Kung Pao Chicken is a standard on any (American) Chinese menu, and while we enjoy the occasional take-out as much as anyone, it’s always healthier when we control the ingredients. Another great reason to make Kung Pao at home is the freedom to adjust the spice to your own preference. I would classify this recipe in the medium-heat category, so if you like mouth-numbing, spicy heat, just add more of the chiles.
Over the years, my good friend and cooking buddy Pati and I refined this dish together. We exchange dried red chilies or chili paste for chipotle peppers en adobo to bring the heat and complexity of flavor. Chipotle in adobo adds a unique smoky spice for a slight fusion twist we think you’ll love. Our low-carb version includes a vegetable stir-fry with fresh ginger for an easy, complete meal in minutes.
Want it even faster? Make-ahead cooking instructions are included with the recipe. Double or triple the recipe to freeze so next time you want take-out, you can just take-it-out of the freezer! A quick vegetable stir-fry and dinner is ready in a flash.
Kung Pao Chicken
- 4 boneless and skinless chicken breasts -- cut into small 1/2 inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons peanut or coconut oil
- 1 bunch green onions -- white bulbs chopped; green tops chopped separately into 1/4-inch pieces , saved for garnish
- 1/2 cup roasted peanuts
- 2 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 teaspoon dry sherry
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
STIR-FRY VEGETABLES: (Optional - as shown in photo)
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 cup coarsely chopped celery
- 1 medium red bell pepper coarsely chopped
- 1 cup thinly sliced napa cabbage or bok choy
- 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
- salt & pepper
- **Substitute any favorite vegetable in this stir-fry.
For the Kung Pao:
- In a medium bowl, toss the chicken with marinade ingredients; set aside.
- In a saucepan, combine all the sauce ingredients (start with 1 tablespoon of chipotle peppers), except the cornstarch, and mix well over med-low heat.
- Bring to a low simmer and allow flavors to meld, 8-10 minutes. Taste and adjust any of the ingredients (add more of the chipotle peppers), as desired.
- Dissolve cornstarch in a bit of water or chicken broth and add to the sauce. Cook over med heat until sauce bubbles and thickens, then remove from heat.
- Heat oil in a large skillet or wok; add the white part of the onions to the pan and cook, stirring, until softened. Add the chicken with its marinade and cook, stirring, until almost done, 2-3 minutes.
- Add the sauce and stir to allow the sauce to coat the chicken. Stir in the peanuts and chopped scallions. Serve over stir-fry vegetables (directions below).
For the Stir-Fry:
- Heat oil in a large skillet or wok, add ginger and cook until fragrant. Add prepared vegetables, and cook until crisp-tender. Salt and pepper to taste and reserve in warm oven until ready to serve.
INSTRUCTIONS / STEPS TO MAKE-AHEAD:
- In a medium bowl, toss the chicken with marinade; set aside. In a saucepan, combine the sauce ingredients (excluding the cornstarch) and mix well over med-low heat to meld flavors. Adjust to taste and set aside to cool.
- Heat oil and add the white part of the green onions to the pan and cook, stirring, until softened.
- Add the chicken with its marinade and cook, stirring, until almost done, 2-3 minutes. In order to keep the chicken tender, not tough, be sure to not over cook it in this step. Add the sauce and set aside to cool.
- Once cooled completely, pour into a freezer bag, remove as much air as possible, and freeze flat. If frozen flat, it takes less time to defrost. Reserve the peanuts and scallions for you are ready to serve the meal.
- Note: The cornstarch is omitted from the sauce when originally prepared because it will lose its thickening properties in the freezer. Instead, it is added during the finishing steps.
- Make the stir-fry vegetables fresh when you defrost the chicken and sauce.
STEPS TO FINISH THE MEAL:
- Defrost chicken and sauce mixture. Heat the chicken and sauce in a large skillet over medium heat. Dissolve 2 teaspoons cornstarch in 2 tablespoons of water and add to the chicken and sauce;
- continue to cook until warmed through and sauce thickens 3-4 minutes. Stir in the peanuts and scallion tops. Serve over fresh stir-fry vegetables (directions above).
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