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Kung Pao Chicken (Copycat Big Bowl Recipe)

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 Today we are taking a culinary trip around the world! This chicken dish native to the Szechuan region of China is has a ton of flavor, and is easy and inexpensive to make. It’s spicy, sweet, and we guarantee the whole family will love it!

What is Kung Pao chicken

Kung Pao chicken is a popular Chinese stir-fry dish that comes from the Szechuan region (also spelled Sichuan) of China. This region specializes in balancing sweet and spicy flavor profiles. The distinguishing feature of Szechuan cooking is spicy Szechuan peppers. We use Thai chili peppers for this recipe because they are easier to find here in the US.

This is a straightforward recipe with simple ingredients. The thing that separates Kung Pao chicken from other stir fried chicken dishes is the flavor and texture. The soy sauce, vinegar and sugar helps perfectly balances the thai chili peppers we use for this recipe.

Coating the chicken in cornstarch creates the signature, velvety, texture of Kung Pao chicken. That soft coating of the chicken combined with the crisp veggies is to-die-for!

What is cornstarch, and why do I need it for this recipe?

Cornstarch is exactly what it sounds like! It is the isolated starch from the outside of the corn kernel. It was actually first used back in 1000 B.C. as a cosmetic adhesive for Egyptian Pharaohs! In the late 1800s, it was re-discovered and used for consumption.

Cornstarch powder is primarily used as a thickener for baked goods, soups, sauces and gravies. You may have used it before for this purpose. For this delicious Kung Pao chicken recipe, though, it is used differently.

In Chinese cooking, cornstarch is used to coat proteins and vegetables that are stir fried. Using corn starch when stir-frying is called “velveting” as it helps to develop a soft outer texture.

If you have an allergy or intolerance to corn, there are some substitutes you can use for the cornstarch coating. Tapioca starch and potato starch work well in place of the corn starch in this recipe. You will want to use 1.5x the amount of tapioca or potato starch to match the texture of corn starch.

While it will not turn out quite the same, in a pinch, you can substitute all purpose flour in place of corn starch. Use double the amount of all purpose flour to replace corn starch. Please note, though, that we do not recommend this substitute unless you absolutely have to use it!

The best kind of chicken to use for Kung Pao chicken

Traditionally, Kung Pao chicken calls for chicken breast. And we use chicken breast in our recipe too! It has a low fat content, is easy to find and inexpensive. Because of the low fat content, chicken breast cooks fast in the pan and it’s absolutely delicious.

If you are not a fan of chicken breast, or cannot find any, you can use chicken thighs. The only caveat is that you may need to cook the chicken thighs for a little bit longer as they have more fat than chicken breast. If you don’t cook the chicken thighs long enough, it may end up having a chewier texture.

How to make Kung Pao chicken

  1. Combine soy sauce and cornstarch.
  2. Chop chicken in small cubes.
  3. Coat the raw chicken with the cornstarch and soy sauce mixture and set aside.
  4. Heat up a wok over medium-high heat. Add sesame oil.
  5. When the pan is hot, add the chicken into the pan and cook. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
  6. Add the chopped red onions, diced red bell peppers, and chopped green bell peppers to the pan. Allow them to soften in the pan.
  7. Add the Thai chili peppers, followed by garlic cloves, grated ginger root, and green onion stalks. Stir everything together over the heat.
  8. Add the chicken back into the pan and mix.
  9. Separately, whisk rice vinegar, sugar and soy sauce together. Add this mixture into the hot wok and toss together with the ingredients.
  10. Serve hot on its’ own or with a side of rice! Feel free to serve with crushed peanuts or cashews!

More Recipes to Try

Easy Vegetarian Ramen is quick and easy. It’s packed with flavor and ready in less than 14 minutes!

Wok Fried Rice would pair really well with this Kung Pao Chicken

Did you know you can make Fried Rice as a one pot? This non-traditional recipe is easy and delicious!

Kung Pao Chicken

Alia and Radwa
This copycat Big Bowl Kung Pao Chicken is delicious and easy to make! It's spicy with a touch of sweetness, serve over a bed of rice or noodles!
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course dinner
Cuisine Chinese
Servings 4
Calories

Ingredients
  

  • 2 lbs chicken breast
  • 2 tbsp corn starch
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 chopped red onion
  • 1 chopped green bell pepper
  • 4 stalks green onions
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar
  • 5 thai chili peppers
  • 4 minced cloves garlic
  • 1 inch grated ginger

Instructions
 

  • Combine soy sauce and cornstarch.
  • Chop the chicken in small bite size pieces.
  • Coat the raw chicken with the cornstarch and soy sauce mixture and set aside.
  • Heat up a wok over medium-high heat. Add sesame oil.
  • When the pan is hot, add the chicken into the pan and cook. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
  • Add the chopped red onions, diced red bell peppers, and chopped green bell peppers to the pan. Allow them to soften in the pan.
  • Add the Thai chili peppers, followed by garlic cloves, grated ginger root, and green onion stalks. Stir everything together over the heat.
  • Add the chicken back into the pan and mix.
  • Separately, whisk seasoned rice vinegar, sugar and soy sauce together. Add this mixture into the hot wok and toss together with the ingredients.
  • Serve hot on its’ own or with a side of rice!

Video

Keyword copycat big bowl recipe, homemade kung pao chicken, homemade kung pao recipe, kung pao recipe
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Recipe Rating




9 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Delicious! I substituted siracha for the Thai chiles because I couldn’t find any. I added marcona almonds and celery with sesame seeds on top for more crunch. This was so good!!!

  2. No where does it say to dice the chicken. I looked at the photo and figured it out but maybe you should give some direction?

  3. 5 stars
    We have 4 and 2-year-old toddlers and they loved it. My sons devouring a meal is my new standard for a winner dish! LOL. (My husband and I also loved it! )