For the best sweet & spicy keto kung pao chicken, this recipe will curb your Chinese take-out craving. It is all the things you love about a tasty stir fry recipe. It is salty, sweet, sour, nutty, and, of course, spicy. The tender chicken chunks with fresh crisp vegetables are so good. Paired with that perfect crunch from the peanuts and this easy kung pao recipe couldn't be better.
This protein-packed recipe is a complete meal that is made in one pan in just minutes. If you love kung pao chicken at PF Chang's or Panda Express, this keto copycat version will be your new favorite recipe. It has all the flavor with only ⅓ of the carbs - so much to love with no guilt on this one. With a recipe this easy, tasty, and low-carb, you can have kung pao chicken whenever you want. And you will want it often, trust me!Jump to Recipe
Ever wondered why it is called "kung pao"? Many people think it is a translation of ingredients or how spicy it is. However, that is not where the name comes from. Like many Chinese dishes, the names come from the regions or provinces and the people they are made for. Find out Everything You Wanted to Know About Kung Pao and more if you are interested.
I love getting Chinese take-out but often wonder how much sugar and other ingredients are in all those sweet and spicy sauces. I started to make it at home and discovered that the sauces were not that complicated and you could easily alter some ingredients to make them healthier. That is when I started tinkering with this recipe and now have the one exact keto stir fry kung pao chicken recipe that is just like my favorite Chinese restaurant.
Kung pao chicken is an easy Chinese recipe that is a combination of chicken and vegetables. The vegetables are traditionally low-carb ones such as peppers and squash so this recipe is perfect for those on a keto diet. Along with these main ingredients, there are also several items needed to make the low-carb spicy stir fry sauce.
- BONELESS SKINLESS CHICKEN BREASTS
- OLIVE OIL
- BELL PEPPER
- GARLIC CLOVES
- PEANUTS - see substitions section below for anyone with a peanut allergy
- DRIED RED CHILI PODS
- TAMARI - gluten-free soy sauce
- APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
- CHILI GARLIC SAUCE - for the heat kung pao is known for
- TOASTED SESAME OIL
- MONKFRUIT SWEETENER - zero calorie sugar substitute
- GINGER POWDER
- OPTIONAL - Xantham Gum & Sesame Seeds - to help thicken the sauce and the seeds for crunchy topping
See the recipe card for quantities.
How Many Carbs in Kung Pao Chicken
This recipe has even fewer carbs than restaurant or store-bought kung pao chicken. If you are watching your carb intake for health reasons such as being a diabetic or keto diet, this is the best recipe. This recipe makes 4 servings. Each serving of kung pao chicken has 300 calories with only 5.5 net carbs.
How To Make Keto Kung Pao Chicken
Kung pao chicken in general is a Chinese recipe that is lower in carbs than many other main dishes. However, there is still a fair amount of added sugars. This sugar-free recipe is fantastic with a homemade stir fry sauce that is low-carb and diabetic-friendly. It has all of the taste and plenty of "pow"!
Begin by prepping the vegetables. Remove the stem and seeds from the bell pepper. Next, chop the bell pepper and celery stalks into small chunks. Also, slice the zucchini into thinly sliced half circles as shown below.
Once the vegetables are prepped, it is time to cut up the chicken. Dice the boneless skinless chicken into small cubes. Try and keep everything uniform in size so they cook at the same rate. The chicken pieces should only be slightly bigger than the bell pepper and celery pieces. In kung pao recipes all the pieces are smaller than bite-sized.
Since the ingredients are all in small diced pieces, this recipe is a quick one. One of the best things about this kung pao recipe is that it is easy and cooks up fast in one pan.
Begin by adding the oil to a large skillet or wok and heat it on medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot carefully add the small chicken pieces to the skillet. Stir and cook until they are almost done but still a little pink in the middle. This should take about 3-5 minutes.
Once the chicken is not quite ready, add the vegetables, chili pods, and peanuts. Turn the heat down to medium and continue cooking. Stir occasionally and cook for 5 more minutes. At this time the vegetables should be cooked but still slightly crisp and the chicken will be cooked all the way through at 165°. Turn the heat down to low.
Lastly, time to make the homemade keto kung pao sauce. In a small bowl combine all the ingredients for the sweet, spicy, & salty stir fry sauce. (including the optional xantham gum if you wish) Whisk to combine. Next, add the sauce to the chicken and vegetables. Stir to combine and cook for 3 minutes to heat thoroughly.
The sauce will thicken a little bit even without the xantham gum. As it cooks it will coat all the other ingredients so there is so much flavor in every bite. Once it is heated, it is ready to serve.
Hint: remove the chili pods before serving if you want to ensure you do not accidentally bite into one.
If you know how to make the recipe fit a certain diet, let the reader know here. Don't fake it - only provide guidance on topics you have actual experience with.
- Tamari - instead of the gluten-free soy sauce, you can use regular or low-sodium soy sauce if you do not have gluten concerns.
- Toasted Sesame Seed Oil - if you don't have this on hand, try one of my Substitutes for Sesame Oil
- Zucchini - use another squash with similar texture and carb count such as yellow crook-neck squash for a different color or variety.
- Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast - the breast meat can be substitued with thigh meat or try seafood for a great keto kung pao shrimp recipe.
PEANUT ALLERGY ALERT - If you or anyone you know has a peanut allergy, you can make kung pao chicken without peanuts. Substitute with cashews if they can have other nuts. If they can not have any nuts, leave it out and add something else crunchy instead such as plenty of sesame seeds or toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) sprinkled on top instead. It may not be traditional but this makes a great kung pao recipe with no peanuts.
This homemade keto kung pao chicken is a simple recipe that tastes amazing just as written. However, we all love to make things our own sometimes. Because of that, here are some small changes and substitutes for even more great recipe ideas.
- Spicy - add additional chili garlic sauce and chili pods to the recipe for some very spicy heat
- Vegan - add chopped tofu instead of chicken for a vegan kung pao recipe
- Kid friendly - leave out the chili garlic sauce for a very mild kung pao version that the kids will eat too. When you serve individual bowls, stir the spicy sauce into those servings that want the traditionally spicy taste.
What to Serve with Kung Pao Chicken
This recipe is a complete meal on its own. Thanks to the combination of chicken and vegetables, there is no need to serve anything with kung pao chicken. It is a filling meal as is. However, if you want some ideas on what goes well with kung pao chicken, here are some recipes that are the best.
For quick ideas - whether you want a keto, low-carb, or regular side dish to eat - try one or more of these Asian-inspired side dishes.
- Cauliflower Rice - a great keto side dish
- Steamed White Rice - a traditional option
- Zucchini Noodles - add to a bowl and top with the kung pao chicken
- Chow Mein Noodles - for those not worrying about carbs or gluten
Storage & Reheating
Kung pao chicken is a great meal planning and make-ahead recipe. It actually tastes even better the longer it sits in its stir fry sauce to soak up some of that great sauce. Store it in an air-tight container in the fridge, for 4-5 days. And since it is a dairy-free recipe, kung pao freezes well too. Store frozen leftovers in an air-tight container for up to 30 days. When ready to eat, thaw it in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours.
To reheat kung pao chicken, microwave a serving for 1-2 minutes. You may add additional tamari or soy sauce to add a bit of moisture back into it, serve, and enjoy.
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Keto Kung Pao Chicken
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast cut into small cubes
- 1 medium-sized zucchini sliced in half circles
- 1 red bell pepper chopped small
- ¼ cup celery chopped small
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- ¼ cup peanuts chopped
- 2-3 whole dried red chili pods
For the keto kung pao sauce
- 3 Tablespoons Tamari gluten-free soy sauce
- 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon chili garlic sauce
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon granulated monk fruit sweetener
- ¼ teaspoon ginger powder
- ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum to thicken the sauce
- ½ Tablespoon sesame seeds to sprinkle on the top
- Prep the vegetables first -Remove the stem and seeds from the bell pepper. Next, chop the bell pepper and celery stalks into small chunks. Also, slice the zucchini into thinly sliced half circles as shown above.
- Prep the chicken -Dice the boneless skinless chicken into small cubes. Try and keep everything uniform in size so they cook at the same rate. The chicken pieces should only be slightly bigger than the bell pepper and celery pieces.
- Add the oil to a large skillet and heat it on medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot carefully add the small chicken pieces to the skillet. Stir and cook until they are almost done but still a little pink in the middle. This takes about 3-5 minutes. (they will continue to cook as you add the other ingredients)
- Add the vegetables, chili pods, and peanuts. Turn the heat down to medium. Stir occasionally and cook for 5 minutes.
- After 5 minutes, the vegetables should be cooked but still slightly crisp and the chicken will be cooked all the way through at 165°. Now, turn the heat down to low.
- In a small bowl combine all the ingredients for the stir fry sauce. (including the optional xantham gum if you wish) Whisk to combine.
- Lastly, add the sauce to the chicken and vegetables. Stir to combine and cook for 3 minutes to heat thoroughly. The sauce will coat the ingredients and thicken slightly (even without the xanthan gum).
- Once it is heated through, turn off the heat. Remove the chili pods if you want to make sure you do not eat one by accident.
- Serve immediately in a bowl and top with some sesame seeds. Enjoy.
- Store any leftovers in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or 30 days in the freezer.
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 14.2g||18%|
|Saturated Fat 3.1g||16%|
|Total Carbohydrate 7.5g||3%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||7%|
|Total Sugars 3g|
|Vitamin D 0mcg||0%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.|
To ensure chicken is cooked properly in this recipe, I suggest having an instant-read thermometer. In just a second you can make sure your chicken is ready to eat before it is too late and it is dry - or worse yet, it is still raw and dangerous.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
I added extra chili sauce but otherwise this was great as the recipe calls. I do like very spicy so my spouse did ask for me to try and make it regular and then add my own next time. First time he wanted milk with his dinner but I loved it. The leftovers were my lunch and it was even hotter the next day but still so good.
I was looking for a Panda Express copycat recipe and found this. I am glad I tried it. I am not on keto but trying to eat less carbs especially sugars. There is no way anyone would no this was healthier option, it was so good and much better than Panda!