your veggies (store chicken and veggies separately, of course! Make sure to store your garlic, ginger, and onions separately from the bell peppers and water chestnuts since they get added to the stir fry at different times).2. Mix up your marinade and sauce (store separately – do not add the cornstarch slurries ahead of time, make those right before marinating the chicken/cooking the sauce).3. Toast the peanuts and sesame seeds.4. Make the rice (if desired) the night before and reheat it in the microwave right before dinner.
- NOTE: This recipe can be modified to be gluten free by omitting the soy sauce and subbing in coconut aminos.
I mean, who even needs takeout anymore…right?
If you make this Kung Pao Chicken…
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