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The Spiciest Kung Pao Chicken Recipe

It's got more flavor and less calories than a takeout version!
The Spiciest Kung Pao Chicken RecipeMitch Mandel and Thomas MacDonald

What makes a stir-fry so incredibly comforting? We think that it is knowing that after a long, difficult day, a lean, flavor-packed meal can be prepared in a single pan in under 10 minutes for under $10. A real kung pao has a kick, loaded with dried chiles that imbue the mash-up with a capsaicin glow. But in most versions across the restaurant and takeout spectrum, the heat takes a backseat to Chinese-American food’s more dominant flavor profile: fat plus salt. This Kung Pao chicken recipe puts the heat back in the driver’s seat and kicks quite a few calories to the curb.

Nutrition: 290 calories, 13 g fat 2 g saturated), 670 mg sodium

Serves 4

You’ll Need

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced
1⁄4 cup rice wine or sherry
1⁄4 cup low-sodium chicken stock
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1⁄2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp sriracha or other Asian chili sauce
1 Tbsp peanut or canola oil
4 dried red chiles (Or 1 tsp red pepper flakes; You can adjust the heat to suit your own spice tolerance. Four chiles represents a medium-spicy kung pao.)
4 scallions, chopped, white and green parts separated
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 large zucchini, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1⁄4 cup roasted peanuts

How to Make It

  1. Combine the chicken, rice wine, stock, soy sauce, balsamic, sugar, cornstarch, and sriracha in a large bowl.
  2. Cover and marinate for 30 minutes, or up to 2 hours in the fridge.
  3. Heat the oil in a wok over medium-high heat.
  4. Add the chiles, scallion white parts, garlic, and ginger and stir-fry for 30 seconds, until fragrant but not browned.
  5. Add the zucchini and bell pepper and continue cooking, using a metal spatula to keep the ingredients in near-constant motion, for about 3 minutes, until the vegetables are lightly browned.
  6. Remove the chicken from the marinade and add to the wok, stir-frying for about 3 minutes, until lightly browned on the outside.
  7. Add the marinade and peanuts and cook for 3 minutes longer, until the liquid comes to a boil and begins to thicken and cling to the chicken and vegetables.
  8. Stir in the scallion greens and serve over a small scoop of steamed brown rice, if you like.

This recipe (and hundreds more!) came from one of our Cook This, Not That! books. For more easy cooking ideas, you can also buy the book!

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