Have you ever had the Kung Pao Chicken at Panda Express? I’ve been searching for the perfect copycat recipe for years and finally found “the one”. It comes from Jamie at Drive Me Hungry. Seriously this recipe is as close as you’re going to get to the Kung Pao Chicken at Panda Express. I would even go so far as to say it’s better. I couldn’t wait to hunt down all the ingredients and get started. Joe has never ordered Kung Pao when we go to Panda because it has zucchini in it. But he ate every bite and said that the sauce even made zucchini taste good. I think I may add some different vegetables next time to get added veggies into our diet. There are a lot of ingredients in the sauce with some that were new to me such as Chinese black vinegar and Lao Gan Ma Spicy Chili Crisp. Every time I try a new Asian dish I learn something new. This version of Kung Pao is a very aromatic dish as well as pleasing to the eye. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!
Start with slicing thin strips of a chicken breast. It’s easier to make precise cuts when the chicken is partially frozen. This large chicken breast was just over 1 pound which was just what I needed.
You’ll want to marinate the chicken a good 30 minutes or more before stir frying. The marinade includes low sodium soy sauce or low sodium Tamari, Shaoxing wine, cornstarch and brown sugar. Mix the ingredients together in a bowl that is big enough to hold all of the sliced chicken pieces.
Pour the marinade over the chicken and massage well until all the marinade is soaked into the chicken. Place a sheet of plastic wrap over the bowl and refrigerate 30 minutes or longer.
The sauce has a lot of ingredients but they all work together to make a very tasty dish. You’ll need some chicken broth, Chinese black vinegar, dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, brown sugar, corn starch, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, Lao Gan Ma Spicy Chili Crisp, white pepper and dried chili pepper flakes.
Just like Panda Express . . . You’ll need zucchini, red bell pepper, sliced green onion, roasted peanuts and dried red chili. I used Tien Tsin China Chili Peppers that I ordered from Penzeys.
With all the prep work done it’s time to Wok! Heat your wok over high heat. I drained my marinated chicken and used paper towels to absorb some of the marinade so that the chicken would sear better when cooked. You will need to cook the chicken in batches. When the wok is hot, add a drizzle of vegetable oil and lay the chicken pieces flat in a single layer so that they will sear evenly. When they have seared on the bottom, flip them over for a minute or so to brown the other side.
Continue in batches until all the chicken is cooked. Set aside.
Add the zucchini, red pepper, peanuts and dried red chili’s to the pan and saute 2 – 3 minutes.
Add the chicken back to the wok.
Now add the Kung Pao Sauce which will bring out the wonderful aroma and flavors. Stir it all together.
Lastly add the sliced green onion which will wilt as it is stirred into the Kung Pao chicken.
Doesn’t it look delicious? It smells and tastes wonderful!
Serve over rice.
An Asian grocery store will have most everything you need to make this dish but if you cannot find the following ingredients here are some links to order online.
To order: Tien Tsin China Chili Peppers from Penzeys Spices
To order: Chinese Black Vinegar at Amazon
To order: Lao Gan Ma Spicy Chili Crisp at Amazon
To order Dark Soy Sauce at Amazon
Kung Pao Chicken (Panda Express Copycat) adapted from Drive Me Hungry
1 pound Chicken Breast, sliced thin
1 cup Zucchini, small dice
1 cup Red Bell Pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
10 dried Red Chilies,I used Tien Tsin China Chili Peppers
1/4 cup Roasted Peanuts
2 Green Onion stalks, sliced
Vegetable Oil, for the wok
1 tablespoon Low Sodium Soy Sauce or Low Sodium Tamari
1 1/2 tablespoons Shaoxing Wine
2 teaspoons Cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon Brown Sugar
Kung Pao Sauce
3 tablespoons Chicken Broth, I used Better than Bouillon dissolved in water
1 1/3 tablespoons Chinese Black Vinegar
1 tablespoon Dark Soy Sauce
1 tablespoon Oyster Sauce
1 tablespoon Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Sesame Oil
3 cloves Garlic, grated on a microplane grater
3/4 teaspoon Ginger, grated on a microplane grater
1 tablespoon Lao Gan Ma Spicy Chili Crisp, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon White Pepper
1/4 teaspoon Dried Chili Pepper Flakes
Combine the Chicken Marinade ingredients in a medium bowl. Add the chicken pieces and massage so that all the chicken is soaked in the marinade. Place plastic wrap over the bowl and refrigerate 30 minutes or longer.
Combine all the Kung Pao Sauce ingredients together in a medium bowl and set aside.
Heat a wok over high heat and add a drizzle of vegetable oil. Drain the chicken and use paper towels to absorb any excess marinade from the chicken. When the pan is hot, lay the chicken pieces flat in a single layer. Let the chicken sear on the bottom, then turn over to sear the other side. This will take a minute or two on each side. Sear the chicken in batches, adding a drizzle of vegetable oil when needed for each batch. When all the chicken is seared, set aside.
Add the zucchini, red pepper, peanuts and dried red chilis to the wok and saute for 2 – 3 minutes. It’s okay if the vegetables aren’t cooked through, they will continue to cook with the addition of the chicken and sauce. You want the vegetables to be firm, not overcooked and soggy.
Lower the heat to medium under the wok and add the chicken back to the wok along with the vegetables. Add the sauce and stir in with the chicken and vegetables. Add the sliced green onion to wilt in with the Kung Pao mix. Let cook an additional minute.
Serve over cooked rice. **I usually start the rice at the same time I begin to sear the chicken in the wok.
Makes 4 servings
12 thoughts on “Kung Pao Chicken (Panda Express Copycat)”
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Looks amazing! I don’t know if I can find all the ingredients around here, but I’m sure there are on-line sources!
We do have a few Asian grocery stores here in Albuquerque but I still had to go to 3 different stores to get everything on my list. There were empty shelves for some items and I think the supply chain is still affecting a lot of the grocery stores. Ordering online is definitely easier but can be pricey.
I’ve never had it from Panda Express, but I do love it. The recipe looks awesome! Thanks for sharing.
The Kung Pao at Panda Express is unique in flavor, different from any other version I’ve ever tasted. It’s like a Lotaburger, ever so often you just need one!
Kung Pao chicken is one of my all time favorite Chinese dishes. I like the addition of zucchini to the recipe.
Panda Express includes zucchini and I’ve always thought it tasted so good in this sauce. But now that I can make the sauce, I think it would be good with other vegetables too!
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Love this kung pao chicken recipe. I actually had this dish in Panda Express a few times. Nice to learn how to prepare it. Thanks for sharing.
Hi Vicky, thanks for the kind comment! I give all the credit to Jamie at “Drive Me Hungry” who created the recipe; I’ve always wanted to make Kung Pao like Panda Express and this is about as close as it comes. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
Like you, I have been on a quest to find the perfect Kung Pao Chicken recipe. What I found was not close at all to what I’ve enjoyed in my favorite Chinese restaurant. So I’m going to try your copycat recipe based on everything that you stated. This recipe has got to be amazing! Thanks for sharing and also for sharing the links to get the hard-to-find ingredients.
Thanks Roz, I hope you enjoy this version of Kung Pao. The Kung Pao is quite flavorful and I’ve found other recipes to use those hard to find ingredients so they don’t sit in the pantry and expire.