(Better Than) Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken Recipe
Our homemade Kung Pao Chicken tastes better than your favorite dish from Panda Express, and is made with simple ingredients that you can customize to your liking. Try this easy copycat recipe next time you’re craving takeout!
Although we don’t eat fast food often as a family, when we do, our go-to restaurant is almost always Panda Express. We are such big fans, in fact, we’ve made a few copycat recipes over the years to enjoy those flavors we love from the comfort of home. Have you tried our (Better Than) Panda Express Orange Chicken recipe yet? Life. Changing. We’re also big fans of this copycat Black Pepper Chicken Stir Fry.
Like our version of Orange Chicken and Black Pepper Chicken, this simple and authentic Kung Pao Chicken recipe tastes just like Panda Express’ famous dish, but better, because you have full quality control. It’s great to prepare with fresh steamed white rice for a terrifically spicy and satisfying dinner in under an hour!
What is Kung Pao Chicken?
Authentic Kung Pao is a Chinese stir fry dish that’s brimming with veggies and bold spices in a spicy sauce. Heat comes from red chiles, also known as Tien Tsin peppers. The cubes of chicken are marinated in a salty and savory mixture of soy sauce, white wine, and brown sugar. Together they combine for a wonderful dish that has just the right level of spiciness and lots of fresh flavors.
Even better: Our easy homemade version of Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken can be made as spicy as you like, or more on the mild side if you prefer.
Ingredients You Need
To make the Kung Pao Chicken marinade you need:
- Boneless chicken breasts or thighs – cut into bite-sized pieces
- Cornstarch – to coat the chicken and thicken the sauce later
- Soy sauce – choose GF for a gluten-free dish
- Wine – your choice of Shaoxing wine, Mirin, or preferred white wine
- Brown sugar – for a slightly sweet flavor to balance the spiciness
For the copycat Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken sauce you need:
- Oil – vegetable or peanut oil
- Red bell pepper – seeded and chopped
- Zucchini – chopped
- Scallions – thinly sliced
- Peanuts – dry roasted
- Chinese red chiles – cut into segments
- Oyster sauce – for the perfect savory, salty, umami flavor
- Soy sauce – again, make sure it’s gluten-free for a GF-friendly recipe
- Sesame oil – adds a great slightly earthy taste
- Garlic – minced
- Ginger – freshly grated
- Black pepper – freshly ground
Plus white or brown rice for serving.
How to Make the Best Copycat Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken Recipe
The first step is to prepare and marinate the chicken. Cut the chicken breasts or thigh meat into 1-inch bite-sized pieces. Then place the chicken chunks in a large zip bag, and add in 2 tablespoons each of cornstarch, soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, and brown sugar. Close the bag and massage the chicken to coat all the pieces. Chill for at least 30 minutes (or all day) in the refrigerator.
Prepare the veggies while the chicken is in the fridge: seed and chop the bell pepper, zucchini, scallions, dried chiles, garlic and ginger. Set aside.
Next, prepare the spicy Kung Pao sauce. In a small measuring pitcher (or bowl) mix the oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, minced garlic, ginger, and black pepper. Mix well.
To cook the chicken, set a large sauté pan (or wok) over medium-high heat. Add the vegetable oil. Once hot, add in the chicken and marinade. Stir fry the chicken pieces for just a few minutes, until mostly cooked through.
Then stir in the chopped red bell pepper, zucchini, and peanuts.
Get the Complete (Printable) Copycat Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken Recipe + Video Below. Enjoy!
Stir-fry the vegetables for another 2 minutes, until lightly cooked, but still firm. Then stir in the sauce, and stir fry for another minute or two. The sauce should be slightly thick and the chicken with veggies well-coated.
Lastly, stir the chopped scallions into the authentic Kung Pao Chicken dish. Serve warm with your favorite sides.
Frequently Asked Questions
While this recipe has a good bit of kick to it as-is, feel free to add an extra dried red chili for even more delicious spiciness.
Yes, it can be! Just be sure to use a GF soy sauce and oyster sauce for a completely gluten-free-friendly dish.
Sauce and spicy Kung Pao Chicken is perfect to enjoy over a bed of freshly steamed white rice, hearty brown rice, or cauliflower rice for a low carb dish. Serve with Panda Express Super Greens and Homemade Potstickers for a fabulous complete meal that’s better than any takeout.
This recipe is great to make ahead and include in your weekly meal plan! Leftovers will keep well for up to 4-5 days. Let the chicken and veggies cool completely before storing them in a sealed container in the refrigerator. It can also be frozen in an airtight freezer bag for up to 2 months.
Looking for More Delicious Asian-Inspired Dinner Recipes?
- Skinny Chinese Orange Chicken
- Easy Szechuan Beef
- Instant Pot Chinese Sesame Chicken
- Chinese Hot Pot Recipe
(Better Than) Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken
For the Chicken Marinade –
For the Chicken Stir-Fry and Sauce –
- 1 tablespoon vegetable or peanut oil
- 1 red bell pepper seeded and chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 1 small zucchini cut into bite-sized chunks
- ¾ cup chopped scallions
- ¾ cup dry roasted peanuts
- 4-6 dried Chinese red chiles cut into segments (Tien Tsin peppers)
- 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 3-4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- For the Marinade: Cut the chicken into 1-inch bite-sized pieces. Place the chicken chunks in a large zip bag. Add in 2 tablespoons each of cornstarch, soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, and brown sugar. Close the bag and massage the chicken to coat all the pieces. Then chill for at least 30 minutes. (Or all day.)
- Meanwhile, chop the bell pepper, zucchini, scallions, dried chiles, garlic and ginger.
- For the Stir Fry Sauce: In a small measuring pitcher (or bowl) mix the oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, minced garlic, ginger, and black pepper. Mix well.
- Set a large sauté pan (or wok) over medium-high heat. Add the vegetable oil. Once hot, add in the chicken and marinade. Stir fry the chicken pieces until mostly cooked through, 3-4 minutes. Then stir in the red bell pepper, zucchini, and peanuts. Stir-fry the vegetables for another 2 minutes, until lightly cooked, but still firm.
- Stir in the sauce and stir fry another 2 minutes, until thick and well coated. Finally stir in the scallions. Serve warm over rice, fried rice, or cauliflower rice.
Making this recipe? Follow us on Instagram and tag @ASpicyPerspective so we can share what you’re cooking!