Paleo Kung Pao Chicken
Easy delicious Paleo Kung Pao Chicken with Whole30 Kung Pao Chicken sauce. This kung pao chicken is crisp, fiery, and full of flavor. It’s a must-have Paleo and Whole30 chicken recipe for Chinese food lovers!
Paleo Kung Pao Chicken (Whole30, Keto)
I decided to rewrite this older recipe and incorporate new flavor and simplified cooking steps for an even better Paleo Kung Pao Chicken.❤️
A few characteristics to nail in order to make spot-on Paleo Kung Pao Chicken
There are many versions of Paleo Kung Pao Chicken on the web but here are a few characteristics I’d like to share to help you recreate a dish that’s more close to its original taste.
- Small cube shaped chicken bites
Small cube shaped chicken pieces allow better marination. They also create more surface cuts/shapes so each mini cube crisps up easily and golden delicious. These mini cubes also absorb the sauce better so each bite is bursting with flavor. Hmm…YUM !
- Chinese dry red chili peppers & Sichuan Flower Pepper corns
If you are my long-term reader, you know how much I rely on using aromatics to create clean tasting yet super flavorful Asian-inspired Paleo dishes.
You can find both dry red chilies and flower peppercorns in local Chinese markets or order them through Amazon. I provide links below in the recipe section for folks who like to have these essential items at home.
Chinese dry red chilies are used (in this context) to fragrant the oil. Yes it might add a bit spicy flavor but since we aren’t chopping them to pieces (exposing the seeds outside) they are mainly for fragrant and visual aesthetic purposes.
- Crisp bold flavor or Tender silky moist ?
In general (and very broadly speaking), Chinese food (particularly main dishes) can be categorized into two different styles in the mouthfeel – crisp bold (drier/crisper texture) and soft and moist textures.
When a dish is meant to have a stronger flavor concentration (i.e. drier/crisper texture), the moisture content in the wok needs to be reduced and minimized in order to not dilute the flavor concentration.
Here are a few tips you can try without relying on store bought sauces filled with corn starch and other unnatural ingredients –
- Preheating the skillet well is an important step before placing any ingredients in the sauté pan
- Protein pieces (e.g. chicken) naturally release water content during cooking, so extending the cooking time over the stovetop (to reduce moisture) and paying attention to the temperature are the keys to keeping the dish less watery.
Vice versa: if it’s a dish that’s meant to have soft and moist texture – like my lion’s head meatballs, we rely on slow simmer and aromatics to extract and enhance a dish’s natural flavor.
So from this cooking concept/perspective, seasonings are used to enhance the natural ingredients in a recipe not the other way around – covering with white, black bean sauces …etc. It makes everything taste pretty much the same.
Can’t take heat?
No worries. Follow the instructions below for a non-spicy version but please note that the dish will still taste really good but just different from its original character – slightly spicy and numbing effects (Sichuan peppercorns) in the mouthfeel.
So my dear readers, I highly recommend that you give one of my favorite Chinese dishes – Paleo Kung Pao Chicken – a try. And if you love my recipes be sure to give a 5-star rating and leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you !
Paleo Kung Pao Chicken (Whole30, Keto)
- 1½ lbs chicken breasts or chicken thighs, boneless/skinless, diced to small bite sizes
- Ghee, Avocado oil, or cooking fat of your choice.
- Raw pine nuts or cashew nuts
Kung Pao Chicken marinade:
- Dice chicken to small bite sizes and marinate for 10-15 mins in the fridge. In the meantime, prepare aromatics and stir-fry sauce.
- Preheat a large stainless steel skillet over medium-high heat, when hot, add 1 to 1 ½ tbsp cooking oil. Add marinaded chicken. Pan-fry them in one thin layer over the skillet so the chicken pieces get crisp up in golden brown color. Cook until they are about ¾ way cooked through. Set aside.
- While the skillet is still hot, add 1 to 1 ½ tbsp more cooking oil. Add aromatics. Season with a small pinch of salt and saute until fragrant (about 8-10 seconds). Add stir-fry sauce. Quickly stir-fry and coat the sauce over aromatics then add chicken back to the skillet. Coat the sauce over chicken and keep stir-frying until the chicken is completely cooked through.
- Serve hot immediately with chopped green scallions and a few more teaspoons of sesame oil if desired.
- For a non-spicy version - Substitute red fresno chili pepper and Chinese dry red chilies with 1 to 1 and half red bell peppers and diced to cubes. Substitute harissa chili paste for tomato paste.
- If this is your first time trying Sichuan whole peppercorns, they have a lemony and numbing effect in the mouthfeel. If you aren't used to it, reduce the quantity to 1/2-1 tsp OR feel free to skip it. If you want to mimic the flavor, use 1/8 tsp ground black pepper + 2 tsp lemon zest.
- Sichuan peppercorns are sold in whole in most Chinese grocery stores. I use them in whole to fragrant the oil. If use ground version, the flavor will be more intense. Reduce the quantity to 1/2-1 tsp ground. You can see the full peppercorn photo in the post above.