Kung Pao Chicken is my slow cooker version of a classic Sichuan stir-fry. This popular takeaway (takeout) dish has tender pieces of chicken and sweet peppers in a salty, sweet, and spicy sauce. It’s a family favourite that’s easy to make and fun to eat with its garnish of peanuts, spring onions, and sesame seeds.
Where does Kung Pao Chicken recipe come from?
Kung Pao Chicken is a recipe from the Sichuan province of China. In some restaurants, it is sometimes called Gong Bao Chicken or Kung Po Chicken.
Why cook Kung Pao Chicken in the Slow Cooker?
Kung Pao Chicken is usually a stir-fry dish and it’s very popular as a takeaway (takeout) from Chinese restaurants. There are many recipes for stir-fried Kung Pao Chicken because it is such a popular dish. You can find stir fry recipes at The Woks of Life who have an authentic Chinese recipe. And celebrity chefs like Jamie Oliver and Gok Wan also share their own recipes for stir-fry Kung Pao Chicken.
I love a stir fry but I don’t always want to be chopping and cooking just before my meal is served. I adapted this recipe for the Slow Cooker so that I can prepare the ingredients ahead then let the slow cooker do its thing. This means I only have the rice to cook before serving.
I don’t claim that my recipe for Kung Pao Chicken is 100% authentic. However, it has all the ingredients of the original and the slow cooking really brings out the flavours that you expect from this family favourite takeaway dish.
What kind of chicken should I use for Kung Pao Chicken in the Slow Cooker?
Use chicken thigh meat for this recipe. Chicken thighs have more fat in them and fat means flavour! Chicken thigh meat is also more robust and stands up to slow cooking better. Because there is less fat in it, chicken breast can become tough and stringy when it is cooked for a long time.
I buy skinless, boneless chicken thigh meat for Kung Pao Chicken but you can also buy regular chicken thighs. Just remove the skin and bones from them and chop into bite-sized pieces.
What are the ingredients for Kung Pao Chicken?
The key ingredients for this recipe are:
- Chicken thigh meat
- Cornflour (cornstarch)
- Shaoxing Wine
- Light soy sauce
- Vegetable oil
- Sweet (Bell) pepper
- Sichuan Peppercorns
- Rice Wine Vinegar
- Brown sugar
- Spring onions
- Sesame Seeds
This may look like a long list of ingredients, but you will probably already have most of them in your cupboard or fridge and the more specialist ingredients are easily available either at your supermarket, Chinese Specialty store, or online.
What is Shaoxing Wine?
Shaoxing is a Chinese cooking wine that is made from rice specifically for cooking. It comes from the city of Shaoxing which is famous for it’s rice wine and it is an ingredient that is well worth keeping in your larder along with soy sauce.
What can I substitute for Shaoxing wine?
If you have difficulty finding Shaoxing wine then you can use the following as substitues:
- Dry Sherry
- Mirin (Japanese cooking wine)
- Cooking Sake (Japanese rice wine)
What is light soy sauce?
Light soy sauce is light brown in colour but it is full of flavour and saltier than dark soy sauce. Light soy sauce is one most used in cooking Chinese recipes and is a great store cupboard ingredient. Dark soy sauce is aged longer and is thicker than light soy. It is good as a dipping sauce and also as an ingredient in stews.
What are Sichuan peppercorns?
The Sichuan peppercorn is a spice that is made from the husks of the seeds of the prickly ash tree. The spice contains a chemical called hydroxy-alpha sanshool which numbs the mouth and provides some heat to the dish. This might sound rather scary, but it’s not as hot as most chilli peppers and only a little is needed in the recipe.
What can I substitute for Sichuan peppercorns?
I really recommend that you buy some Sichuan peppercorns as they bring authentic spicing to the recipe. However, if you are not able to access them, then use freshly ground black pepper.
What is rice wine vinegar?
Rice wine vinegar is a fermented vinegar which is less acidic and has a mild, sweet flavour. It’s another useful conditment to have in your larder for Asian cooking.
What can I substitute for rice wine vinegar?
- Sherry vinegar
- Cider vinegar
- White wine vinegar
Can I freeze Kung Pao Chicken?
Yes, you can freeze this dish. Follow the instructions and cook for 3 hours, do not add the chopped sweet (bell) peppers. Cool the chicken and sauce and put it into a container to freeze. When you want to use the chicken, defrost overnight in the refrigerator, reheat on the hob or in the oven, add the peppers and cook for a further 30 minutes on medium heat.
Can I make a meat-free Kung Pao?
Simply replace the chicken with either a chicken substitute such as Quorn or textured vegetable protein. As this is not as robust as chicken thighs, cook in the sauce for 2 hours on LOW before adding the peppers and cooking for a further hour. You can also use firm tofu instead of chicken to make a meat-free Kung Pao however, tofu works best in a stir fry style recipe as it is likely to disintegrate in the slow cooker.
How do I serve Kung Pao Chicken?
Serve the Kung Pao Chicken with plain boiled rice. Use a rice cooker if you have one because that makes perfect rice every time. However, if you don’t have a rice cooker and you have difficulty achieving nice fluffy white rice, then this is the method that works for me:
- Measure your rice by volume e.g in a mug, a measuring cup, or a measuring jug.
- Rinse the rice well in lots of clean water, drain, and put it into a saucepan.
- Add twice the volume of cold water to the rice and add salt.
- Bring the water to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and put the lid on the pan. Leave for another 5-6 minutes.
- The rice will absorb the water and be fully cooked.
- Separate the rice grains with a fork and serve.
Garnish your Kung Pao Chicken with roughly chopped salted peanuts, sliced spring (green) onions and a sprinkling of sesame seeds.
If you like this recipe then try these:
- Slow Cooker Teriyaki Chicken – Curly’s Cooking
- Pork Tenderloin Stir-fry with Peanuts – Lost in Food
- Crispy Tofu Teriyaki (Vegan) – Feast Glorious Feast
Kung Pao Chicken (Slow Cooker)
- Slow Cooker
- large frying pan or saute pan
- Measuring spoons
- Sharp knife
- chopping board
- garlic crusher
- medium bowl
- 500 g boneless skinned chicken thighs
- 2 tbsp Shaoxing wine
- 2 tsp cornflour
- 4 tbsp light soy sauce
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 yellow pepper
- 1 red pepper
- 1 medium red onion roughly chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic crushed
- 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
- 1 medium red chilli seeded and finely chopped
- ½ tsp Sichuan peppercorns crushed
- 1 ½ tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp soft light brown sugar
- 50 g salted peanuts roughly chopped
- 2 spring onions
- ½ teaspoon sesame seeds
- Cut the boneless chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces.
- Combine the Shaoxing wine, cornflour and 2 tbsp light soy sauce in a bowl or container. Add the chicken and coat it well in the mixture.
- Cover the container and put it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to marinate. You can leave it overnight it that is more convenient.
- Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large frying pan. If you have a Sear and Stew Slow Cooker with a metal pot then you can use that to fry off the chicken directly on the hob.
- Fry the chicken in batches until golden brown, transfer the chicken to a plate.
- Turn down the heat a little, and add the remaining tbsp of oil. Saute the onion, until it is soft and transparent.
- Add the garlic, ginger and the chilli and cook for a couple of minutes.
- Return the chicken to the pan and stir to combine.
- Transfer all the ingredients to your slow cooker pot and add two tbsp light soy sauce, rice vinegar and stir together.
- Cook on HIGH for 3 hours.
- After 3 hours, add the chopped peppers and cook for 1 hour on LOW.
- Serve with rice, and top with sliced spring onions, chopped peanuts and sesame seeds.