Lighter Kung Pao Chicken

Lighter Kung Pao Chicken is a combination of stir-fried chicken, vegetables, peanuts enrobed in a sweet yet spicy sauce. This incredible stir fry is ready in under 30-minutes!



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One of my favorite take-out items from my local Chinese food shop is Kung Pao Chicken. I mean — I crave it! In case you aren’t familiar with it, Kung Pao Chicken is a spicy stir-fry dish made with chicken, peanuts, assorted vegetables, and hot chili peppers both crushed and pods — in our case, we only used crushed as pods aren’t readily available in most supermarkets. The sauce is so delicious and the spiciness can be easily adjusted to fit your palate which makes it the perfect dish. However, a typical order of Kung Pao Chicken from the takeaway shop can be upwards of 800 calories a serving, 48 g fat and 2,428 mg of sodium. YIKES!!

Kung Pao Nutritional Info
Nutritional Info Source: Wikipedia

I nearly fell over when I saw those numbers. My husband and I discuss a lot these days just how many hidden calories there are in our food when eating out. When you’re not in charge of your food preparation, you have no idea how it’s being made, how much fat is being added or how much sodium it contains. In looking for lighter versions of our take-out favorite, we came across this recipe for Kung Pao Chicken from Cooking Light Magazine. The flavors are spot on and this dish comes together in under 30 minutes.

Lighter Kung Pao Chicken on a plate with chop sticks

We didn’t have any sesame oil on hand this time but we did have some sesame seeds so we made our own oil and it worked out very well. For such a small amount of sesame oil being used, if you don’t want to keep a whole bottle of sesame oil for one recipe, you can either substitute another oil or make your own Sesame Oil.

To keep the dish low carb, we also only had a 1/2 cup portion of long-grain white rice with our meal which I found to be filling. You can definitely substitute different rice varieties for the white rice. Brown won’t save you much in the way of carbs but does add a significant increase in fiber. That being said, I’m not a fan of brown rice and since I don’t eat rice often, I’m willing to take the hit on the 1.4 g of fiber I’ll be missing. The rice is not included in the recipe nutritional information. We’ve discussed next time serving this over cauliflower “rice” to further lower that carbs and increase our veg.

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Lighter Kung Pao Chicken 1 680

Kung Pao Chicken

Ronda Eagle | Kitchen Dreaming
Lighter Kung Pao Chicken is a combination of stir-fried chicken, vegetables, peanuts enrobed in a sweet yet spicy sauce. This incredible stir-fry is ready in under 30-minutes!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Course Dinner
Cuisine Chinese
Servings 4 servings
Calories 275 kcal


  • 2 tablespoons dark sesame oil (or make your own)
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves , minced
  • 1 pound boneless , skinless chicken thighs (or breasts/tenders if you prefer white meat), cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon bottled minced ginger
  • 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper , more or less to taste
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine vinegar (optional)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper (about 1 large pepper)
  • 2 cups broccoli , separated into florets
  • 2 tablespoons chopped unsalted , dry-roasted peanuts


  • Heat sesame oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; saute until softened; about 3 minutes. Add garlic; saute 30 seconds, stirring constantly to avoid burning. Add chicken and saute 3 minutes or until chicken begins to brown. remove from pan and set aside to make sauce.
  • Into the same pan, combine 3/4 cup water and the next 6 ingredients (through rice wine vinegar), stirring with a whisk until sugar dissolves and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook sauce to your desired thickness then add bell pepper and broccoli to pan; cook for 2 minutes or until vegetables are tender but still crispy then return the chicken to the pan for 1 minute to reheat.
  • Top with chopped nuts and serve with your favorite rice.


Serving: 4servingsCalories: 275kcalCarbohydrates: 11.9gProtein: 25.3gFat: 13.8gSaturated Fat: 2.6gPolyunsaturated Fat: 5.3gTrans Fat: 0gCholesterol: 94mgSodium: 502mgFiber: 2.2gSugar: 0g
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