This Kung Pao chicken has the most delicious sauce. You’ll return to it over and over! Make this with chicken breasts or thighs for a quick and easy dinner.
This Kung Pao Chicken is one of my favourite quick and easy dinners. It’s ready in just 15 minutes! It also uses pretty simple pantry items, so I know I can always whip this up. And it’s just the thing when I’m feeling the need for a little spice.
When it comes to Kung Pao Chicken, it’s all about the sauce and this kung pao sauce is a winner! I’ve used it here with boneless, skinless chicken breast cubes, but it’s also great with boneless, skinless chicken thighs, pork or shrimp. So tuck it away and use it any time you’d like a quick and easy dinner.
I cooked this one up in my cast-iron skillet, as the cast iron is perfect for quick cooking over high heat. If you don’t have a cast-iron skillet, any skillet, or a hot wok will work just fine, as well.
I love to use fresh Thai red chili peppers in this dish, though you can substitute dried, small peppers and omit the crushed chili flakes. Do note though that the cooked Thai red peppers are not intended to be eaten, as they are extremely hot, even when cooked. You can eat around them or simply discard before serving.
There is lots of sauce here, so plenty to serve over noodles or rice. I like to serve simple steamed or quick, sauteed vegetables on the side with this one. Greens like bok choy, pea pods or spinach are all nice.
As noted above, change this up by using chicken thighs, pork or shrimp, as you like.
Get the Recipe: 15 Minute Spicy Kung Pao Chicken Skillet
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 2 medium)
- 3 Tbsp Chinese black vinegar or substitute good-quality balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp hoisin sauce
- 1 Tbsp sesame oil
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch
For Stir fry:
- 2 Tbsp peanut or vegetable oil
- 6-8 fresh small, thin red chili peppers, whole (Thai)
- 1/4 - 1/2 tsp dried crushed chili flakes
- 3 green onions, white and green parts separated, thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
- 1/4 cup unsalted dry-roasted peanuts
- Black or yellow sesame seeds, for garnish
- In a medium bowl, stir together the marinade ingredients. Add chicken cubes and toss to coat. Let sit on the counter while you prepare the sauce.
- In a small bowl, combine all the sauce ingredients and stir well until smooth. Set aside.
- Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add fresh red peppers and cook, stirring, until they start to brown in spots. Add red pepper flakes, white part of green onion, garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring, until onion softens, about 45-60 seconds. Add chicken and cook, stirring regularly, until chicken is just cooked through and no longer pink. Stir sauce and then add to the hot skillet. Cook, stirring, until sauce thickens. Add peanuts and 1/2 of the green part of the green onion. Stir to combine.
- The red peppers aren't intended to be eaten, as they are extremely hot, even after cooking. Their role is to infuse the heat in to the dish only. You can eat around them or simply discard before serving.
- Serve over noodles or rice, if you like, with vegetables on the side. Garnish with remaining green onion and sesame seeds.
Being allergic to peanuts, would substituting cashews be a good choice or should I just skip them altogether?
Hi Georg, you could substitute cashews, if you’d like the crunch, or you could just omit nuts altogether. It will still be a lovely dish without the nuts. Enjoy :)
This was really good and I’ll be making it again. I may cut back the sugar a wee bit.
So glad you enjoyed it and yes, definitely tweak to your taste :) Thanks!
This was really easy and tasty! I just added more veg (bean sprouts and snap peas) in place of a carb to keep it under 400 kcals. I even managed to find a big bottle of black vinegar at Superstore for $3! :) This recipe isn’t too spicy as written, so I wouldn’t be afraid of trying it if you’re heat-averse–but next time I’ll add a little more heat for our tastes.
My thai chilis sounded like they were exploding and essentially turned to mush, though–how did you just get yours to brown?
So glad you enjoyed it, Julia (and I have yet to get my hands on black vinegar!). I think it probably depends on how fresh your chilis are. I don’t think my store sells a lot of them, so they were probably older and drier, so stood up to heat better. Thanks :)
Tried this tonight – it was delicious and easy, and will be a regular in our house. One question – is rice wine vinegar the same as rice vinegar? I used rice vinegar, and the dish was delicious but I did wonder if it was the same product. Thanks for the great recipe. You’re becoming my go-to blog for the daily ‘what’s for dinner’!
Thanks so much Sue and so glad you enjoyed this one :) And yes, rice vinegar and rice wine vinegar are the same thing. They are just labelled differently by different producers :)
Thanks Irene! I’m not a fan of too much heat, either, but I do like to flirt with it :) Glad you enjoyed this.
Have always wanted to try a receipe using red chili peppers enough though I’m not a fan of too much heat.
My preference is for white balsamic vinegar but bought a small bottle of red just for this receipe.
Love quick meals and this did not disappoint. It was yummy! Another of your receipes going into regular rotation!
I was seriously JUST telling my husband I had a craving for kung pao chicken, then I come here and BOOM. Outstanding kung pao chicken deliciousness all up in my face! AND ready in 15 minutes (or less)!? Who says dreams can’t come true. ;) Love this, girlfriend! Can’t wait to try it! Cheers!!
No that’s perfect timing! :) I think you’ll love this one!
This looks like a winner winner chicken dinner! This is even faster than takeout! It looks so flavorful :)
Thanks Bethany and yes, faster and tastier :)
I like that you are making it in a skillet. For some reason I have a profound fear of woks – do not want to go anywhere near them. Will totally give your recipe a try! Pictures look gorgeous too – pinning!
Thanks Milena :) And yes, I find that a hot cast-iron skillet works really well in place of a wok! Enjoy!
I love kung pao chicken and your skillet dinner looks absolutely mouthwatering! :)
Thanks so much, Laura :)
Oh boy does that look good Jennifer! And if it only takes 15 minutes even my boys can make it!
Thanks Mary Ann and yes, definitely!
All that ginger and garlic and peanuts – yum! And that sauce – oh yes this is going on our menu for sure. We love spicy and my husband adores super hot – so I’ll have to discard the peppers before serving or I know he would eat them – haha. Thanks Jennifer – it’s just beautiful!
Thanks Tricia and yes, you might want to discard them. My husband ate one and judging by the look on his face, it was hot!!
This looks so yummy Jennifer. I love that it can be made so quickly and that it’s not drowning in sauce.
Thanks Chris and yes, it’s just enough sauce to have a bit with rice or noodles.
This has to be my favorite Asian meal, sharing!
Thanks so much, Sue!
Who can’t use all the 15 minute recipes they can get? Especially when they’re loaded with this much flavor! I love using my cast-iron skillets… Thank you for providing so many wonderful reasons to pull them off the shelf!
Thanks Annie and yes, I think my skillet is the most used thing in my kitchen ;)
Oh my gosh, I could eat this every night of the week! I love spicy chicken recipes like this and so does my entire family. Love it!
Thanks so much, Karen :)
OMG….YES! Love this recipe, Jennifer!! And 15 minutes and this could be in ma belly? How much better can it get? I regularly have red thai chili peppers in my fridge and love their heat….bring it, I say. And I’m a big fan of anything cooked in cast iron ’cause cast iron always makes things better in my opinion. Pinned and trying this one very soon!
Thanks so much, Dawn :) I love a little of the Thai pepper, but a whole one is way too much for me to handle!
Looks yummy, Jennifer! Where did you find your peppers? Are they Thai? Also..the black sesame seeds? Where did you find those?
Hi Colleen! Yes, they are Thai. They are stocked regularly at the grocery store here (even in my small town!), so maybe I’m just lucky. And the black sesame seeds are from McCormick (sold in little jars, like the spices). If you can find a well stocked spice store, you might find them in there.