Takeout-Style Kung Pao Chicken (Diced Chicken With Peppers and Peanuts) Recipe

[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

As much as I now love real-deal Sichuan kung-pao chicken, my absolute favorite Chinese dish as a kid was this mildly spiced Americanized version—and to be honest, I still love it today. Just because it’s a Chinese-American standard, complete with slightly-gloppy-sauce and mild heat doesn’t make diced chicken with peppers and peanuts any less delicious. Here’s how to make it at home.

Why this recipe works:

  • Dark-meat chicken is tossed in a marinade designed to optimize its natural meatiness and improve juiciness and browning characteristics.
  • Stir-frying meat and vegetables in batches ensures that each is exposed to the maximum heat of the wok for better flavor and texture.
  • Sweet, sour, and savory elements come together in the simple sauce.

Note: If you can’t find boneless skinless chicken thighs, you can debone them yourself using this guide. Shaoxing wine can be found in most Asian markets. If unavailable, dry sherry can be used in its place. If you can’t find whole dried chilies, substitute with 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes.

  • Yield:Serves 4
  • Active time:30 minutes
  • Total time:30 minutes
  • Rated:5
  • Ingredients

    • For the Chicken:
    • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 3/4-inch chunks (see note)
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
    • 1 teapsoon dark soy sauce
    • 1 teaspoon Shaoxing wine (see note)
    • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon roasted sesame oil
    • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
    • For the Stir-Fry:
    • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
    • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
    • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
    • 2 tablespoons homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
    • 1 tablespoon sugar
    • 1 teaspoon roasted sesame oil
    • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
    • 3 tablespoons vegetable, peanut, or canola oil, divided
    • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch dice
    • 1 large green bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch dice
    • 2 stalks celery, cut into 3/4-inch dice
    • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts
    • 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic (about 2 medium cloves)
    • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
    • 1 scallion, white and light green parts only, finely minced
    • 8 small dried red Chinese or Arbol chilies (see note)


    1. 1.

      For the Chicken: Combine chicken, salt, pepper, soy sauce, wine, sugar, sesame oil, and cornstarch in a medium bowl and toss to coat. Set aside for 20 minutes.

    2. 2.

      For the Stir-Fry: Combine soy sauce, wine, vinegar, chicken stock, sugar, sesame oil, and cornstarch in a small bowl and whisk together until homogenous. Set aside.

    3. 3.

      Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wok over high heat until smoking. Add chicken, spread into a single layer, and cook without moving until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Continue cooking, tossing and stirring frequently, until the exterior is opaque but chicken is still slightly raw in the center, about 2 minute longer. Transfer to a clean bowl and set aside.

    4. 4.

      Wipe out wok and heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil over high heat until smoking. Add bell peppers and celery and cook, stirring and tossing occasionally, until brightly colored and browned in spots, about 1 minute. Add peanuts and toss to combine.

    5. 5.

      Push vegetables up side of wok to clear a space in the center. Add garlic, ginger, scallions, and dried chilies and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Return chicken to wok and toss to combine. Stir sauce and add to wok. Cook, tossing, until sauce thickens and coats ingredients and chicken is cooked through, about 1 minute longer. Serve immediately.

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