Gong Bao Ji Ding (Sichuan Kung Pao Chicken) Recipe (2024)

Why It Works

  • Marinating chicken breast with salt and soy sauce and coating it in cornstarch helps ensure that it stays moist during its brief cooking period.
  • Infusing oil with chiles and Sichuan peppercorns provides the signature má-là (hot and numbing) flavor in this dish.
  • Cutting all the main ingredients to roughly the same size encourages even cooking and better presentation for chopsticks.

What does the phrase "real deal" mean to you? I hope it doesn't mean "most authentic" because, if so, I'll prove myself a liar before the end of this story.

For those of you keeping score at home (I know you're out there), yes, this is the third recipe for kung pao chicken that I've published here on Serious Eats in the last seven years. The first was myreal deal kung pao chicken, which was based off of a recipe I learned from a Sichuan chef who worked around Boston. That version was funky and fiery with fermented chile bean paste, chicken thighs, and leeks.

The second was mytakeout-style kung pao chicken, a decidedly milder version made with bell peppers and celery, just like those Upper West Side Chinese takeout joints I visited as a kid growing up in New York.

The version I'm sharing today is based upon the kung pao chickenI tasted at the sourcein Sichuan Province. As it turned out, the actual real-deal stuff in Chengdu was decidedly milder and simpler, yet more nuanced, than the fiery version I'd been cooking up at home. And with a cooking time of mere minutes and prep that can be done while your rice is cooking, it's a near-perfect weeknight dish.

Rather than getting smacked across the tastebuds with funky fermented bean paste, I got a nose-tingling and tongue-numbing whiff of citrusy Sichuan peppercorn. Instead of an intense mix of minced garlic, ginger, and scallions coating every morsel of chicken, the garlic and ginger flavors were gentle background notes, and the scallions were tender nubs interspersed with the chicken. No fatty, robust chicken thigh in the Chengdu version; instead, there were cubes of tender, moist chicken breast coated in a sweet, hot, and vinegary glaze.

Seasoning Gong Bao Ji Ding

When I started working to recreate this dish back at home, I didn't have to go much further than Fuchsia Dunlop'sEvery Grain of Rice. Her version starts with a handful of dried hot red chiles bloomed in oil along with some Sichuan peppercorns. This step allows the flavor of the chiles and the peppercorns to add a gentle fragrance to every bite without giving you the overwhelming metallic hit that powdered peppercorns can.

Gong Bao Ji Ding (Sichuan Kung Pao Chicken) Recipe (1)

The easiest way to prepare the chiles is to snip them into one-centimeter pieces with some kitchen shears, then shake out the excess seeds, which can make the dish too spicy. Sichuan peppercorns are not spicy at all, but rather have a unique mouth-numbing sensation that complements the heat of chiles very well (a combination known asmá-là). You can find Sichuan peppercorns in most Asian markets these days, or if not, you can easily order them online. The flavor in Sichuan peppercorns is all in the husks, so any small twigs or dark hard seeds you find should be picked out and discarded.

Cooking the Chicken

From there you stir-fry cubes of chicken breast that have been marinated with soy sauce, Shaoxing wine (you can use dry sherry in its place), cornstarch, and salt.

Gong Bao Ji Ding (Sichuan Kung Pao Chicken) Recipe (2)

Chicken breast has a reputation for being dry or bland, but with proper cooking (read: not overcooking), it can be as juicy and tender as you could hope for, with a mild flavor that better showcases the flavor of the wine. Meanwhile, the salt and soy sauce in the marinade help it to retain moisture (via theirbrining action), while the cornstarch provides a dual purpose: insulating the exterior of the chicken against drying out and turning stringy, and giving the sauce an absorptive surface to cling to.

Finishing the Dish

From here, I stray from her recipe, but only slightly. Rather than adding garlic, ginger, and scallions all at once, I add the garlic (cut into thin slices) and ginger (julienned into fine matchsticks) first in order to get some of their flavor into the oil. Incidentally, if you like a more powerful garlic or ginger flavor (or simply lack the knife skills for julienning and thin-slicing), you can grate them both on a microplane or mince them by hand.

Next come the peanuts and scallions. For the peanuts, typically you'd use raw ones that have been fried golden brown in oil. Unfortunately, raw peanuts can be a little hard to find and, moreover, roasted peanuts work nearly as well in this dish and require no prep other than opening a jar. For the scallions, I use the firm white and pale green parts only, cut into roughly peanut-sized pieces.

Finally, my version gets finished with a simple sauce made from a mixture of soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, Chinkiang vinegar, and honey, bound together with just a touch of cornstarch. (I find even the smallest amount of sesame oil, a common ingredient in this dish, to be distracting, but you can add a few drops if you'd like.) Even with the most precise measurements, stir-frying is an inherently unpredictable craft, so you should be prepared for some on-the-fly adjustments. If the sauce doesn't thicken as fast as the recipe suggests, let it sit just a bit longer. Or, if, as frequently happens to me now that I have a very powerful burner at home, the sauce thickenstoofast, add water or chicken broth a tablespoon at a time until it forms a gorgeous, shiny glaze.

The whole dish cooks in about half the time it took you to read this article. It's hard to think of an easier weeknight meal.

Unlike many stir-fries,wok hei—the smoky "breath of the wok" achieved by stir-frying over extreme heat—plays only a minor role in the flavor of kung pao chicken. Still, you don't want to crowd the pan to the point where the chicken steams instead of frying, so I wouldn't recommend making more than a single (two-serving) batch at a time. If you must serve a larger group, cook in batches and combine everything at the end. (Or better yet, just do what I do and serve a wider variety of small plates).

Gong Bao Ji Ding (Sichuan Kung Pao Chicken) Recipe (3)

So what do I call this recipe now? Realer Deal Kung Pao chicken? Realest Deal? How about I keep it simple and just call it plain old "Kung Pao Chicken" and we can retcon my intent by claiming that by calling that other version "real deal," I really meant "spicy and funky."

Is this recipe better than the other two versions? Let's just say it's more "authentic" and I'll just let you interpret that as you will.

By the way, you can catch a quick video of me cooking this dishhere on my YouTube channel. Finally, if you wish to scale this recipe up to serve more than two people, please see the recipe notes below.

This recipe is an early version of one that appears in The Wok: Recipes and Techniques, published by W.W. Norton & Co.

August 2017

Recipe Details

Gong Bao Ji Ding (Sichuan Kung Pao Chicken) Recipe

Prep5 mins

Cook10 mins

Active15 mins

Total15 mins

Serves2 servings


For the Chicken:

  • 2 small boneless skinless chicken breasts, about 12 ounces (340g) total, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

  • 2 teaspoons (10ml) light soy sauce (see note)

  • 2 teaspoons (about 5g) cornstarch

  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) Shaoxing wine (see note)

  • 1 large pinch kosher salt

For the Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) Chinkiang vinegar (see note)

  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) honey

  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) Shaoxing wine

  • 2 teaspoons (10ml) light soy sauce (see note)

  • 1/2 teaspoon (about 2g) cornstarch

  • 1/4 cup water orhomemadeor store-bought low-sodium chicken stock, as needed

For the Stir-Fry:

  • 3 tablespoons (45ml) vegetable oil

  • 6 to 12 small dried red chiles (such as árbol), stems removed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces with scissors, seeds discarded

  • 1 teaspoon (about 2g) Sichuan peppercorns, reddish husks only (stems and black seeds discarded)

  • 4 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced

  • 1-inch knob ginger, peeled and cut into fine matchsticks or grated

  • 6 medium scallions, white and pale green parts only, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

  • 3/4 cup roasted peanuts (about 5 ounces; 150g)


  1. For the Chicken: Combine chicken, soy sauce, cornstarch, wine, and salt in a small bowl and turn until well mixed and chicken is evenly coated in a thin film of the cornstarch paste. Set aside.

    Gong Bao Ji Ding (Sichuan Kung Pao Chicken) Recipe (4)

  2. For the Sauce: Combine vinegar, honey, wine, soy sauce, and cornstarch in a small bowl. Stir together with a fork until no clumps of cornstarch remain.

    Gong Bao Ji Ding (Sichuan Kung Pao Chicken) Recipe (5)

  3. To Stir-Fry: Pour a small amount of oil into the bottom of a large wok or skillet and rub around with a paper towel. Place over high heat and preheat until smoking. Add remaining oil and immediately add chiles and Sichuan peppercorns. Stir-fry until fragrant but not burnt, about 5 seconds. Immediately add chicken and stir-fry until there are no longer pink spots on the exterior (chicken will still be raw in center at this stage), 45 seconds to 1 1/2 minutes.

    Gong Bao Ji Ding (Sichuan Kung Pao Chicken) Recipe (6)

  4. Add garlic and ginger and stir-fry until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add scallions and peanuts and stir-fry for 30 seconds.

    Gong Bao Ji Ding (Sichuan Kung Pao Chicken) Recipe (7)

  5. Add sauce and stir-fry until all the ingredients are coated evenly and the chicken is cooked through, about 1 minute, adding water 1 tablespoon at a time if necessary to keep the sauce from clumping. Serve immediately with steamed white rice.

    Gong Bao Ji Ding (Sichuan Kung Pao Chicken) Recipe (8)

Special Equipment



You can use dry sherry in place of the Shaoxing wine.

You can find Chinkiang vinegar online or use Chinese black vinegar or even balsamic vinegar in its place.

Light soy sauce is typically thinner and saltier than the dark soy sauce used in some Chinese recipes. You might find bottles of low-sodium soy sauce labeled “light.” That is not what you’re looking for in this recipe. You can use Japanese shoyu or tamari in its place if you can’t find Chinese light soy sauce.

Sichuan peppercorns can be found in most Asian markets or ordered online.

This recipe serves 2 as a main course. Trying to double the recipe will lead to poor results as you won’t be able to maintain enough heat to sear the chicken. If you want to double the recipe, cook the chicken and vegetables in two separate batches, following the recipe through the end of Step 5 and transferring the cooked chicken and vegetables to a large bowl on the side. When you’re ready to finish, add all of the cooked chicken and vegetables (both batches) back to the wok over high heat, stir in the double batch of sauce, and toss until coated. You can also cook this recipe in a large Western-style skillet, though the flavor will not be quite the same.

Read More

  • Wok Skills 101: Stir-Frying Basics
  • Fuchsia Dunlop on Sichuan Cooking's Essential Ingredients
  • Kung Pao Popeye (Kung Pao Chicken Made with Popeye's Chicken Nuggets) Recipe
  • Crispy Kung Pao Tofu Recipe
  • Chinese
  • Chicken Breast
  • Chicken Stir-Fry
  • Chicken Mains
  • Quick Dinners
Gong Bao Ji Ding (Sichuan Kung Pao Chicken) Recipe (2024)


Is kung pao the same as Gong Bao? ›

Gongbao jiding is so well known that many of us can't even decide what to call it. English menus outside China often use the old Wade-Giles spelling of “kung pao” — a name more befitting of a campy martial arts movie — while others use the pinyin version of gongbao.

What's the difference between kung pao chicken and Szechuan chicken? ›

Kung pao chicken is Chinese-style stir-fried chicken cubes with dried chili peppers. It's a Sichuanese staple that was brought over to America and reinvented for local flavors and tastes. The Sichuanese version is a tad more complex, seasoned with Chinese peppercorns and a large heap of dried chili peppers.

What does Gong Bao chicken taste like? ›

Real Gong Bao has fire (lots of dried red chillies), sweetness (sugar), umami (fresh soy sauce), sourness (from local Sichuan vinegar), and the special tingle that comes from Sichuan peppercorns.

What does Gong Bao mean in Chinese? ›

Mandarin Pinyin: Gong1 bao3 ji1 ding1. Literally it translated to 'palace guardian chicken cubes'. Legend has it that it was named after the governor of Sichuan province during the late Qing Dynasty. The spelling of 'kung pao' is a legacy of the now-obsolete Wade-Giles Romanization system.

What is the difference between Szechuan and kung bao? ›

Sichuan (Szechuan) is a province with population of 81 million and Gong Bao (Kung Pao) is a title of officer in Qing Dynasty. The only link between the two is a famous Sichuan cuisine called 宮保雞丁. It was said the dish was named after the title of an officer, 丁寶楨 whose title was 宮保.

Why do Chinese people eat kung pao chicken? ›

As the most ardent fan of Kung Pao chicken, the dish was named after him. Ding Baozhen loved to cook and especially liked chicken, peanuts, and spicy peppers. Using those ingredients, he created Kung Pao chicken. Originally a home dish of the Ding family, guests loved it so much that the popularity spread.

What does bao bao mean in Chinese? ›

Bao Bao (Chinese: 宝宝; pinyin: Bǎobǎo, meaning "treasure"; colloquially meaning "baby") is a female giant panda cub who was born at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. She lived at the Zoo for four years until February 2017.

What does kung pao mean in English? ›

adjective. ˈkəŋ-ˈpau̇ ˈküŋ-, ˈku̇ŋ- : being stir-fried or sometimes deep-fried and served in a spicy hot sauce usually with peanuts.

What is better kung pao or Szechuan? ›

Szechuan and Kung Pao are both delicious representatives of Chinese cuisine, but they offer distinct experiences. Kung Pao is your gateway drug, the approachable friend who introduces you to the world of Sichuan spices. But once you've tasted the depth and complexity of Sichuan cuisine, there's no turning back.

Are you supposed to eat the peppers in Kung Pao Chicken? ›

Kung Pao Chicken is meant to have a kick from chilies, ginger and garlic. That being said, it is very EASY to customize the heat of this recipe. MILD KUNG PAO CHICKEN: Stir fry 15 Thai chili peppers without cuttings any of them open (and of course, don't eat the whole chilies!).

Which is hotter Hunan or Szechuan? ›

A: While both types of cuisine are known for their spice, the chilis used in Hunan dishes are generally spicier than the Sichuan peppercorns used in Szechuan cooking.

Is Gong Bao chicken spicy? ›

But the Westernized version is missing the key ingredient that is the star of the authentic Sichuan version, known more commonly as Gong Bao chicken: Sichuan peppercorns. It's their unique, mouth-numbing effect that gives the dish its spicy, warming quality.

What is the history of Gong Bao chicken? ›

History. The dish is believed to be named after Ding Baozhen (1820–1886), a late Qing Dynasty official and governor of Sichuan Province. His title was Taizi Shaobao, which is one of the Gongbao (Chinese: 宮保; pinyin: Gōngbǎo; Wade–Giles: Kung1-pao3; lit. 'Palace Guardian(s)').

How hot is Gong Bao? ›

Named for the popular Chinese dish, the slender, thin-walled, 3 to 5" long peppers have a deliciously spicy flavor. Peppers have a Scoville rating of 3,000 to 6,000 and can be used fresh or cooked - also easy to dry for use throughout the year.

What is the other name of kung pao? ›

There are variations of this Chinese dish found in Thailand and other Asian countries. In France it is popular as well, called Poulet Impérial in Chinese restaurants.

Is Kung Pao same as General Tso? ›

General Tso's is sweeter with a milder spice, featuring deep-fried battered chicken. Kung Pao is spicier with stir-fried chicken, vegetables, and peanuts. Also, General Tso's has Chinese-American roots, while Kung Pao hails from Sichuan cuisine.

What is the real name of kung pao chicken? ›

Kung Pao chicken - or gōngbǎo jīdīng in the pinyin transliteration of the original Mandarin (宮保雞丁) - is named for a 19th century official who was held in high esteem by the local populace in Sichuan and hence by the ruling Qing dynasty overall. The name literally means 'palace guardian cubed chicken'.

What is kung pao chicken called in China? ›

Kung Pao chicken (Chinese: 宮保雞丁; pinyin: Gōngbǎo jīdīng; Wade–Giles: Kung1-pao3 chi1-ting1; Zhuyin Fuhao: ㄍㄨㄥ ㄅㄠˇ ㄐㄧ ㄉㄧㄥ), also transcribed Gong Bao or Kung Po, is a spicy, stir-fried Chinese dish made with cubes of chicken, peanuts, vegetables and chili peppers.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Rev. Leonie Wyman

Last Updated:

Views: 5663

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (59 voted)

Reviews: 90% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Rev. Leonie Wyman

Birthday: 1993-07-01

Address: Suite 763 6272 Lang Bypass, New Xochitlport, VT 72704-3308

Phone: +22014484519944

Job: Banking Officer

Hobby: Sailing, Gaming, Basketball, Calligraphy, Mycology, Astronomy, Juggling

Introduction: My name is Rev. Leonie Wyman, I am a colorful, tasty, splendid, fair, witty, gorgeous, splendid person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.