How to make the Chinese take-out classic, Kung Pao Chicken, in this easy one-pan oven recipe!
Lately I’ve really started to get into using my oven. I love that cooking anything in the oven does not require active time. I just dump it in the oven, use the waiting time to clean up, take a shower, contemplate life choices, and by the time I’m done, dinner is ready.
I decide to try making Kung Pao chicken in the oven, and am more than pleased with the results. Kung Pao chicken is all about the sauce for me, and I made mine extra saucy in this baked version.
The cooking time might be longer, but the actual active time and effort to cook is significantly lesser. I also appreciated how much less pans and dishes that needed to be washed up. In the video, I used a separate bowl to marinade the chicken, but you can definitely do that in the same baking pan.
Baking vs Stir Frying
I made a Kung Pao stir fry before – and I’ve also modified that recipe to be easy – and I still much prefer this version. As I’ve mentioned, Kung Pao chicken is all about the sauce for me! I did not miss the stir frying method at all.
In terms of taste, there is a slight difference. The conventional wok-fried Kung Pao Chicken has the texture of fried chicken, versus the sort of braised texture of the baked chicken. On the flip side, you use much zero oil to bake it, hence making this a considerably healthier option.
Stir fried Kung Pao Chicken also has a more roasted flavour from the dried chillies. Baking does impart some of that roasted flavour into the sauce though, just not as strong.
Kung Pao Sauce
Chicken Stock: Chicken stock adds so much flavour to the dish, as well as bulks up that sauce. Authentic Chinese recipes would use Shaoxing wine, or Hua Tiao Chiew. Since I do not cook with alcohol, chicken stock is a good alternative.
I used my homemade, unsalted chicken stock. Feel free to use instead chicken bouillon stock cubes. Do take note of salt levels, as bouillon stock cubes have added salt. Either dilute the saltiness with more water, or use just 1 tbsp of light soy sauce.
Hoisin Sauce: I used Hoisin sauce this time, although I’ve always just used Oyster Sauce. I find most hoisin sauces too sweet for my tastes. While oyster sauce do not quite taste the same as hoisin, it adds that umami-ness without all the added sugar.
Rice Vinegar: Chinese rice vinegar are different from regular vinegar, and cannot be interchanged as is. Apple Cider Vinegar is a good alternative. Rice vinegar is sweeter, than just the straight up sharpness of vinegar. If you do not have this, simply skip. You can also add more sugar, but it’s not quite the same.
Type of Chicken
I used boneless chicken thighs, cubed into bite sized pieces. Thighs work great in ovens as they do not dry out.
That said, you can most certainly use chicken breasts. I’ve attempted this with chicken breasts at the same settings and it was still moist but cooked through. Stick to the 25-minute recommended time.
Want to use bone-in chicken? Not a problem. Make sure you adjust the oven time accordingly. Bone-in chicken will need to cook for much longer. Bone-in chicken thighs for example, will need to bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Use a meat thermometer and check that the internal temperature at the thickest portion hits 74 deg C or 165 deg F.
My oven settings at 200 deg C or 400 deg F for 25 minutes, cooked the chicken pieces fully. My total cook time was 30 minutes, the last 5 minutes was to incorporate the spring onions with the sauce.
Can you use an air fryer for this? Of course! Air fryers are essentially mini ovens. Stick to oven settings of 200 deg C for 25 minutes as well.
Adding Spice: Dried Chillies
I added dried chillies right at the beginning and let it bake with the chicken. If you can be bothered, roast the dried chillies separately, or dry toast in a pan to release more of the flavour.
Tossing it right at the beginning still imparted that roasted flavour, albeit not as strong.
To add even more heat, I added chilli flakes.
If you have ground sichuan peppercorns, that would be even better. To prepare whole sichuan peppercorns, simply dry toast over low heat until it smells fragrant. There should also be some oil secreted. Then simply the peppercorns in a pestle and mortar to a powder.
This is typically served with rice, and a side of stir fried vegetables. If you want to go the additional step of laziness, add vegetables to the pan too!
My first attempt of making this, I added carrots, cauliflower and broccoli. They cooked well with the chicken in the pan. The broccoli absorbed some of the sauce too, resulting in some especially juicy, kung pao bites!
Watch How to make Oven Baked Kung Pao Chicken
Oven Baked Kung Pao ChickenCourse: Eats, Recipes
500g boneless chicken thighs, sliced into bite sized pieces
6-8 dried chillies, chopped and deseeded
1 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
4-5 stalks of spring onions
1 tbsp roasted peanuts (I used cashew nuts)
- Kung Pao Sauce
1/2 cup unsalted chicken stock
2 tbsps light soy sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tsp ginger, minced
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
- In a bowl, combine the ingredients for the Kung Pao sauce.
- Marinade the chicken with 2 tbsps of the Kung Pao sauce for about 15 minutes or so. You can do this in the baking pan. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200 deg C or 400 deg F.
- Spread the marinated chicken on the baking pan and pour over the rest of the kung pao sauce.
- Slice and deseed dried chillies and add to the pan. Option to also add chilli flakes for extra heat. Stir through evenly.
- Bake in the oven for 25 minutes.
- At the 25-minute mark, take the pan out. Sauce should thicken, and chicken is cooked through. Add sliced spring onions and roasted nuts and evenly stir through. Pop back into the oven for another 5 minutes.
- Take pan out, and let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Best served with rice.