Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken »

After much experimentation and tweaking, I’ve unlocked the secret to recreating this iconic dish in your own kitchen. Get ready to savor the perfect blend of spicy, sweet, and savory flavors, all wrapped up in a dish that’s sure to impress. This is your ticket to homemade, restaurant-quality Kung Pao Chicken that tastes just like the real deal!

What makes this dish unique?

Panda Express’ Kung Pao Chicken is very unique because of its extraordinary sauce. It’s sweet, salty, spicy and sour. Usually, when you deal with recipes that need to balance all of these flavors, it turns out horrific, but like I’ve said before, Panda Express is a master of their craft.

Their sauce flavors don’t overpower each other and work together well to enhance the flavors of the other ingredients.

Traditionally Kung Pao Chicken was made with only chicken, chilis, peanuts and leeks, however today you can find it with lots of other vegetables and even meats.

This recipe uses Szechuan chili flakes to give it that added spice, however you can leave it out or replace it with normal pepper for a more kid-friendly version.

This recipe is also much healthier than Panda Express’ because you make it using fresh, unprocessed ingredients and use only lean meats. It is a very filling meal that is delicious and light on the calories. – amazing, right?

How To Make Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken

Making this recipe is relatively easy once you break it down into easy to follow steps. You should begin by making the marinade for the chicken. Once that’s complete, make sure to let the chicken sit in the fridge for thirty minutes.

In a bowl, mix all of the Kung Pao ingredients. You can put this aside until you need to use it.

Warm up the wok on an intense heat. You can drain the chicken from the marinade and start by frying each piece for 30-60 seconds until they’re golden brown.

When the chicken is cooked, zucchini, bell pepper, dried chilis and peanuts. You will need to sauté the ingredients for up to 3 minutes. Once done add in the cooked chicken and sauce.

Sauté the vegetables with the sauce for 2-3 minutes or until the sauce has become thick.

Serve warm with the chopped scallions.

For the Chicken Marinade:

  1. Low Sodium Soy Sauce: Adds umami and saltiness to the chicken.
  2. Shaoxing Wine: Imparts a traditional Chinese flavor to the marinade.
  3. Corn Starch: Helps to tenderize the chicken and gives it a light coating for frying.
  4. Brown Sugar: Adds a hint of sweetness and helps in browning the chicken.

For the Kung Pao Sauce:

  1. Chicken Stock: Forms the base of the sauce, adding depth and richness.
  2. Chinese Black Vinegar: Provides a tangy and slightly sweet flavor.
  3. Dark Soy Sauce: Adds color and a deeper soy flavor.
  4. Oyster Sauce: Contributes to the savory depth of the sauce.
  5. Brown Sugar: Balances the savory flavors with sweetness.
  6. Corn Starch: Thickens the sauce to coat the chicken and vegetables.
  7. Sesame Oil: Adds a nutty aroma and flavor.
  8. Garlic: Provides a strong, aromatic flavor.
  9. Fresh Ginger: Adds a warm, spicy note.
  10. Dried Szechuan Chili Flakes: Adds heat to the dish.
  11. White Pepper Powder: Offers a sharp, earthy heat.

Additional Ingredients:

  1. Chicken Breasts: The main protein of the dish.
  2. Vegetable Oil: Used for frying the chicken.
  3. Medium Zucchini: Adds freshness and a slight crunch.
  4. Red Bell Pepper: Provides sweetness and color.
  5. Dried Red Chilis: Adds a spicy kick.
  6. Peanuts: Gives a crunchy texture.
  7. Scallions: Used for garnishing, adding a fresh, oniony flavor.


Tips & Tricks

  • When marinating the chicken (or virtually any other ingredient), it is always recommended to marinate it overnight in the refrigerator. This allows the flavors to merge and develop as a whole. It also tenderizes the meat (or vegetable) and allows the flavors to be absorbed much more compared to 30 minutes.

Marinating your chicken overnight has another added benefit; it reduces the meal prep time the next day!

  • Like I have mentioned before, Kung Pao Chicken is a very versatile dish and by making the base of the recipe and simply changing the protein and vegetables, you can have an entirely different meal for dinner.

Protein options include beef, pork, tofu and seafood (like squid, shrimp and white fish).

Other vegetables that can be included or substituted are mushrooms, cabbage, potatoes, broccoli, carrots, onions, corn, patty pans and virtually any other vegetable that will fit the flavor profile.

  • If you don’t have access to Chinese black vinegar, you can substitute it with a more accessible vinegar like white wine or red wine vinegar.
  • If you are not a fan of very spicy foods, leave out the Szechuan chili flakes. You can however substitute it with black pepper which still adds that peppery flavor without the burn.
  • To make your dish even healthier, substitute the salty ingredients like stock and soy sauce with a low-sodium version.

Other Recipes

Panda Express Orange Chicken

Panda Express Mushroom Chicken

Panda Express chow mein

Black Pepper Chicken


With this recipe, the possibilities are endless! You can easily substitute the vegetables and proteins to create a different dinner every night. You can also easily substitute ingredients that you do not like without altering the final outcome of your dish.

It’s easy, it’s quick, delicious, versatile and healthy – it doesn’t get better than this!

kung pao chicken

Laura Ritterman

Hi, I’m Laura and having studied an MSc in Nutrition, becoming a professional chef and appearing on major publications with my recipes I decided to create a website of my own. This website is where I share unique recipes, tips and cooking inspiration that will allow your culinary skills flourish. You can contact me here. For more information, you can find more about me.

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