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person holding a piece of kung pao chicken
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5 from 2 votes

Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken Copycat

Our copycat Panda Express Kung Pao chicken recipe is the perfect weeknight dinner, as it cooks in only 12 minutes.  Marinated chicken, peanuts, and crisp tender vegetables coated with a spicy, savory sauce will have you saying it tastes better than takeout!
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time12 mins
Total Time42 mins
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: copycat recipe, kung pao chicken, Kung Pao Chicken Panda Express Recipe
Servings: 4 cups
Calories: 510kcal
Author: Brooke


For the Marinade

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar packed
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon water

For the Kung Pao Sauce

For the Stir Fry

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 dried whole red chilies
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast thinly sliced and cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 1 cup red bell pepper cut in ½-inch squares
  • 1 cup zucchini cut in half lengthwise and sliced into ½-inch semicircles
  • 2 teaspoons garlic minced
  • 2 teaspoons ginger grated
  • 2 teaspoons sambal oelek
  • ½ cup green onion white part only, cut in ½-inch pieces
  • ½ cup raw or dry roasted peanuts
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes for garnish
  • cup sliced green onion for garnish


  • Stir all the ingredients to together in a bowl, then pour it over the meat.  Toss the chicken pieces until they are well coated in the marinade, then cover then refrigerate for 20 minutes up to overnight.
  • Whisk all the ingredients together, except the cornstarch and water, then set aside.
  • Heat up 1 tablespoon of oil in a large wok over medium-high heat, add the dried red chili peppers and cook until they start to turn black, roughly 15 to 30 seconds.  Remove from the wok and place in a bowl.
  • Heat up 2 tablespoons of oil.  Add the meat (discard the marinade to reduce moisture) and quickly spread it out so it is in one layer.  Allow it to cook for 2 minutes, then flip and cook the other side.  The chicken should be 80% cooked.  Remove from the wok and place in a bowl.
  • Heat up 2 tablespoons of oil, then add the red bell pepper and the zucchini.  Stir fry for 1 ½ to 2 minutes over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.  Remove from the wok and place in a bowl.
  • Add the garlic and ginger and stir constantly until fragrant, roughly 15 seconds, then add the sambal oelek and cook for 15 seconds.  Remove from the wok and place in a bowl with the red chilies.
  • Whisk the cornstarch and water to form a slurry, then mix it into the sauce.  Pour it into the wok and stir until it thickens, roughly a minute.
  • Add the chicken to the wok and stir until each piece is well coated in the sauce.  Add the veggies and the dried whole red chilies, then mix in the sliced green onion and the peanuts.  Stir and cook for 2 minutes, or until the meat is fully cooked (no longer pink in the center).
  • Remove from the heat and stir in 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.
  • Serve wth your favorite Panda Express side dish: super greens, steamed rice, fried rice, or chow mein.  Garnish the Kung Pao chicken with sesame seeds and green onion, if desired.


  • This cooks fast, so have everything ready before you start cooking.
  • Want tender chicken?  Marinade it for at least 20 minutes.
  • Need this less spicy?  Use 1 teaspoon of Sambal oelek for mild, 2 for medium.
  • Skip the chilies from Mexico, use the imported ones from China.
  • Want a Gluten free version?  Use liquid aminos, arrowroot and GF Hoisin sauce.


Serving: 1cup | Calories: 510kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 33g | Fat: 31g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 17g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 73mg | Sodium: 2003mg | Potassium: 884mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 1891IU | Vitamin C: 60mg | Calcium: 59mg | Iron: 2mg