Healthy Kung Pao Chicken

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Healthy Kung Pao Chicken will quickly replace your favorite Chinese take-out with only 300 calories and it's Paleo and clean eating friendly.


Healthy Kung Pao Chicken is full of all the flavor of the classic Chinese take-out dish, tastes amazing, and is a meal you can feel good about feeding your family. 

After a crazy weekend, I had absolutely no desire to cook and was seriously craving Chinese takeout. But since we have been trying to eat at home more often, I decided to recreate one of my favorite dishes, Kung Pao Chicken, at home.

After a few attempts, I finally came up with a version that not only tastes amazing but clocks in at just 300 calories and is about ten times easier than the original dish.

The spicy and sweet sauce is really the key to this dish. I like mine with lots of Sriracha and black pepper with just a touch of sweetness from the honey to balance out the sauce.

When it comes to veggies, almost anything works. I love the crunch of celery and red pepper but I have made it with broccoli, green beans, cabbage, and bok choy as well, and it's delish.

And if you are addicted to the Panda Express version, you could dice everything up really small and add zucchini. Serve it with some brown rice, cauliflower rice, wrapped up in big lettuce leaves, or with this copycat Chow Mein.

Healthy Kung Pao Chicken with brown rice in a wooden bowl.

Tips and Tricks for making this healthy Kung Pao Chicken

Make the best version of this dish by following the tips below.

  • Heat level: The level of spiciness in this dish is really up to you and it can be as mild or as spicy as you like. I recommend starting with a small amount of Sriracha and adding more as you go. You can always add more when the dish is finished or people can add their own. The same goes for the black pepper, start small and adjust up.
  • Chicken thighs: If you prefer dark meat, boneless skinless chicken thighs are a great option in this recipe. And for vegetarians, tofu works really well too.
  • Too much sodium? Replace the soy sauce with coconut aminos instead. They have about 65% less sodium that traditional soy sauce.
  • Serving ideas: When it comes time to serve this dish, I usually serve it piled high on a bowl of steamed brown rice or cauliflower rice with a side of steamed veggies. Broccoli is the obvious choice but bok choy, sugar snap peas, and green beans are all delish.

What is Kung Pao sauce?

Kung pao, also known as Gong Bao or Kung Po, is a Sichuan dish that is known for being sweet and spicy at the same time. It is traditionally made with soy sauce, sugar, dark Chinese vinegar, Sichuan peppercorns, and dried red chilies.

However, this version is made with all the same flavors but easier ingredients you are more likely to find in your home or local grocery store. It isn't an authentic Kung Pao chicken but is definitely delicious.

Is this similar to Panda Express or PF Changs Kung Pao Chicken?

The two most popular versions of this chicken dish are served at Panda Express and PF Changs. Both versions are going to be higher in calories than this healthier option due to the breading on the chicken.

If you want a similar coating, you want to lightly dredge the chicken in cornstarch and then dip it into an egg wash before cooking it. Then lightly fry it in a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil.

Both versions also use dried red chilies, which can be used in place of the Sriracha. Additionally, for a version more like the Panda Express option, add zucchini instead of celery. 

Easy Kung Pao Chicken in a bowl with peanuts and green onions.

Is this the same as General Tso's Chicken?

Many people confuse Kung Pao and General Tso's, which is understandable because the dishes are actually quite similar both using a sweet and spicy soy sauce-based sauce.

The main difference is that General Tso's chicken is deep fried whereas Kung Pao is stir-fried and usually topped with peanuts. 

Looking for more Asian takeout at home?

The Recipe
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Healthy Kung Pao Chicken

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  • 1.33 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast, chopped
  • 4 tsp sesame oil, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. ginger, minced
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce (or coconut aminos)
  • 1.5 tbsp sriracha (adjust to taste)
  • 1 tbsp honey (adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup peanuts, chopped (use cashews for Paleo)
  • 2 green onions, chopped

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Add half of the sesame oil to the pan. Add the chicken, garlic, and ginger. Cook for 5-7 minutes until just cooked through. Remove and set aside.


Add the remaining sesame oil to the pan. Add the celery and red pepper. Cook for 5-7 minutes until tender crisp.


Meanwhile stir together the soy sauce, Sriracha, honey, and pepper.


Add the chicken back to the pan and add the stir fry sauce and peanuts. Cook for 1-2 minutes so the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and let rest for 2-3 minutes so sauce can further thicken. Top with green onions.

Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 1 cup
Amount Per Serving
Calories 303
Calories from Fat 95
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 11g
Saturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 74mg
Sodium 431mg
Total Carbohydrate 11g
Dietary Fiber 2g
Sugars 8g
Protein 36g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.

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About the author Meet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
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On Healthy Kung Pao Chicken
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May 3, 2023 - 18:11
Add a Rating:
This was amazing! Used cashews and the coconut amino acids and coconut rice.
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Kary H
March 24, 2023 - 20:05
Add a Rating:
I love the fact that this is a much healthier version of the original dish. I always make a dish the first time as written.
This recipe for me, was one noted and lacked depth of flavor. However, I think it’s worth keeping with some tweaks.
Before all else, season the meat with salt and pepper. Next, I would add the garlic, ginger, and 2 tablespoons of the sauce to the meat and let marinate for at least 30 minutes. Marinating the meat adds another level of flavor. For me, the chicken tasted bland, even with a pan of full-flavored ingredients.
This sauce will not thicken as written without a binding agent (ie, cornstarch, flour, butter, or simmering long enough that no sauce is left). However, I’m okay with this thinner, keto/carb friendly sauce. Adjust seasonings to your preference. Needed salt IMO, since I only use low or no sodium ingredients.
I would add the peanuts or cashews (preferably toasted) to toss just before serving. Otherwise, they lack the texture that is intended.
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Samantha R
September 27, 2022 - 14:19
Add a Rating:
This turned out SO good!!! It is my favorite Chinese dish I have made from home and has definitely become a regular!!
I did use the coconut aminos. Soy sauce upsets my stomach and I actually like the aminos a lot better! I also added green peppers and corn starch.
Thank you!!
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September 10, 2022 - 18:08
I've made this so many times. It's easy, but it's so, so good. My 13 year old has actually learned to make it, which is great for all of us! Thanks for this recipe!
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August 31, 2022 - 19:29
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This is so good! I have been asked to bring this dish to several gatherings. My only "change" is the addition of diced jalapeno for some extra spice. I love it!
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August 26, 2022 - 05:55
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Made this last night & put 1/2 a cup into 2 lettuce cups. So good!!!!! 11/10!
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August 26, 2022 - 05:55
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Made this last night & put 1/2 a cup into 2 lettuce cups. So good!!!!! 11/10!
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June 28, 2022 - 06:25
Thank you for sharing. Fixing it tonight. thank you again, Marlene K
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March 24, 2022 - 17:39
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Loved this flavor, not sure why I didnt have any juice, disapated as soon as I put it in the pan. Possibly my pan was too hot? Still good tho.
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Brandi Warfield
September 7, 2021 - 15:15
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Wow! I usually make a stirfry like this, but the cashews changed EVERYTHING!

A few modifications (due to what I had on hand):
- Frozen bag of stirfry veggies
- Mirin instead of honey
- Corn starch to thicken the sauce

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October 13, 2020 - 17:11
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Absolutely Devine. Tastes as good as any I’ve had. So flavorful.
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September 24, 2019 - 05:13
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Just love this meal! I used sweet chilli sauce instead of the one here and its still fabulous! Many thanks for it!
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March 14, 2019 - 17:54
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This was so good! I’ve tried other healthy Kung Pao recipes and none measured up to this one. Definitely a keeper!
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September 8, 2018 - 15:06
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We LOVED this meal! Def a new fav!!
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Tijana Antonic
September 3, 2018 - 20:07
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I’ve made this one a few times now and still love it! Great flavor and satisfies a Chinese food craving. I’ve added some peanut butter to the sauce on days I had extra calories and it was also great.
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August 31, 2018 - 15:54
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Easy to make and so tasty!
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January 1, 2018 - 19:26
Want to try
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Holli Hayes
March 3, 2017 - 19:12
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delicious! just the right mix of spicy and sweet. easy to make too!
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Mary Darnieder
February 28, 2017 - 17:33
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So easy and sooooo full of flavor. I added a bit more sriracha to my bowl. I like it spicy.
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