Skip the Chinese restaurant carryout and prepare an easier, lighter version of your favorite dish! This Dump-and-Bake Kung Pao Chicken requires just 10 minutes of prep for an easy dinner recipe that the whole family can enjoy.
That's right -- you can make a baked version of Kung Pao Chicken with minimal effort! Your family will be impressed, and nobody will need to know how simple it really was! Your secret is safe with me...
Ever since I shared my dump-and-bake version of General Tso Chicken a few months ago, I have continued to receive rave reviews from readers who have tried it at home. With that positive response, I figured that you might also appreciate a dump-and-bake version of a similar Chinese restaurant classic!
Is Kung Pao Chicken the same as General Tso Chicken?
No, it's not. But they're similar! Here are a few of the major differences between the two dishes:
- General Tso Chicken is typically dark meat that has been deep-fried and coated in a sweet and spicy sauce. By contrast, Kung Pao Chicken uses leaner white meat, which is stir-fried.
- While General Tso Chicken may have some spice to it, it's not nearly as spicy as Kung Pao Chicken (which often includes spicy dried Asian chili peppers).
- Kung Pao Chicken includes a lot of peanuts in the dish, while General Tso Chicken may (or may not) include any peanuts at all.
There are more subtle differences in the sauces and flavors of the two meals, which leads me to the next question that you might be wondering...
What ingredients are in Kung Pao Chicken and what does Kung Pao sauce taste like?
Kung Pao Chicken typically includes diced chicken breasts that are stir-fried and coated with a sweet and spicy sauce. The Kung Pao sauce is often made with soy sauce, chicken broth, garlic, ginger, sugar, sesame oil, and cornstarch.
It has a nicely balanced sweet-and-sour taste, with a definite spicy PUNCH from the Asian chili peppers.
Some versions of Kung Pao Chicken also include orange juice or orange zest, which adds fresh flavor in the background.
Not sure how to zest an orange?
Orange zest is the top layer of an orange's peel. When you're zesting an orange, you want to be sure that you only peel off that top layer and not the white pith underneath (which has a bitter taste). The orange zest includes the fruit's essential oils, which give a recipe a powerful hit of orange flavor (far more flavor than you would get with an equal amount of orange juice -- and the zest won't water-down your sauce).
I like to use my microplane to quickly zest an orange in about 30 seconds. It's such a great kitchen tool (I also use it to grate hard cheeses like Parmesan, as well as onions, garlic, and ginger).
The orange zest is whisked together with the rest of the ingredients to form your Kung Pao Chicken sauce!
Once the sauce is ready to go, you'll simply toss it with chicken that has been coated in cornstarch.
It bakes in the oven for about 30 minutes, and the end result is this perfectly moist and tender baked chicken dish that rivals your favorite Chinese food takeout!
I like to stir in plenty of dry-roasted peanuts and garnish the Kung Pao Chicken with sliced green onion.
Serve it over rice (or over cauliflower rice), along with a side of steamed broccoli, for a complete restaurant-quality meal in a matter of minutes!
Dump-and-Bake Kung Pao Chicken
- 2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- ½ cup chicken broth
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup hoisin sauce
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 teaspoons finely minced fresh garlic (I like to use a squeeze bottle of minced garlic from the produce section as a shortcut)
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (add more for a spicier dish or omit for a mild dish)
- ½ cup dry-roasted peanuts
- Optional garnish: sliced green onions
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Spray a medium baking dish with cooking spray (I have used a deep 9-inch by 6-inch dish and an 11-inch by 7-inch dish, and both work well).
- Place chicken in the prepared dish. Sprinkle with cornstarch and toss to coat.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together orange zest, chicken broth, brown sugar, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, salt, garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes. Pour sauce over chicken and stir to combine.
- Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Stir, return to the oven for 5-10 more minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and sauce has thickened.
- Remove from oven, stir in peanuts. Season with additional salt and red pepper flakes, to taste. Garnish with sliced green onions just before serving.
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