Instant Pot Kung Pao Chicken
The BEST Instant Pot Kung Pao Chicken Recipe with a sauce that offers the perfect punch of heat.
I have been obsessed with Kung Pao Chicken since I was a little girl.
The glistening dark spicy sauce, crunchy peanuts, and whole Szechuan chiles, just daring you to take a bite, make this dish my #1 Chinese takeout pick!
I’ve made Kung Pao Chicken, that actually tastes like the version I ate in China, in a wok for years.
However, anytime I share a wok recipe, I get asked if it can be made in an Instant Pot.
So today I’m working backwards… I guess more people have electric pressure cookers than woks these days. *wink*
What Does Kung Pao Sauce Taste Like?
The standout quality that makes Kung Pao Chicken Sauce different than other popular Chinese stir-fries, like General Tso’s Chicken or Orange Chicken, is the unique spicy heat.
The spice is derived from Szechuan chiles and peppercorns.
Szechuan peppercorns create a tingling (or even slightly numbing) sensation in your mouth, so that’s always fun. However, they are not extremely hot on their own.
Szechuan chiles, however, bring the heat! The combination of the chiles and peppercorns together is like a disco party in your mouth.
Is Kung Pao Chicken Spicy?
Yes. Yes, it is.
However, you can omit or reduce the Chinese chiles, and just use Szechuan peppercorns, to reduce the heat. At least the first time you make it.
That way, you’ll know if you want to add the chiles back in for future dinners, or just keep it mellow.
What Are The Ingredients in Kung Pao Chicken?
- Boneless chicken breast and/or thighs – I like to use both.
- Cornstarch – To thicken the sauce.
- Peanut oil – To sauté the chicken and aromatics.
- Scallions – Use the whole bunch from top to bottom.
- Garlic – Fresh is best!
- Ginger – Same as above.
- Sherry – Yes, sherry is important to get the right flavor. If you don’t have any on hand, buy a cheap bottle of cooking sherry at the market.
- Black bean garlic sauce – This provides unique depth to the sauce.
- Chinese black vinegar – A very traditional Chinese ingredient. If you can’t find it, use rice vinegar.
- Sugar – Or your preferred sweetener.
- Soy sauce – Regular or gluten-free
- Szechuan peppercorns – The most important ingredient to make it taste authentic.
- Bell peppers – For color and texture.
- Dried Chinese Szechuan chiles – If you like it spicy!
- Roasted peanuts – For crunchy contrast.
How Do You Make the Best Kung Pao Chicken?
In order to make the very best Instant Pot Kung Pao Chicken (or traditional wok Kung Pao Chicken) it’s important not to skimp on the ingredients.
If your grocery store is somewhat limited on international ingredients, you may have to stop by an Asian market, or order a couple of things online.
Please don’t let this deter you from making the recipe.
One stop at an Asian market will provide inexpensive Chinese staples you can use for all sorts of stir-fry dishes.
Plus, it’s fun to explore all the exotic ingredients!
I Don’t Have an Instant Pot. Can I Make Instant Pot Kung Pao Chicken in a Wok?
Well, of course you can!
You can use a wok or large sauté pan to make this exact recipe. It’s just as fast to make, and just as tantalizing!
Get the Full Instant Pot Kung Pao Chicken Recipe Below – With Stovetop Instructions!
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Instant Pot Kung Pao Chicken
- 2 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast and/or thighs
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 3 tablespoons peanut oil
- 1 bunch scallions, chopped and divided
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
- ¼ cup dry sherry
- 3 tablespoons black bean garlic sauce
- 1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon szechuan peppercorns
- 2 bell peppers, seeded and chopped
- 12-15 dried Chinese chiles
- ½ cup roasted peanuts
- Cut the chicken into 1 inch cubes, and toss the cubes with cornstarch to coat. Prepare all the herbs and vegetables. Divide the chopped scallions into whites and greens.
- Set the Instant Pot on Sauté. Pour in the peanut oil. Add the white scallions, garlic, and ginger, and Szechuan peppercorns. Sauté for 2 minutes, then add the chicken pieces. Stir and brown for 3-5 minutes, until the chicken pieces are golden on most sides.
- Add the sherry, black bean garlic sauce, vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, and ¼ cup water to the Instant Pot. Stir well to coat the chicken. Then stir in the chopped bell peppers and Chinese chiles.
- Cover and seal the pot. Set on Pressure Cook High for 3 minutes. Turn off the pressure cooker, and perform a Quick Release. Once the steam valve button drops, and it is safe to open and remove the lid. Stir in the peanuts and scallion greens. Serve warm over rice or quinoa.
Cut the chicken into 1 inch cubes, and toss the cubes with cornstarch to coat. Prepare all the herbs and vegetables. Divide the chopped scallions into whites and greens.
Set a wok (or large sauté pan) over high heat. Pour in the peanut oil. Add the white scallions, garlic, and ginger, Szechuan peppercorns, and Chinese chiles. Sauté for 2 minutes, then add the chicken pieces. Stir and brown for 3-5 minutes, until the chicken pieces are golden on most sides.
- Add the chopped bell peppers. Stir and cook another 2 minutes.
Pour in the sherry, black bean garlic sauce, vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, and ¼ cup water. Mix and allow the sauce to simmer and thicken.
- Once the sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon, stir in the peanuts and scallion greens. Turn off the heat and serve warm over rice or quinoa.
Making this recipe? Follow us on Instagram and tag @ASpicyPerspective so we can share what you’re cooking!
Very easy to make. I didn’t have all the ingredients (sherry, black bean garlic sauce, black vinegar, peppercorns), so I just added a bit more soy sauce (we use low sodium). I also doubled the peanuts, because that’s one of my favorite parts of the dish (also low sodium). It still turned out well, and I will definitely make this again. Next time, I’ll prep in advance and will have at least some of the other ingredients (will probably still omit the sherry).
Thanks for the recipe!
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Everyone in my family LOVED this recipe!
Is there a slow cooker version? I would love to be able to put everything together earlier in the day and not have to babysit the instant pot.
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This is a good recipe. The only thing I didn’t like was the amount of ginger. I used a little less than the 2 tablespoons it called for, and the ginger overpowered the dish. The sauce otherwise, was awesome. I will be making this again, with much less ginger.
I see this type of thing in many instant pot recipe. You can’t put 2 1/2 pounds of chicken in a pot and expect to “brown all sides” you’ll be lucky if you get any browning at all.
My sauce was a bit watery and didn’t look as thick as yours.
I have made this dish twice now. Both times the pot stops the pressuring process with a ‘burn’ notice. I took the time to scrape the bottom of the pot this last time around since everything stuck. It didn’t change anything. In fact, this time the dish came out with a distinctive burnt flavor. The first time the texture of the chicken was pretty mushy.
I’ve cooked a lot of dishes in the Instapot and never had these issues. Does anyone have any suggestions? The only thing I can think of is to lower the cooking temperature when using the saute function and add some cooking time to those steps as a result. Anyone else have any suggestions?
All I can tell you is that sometimes when you sauté meat (or anything that might leave crusty bits on the bottom) then pressure cook, there is a chance of the burn notice going off. If this is happening to you it’s a good idea to scrape the debris off the bottom before adding the liquid ingredients. Hope this helps!
Jan I make a butter chicken that causes the same “burn” notice. Besides the scraping, you have to add some extra liquid to the pot. I’d try a little chicken broth. Start with 1/2 c or so and work your way up until the notice goes away. You can always simmer the sauce down at the end if you feel it’s too runny.
Should there be a deglazing step in the Instant Pot version of the recipe? After I sautéed the chicken with the vegetables, the bottom of the pot was covered with bits of food. My usual deglazing wasn’t working well, so I transferred to a backup inner pot that I have. Waiting for it to cook as I type!
Just tried this, and it seems terrifically promising except for an overpowering bitter flavor which we quickly traced back to the Szechuan peppercorns. These were a bagged Chinese brand from a local Asian market. The dish was pretty much terrible until we picked them out—not really a practical regular solution IMO since they’re so tiny and there are so many of them. Any suggestions? I found one recommendation for using a preground variety (theWu Hsing brand was mentioned), or maybe we toss them in a spice cage?
Wow, delicious–just made this tonight and everyone loved it. I thought the recipe looked good, but the results far exceeded expectations and I’m Cantonese. Love how you didn’t hold back on flavor and spices. Can’t wait to try some of your other recipes. Thanks!!
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This was a huge hit for dinner!!
I’d love to see the wok version! :) This looks wonderful too though
It is in the “stovetop instructions” at the bottom of the recipe. You can use a large skillet or a wok. :)
This was ready quicker than I could place a takeout order and go get it.
This sauce is amazing and I loved using my new IP!
I love this authentic recipe!!! So delicious!!!