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Copycat Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken

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Delving Deep into the Delight of Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken

An Ode to an Iconic Fast-Food Marvel

In the fast-paced world of fast food, Panda Express has carved out a niche for itself, bringing the intricate flavors of Chinese cuisine to an international audience with aplomb.

Among its diverse menu, the Kung Pao Chicken emerges as a standout, a dish that has garnered a legion of fans for its impeccable balance of spicy, sweet, and umami notes.

This blog post is a deep dive into this culinary gem, tracing its historical roots, dissecting its ingredients, and guiding you through the journey of recreating it within the comfort of your home kitchen.
panda express kung pao chicken on plate with fresh garnish

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Tracing the Roots: The Sichuan Signature to American Favorite

The tale of Kung Pao Chicken begins in the Sichuan province, a region renowned for its love affair with bold spices and piquant flavors.

Originally known as Gong Bao Chicken, this dish was named after a Qing Dynasty official and has since become a symbol of Sichuan cuisine.

Its transition into the Western culinary landscape, particularly through platforms like Panda Express, showcases a fascinating evolution, adapting to suit a global palate while retaining the essence that made it a classic.

fresh ingredients for panda express kung pao chicken

The Symphony of Ingredients

The magic of Kung Pao Chicken lies in its symphony of ingredients. The dish features tender chicken breast as its star, supported by the textural contrast of crunchy peanuts and the fresh, vibrant medley of bell peppers and zucchini.

Panda Express’s iteration of this dish respects these traditional elements while infusing its unique flair, creating a version that’s both comforting and excitingly novel.

The Stir-Fry Saga: A Dance of Heat and Flavor

Central to the allure of Kung Pao Chicken is the art of stir-frying. This cooking technique is not just about quick heat; it’s about the dance of flavors, the preservation of texture, and the melding of ingredients in a way that each bite is a mosaic of tastes.

The journey begins with marination, where the chicken is tenderized and imbued with flavors, followed by vigilant stir-frying that ensures the vegetables remain crisp and the chicken succulent.

Crafting the Culinary Masterpiece: A Step-by-Step Guide

Embarking on the creation of Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken is akin to painting a masterpiece, where each stroke is deliberate, and each color is chosen with intent.

The marination process lays the foundation, with soy sauce and a blend of spices soaking into the chicken, promising depth and complexity. The sauce, a concoction of soy, vinegar, sugar, and a whisper of sesame, waits in the wings, ready to cloak the ingredients in its glossy embrace.

The act of stir-frying then becomes a ballet of movement as chicken and vegetables meet the wok’s fiery breath, only to be united by the sauce in a climax of culinary delight.

The Ensemble: Serving Suggestions for a Feast

To dine on Kung Pao Chicken is to partake in a feast of flavors, and the right accompaniments elevate this experience to new heights. A bed of fluffy, steamed rice or twirls of noodles offers a soothing counterpoint to the dish’s vibrant intensity.

Garnishes of green onions or a sprinkle of extra peanuts not only add a layer of flavor but also an artistic touch that pleases the eye as much as the palate.

Personalizing the Potion: Making It Your Own

The beauty of home cooking lies in the liberty to tailor dishes to one’s liking. Kung Pao Chicken, with its versatile profile, invites experimentation. Spice levels can be dialed up or down, and for those navigating dietary restrictions, the dish offers ample room for substitutions, ensuring that its joy can be savored by all.

A Nod to Nutrition: Crafting a Healthier Version

Indulgence in Kung Pao Chicken need not come with a side of guilt. Simple tweaks, such as opting for low-sodium soy sauce, incorporating an abundance of fresh, crisp vegetables, and choosing lean cuts of chicken, can transform this dish into a healthful yet equally satisfying meal, proving that flavor need not be sacrificed at the altar of nutrition.

The Culinary Expedition Comes Full Circle

In exploring the depths of Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken, we’ve embarked on a journey that transcends mere cooking. It’s a foray into cultural history, an exercise in culinary techniques, and a celebration of personal creativity.

This dish, with its rich backstory and adaptable nature, invites not just consumption but participation. We encourage you to don the chef’s hat, play with flavors, and make this dish a canvas for your culinary expression.

Share your stories, your innovations, and your experiences, for the beauty of cooking lies not just in the flavors but in the stories that emerge from the kitchen.

How to Make Copycat Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken

We offer you an interesting way of cooking chicken with vegetables. This dish has become famous thanks to a well-known fast food chain. This is Panda Express Kung Pao. The chicken is marinated in soy marinade and quickly fried.

The vegetables are cooked over a fast heat and left slightly al dente. The final touch is peanuts or peanut butter, which gives the dish a recognizable flavor. For this recipe it is best to use chicken fillet without skin and bones and vegetables with neutral flavor.

Kung Pao Chicken Ingredients

You’ll Need
1 chicken breast
1/3 cup peanuts
2 brightly colored bell peppers
1/2 zucchini
2 tbsp. chopped green onions
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp. soy or vegetable oil
2 tbsp. sesame paste (can be substituted with peanut butter)
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons of table vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/3 cup broth (chicken broth)
1 dried chili

  1. Embarking on the Marinade Odyssey:

    1 Begin by transforming your chicken fillets into bite-sized morsels of potential.
    diced chicken breast in bowl
    2 Nestle them into a bowl destined for flavor infusion.

    3 With a firm press, liberate the essence of garlic, melding it with the umami-rich embrace of soy sauce.
    sesame paste soy sayce
    This is not merely mixing; it’s the first step in a dance of flavors.

  2. Marinade Meets Chicken: A Flavor Affair:

     Unite the chicken with its marinade, a crucial rendezvous where each piece is cloaked in a promise of taste. Allow them to bask in this aromatic spa for at least a fleeting ten minutes.
    marinating chicken for panda express kung pao chicken
    Meanwhile, in the realm of another bowl, concoct the pouring sauce—a symphony of soy sauce, vinegar’s tang, the whisper of sugar, the warmth of sesame oil, and the binding powers of cornstarch and broth. Stir until the sugar and cornstarch dissolve into oblivion, setting the stage for what’s to come.

  3. The Sizzle of Creation:

     In a skillet anointed with oil, awaken the heat. Introduce minced garlic, bell peppers, and zucchini to the fiery dance floor, sautéing them to a state of tender crispness—a delicate balance where texture meets succulence.

  4. diced zucchini red bell pepper and yellow bell pepper in skillet

  5. Parallel Paths: Chicken’s Transformation:

     As the vegetables revel in their sizzle, bestow the same fiery fate upon the chicken in its own pan. This is where the magic happens, turning raw potential into golden reality.

  6. saute chicken in skillet

  7. A Union of Flavors:

     Now, bring together the chicken and its vegetable companions, setting the stage for a flavor-packed reunion. Sprinkle in the fiery zest of chopped chili and the fresh burst of green onions.
    saute veggies with soy sauce

    It’s time for the sauce to re-enter the narrative, cascading over the ingredients, urging them to a boil—a bubbling cauldron of taste.

  8. saute chicken with veggies in kung pao sauce

  9. The Final Flourish:

    In the microwave, toast the peanuts to a golden hue, a quick three minutes to crunchy perfection.

    peanuts in small bowl
    Introduce them to the mix, where they’ll lend their nutty crunch to the ensemble.

    Simmer everything together as the sauce thickens into a velvety cloak that lovingly coats each ingredient.

  10. Plating the Masterpiece:

    Transfer this culinary wonder onto a serving plate, a vibrant canvas awaiting its final touches. Crown it with a side of fluffy, crumbly rice, a dollop of spicy Chinese sauce, and a garnish of pickled vegetables for that extra kick.

    This isn’t just a meal; it’s a journey through flavors, textures, and the very heart of culinary artistry.

copycat panda express kung pao chicken on plate ready to serve

The Invitation:

Now, the table is set, the aromas wafting through the air—a siren call to the senses. It’s more than just a dish; it’s an experience, a creation born of passion and precision.

Dive in, and let each bite transport you to the bustling streets of Sichuan, to the heart of Panda Express, to the very essence of Kung Pao Chicken. Bon appétit, dear foodies, for you’ve just crafted a masterpiece.
copycat panda express kung pao chicken

Copycat Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken Recipe Print Now

copycat panda express kung pao chicken recipe by budget101
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Kung Pao Chicken Inspired by Panda Express by Melissa 'Liss' Burnell
Dive into the culinary world with a dish inspired by the flavors of a renowned fast-food chain. This recipe brings you a delightful stir-fry chicken and vegetables, enhanced with a touch of peanuts or peanut butter for an authentic taste.
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Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Asian Fusion, Chinese
Servings 4
Calories 376 kcal


  • 2 Large Skillet
  • 1 Knife and Cutting Board


  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1 lb chicken breast (boneless, skinless)
  • 2 Large bell peppers (1 red, 1 yellow)
  • ½ large zucchini
  • 2 tablespoons green onions (finely chopped)
  • cup peanuts
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 2 tablespoons oil (canola or any vegetable oil)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame paste (or peanut butter)
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar (white or apple cider)
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • cup chicken broth
  • 1 dried chili pepper


Cooking Instructions:

  • Cut the chicken breast into bite-sized pieces and place them in a bowl for marinating.
    1 lb chicken breast
  • Crush one garlic clove and blend it with half of the soy sauce. Combine this mixture with the chicken pieces and let them marinate for at least 10 minutes.
    2 cloves garlic
    ¼ cup soy sauce
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, sesame paste, cornstarch, and chicken broth until the sugar and cornstarch are fully dissolved. This will be your sauce for later.
    2 tablespoons vinegar
    ¼ cup soy sauce
    1 tablespoon brown sugar
    1 tablespoon cornstarch
    ⅓ cup chicken broth
    2 tablespoons sesame paste
  • Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. Sauté the remaining minced garlic, bell pepper, and zucchini until they're just tender yet crisp.
    2 Large bell peppers
    2 tablespoons oil
    ½ large zucchini
  • In another pan, cook the marinated chicken until it's thoroughly done.
  • Combine the chicken with the sautéed vegetables. Add the chopped dried chili and green onions. Stir in the prepared sauce and bring everything to a boil.
    1 dried chili pepper
    2 tablespoons green onions
  • Meanwhile, toast the peanuts in the microwave on high for 3 minutes. Add them to the chicken and vegetable mix. Let everything simmer for 5-7 minutes or until the sauce thickens.
    ⅓ cup peanuts
  • Serve the Kung Pao Chicken hot, accompanied by fluffy rice, a selection of spicy Chinese condiments, and pickled vegetables for an authentic dining experience. Enjoy your meal!


2 Large Skillet
knife cutting board
1 Knife and Cutting Board
Recipe Size Alteration Note

If you altered the ingedients above by doubling or tripling the recipe, you may also need to change the pan/dish size and adjust the cooking/baking time.


Serving: 1gCalories: 376kcalCarbohydrates: 17gProtein: 33gFat: 20gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 6gMonounsaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0.04gCholesterol: 73mgSodium: 1838mgPotassium: 909mgFiber: 4gSugar: 8gVitamin A: 2751IUVitamin C: 115mgCalcium: 56mgIron: 3mgNet Carbs: 13g
Tried this recipe?Mention @Budget101com or tag #Budget101com!

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