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If you love Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken, then you’ll really love this copycat recipe of mine. It’s more delicious (in my opinion), and, of course, it’s cheaper to make at home.
Plus, it’s so quick to make – only 30 minutes from start to finish – you’ll have it ready to serve before you would have gotten to the nearest restaurant (or have it delivered)!
Tips for the Best Kung Pao Chicken
Make sure to marinate the chicken while the pan heats up. This step will create a more flavorful base for your recipe. You will then add the remaining marinade liquid during the last 5 minutes of cooking.
The original recipe for Panda Express kung pao chicken uses hot dried red peppers in the recipe, but I don’t have any of these (or know where to get them easily). I really try to make all my recipes approachable for the average cook and not use exotic or difficult-to-find ingredients if possible. We’re all too busy for that, right?
So … I decided using red pepper flakes was a very reasonable substitute. Plus, this ingredient is easy to add more or less to your family’s liking.
One fun side note: I actually added 1 whole tablespoon initially to the marinade … but then I realized – “Hey, this is hot stuff – that’s probably way too much!” Fortunately for me and my boys, I reduced it to only 1 teaspoon (one third of the mistaken original) in time before mixing it all together. It was still quite spicy, so I reduced the finished recipe down to one-half teaspoon or less depending on what your family likes.
Let me know how hot you like yours in the comments below!
Make sure not to overcook your zucchini. It gets mushy pretty quickly and is not as tasty (in my opinion). Cutting thick slices helps with this as well as watching your pan and the timing of the covered cooking. (This is NOT the time to check your email! ;-))
To make sure you don’t get the chicken dish too spicy, add less red pepper flakes than called for initially. You can always sprinkle with more at the end if you want more spice.
You may also love my other Panda Express copycat recipes:
Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken
- 2 Tbsp olive oil (or other oil)
- 1 Tbsp sesame oil
- 1 pound chicken breast, , cut into ½- to 1-inch pieces
- 2 cups zucchini, sliced thick (1 large)
- 1 red bell pepper, de-stemed, de-seeded, and cut into large chunks
- ½ cup green onions or scallions (1 bunch
- ½ cup peanuts (I used dry roasted – can use any you have on hand)
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- 1 Tbsp garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes (less for mild – more for extra hot)
- 1 Tbsp honey
- Heat a heavy skillet to medium heat (5-6) on the stove top.
- For the marinade, take the fresh chopped ginger and garlic and add to a medium-sized bowl along with the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and red pepper flakes (will add the honey in later). With a spoon blend it all together.
- To the marinade, I add the chicken and submerge in the marinade liquid as much as possible. Let this mixture sit while heating up the skillet for about 10 minutes.
- When the pan has heated for about 10 minutes, add the olive oil (or other oil) along with the sesame oil to the skillet and move the skillet around to coat the entire bottom of the pan.
- Drain most of the liquid from the marinade into a small bowl. I do this with my hand to ensure that the chicken doesn't escape. Then I add the chicken carefully to the hot skillet, leaving most of any extra liquid behind in the bowl.
- Cook the chicken for about 10 minutes, turning halfway through the cook time. This should cook the chicken at least most of the way.
- Turn down the heat a bit (about 3) and add the zucchini, bell pepper, green onions, marinade, and peanuts. Stir, cover, and cook for about 5 minutes.
- Serve right away over rice if desired.
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