Straight-Up Honky Kung Pao Chicken

For this kung pao chicken post, we’re going to pretend I never lived in China. What you’re about to witness is west-coast, quick, weeknight kung pao chicken. There isn’t much authentic happening here. If we were hanging in Mainland China together and we ordered kung pao chicken it would be a completely different experience. We’re talking Sichuan peppercorns that numb your tongue. It’s intoxicating. We would drink lots of Yanjing beer and make our way home late night in a smelly taxi with the windows rolled down whether it was 100 degrees F and 100% humidity or snowing outside. The. Smell. Is. That. Bad.

But we don’t have time to scout out ingredients this week. Am I right? I’m way too busy to go find myself some Sichuan peppercorns and dried chili peppers. I feel that you’re agreeing with me? We just want something yummy and quick at the end of a long workday. However just talking about those peppers and chilis is making me want some. I’ll do an authentic kung pao in another post. Because now I’m craving it.

Most of these ingredients are already in your cupboard. If not, get them. You’ll be able to throw stir fry and fried rice together like a boss. Let’s do this.

Quick Notes

  • Make Ahead: The night before you could cut your chicken and dice your veggies and place them separately and sealed in the fridge. The marinade and the sauce can also be made ahead and refrigerated. I wouldn’t, however, put the chicken in the marinade the night before. Wait until you’re ready to make dinner.
  • Serve With: Rice. I usually mix half brown and half white rice together. It makes me feel better than giving my kids all-white rice. This is also delish with some quick-sauteed spinach and garlic. Throw a small dash of sesame oil on top and boom. You’re done.
  • Variations. If you’re feeling ambitious and want a more authentic experience then add 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns and about 5-10 (depending on desired heat) dried red chilies (deseeded). If you’re adding all this heat, you’ll want to omit the Chili Garlic Paste. Also, if you’re feeding kids you would want to cut back on the above. Start barebones and then see how they react to the heat.
  • Make it Sophisticated: Get some Yanjing beer…and if you can’t find that, go for some Tsingtao (pronounced Ching-Dow)…it’s easier to find.
  • Before You Start: Here’s your rule-of-thumb when cooking Chinese food: have everything prepped before you start because cook time will go by fast. As soon as you get home, crack open a beer. Then, throw the chicken in the marinade. Make your way to your bedroom and put on some soft clothes…I can’t wait to change into comfy clothes when I get home. Take your beer with you. Come back and chop everything up and mix up your sauce. You’re going to be eating in 10. This is exciting.

{ straight-up honky kung pao chicken } DisplacedHousewife

{ straight-up honky kung pao chicken }


Makes 4 Servings Kung Pao Chicken

For the Marinade:

  • 1 pound chicken breast, chopped into bite-sized pieces. Make sure everything is roughly the same size so that it will cook evenly.
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon black vinegar or balsamic vinegar or rice vinegar (go with what you have)
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch

For the Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons chili garlic paste (or more depending on how hot you want it)

Remaining Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil (something mild flavored)
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated or minced
  • 3 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated or minced
  • 1 cup green onions, white and green parts chopped, plus 2 tablespoons more to garnish
  • 1/2 cup peanuts, plus two tablespoons more for garnish
  • 3-4 cups cooked rice


  1. Put your rice on. Crack open a beer.
  2. Chop up your chicken and set in a bowl.
  3. Whisk together your marinade (1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 teaspoon black vinegar and 1 teaspoon corn starch) and toss all over the chicken making sure everything is coated. Set aside.
  4. Go put some sweats on and continue drinking that beer. You deserve it. Was it a long day? Don’t worry, we’re almost toes-up and watching The Good Wife.
  5. Back in the kitchen grab another bowl, whisk together your sauce, Hoisin sauce through the chili garlic paste.
  6. You can either chop up your garlic and ginger or use a microplane. I prefer the microplane because it’s easy and you can do it right into your pan.
  7. Put a large skillet over medium-high heat and add your 1 tablespoon of oil. Let it get shimmery and hot and swirl it around the pan.
  8. Zest in your garlic and ginger. Add some of the green onions…maybe 1/4 a cup. It already smells delicious, doesn’t it? Push these around the pan for about 30 seconds.
  9. Throw your chicken in the pan and swish it around with garlic, ginger and onions. When it’s starting to look almost cooked (should take a couple-three minutes), throw in your marinade, remaining green onions and peanuts (minus what you’re reserving to garnish with).
  10. Within a minute the sauce should have thickened. If not, kick the heat up a notch. Don’t walk away. This needs you right now and it’s almost done. Take a swig of beer. As soon as it’s thickened, you’re done.
  11. Mound some rice in a bowl. Scoop a cup of kung pao chicken on top. Sprinkle with your green onion and peanut garnish. Done. Hope you love.

{ on my mind }

  • I referenced black vinegar above. It’s Chinese black vinegar and it’s sublime. In Beijing you dip your jiaozi (dumplings) in black vinegar and not soy sauce. If you can get some, do. It’s heavenly.
  • Rice cookers. I don’t know how I ever lived without one. Invest. Get a big one that way you’ll have leftover rice for fried rice. I’m all about the two meals from one approach. Aren’t you?
  • I’m still obsessing over Milk Bar. If you follow my Instagram you’ll see I went Insta-crazy (I’m creating more words today) over the weekend creating crack-crumbs. The marshmallows that they put in their cookies inspired me. I’ve saved the graham cracker crack that I made this weekend and I’m going to create a S’more Cookie. This is definitely happening. Maybe today.
  • I love Bill Maher. He’s hilarious. Do you watch his show? He executive produces another show called Vice and I’m obsessed with it. They just started a new season on HBO and I highly recommend you DVR it. The season opener on cancer was amazing. AMAZING. This is stuff we should know about. I have the episodes on Ferguson and Global Warming cued up. Watch it. Let’s talk.
  • Be a boss today. Own it. If you’re having a hard time finding the boss in you, listen to Jay Z’s Big Pimpin’. You’ll get there.  You can do this. You’re amazing. Happy Monday. xx

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  • Christine C. 2020/01/10 at 2:47 AM

    Quite an old post I’m commenting on, but did you ever post that authentic recipe for kung pao?

    • Rebecca Firth 2020/01/13 at 2:32 PM

      Hi Christine! I have not posted an authentic recipe. I would go check out Omnivore’s Cookbook for that — I love her recipes!! xo

  • Cassie 2016/05/15 at 9:23 PM

    I LOVE kung pao chicken–it tastes SO good. I had to tweet this recipe!

  • Jessica | A Happy Food Dance 2015/03/20 at 3:18 PM

    Hell Yes! for this honkey chicken :) And to the weekend! Love that your daughter likes the Beastie Boys and I am a total Bill Maher fan, so does my staunch democrat, yet very religious, Grandma. That will never make sense to me!

    • DisplacedHousewife 2015/03/20 at 9:47 PM

      I bet your grandma likes him because he’s so frank and not politically correct. Which I love!! Have a happy weekend Jessica!! xx

  • Beau Ciolino 2015/03/19 at 4:09 AM

    The name of this post is enough to make me love it! Sometimes you just need that totally not authentic Chinese food in your life and at least this one is made with decent ingredients, unlike most Chinese take out near me. Also, sounds like you had a fun smelly time in China!

    • DisplacedHousewife 2015/03/19 at 4:51 AM

      Hi Beau — I can tear it up in the best of Asian cities…they’re my peeps. And I love me some white trash Chinese…at least I can admit when I’m fakin’ it! xx

  • stacy 2015/03/16 at 9:18 PM

    This looks so great. I am going to attempt this on my own for the kids.

    • DisplacedHousewife 2015/03/16 at 9:29 PM

      Thanks Stacy — It’s really so good…and quick…and easy…and pretty healthy (unless you have sodium issues…soy sauce is not so buena for that). My kids love it and I hope yours do too!! Happy Monday! xx


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