Kung Pao is a standard on any Chinese menu, and while we enjoy the occasional take-out as much as anyone does, it is always healthier when we control the ingredients. Another great reason to make Kung Pao at home is the freedom to adjust the spice to your own preference. I would classify this recipe in the medium-heat category, so if you like mouth-numbing, spicy heat, just add more of the chilies.
Over the years, my good friend and cooking buddy Pati, and I refined this dish together. We forgo dried red chilies or chili paste, instead use chipotle chilies en adobo to bring the heat and add complexity of flavor. Chipotle chilies in adobo is a common ingredient in Mexican cuisine, which brings a unique smoky-spicy flavor to this classic Chinese dish—think of it as a small step toward fusion cooking for the home cook.
I have posted the recipe with gluten-free options, as well as instructions for monthly cooking, so next time you think of Kung Pao for take-out, you can just take it out of the freezer!
To make this dish gluten-free, look for the following:
Soy Sauce brands that are Gluten-Free
Rachael Ray’s Stock-In-A-Box
Bob’s Red Mill, All Natural Cornstarch
La Costena Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce
Kung Pao Chicken
4 boneless and skinless chicken breasts — cut into small 1/2 inch pieces
2 tablespoons peanut or coconut oil
1 bunch green onions — white bulbs chopped; green tops cut separately into 1/4-inch pieces, saved for garnish
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
2 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoon dry sherry
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/3 cup chicken stock
4 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon dry sherry
2 teaspoon white wine vinegar or rice vinegar
2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/3 cup honey
3 tablespoons chilies in adobo sauce — removed from sauce, chopped
2 teaspoons garlic — minced
2 teaspoons cornstarch
In a medium bowl, toss the chicken with marinade; set aside.
In a saucepan, combine the sauce ingredients, except the cornstarch and mix well over med-low heat. Bring to a low simmer and allow flavors to meld, about 8-10 minutes. Adjust any of the ingredients, to taste. Dissolve cornstarch in a bit of water or chicken broth and add to the sauce. Cook over med heat until sauce thickens, then remove from heat.
Heat oil in a large skillet or wok; add the white part of the onions to the pan and cook, stirring, until softened. Add the chicken with its marinade and cook, stirring, until almost done, 2-3 minutes. Add the sauce and stir to allow the sauce to coat the chicken. Stir in the peanuts and scallion tops.
Serve over brown rice and diced, stir-fry vegetables.
STIR-FRY VEGETABLES: (Optional – as shown in photo)
2 tablespoons oil
1 cup celery — coarsely chopped
1 red bell pepper — coarsely chopped
1 cup napa cabbage or bok choy — sliced thin
2 teaspoons fresh ginger — grated or minced
salt & pepper
**Substitute any favorite vegetable in this stir-fry.
Heat oil in a large skillet or wok, add ginger and cook until fragrant. Add prepared vegetables, and cook until crisp-tender. Salt and pepper to taste and reserve in warm oven until ready to serve.
Monthly Cooking Instructions:
STEPS ON COOKING DAY:
In a medium bowl, toss the chicken with marinade; set aside. In a saucepan, combine the sauce ingredients (excluding the cornstarch) and mix well over med-low heat to meld flavors. Adjust to taste and set aside to cool.
Heat oil and add the white part of the scallions to the pan and cook, stirring, until softened. Add the chicken with its marinade and cook, stirring, until almost done, 2-3 minutes. In order to keep the chicken tender, not tough, be sure to not over cook it in this step. Add the sauce and set aside to cool.
Once cooled completely, pour into a freezer bag, remove as much air as possible, and freeze flat. If frozen flat, it takes less time to defrost.
Note: The cornstarch is omitted from the sauce when originally prepared because it will lose its thickening properties in the freezer. Instead, it is added during the finishing steps.
STEPS TO FINISH THE MEAL:
Defrost chicken and sauce mixture. In a large skillet, heat chicken and sauce; add 2 teaspoons cornstarch and cook on med heat until warmed through and sauce thickens. Stir in the peanuts and scallion tops. Serve over brown rice and stir-fry vegetables.
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