Recipe for the World's Best Kung Pao Chicken & Shrimp

When it comes to easy and beloved Chinese food dishes, Kung Pao absolutely cannot be beat. It’s chock full of bold and spicy flavors, and you can make it at home as long as you have the right things in your pantry. It employs some of the best spices and cooking styles of Chinese foods and can be adapted to feature your favorite ingredients. 

When it comes to making Chinese food dishes, embracing spicy and exciting flavors, and mixing and matching great plates, Fly By Jing is here to help. We carry both the ingredients you love and the recipes that bring those great flavors to life. Begin creating your own version of Kung Pao at home today. 

What Is Kung Pao?

Kung Pao is a great dish for spice lovers! Like many recipes from the Sichuan region, it employs the use of bold and hot spices to get those iconic flavors that make it so delicious. The Sichuan region is a humid area of the country, which means that peppers and chilis grow easily, particularly spicy peppers like the Sichuan pepper, tribute pepper, and Erjingtiao chilis, and all those great flavors come through strong in Kung Pao dishes. 

You can make Kung Pao with all of your favorite meat products, like chicken, beef, and shrimp. Each one has its own unique mark, and you’ll be able to adjust the dishes to fit both your favorite flavor profile and your dietary needs. 

Many of the most popular Chinese food dishes are cooked as a stir-fry dish, and Kung Pao is one of them. After cooking with all of your favorite ingredients, you’ll then serve the dish over rice. 

History of Kung Pao

Kung Pao is one of the most popular dishes to represent the Chinese-American immigrant experience, but it does have its origins in China. The history of the dish dates back to the 19th-century in the Guizhou province of China. 

According to the story, a young man named Ding Baozhen fell into the water and nearly drowned, not knowing how to swim. He was saved by a local and went on to become a governor in the Sichuan region. He later returned to the family who saved him to give his thanks and was served a dish made of chicken, peanuts, and red peppers, which he took an immediate liking to. He brought it back to the Sichuan region and ate it regularly, and the dish was eventually named for him. 

Kung Pao can be attributed to Ding Baozhen for several reasons, but one of the most widely believed stories behind the name is that Kung Pao, which comes from Gong Bao, translates to a version of “palace defender” or “officer who tutors the crown prince.” Due to his successful and well-loved service as governor, Ding Baozhen was awarded the name posthumously, and his favorite dish took on his name. 

Up until the early 2000s, Sichuan peppers were banned from import into the United States. Because the dish so heavily relies on the powerful kick from Sichuan peppers and peppercorn, it had to evolve to become the American-Chinese food staple that it is today. Now, there are several versions of the dish, both the original, replete with hot flavors, and the Chinese-American version, which is slightly sweeter. Thanks to the lifted import ban on Sichuan ingredients, you can try out both dishes yourself. 

How to Make Kung Pao

Kung Pao is probably one of the most famous flavor profiles in Sichuan cuisine. It is characterized by a nice balance of spicy, savory, sour, and sweet. The sauce is versatile and can be applied to many canvases, most famously on chicken, but you can add it to anything, including venison, pastrami, and tofu, for a vegetarian version. The tiger shrimp recipe is an excellent option because it’s so quick to make. 


Like all of your favorite Chinese food dishes, the proper ingredients are essential to getting those flavors you love. Here’s what you’ll need to pick up to make Kung Pao at home. 

For the Shrimp 

1 Pound of De-Shelled Shrimp With the Tail On: The shrimp are at the heart of this meal, so make sure you pick up high-quality seafood. If you’re working from frozen shrimp, allow them to thaw before you begin cooking. If you’re looking to make this a chicken dish, substitute out chicken breast cut into ¾”-1-inch cubes. 

½ Onion: Prepare your onion by cutting it into 1-inch square pieces. 

1 Green Pepper: Prepare your pepper by cutting it into 1-inch square pieces. 

Roasted Nuts: In the original version of this dish, the recipe calls for peanuts, but many modern versions have substituted cashews for another unique flavor. You can either roast the nuts yourself in the wok or purchase pre-roasted nuts. You’ll want to use about a cup for this dish. 

3-5 Pieces of Dried Chili: You can adjust how hot you make your dish at this stage by adding or subtracting chilis, but you’ll want to use a hot chili for this dish, like dried bird’s eye. Not only are they very hot, but they offer a subtly fruity flavor that balances well with many meals. 

1 Teaspoon Sichuan Pepper: This is another chance to adjust your heat level, but the Sichuan pepper is part of what makes the Kung Pao dish so iconic. 

1 Tablespoon Minced Garlic: The garlic adds not only an important flavor boost, but also contributes to the great texture of this meal, as well. 

1 Tablespoon Minced Ginger: Many great Chinese food dishes employ ginger as a main or supporting flavor, so it’s always good to have some in the house. 

2 Scallions: Thinly slice your scallions and separate your greens from your whites. 

For the Sauce: 

2 Tablespoons Chicken Stock: A splash of chicken stock will add a nice viscosity to your sauce. You can use vegetable chicken stock if you’re looking to make the dish pescatarian. 

2 Tablespoons Light Soy Sauce: Soy sauce is another pantry staple that delivers on all the best Chinese food flavors.

2 Tablespoons Vinegar:  The vinegar helps to balance out some of the sweetness of the dish.

2 Tablespoons Sugar: Kung Pao dishes are traditionally sweet and spicy, thanks to the peppers and this dash of sugar. 

2 Teaspoons Cornstarch: The cornstarch is a thickening agent that will help to get that perfect sauce viscosity. Use a little at a time until you get the thickness you prefer. 

2 Teaspoons Sesame Oil: Sesame oil adds a hint of toasted sesame seasoning to round out your Kung Pao sauce. 


Step One: Mix together sauce components in a small bowl and set aside. Adjust to match your preferred heat level. 

Step Two: Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok until smoking. Drop dried chilis and Sichuan pepper into the wok and fry quickly, so they don’t burn. Depending on how hot your chilis are, your lungs might fill with smoke, so try not to take any deep breaths. Definitely keep the exhaust fan on and windows open.

Step Three: Add minced garlic and ginger and fry until fragrant. 

Step Four: Drop shrimp into wok and flash fry for about 3 minutes until they begin to turn pink.

Step Five: Add sauce and combine with shrimp, about 1 minute.

Step Six: Add onions and green peppers, frying very briefly, so they are just barely cooked through and still firm, not soggy. Add scallion whites and roasted nuts last, barely folding them into the sauce. 

Step Seven: The sauce will thicken as soon as it hits the heat, so move quickly and transfer to a serving platter as soon as the vegetables are done.  

Step Eight: Garnish with edible flowers if you want to get fancy. Serve immediately with white rice. 

In Summary

There’s a reason that Kung Pao chicken and Kung Pao shrimp are two of the most popular Chinese food dishes. They take inspiration from classic Chinese cooking and have evolved into something unique and special all their own, chock full of spicy, sweet, and savory flavors that mix well with chicken, shrimp, and all of your favorite meat options. 

And you can make this delicious recipe at home with a few simple steps and basic ingredients. Swap out your shrimp or chicken and adjust the heat level to match your palate. Explore our pantry of spices and oils here at Fly By Jing and begin cooking up your own dish of Kung Pao chicken to share with friends and family today. 


Kung Pao Chicken: An Authentic Chinese Recipe | The Woks of Life

Everything You Wanted To Know About Kung Pao Chicken | Chili Houses

What Are Bird's Eye Chiles? | The Spruce Eats