Healthy Kung Pao Chicken

Healthy Kung Pao Chicken is full of all the flavor of the classic Chinese take-out dish, tastes amazing, and is a meal you can feel good about feeding your family. 

After a crazy weekend, I had absolutely no desire to cook and was seriously craving Chinese takeout. But since we have been trying to eat at home more often, I decided to recreate one of my favorite dishes, Kung Pao Chicken, at home. And after a few attempts, I finally came up with a version that not only tastes amazing but clocks in at just 300 calories and is about ten times easier than the original dish.

The spicy and sweet sauce is really the key to this dish. I like mine with lots of Sriracha and black pepper with just a touch of sweetness from the honey to balance out the sauce. When it comes to veggies, almost anything works. I love the crunch of celery and red pepper but I have made it with broccoli, green beans, cabbage, and bok choy as well and its delish. And if you are addicted to the Panda Express version, you could dice everything up really small and add zucchini. Serve it with some brown rice, cauliflower rice, wrapped up in big lettuce leaves, or with this copycat Chow Mein.

Healthy Kung Pao Chicken with brown rice in a wooden bowl.

Here are some tips and tricks for making this healthy Kung Pao Chicken:

  • The level of spiciness in this dish is really up to you and it can be as mild or as spicy as you like. I recommend starting with a small amount of Sriracha and adding more as you go. You can always add more when the dish is finished or people can add their own. The same goes for the black pepper, start small and adjust up.
  • If you prefer dark meat, boneless skinless chicken thighs are a great option in this recipe. And for vegetarians, tofu works really well too.
  • Too much sodium? Replace the soy sauce with coconut aminos instead. They have about 65% less sodium that traditional soy sauce.
  • When it comes time to serve this dish, I usually serve it piled high on a bowl of steamed brown rice or cauliflower rice with a side of steamed veggies. Broccoli is the obvious choice but bok choy, sugar snap peas, and green beans are all delish.

What is Kung Pao sauce?

Kung pao, also known as Gong Bao or Kung Po, is a Sichuan dish that is known for being sweet and spicy at the same time. It is traditionally made with soy sauce, sugar, dark Chinese vinegar, Sichuan peppercorns, and dried red chilies. However this version is made with all the same flavors but easier ingredients you are more likely to find in your home or local grocery store. It isn’t an authentic Kung Pao chicken but is definitely delicious.

Is this similar to Panda Express or PF Changs Kung Pao Chicken?

The two most popular versions of this chicken dish are served at Panda Express and PF Changs. Both versions are going to be higher in calories than this healthier option due to the coating on the chicken. If you want a similar coating, you want to lightly dredge the chicken in cornstarch and then dip it into an egg wash before cooking it. Then lightly fry it in a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil. Both versions also use dried red chilies, which can be used in place of the Sriracha. Additionally, for a version more like the Panda Express option, add zucchini instead of celery. 

Easy Kung Pao Chicken in a bowl with peanuts and green onions.

Is this the same as General Tso’s Chicken?

Many people confuse Kung Pao and General Tso’s, which is understandable because the dishes are actually quite similar both using a sweet and spicy soy sauce based sauce. The main difference is that General Tso’s chicken is deep fried whereas Kung Pao is stir-fried and usually topped with peanuts. 

Looking for more Asian takeout at home?

This recipe was originally shared in 2016 but has been updated with a video, tips and tricks, and new photos.

Calories 303, Total Fat 11g, Total Carbohydrate 11g, Protein 36g, Serving Size 1 cup

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