Hello and welcome to Sunday Supper! Recently, I saw an episode of America’s Test Kitchen featuring a recipe for Kung Pao Chicken and It looked pretty darn easy. Aside from soups and wontons, I have not ventured very far into cooking Chinese food at home. I suppose I always felt a little intimidated by it, so many sauces and flavors to get just right. But this recipe seemed like a good place to start. So let’s get to it, Easy Sichuan Kung Pao Chicken!
The prep is the most important part of this recipe. The cooking happens very quickly, with one step happening within only a minute or two of the step before it, so we want to have everything prepped and ready to go. We will start with the chicken marinade, so it can marinate while we get everything else prepped.
Trim off the excess fat on the chicken thighs, then cut them into 1/2-inch cubes. To the chicken cubes, add 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce, the rice wine, cornstarch and white pepper. Mix well to coat all the chicken cubes and set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, black vinegar, brown sugar and sesame oil. Whisk until the sugar is dissolved and set aside.
Stir garlic and ginger together with one tablespoon of grapeseed oil and set that aside. Then slice the celery and scallions. Coarsely grind the Sichuan peppercorns in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle. Kung Pao chicken is quite spicy, so if you want to tone it down a bit use fewer arbol chiles, maybe about 3-4 for a milder heat. I used 10 and it was quite hot. Slice each arbol chile in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds.
Ok, we have everything prepped so let’s get cooking! Heat grapeseed or vegetable oil over medium-high heat and toast the peanuts until they develop a little toasty browning. Then transfer them to a plate and set aside. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the skillet. Add the arbol chiles and the Sichuan peppercorns and cook, stirring constantly until the arbols darken a little, about 1-2 minutes. Add the garlic/ginger/oil mixture and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture is fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add the chicken to the skillet and spread it out in a single layer. Increase the heat to medium-high and cover. Cook the chicken covered, without stirring, for one minute.
After one minute, stir the chicken and spread it back out in a single layer and cover, cook covered (no stirring) for one more minute. Uncover and stir in the celery. Cook, stirring occasionally for 2-3 minutes.
Add soy sauce mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until the chicken is nicely coated and the sauce thickens, about 3-5 minutes. Then add the scallions and the peanuts, stir to combine and turn off the heat. And that’s it!
Sichuan Kung Pao Chicken
I served this with white rice and butter lettuce leaves. The lettuce leaves are there to make little lettuce cups for the Kung Pao Chicken. As I mentioned above, this Kung Pao Chicken is super spicy and the lettuce cups add a refreshing crunch.
This recipe is pretty simple, it’s all about the prep! I feel more confident to try out some of my favorite Chinese restaurant dishes after making this Kung Pao Chicken. I think next time I make this dish I will use a few less arbol chiles and maybe a little more Sichuan peppercorns – I really love the tingly numbing sensation from the Sichuan peppercorns and it got a little lost in the heat of the arbol chiles. But that’s just my personal preference, this dish is pretty much perfect!
Thank you for joining me today for Sunday Supper! This Sichuan Kung Pao Chicken is a perfect one-pan Sunday Supper. I don’t know about you, but I find tremendous satisfaction in cooking my favorite restaurant dishes at home. It feels like a triumph! Don’t let a few of the ingredients dissuade you from making this recipe, I found the Sichuan peppercorns, dried arbol chiles, and the Chinese black vinegar all on Amazon.
Sichuan Kung Pao Chicken
This classic Sichuan dish is wonderfully spicy and tingly, and so flavorful. Crunchy toasted peanuts and scallions, fresh celery, and tender chicken all coated in a light sauce. An easy one-pan recipe – it's all about the prep!
- Chicken Marinade and Sauce
- 1 ½ lbs. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs, trimmed and cut into ½-inch cubes
- ¼ cup Soy Sauce, divided
- 1 tbsp. Cornstarch
- 1 tbsp. Chinese Rice Wine or Dry Sherry
- ½ tsp. White Pepper
- 1 tbsp. Chinese Black Vinegar
- 1 tbsp. packed Dark Brown Sugar
- 2 tsp. Toasted Sesame Oil
- 1 tbsp. Minced Garlic
- 2 tsp. Grated Fresh Ginger
- 2 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. Grapeseed or Vegetable Oil, divided
- ½ cup Dry-Roasted Peanuts
- 10-15 Dried Arbol Chiles, halved lengthwise and seeded
- 1 tsp. Sichuan Peppercorns, ground coarse
- 2 Celery Ribs, cut into ½-inch pieces
- 5 Scallions, white and light green parts only, cut into ½-inch pieces
Prep and measure out all ingredients before cooking
Chicken Marinade and Sauce
Combine chicken, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, cornstarch, rice wine, and white pepper in medium bowl and set aside.
Stir vinegar, sugar, oil, and remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce together in small bowl and set aside.
Stir garlic, ginger, and 1 tablespoon oil together in second small bowl.
Combine peanuts and 1 teaspoon oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until peanuts just begin to darken, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer peanuts to plate and spread into even layer to cool.
Return now-empty skillet to medium-low heat. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil, arbols, and peppercorns and cook, stirring constantly, until arbols begin to darken, 1 to 2 minutes.
Add garlic mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until all clumps are broken up and mixture is fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add chicken and spread into even layer. Cover skillet, increase heat to medium-high, and cook, without stirring, for 1 minute.
Stir chicken and spread into even layer. Cover and cook, without stirring, for 1 minute more.
Add celery and cook uncovered, stirring frequently, until chicken is cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add soy sauce mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until sauce is thickened and shiny and coats chicken, 3 to 5 minutes.
Stir in scallions and peanuts.
If you cannot find Chinese black vinegar, you can use sherry vinegar.