My Copycat Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken is a deliciously spicy stir fry with lots of chunky veggies and chicken, coated in a rich, tasty homemade sauce! Check out my video to see how easy it is to make!
Believe it or not, Panda Express hasn’t really made it over to the UK, but I’ve paid the place a fair few visits on holidays to the US, and love their Kung Pao chicken.
My version involves making a marinade – a third of which is used to marinade the chicken. The remaining two-thirds is added at the end along with the vegetables and reduced down to get a thick sauce with loads of flavour.
I love to make extra kung pao chicken that i’ll quickly cool, cover and refrigerate. It tastes great served cold with some couscous/quinoa/bulgur wheat and salad and should last 2 days in the fridge – which makes it a great option for meal prep.
How to make Kung Pao Chicken:
First mix up rice wine, soy sauce, sesame oil, hoisin sauce, white pepper, garlic, ginger, sugar and sechuan peppers:
Then pour a third of this mixture over chopped chicken that’s been coated in a little cornflour/cornstarch. Place in the fridge to marinate for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile dry-fry some chilli peppers over a high heat until lightly charred. You can use whole sichuan peppers, arbol chillies or even Bird’s Eye/Thai chillies to get the good kick of heat. Once cooked, remove them from the wok.
Remove the chicken from the marinade with a slotted spoon (discard any leftover chicken marinade) and fry the chicken in a little hot oil in a hot wok for about 7-8 minutes until cooked. Then add in chopped bell peppers and courgette (zucchini).
After the veggies have cooked for a couple of minutes, add the reserved marinade and bring to the boil. Simmer for a couple of minutes to thicken, then add in some peanuts (or in my cash cashews) and those whole chillies right at the end.
Can I make Kung Pao Chicken gluten free?
Yes, swap the soy sauce for tamari and the rice wine for a splash of sherry. Also, use gluten free hoisin sauce. <–affiliate link. Always check the label to ensure it’s gluten free!
Can I make it ahead?
I find it tastes better when made fresh, as the vegetables retain a nice crunch. However, if you have leftovers, you can quickly cool, cover and freeze. Then defrost in the refrigerator overnight and reheat in the microwave until piping hot throughout (give it a good stir a couple of times when reheating).
Can you make a Vegetarian version of Kung Pao Chicken?
You could use quorn, mushrooms or tofu for a vegetarian alternative. Check that your hoisin sauce brand is vegetarian too (most are, but it’s best to be sure).
Kung Pao Chicken Video
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The Kung Pao Chicken Recipe:
Kung Pao Chicken
- 3 chicken breasts chopped into bite size pieces
- 1 tsp cornflour/cornstarch
- 1 tbsp vegetable Oil
- 8 Dry Whole Chilli Peppers
- 2 Red Bell Pepper chopped into squares
- 1 medium sized courgette/zucchini chopped into chunks
- 12 spring onions/scallions chopped roughly
- ½ cup unsalted peanuts or cashews if you prefer
- Mix the marinade ingredients in a bowl.
- Place the chopped chicken in a separate bowl and mix with the cornflour/cornstarch,
- Then stir in 1/3 of the marinade ingredients into the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes (or up to 12 hours). NOTE: Reserve the remaining 2/3rds of the marinade for the sauce.
- Heat your wok or frying pan over a medium heat and add the whole chilli peppers. Dry cook for a couple of minutes – turning regularly until the chillies go darker in colour. NOTE: They burn quite quickly, so keep a close eye on them. Remove from the pan when they’ve darkened and gone a little softer.
- Add the oil to your work, heat on a high heat and then add the chicken (using a slotted spoon to remove from the marinade). Fry until cooked through – about 7-8 minutes.
- Add in the red peppers, courgette/zucchini and spring onions/scallions. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes until heated through, but still crunchy.
- Add in the reserved 2/3rds of the marinade and the chillies and cook until the sauce thickens slightly – about 2 minutes.
- If you’d prefer the sauce to thicken even more, you can mix a tbsp. of cornflour/cornstarch with a couple of tbsp. of cold water, then pour this mix in whilst stirring. The sauce will thicken very quickly.
- Add in the peanuts (or cashews) just before serving, and give them a quick stir. Serve over boiled rice (with a large glass of water if you intend to eat those chillies!)
Can I make it gluten free?Yes, swap the soy sauce for tamari and the rice wine for a splash of sherry. Also, use gluten free hoisin sauce. <--affiliate link. Always check the label to ensure it's gluten free!> .
Can I make it ahead?I find it tastes better when made fresh, as the vegetables retain a nice crunch. However, if you have leftovers, you can quickly cool, cover and freeze. Then defrost in the refrigerator overnight and reheat in the microwave until piping hot throughout (give it a good stir a couple of times when reheating). .
Alternatives to chicken?Thinly sliced steak, prawns (shrimp) and pork work great. You could use quorn, mushrooms or tofu for a vegetarian alternative. Check that your hoisin sauce brand is vegetarian too (most are, but it's best to be sure). .
Meal prep:I love to make extra kung pao chicken that i'll quickly cool, cover and refrigerate. It tastes great served cold with some couscous/quinoa/bulgur wheat and salad and should last 2 days in the fridge - which makes it a great option for meal prep. . Nutritional Information is per serving without rice.
This recipe was first posted in May 2015. Updated in November 2018 with new photos, process photos, recipe video and recipe tips. Updated in Oct 2019 for housekeeping and with additional tips.
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