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Easy Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken (CopyCat)

This Easy Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken recipe only takes 30 minutes to make and is the perfect spicy stir fry for weeknight dinners! This dish is made with zucchini, red peppers, green onions, soy sauce, and ginger.

Panda Express copycat kung pao chicken on a skillet pan

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FOR THE FULL LIST OF INGREDIENTS AND COMPREHENSIVE INSTRUCTIONS, PLEASE SEE THE RECIPE CARD AT THE END OF THIS POST. BEFORE YOU SCROLL, THERE’S IMPORTANT INFORMATION IN THIS BLOG POST.

Originally the Kung Pao (pronounced “pow”) dish, originated from the Sichuan province in China and consisted of cubes of chicken, green onions, peanuts, dried chili, and a spicy sauce made from Sichuan peppers.

Many restaurants have adapted their own version and this one excludes the Sichuan peppers.

What Does it Taste Like

The dish is essentially a savory stir fry with sweet and sour elements, with a spicy kick from peppers. It’s also served with peanuts which gives it a nutty crunch.

What Type of Chicken to Use

I use chicken breasts in this recipe, but you can use whatever you want, such as chicken thighs or chicken tenders. It won’t require much an adjustment to the cook time. Just ensure the chicken is fully cooked through.

You can test the internal temperature of the chicken using a meat thermometer. Ensure the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

The chicken is also prepared using a breading coating. I use baking powder, but you can also use cornstarch. When combined with an egg, it will expand the look and size of the chunks of chicken. When stir-fried, it will give the chicken some sear and a coating. It is prepared this way for texture.

You can omit the eggs and baking powder if you wish and just saute the chicken in the pan.

raw sliced chicken, raw egg, soy sauce, salt and pepper in separate bowls

What Type of Vegetables (Veggies) to Use

soy sauce, rice vinegar, sweetener, and salt and pepper in separate bowls

What Type of Pan to Use

I’m using the Always Pan. You can find it on google. You can also use a wok, but I recommend working fast. The type of pan you use will dictate how much oil you will need to use in the recipe and if you are more likely to encounter the ingredients sticking to the pan.

The pan I’m using is ceramic and nonstick, so a small amount of sesame oil goes a long way. If using a cast iron, stainless steel, or another pan without ceramic coating you may need additional oil. Use your judgment while cooking.

collage photo showing how to make fried chicken in a skillet with eggs and baking powder

How to Make Kung Pao Chicken

  1. Add chopped chicken, soy sauce, egg, baking powder, salt and pepper to taste to a bowl. Stir to combine the ingredients.
  2. Add the sauce ingredients: soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sweetener, salt and pepper to taste to a small bowl. Stir and set aside.
  3. Heat a skillet on medium-high heat and add sesame oil.
  4. Add in the chicken and cook for 5-6 minutes until cooked through.
  5. Add sesame oil, garlic, and green onions. Saute for 2-3 minutes until fragrant.
  6. Add in chopped zucchini and red peppers. Saute for 3-4 minutes or until soft.
  7. Add in chili peppers and chopped peanuts. Stir.
  8. Add in the sauce. Stir to combine.
  9. Add the cooked chicken back to the pan.
collage photo of 4 photos displaying red peppers and zucchini sauted in a pan

Kung Pao Sauce

Traditional kung pao doesn’t have a lot of sauce like a lot of other Chinese dishes. Keep this in mind, and if you want more sauce, double the sauce ingredients.

The ingredients for the sauce include soy sauce, rice vinegar, sweetener, salt, and pepper.

How to Thicken the Sauce

I used 1/2 tablespoon of cornstarch combined with 1/2 tablespoon of water. Mix the two in a bowl and then add it to the sauce and stir. You can also use the same amount of all-purpose flour.

To keep the dish lower in carbs you can also use xanthan gum. Use 1/4 of a teaspoon and add it to a bowl with 1-2 tablespoons of the Kung Pao sauce. Stir until it thickens and then add it back to the pot with the sauce.

Kung pao sauce in a glass bowl

How to Get it Spicy/What Kind of Pepper to Use

This dish is traditionally made using dried chili peppers and/or Chinese red peppers or Sichuan. I get mine from a local Asian market because they always have everything I need. You can also grab dried chili peppers here on Amazon. I didn’t use the Sichuan peppers because they aren’t used in the Panda Express version, but feel free to add them.

I typically don’t eat the dried peppers. I use them to add heat to the dish as it cooks, but I don’t actually eat them. However, what I have found is some dried chilli peppers do not give off spicy flavor until you eat them, in which case simply cooking with them isn’t enough, unless you slice them open.

Another way to get the dish spicy is to use Spicy Chili Crisp. This is actually my favorite way to make this dish spicy. It’s a blend of various chilies, oils, garlic, and peanuts. It adds an amazing kick. I top it on my Kung Pao, once cooked.

You can also just use crushed red pepper flakes. 1 teaspoon will provide a light to medium level of spice. Add more as needed.

dried chili peppers in a glass bowl

How to Keep it Mild and Not Spicy

If you want to keep it mild don’t use any peppers. You can also use a small amount of crushed red pepper if you only want a small level of spice.

Additional Veggies and Substitutions

I love to serve this with Cauliflower Rice, Instant Pot Brown Rice, or any rice. You can also add in any of the following:

  • Snap Peas
  • Onions
  • Broccoli
  • Mushrooms
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Green Peppers
  • Cabbage
  • Bok Choy
Panda Express copycat kung pao chicken on a skillet pan
Panda Express copycat kung pao chicken on a white plate

How to Reheat Leftovers

The best way to reheat the dish is to stir fry it again over medium heat with a small amount of oil if necessary. You can reheat it in the microwave, but it will dry out. You can prepare additional sauce to have on hand just for this.

Using the air fryer and reheating on 350 degrees until warm is also an option.

Panda Express copycat kung pao chicken on a white plate

How Many Carbs

The dish has 9 total carbs per serving, 7 net.

How Long Will it Last in the Fridge

It will last in the fridge for 3-4 days tightly sealed.

Freezer Tips

You can freeze the dish in a tightly sealed container or bag up to 4 months. Defrost at room temperature or in the fridge overnight. Reheat the dish over medium heat in an oiled pan.

Panda Express copycat kung pao chicken on a white plate with chopsticks

Pair This Dish With

Shrimp Egg Rolls
Air Fryer Crab Rangoon
Air Fryer Southwestern Egg Rolls

Air Fryer Green Beans

More CopyCat and Take Out Recipes

Keto Low Carb Orange Chicken
Healthy Pad Thai
Keto Beef and Broccoli
Chick-Fil-A Chicken Sandwich
Red Lobster CopyCat Shrimp Scampi
Instant Pot Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana Soup
Keto Low Carb Zuppa Toscana Soup
Panera Autumn Squash Soup
Panera Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Seafood Shrimp Pho Soup

Get a full listing of Take Out Recipes here.

Panda Express copycat kung pao chicken on a skillet pan
Print Pin
5 from 3 votes

Easy Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken

This Easy Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken recipe only takes 30 minutes to make and is the perfect spicy stir fry for weeknight dinners! This dish is made with zucchini, red peppers, green onions, soy sauce, and ginger.
Save this recipe here.
Course dinner, lunch
Cuisine Chinese
Keyword Kung Pao chicken, Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 284kcal

Ingredients

Chicken

Kung Pao Sauce and Stir Fry

Sauce Thickener

  • 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch See notes for substitutes.
  • 1/2 tablespoon water

Stir Fry

  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil Divided into 2 servings, 1 teaspoon each.
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated fresh ginger If using ground ginger start with 1/8 teaspoon and add more/adjust to taste if necessary.
  • 1/2 cup chopped zucchini
  • 1/2 cup chopped red peppers
  • 1/4 cup chopped peanuts
  • 7-8 dried chili peppers See notes below for substitutes

Instructions

  • Add the chopped chicken, soy sauce, egg, baking powder, salt and pepper to taste to a bowl. Stir to combine the ingredients.
  • Add the sauce ingredients: water, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sweetener, salt and pepper to taste to a small bowl. Stir and set aside.
  • Heat a skillet on medium-high heat and add 1 teaspoon of the sesame oil. (See notes regarding the type of pan used and the amount of oil necessary)
  • Add in the chicken and cook for 5-6 minutes, flipping halfway until the chicken is cooked through. When cooked, remove the chicken and set aside.
  • Add the additional teaspoon of sesame oil, garlic, ginger and green onions. Saute for 2-3 minutes until fragrant.
  • Add in the chopped zucchini and red bell peppers. Saute for 3-4 minutes or until soft.
  • Add in the dried chili peppers and chopped peanuts. Stir.
  • Combine the thickener: cornstarch and water in a small bowl and stir.
  • Add in the sauce and the cornstarch thickener and stir until the sauce has thickened.
  • Add the cooked chicken back to the pan. Stir.
  • Cool before serving.

Video

Notes

  • You can use any type of chicken you want without much change to the cook time.
  • The chicken is also prepared using a breading coating. I use baking powder, but you can also use cornstarch. When combined with an egg, it will expand the look and size of the chunks of chicken. When stir-fried, it will give the chicken some sear and a coating. It is prepared this way for texture.
  • You can omit the eggs and baking powder if you wish and just saute the chicken in the pan.
  • You can air fry the chicken if you wish. Air fry on 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Open the air fryer basket and flip the chicken. Cook for an additional 5-10 minutes until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
  • You can use any sweetener you like. If you use regular, refined table sugar you can use the same amount noted in the recipe.
  • If you like a sweeter sauce, add more sweetener and adjust to your taste.
  • This dish is traditionally not prepared with a lot of sauce. If you prefer a lot of sauce, double the sauce ingredients and start with the same serving size of the cornstarch thickener, use more if necessary.
  • You can use a wok if you wish. Move quickly as the cooking pace is faster with a wok.
  • The pan I’m using is ceramic and nonstick, so a small amount of sesame oil goes a long way. If using a cast iron, stainless steel, or another pan without ceramic coating you may need additional oil. Use your judgment while cooking.
  •  I typically don’t eat the dried peppers. I use them to add heat to the dish as it cooks, but I don’t actually eat them. However, what I have found is some dried chilli peppers do not give off spicy flavor until you eat them, in which case simply cooking with them isn’t enough, unless you slice them open.
  • Another way to get the dish spicy is to use Spicy Chili Crisp. This is actually my favorite way to make this dish spicy. It’s a blend of various chilies, oils, garlic, and peanuts. It adds an amazing kick. I top it on my Kung Pao, once cooked.
  • You can also just use crushed red pepper flakes. 1 teaspoon will provide a light to medium level of spice. Add more as needed.
Recipe Tools Used in this RecipeAs an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition (displayed with net carbs)

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 284kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 37g | Fat: 12g
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Recipe Rating




Sabrina Boucher

Monday 15th of March 2021

This was great! Trust Brandi and get the ingredients, I ordered the peppers off amazon and they came in like a day. This is a great option to get your takeout vibes in without the mass amount of calories. Definitely recommend.

staysnatched

Tuesday 16th of March 2021

Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Jayda

Wednesday 10th of March 2021

This was DELICIOUS. I was trying to use up some veggies and remembered this recipe on her site! This will definitely be in rotation. I made it with zucchini, red bell pepper, and broccoli. Delightful.

staysnatched

Thursday 11th of March 2021

That sounds amazing!

Edith

Thursday 25th of February 2021

Delicious! Brandi, your dishes never disappoint. The best part is that both hubby and kids loved it. The crust you get on the chicken after cooking it is so yummy. Kids were eating the cooked chicken before I can even finish making the whole thing. Thank you Brandi!

staysnatched

Monday 1st of March 2021

You're welcome! I'm so glad you all enjoyed it.

Christiane DeSalvo

Monday 15th of February 2021

Y’all - RUN - don’t walk - and snag all the ingredients for this easy-to-make new fan favorite from Brandi. I can’t express the ease of the recipe and how flavorful it is.

I had all ingredients on hand to create after work. I opted to omit the egg & baking powder (per Brandi’s notes - don’t sleep on these notes people!) to cook the chicken. I added zucchini, mushrooms and broccoli as my veggie options as that is what I had.

I don’t think this took me longer than 25-30 mins start to finish and I love the options she gives for making adjustments if you need them. Also, as someone who loves heat, I opted to boost the spicy peppers to give it an extra kick.

Great recipe that will 100% be in my rotation regularly + it tastes amazing as a leftover and cold (just like it should!). Thanks to Brandi again for another awesome dish!

staysnatched

Tuesday 16th of February 2021

You're welcome! I'm glad you enjoyed it!