You are going to fall in love with this Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken Recipe! It’s bursting with flavor, super simple to make, and tastes just like the restaurant! This dish reheats well, which means it makes excellent leftovers, without stepping foot out of the house!
I love ditching takeout when I come up with our favorite copycat recipes. In the past, we’ve made Mongolian beef, teriyaki chicken, and beef and broccoli that taste exactly like our favorite local restaurants. Unless we are just in a rush, we barely order in these dishes anymore. Not only is it cheaper to make these at home, but we don’t even have to leave the house!
Why You’ll Love This Panda Express Copycat Recipe
- Tastes exactly like how the restaurant makes it.
- It’s ready in less than 1 hour.
- Great for meal prepping and leftovers.
- Full of flavor and you can adjust the spiciness if needed.
What Ingredients do I Need for Kung Pao Chicken?
- boneless, skinless chicken breasts – do not swap for chicken thighs. The flavor is not the same.
- low sodium soy sauce
- Shaoxing wine – can substitute with cooking sherry
- cornstarch, divided
- baking soda
- sesame oil
- light brown sugar
- mirin or rice vinegar
- vegetable oil
- red bell pepper
- green onions
- dried chiles (chiles de árbol)
- minced fresh ginger
- minced garlic
- Sichuan peppercorns
Before You Start: Gather all of the seasonings, chop the vegetables, and dice the chicken.
How to Make the Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken Copycat Recipe
MARINADE: Pat the chicken dry and place it in a bowl. Whisk together a tablespoon of soy sauce, a tablespoon of Shaoxing wine or sherry, the baking soda, and a tablespoon of cornstarch. Pour over the chicken and marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
MAKE THE KUNG PAO SAUCE: Whisk together the remaining wine or sherry, 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, a tablespoon of sesame oil, sugar, cornstarch, and rice vinegar, then set aside.
SAUTE CHICKEN: Drain the marinade from the chicken and heat the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Saute the chicken on all sides until it is cooked entirely. Cook in batches if needed to avoid overcrowding the pan. Remove from the pan.
COOK VEGGIES: Add the sesame oil, ginger, garlic, and peppercorns. Saute until fragrant. Stir in the vegetables and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Stir in the sauce and cook until it thickens.
ADD CHICKEN AND PEANUTS: Place the cooked chicken back in the pan along with the peanuts, and toss to coat.
SERVE: Top with green onions and serve!
- The red chilis and peppercorns add spiciness to the stir fry. If you really want to kick up the heat, saute them longer before adding the other ingredients.
- If you can’t find peppercorns or dried chili peppers, you can substitute red chili paste or red pepper flakes. However, these are some of the signature flavors of the dish.
- We recommend using a nonstick skillet or a well-seasoned wok. This allows the chicken to brown without the marinade sticking to the pan. It’s hard to replicate the flavor and looks using a stainless steel skillet or unseasoned wok.
This type of Chinese stir fry is known for its sweet, spicy, and savory flavors.
- Use this same recipe and replace the chicken with shrimp or beef.
- Broccoli, mushrooms, and your other favorite veggies can also be added.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze for 3 months.
If you follow the recipe above, this dish has a mild spice to it. However, if you saute the peppers longer or increase the quantity it will be much more spicier.
Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken Recipe
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces (2 pounds)
- ¼ cup soy sauce divided
- 2 tablespoon Shaoxing wine or substitute with cooking sherry, divided
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch divided
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil divided
- ¼ cup light brown sugar
- ¼ cup mirin or rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil plus more as needed
- 1 medium zucchini cut into chunks
- 1 red bell pepper cut into chunks
- 3-4 green onions sliced
- 8-10 dried chiles chiles de árbol
- 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon sichuan peppercorns
- ½ cup peanuts
- Pat chicken dry with a paper towel and place in a small bowl.
- Whisk together 1 tablespoon of soy sauce,1 tablespoon of Shaoxing wine (or sherry), 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, and the baking soda.
- Pour over the chicken pieces and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to marinate.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining 1 tablespoon wine/sherry, 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, sugar, rice vinegar, and cornstarch. Set aside.
- Chop the vegetables and gather the seasonings so that everything is prepared before you start cooking.
- Drain the marinade from the chicken and discard.
- Heat 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add drained chicken and saute until browned on all sides and the meat is white and cooked all the way through. Remove chicken from the pan and set aside. You may need to cook chicken in batches so the chicken can cook in a single layer with space between each piece.
- Add the remaining tablespoon of sesame oil to the skillet, along with the ginger, garlic, and peppercorns. Saute for 1-2 minutes until the garlic and ginger are fragrant.
- Add the bell peppers, zucchini, green onions (reserve some of the greens for garnish), and dried chili peppers. Saute for 1-2 additional minutes; keep the vegetables lightly cooked as we don’t want them to become soggy.
- Add the sauce mixture to the skillet, stirring and cooking until the sauce thickens. Add the chicken and peanuts to the pan and heat all ingredients through, tossing to coat the chicken and vegetables with the sauce.
- Garnish with reserved green onions and serve hot.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Notes: The chilies and peppercorns add spice to this dish. Saute them for longer (or prior to adding vegetables and other ingredients to the pan) if you really want to kick up the heat. You can substitute red chili paste or red pepper flakes if you can’t find peppercorns and/or dried chiles, but their distinctive flavors are a signature part of this dish. Unless you have a well-seasoned wok in your cooking supplies, I highly recommend using a nonstick skillet for this dish. This will allow you to brown the chicken without the marinade/coating sticking to the skillet. A deep golden brown on the chicken gives it great flavor and a lovely appearance. This is difficult to replicate in a stainless steel skillet or an unseasoned work.