Kung Pao Chicken

King Pao Chicken (Chengdu-Style)

Recipe by Davids EllisCuisine: ChineseDifficulty: Medium


Prep time


Cooking time



In China, the dish we Americans call Kung Pao Chicken goes by multiple names and varies from region to region. This version, which is closest to what you’ll find here in the states, is attributed to Chengdu in the Sichuan province. The peanuts are possibly the hallmark of this dish, but it’s those tongue-buzzing Sichuan peppercorns that stand out for me. I like the use of celery, but if you prefer you can use a red bell pepper for color, or a combination of both. 

This recipe is largely based on one from The LA Times that requires a wok. In the interest of those who don’t own one, I adapted a technique used by America’s Test Kitchen that uses a non-stick skillet. If you would prefer to use a wok, a link to the original recipe can be found in the notes section below.


  • Marinated Chicken
  • 1½-2 lbs boneless, skinless thigh breast, patted dry and cut into ½-inch cubes

  • 2 tbsp soy sauce

  • 1½ tbsp potato starch or cornstarch

  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry

  • Sauce
  • 1½ tbsp superfine or granulated sugar

  • 1½ tbsp Chinking (Chinese black) vinegar

  • 1 tbsp unsalted chicken broth or water

  • 2 tsp toasted sesame oil

  • 2 tbsp soy sauce

  • Stir-Fry
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced, pressed or grated

  • 2 tsp grated fresh ginger

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil, divided

  • 8-12 dried Sichuan chiles, or substitute 8 arbor chiles

  • 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, ground coarse

  • 2 ribs celery, cut into ½-inch pieces

  • ½ cup dry roasted or fried unsalted peanuts

  • 5 scallions white and light green parts only, cut into ½-inch pieces


  • Marinated Chicken
  • In a medium bowl, combine chicken, soy sauce, potato starch, rand rice wine and mix until chicken is evenly coated. Set aside.
  • Sauce
  • In a small bowl, combine the sugar, vinegar, broth, sesame oil and soy sauce and mix until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside.
  • Stir-Fry
  • In a second small bowl, combine garlic, ginger and 1 tablespoon oil.
  • Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a non-stick over medium heat until shimmering. Add chiles and peppercorns, stirring constantly until chiles are darkened but not burnt, about 1-2 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and ginger mixture, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Spread the chiles and garlic mixture evenly across the pan. Add the chicken and spread into a single layer. Increase heat to medium high, cover skillet, and let cook, without stirring, for 1 minute.
  • Stir chicken briefly and spread back into an even layer. Cover again and cook, without stirring, for another minute. Set cover aside.
  • Add celery and scallions and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Add sauce mixture and continue stir-frying for 3-5 minutes until sauce has thickened and coats the chicken. Off heat, stir in peanuts and serve with rice.


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