Monday, May 20, 2024

[Copycat] Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken Recipe


Enjoy this delicious copycat recipe for Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken – a flavorful and veggie-packed entree that honestly tastes better than takeout!

kung pao chicken over rice in a green bowl.kung pao chicken over rice in a green bowl.

Better Than Panda Express!

Panda Express describes their Kung Pao Chicken as a “Szechwan-inspired dish with chicken, peanuts and vegetables, finished with chili peppers.” My version is SO much more than that! It’s packed full of flavor but has healthier swaps so you feel good about enjoying this meal. I think this might be my favorite copycat recipe from the recipe archives! Here’s why:

  • Quick + Easy to Make – you can have this recipe on your dinner table in 30 minutes or less! We love a hearty, easy meal!
  • Veggie-Packed – with red bell peppers, zucchini, carrots and garlic cloves this kung pao stir fry is a great source of vegetables.
  • Customizable – I prefer making this Kung Pao Chicken Recipe with chicken thighs but you could easily sub in chicken breasts, beef, shrimp or change up the veggies too! Basically so long as you have the Kung Pao sauce down you can make this dish your own.

Ingredients Needed

  • Chicken thighs – I prefer using chicken thighs because I find they have more flavor but you can use chicken breasts or whatever protein you prefer.
  • Cornstarch – this helps to coat the chicken but also thickens the marinade so you have a nice, thick sauce. You can also use tapioca starch or arrowroot starch.
  • Sesame oil – for cooking the chicken. You could also use avocado oil or even olive oil but it will slightly alter the taste.
  • Rice – you can use white rice or brown rice. I prefer using jasmine or basmati but again use what you prefer.
  • Red Bell Pepper – You could sub in a different bell pepper color too
  • Zucchini – Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken always uses zucchini but you could sub in a different vegetable like broccoli or snap peas.
  • Carrot – my addition. I like the crunch and sweet taste that carrots add.
  • Garlic + Ginger – aromatics for your kung pao sauce.
  • Honey – Maple syrup will also work but I prefer the flavor of honey.
  • Soy Sauce – or use tamari or coconut aminos if gluten-free.
  • Sweet chili paste – this adds a very mild kick. You could also use spicy chili paste or sprinkle in some dried chili peppers.
  • Rice Wine Vinegar – Traditional kung pao chicken recipes use shaoxing wine but because it can be a bit tricky to find, I use rice vinegar in place.
  • Salt + Pepper – feel free to reduce based on taste and sodium preferences. I like to use a lot of black pepper to try to replicate the flavors of sichuan peppercorns.
  • Peanuts and green onion (scallions) – for topping

How to Make Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken

STEP 1: COOK CHICKEN + RICE

Cook rice according to package instructions. Add chicken to a large bowl and pat dry with paper towel to remove all excess moisture. Sprinkle with cornstarch and salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Add sesame oil to a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add your chicken and cook for roughly 5 minutes or until browned on all sides.

STEP 2: COOK VEGGIES

Add your veggies to your skillet or wok and saute for 5-7 minutes until veggies have softened and chicken is cooked through.

kung pao chicken and veggies in a wok.kung pao chicken and veggies in a wok.

STEP 3: MAKE SAUCE

In a small bowl combine honey, soy sauce, sweet chili paste, rice wine vinegar and salt and pepper.

kung pao chicken sauce in a blue bowl.kung pao chicken sauce in a blue bowl.

STEP 4: COMBINE ALL INGREDIENTS

Add sauce to chicken and veggies and reduce heat to low. Continue cooking for 2-3 minutes or until sauce has thickened. Top with peanuts and green onions. Serve over a bowl of rice.

copycat panda express kung pao chicken cooked in a wok and topped with green onions and peanuts.copycat panda express kung pao chicken cooked in a wok and topped with green onions and peanuts.

Kung Pao Chicken FAQs

What is Kung Pao Chicken?

Kung Pao Chicken is a Chinese-American dish popularized by restaurant chains like Panda Express. It’s typically made with chicken, veggies and peanuts in a sweet and spicy sauce.

How Spicy is this Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken?

I personally don’t find this dish too spicy but if you’re sensitive to spice you can use less sweet chili sauce. If you want to take it up a notch I recommend adding crushed red pepper flakes.

Is this recipe gluten-free?

Technically no if you’re using soy sauce. However, you can easily sub in tamari or coconut aminos in place of soy sauce and this dish will be fully gluten-free.

Can I use a different grain instead of rice?

For sure! If you don’t eat rice or don’t have any feel free to serve over a different grain or even a grain-free option like cauliflower rice.

Storage Instructions

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days (ideally apart from rice).

Reheating instructions: reheat in microwave or pan fry on stove-top.

*Freezer Tip

You can freeze this Kung Pao Chicken Recipe! Simply add to a freezer-safe container or Ziploc bag and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge and then heat on the stove-top served over fresh rice.

More Asian-Inspired Recipes

Print

Copycat Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken

kung pao chicken recipe over rice in a green bowl.kung pao chicken recipe over rice in a green bowl.

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Enjoy this delicious copycat recipe for Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken – a flavorful and veggie-packed entree that honestly tastes better than takeout!

  • Author: Davida Lederle
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Cook
  • Cuisine: Chinese
  • 2 cups dry rice, cooked according to package instructions
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded + chopped
  • 1 large zucchini, quartered
  • 1 large carrot, peeled + chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 inch knob ginger, minced
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 12 tbsp sweet chili sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 cup peanuts
  • 1/4 cup green onions, chopped

  1. Cook rice according to package instructions.
  2. Add chicken to a large bowl and pat dry with paper towel to remove all excess moisture.
  3. Sprinkle with cornstarch and salt and pepper. Toss to combine.
  4. Add sesame oil to a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat.
  5. Add your chicken and cook for roughly 5 minutes or until browned on all sides (it doesn’t need to be cooked all the way through).
  6. In a small bowl combine honey, soy sauce, sweet chili paste, rice wine vinegar and salt and pepper. Set aside.
  7. Add bell pepper, zucchini, carrot, garlic + ginger to your chicken and saute for 5-7 minutes until veggies have softened.
  8. Add sauce to chicken and veggies and reduce heat to low.
  9. Continue cooking for 3-5 minutes or until sauce has thickened.
  10. Top with peanuts and green onions.
  11. Serve over a bowl of rice.

panda express copycat kung pao chicken recipe over rice in a green bowl with chopsticks.panda express copycat kung pao chicken recipe over rice in a green bowl with chopsticks.





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