Enjoy your favorite Chinese takeout meal with a vegan twist in this Kung Pao chickpea recipe. The sauce is a perfect recreation with tons of bold flavors making this dish taste just like the original with a simple protein swap!
Many moons ago I remember walking through the food court at the mall as a teenager (when hanging out at the mall was cool) and being bombarded by the token Chinese joint trying to hand out samples of their Kung Pao chicken dish every single time I passed by.
Eventually, they wore me down and in an act that the adult Gina now cringes at, I accepted.
I’ve always loved spicy dishes so one bite was all it took to hook me on the deliciousness of Kung Pao sauce.
There’s just something about it that’s super addicting.
It lives at the perfect crossroads of savory, sweet, sticky and spicy with that “can’t get enough of it” Chinese takeout sauce vibe.
And I know you know what I’m talking about when I say that.
It’s the same thing that makes General Tso’s sauce (including these general tso shrimp) and sweet and sour sauce so mouthwatering and drives those insatiable cravings.
Kung Pao sauce is no slacker in that regard. It’s got that exact same thing going on just with the extra kick of spice the other sauces don’t have.
And that’s the beauty of it for any spice lovers like me out there.
So giving the classic Kung Pao dish a makeover was next in line.
And that’s how this Kung Pao chickpea recipe was created.
This recipe isn’t one you’ll find at the Chinese joint down the street as I don’t think I’ve seen any Chinese recipes that use chickpeas.
But, if you’re looking for a vegan spin to Kung Pao for dietary reasons or, just want to eat more plants than meat these days, this recipe is perfect.
It’s got all the flavor and spice of the traditional Kung Pao sauce, just with chickpeas as the protein source instead of meat.
INGREDIENTS TO MAKE KUNG PAO CHICKPEAS
- avocado oil
- sesame oil
- dried chiles
- red bell pepper
- baby greens
INGREDIENTS FOR THE SAUCE
- rice vinegar
- maple syrup
- Szechuan sauce (or sriracha)
- sesame oil
- arrowroot powder
HOW TO MAKE VEGAN KUNG PAO CHICKPEAS
This recipe comes together really quickly once you get cooking.
The trick is to have everything prepped and ready to go before you start.
First, make the Kung Pao sauce by mixing all the ingredients except arrowroot and water together in a bowl.
Stir together the arrowroot powder and water separately then add to the sauce and stir. Set aside until needed.
To a large skillet, add the avocado and sesame oil over medium heat.
Once hot, add garlic and ginger and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant.
Next, add the celery and half of the sliced scallions to the pan and cook briefly for another 30 seconds.
Peanuts and dried chiles go in next to cook for an additional minute.
Then add the red bell pepper and onion. Stir together and cook until slightly softened, about 3-5 minutes.
Lastly, add the chickpeas and greens and stir to combine with the other ingredients in the skillet.
Pour the prepared Kung Pao sauce into the skillet, stir well and simmer for 3-5 minutes until the greens wilt and the sauce thickens.
Garnish with the remaining sliced scallions before serving.
To serve this dish, I suggest some cooked white rice (just like you’d get with real takeout) as a simple base.
You can garnish with additional chopped peanuts or sesame seeds but really, everything you need is already in the dish!
It’s a complete meal with a variety of vegetables and a healthy plant-based fiber-packed protein source.
Be careful of those dried chiles when serving and eating. They’re really just in there to bring a spicy kick to the sauce and dish as it cooks.
You want to steer clear of biting into one, trust me!
Leftovers store great in the fridge.
I wouldn’t suggest freezing this as cooked beans aren’t the best frozen and reheated.
But that shouldn’t be a problem as I doubt you’ll even have any leftovers!
If you love easy skillet Chinese inspired meals like this, don’t miss my honey orange sesame chicken recipe (or, check out this keto orange chicken recipe) and these insanely easy Chinese chicken zoodles.
You can also check out my Kung Pao shrimp recipe for another way to enjoy this deliciously addicting Chinese sauce!
Kung Pao Chickpeas
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 large cloves garlic minced
- 1 inch piece fresh ginger minced
- 1 stalk celery chopped
- 3 large scallions thinly sliced and divided
- 1/4 cup chopped peanuts
- 3-4 dried chiles
- 1 red bell pepper chopped
- 1/4 large yellow onion roughly chopped
- 2 – 15 ounce cans chickpeas drained and rinsed
- 1 cup baby greens such as spinach or kale
For the Kung Pao sauce
- 1/4 cup tamari
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon Szechuan sauce or sriracha
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
- 2 teaspoons arrowroot powder
- 1/3 cup water
- Make the Kung Pao sauce by combining all ingredients except arrowroot powder and water in a medium bowl. Whisk together until combined. Stir the arrowroot and water together in a separate bowl until the arrowroot is fully dissolved. Pour the arrowroot mixture into the sauce and stir to combine. Set aside.
- Place the avocado and sesame oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
- Once hot, add the minced garlic and ginger and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant.
- Add the celery and half the scallions to the pan. Stir and cook an additional 30 seconds.
- Next, add the peanuts and dried chiles. Stir and cook for 1 minute.
- Place the red bell pepper and onion in the skillet, stir again and cook for 3 minutes until slightly softened but still crisp.
- Lastly, add the chickpeas and greens. Stir to combine then give the sauce a quick stir and pour into the skillet.
- Stir everything together until the sauce is coating all the ingredients in the skillet and let simmer for 3-5 minutes until the greens wilt and the sauce thickens.
- Turn off heat, top with remaining sliced scallions and serve.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For the most precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator based on the actual ingredients you used in the recipe.
Gina Matsoukas is the writer, founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients as much as possible. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.