Make this easy kung pao shrimp recipe in minutes right in your kitchen. Save time and money by making it at home instead of ordering takeout. It’s a flavorful and quick dinner served over white rice with your favorite steamed vegetable.

A white bowl with rice and kung pao shrimp in it.
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Remember when PF Chang’s was all the rage about 20 years ago? I’m probably dating myself by saying this, but right about that timeframe was when I was starting my full-time career straight out of college, and I’d get way too excited when a work trip resulted in dinner there or at the Cheesecake Factory. It’s funny now, considering both places are going out of business left and right. 

Besides their lettuce wrap appetizers, I can’t remember much of what I’d order at PF Chang’s except that if it had “Kung Pao” in its name, there was a high probability it’d end up on my plate.

Kung pao, anything, is just a fun dish. It’s spicy and crunchy (thanks to peanuts) with a delicious sticky sauce that we all know and love from many Chinese takeout dishes. It’s also crazy simple to make yourself, and that’s why both this kung pao shrimp recipe and kung pao chickpeas are frequent meals in my house when I want a vegetarian dish. Especially now that I live in a location where takeout options are not nearby. 

If you’re a fan of many other Chinese takeout classics like General Tso or sweet and sour recipes, you’ll love this kung pao shrimp.

Ingredients for a Kung pao shrimp recipe.

Ingredients for Making Kung Pao Shrimp at Home

Here’s my disclaimer so people of the internet don’t get all worked up (lately, it happens far too often) — this is not an authentic recipe. In fact, in China, kung pao is exclusively made with chicken. 

This is my version of a dish we all know and love with ingredients that every home cook can access — which is always my goal with these copycat recipes. 

  • Shrimp — Fresh or frozen shrimp can be used. I like leaving the tails on for appearance, but make sure they’re peeled and deveined. Large or extra-large shrimp are best.
  • Peanuts —This classic kung pao ingredient is toasted in oil in the pan as the first step in this dish. If you’re allergic to peanuts or simply don’t care for them, I suggest using cashews in their place. Cashews go well with many Asian dishes like this Thai chicken cashew skillet.
  • Ginger and garlic — These two ingredients offer a lot of flavor and aromatics. Use the fresh version of both, and finely mince when prepping.
  • Dried red chiles — Traditionally, kung pao uses Szechuan peppers. These bring the heat in a kung pao sauce. Be mindful of how hot these peppers are! They add a lot of spice, and you most likely don’t want to eat them in the finished dish. 
  • Cornstarch — Arrowroot or tapioca starch can be substituted if desired. Any of these powders help thicken the sauce a bit as it cooks in the pan and coats the shrimp.
  • Scallions — Also known as green onions and a typical garnish on any Chinese recipe, this chopped ingredient adds a nice fresh bite and contrasting color to the finished dish.
  • Avocado oil — One of the many reasons I like making takeout dishes at home is the ability to control the cooking oil. Avocado oil is a great neutral oil with a high smoke point that’s much healthier than the vegetable oil most likely used at your local takeout place.

For the kung pao sauce:

  • Water
  • Tamari (or soy sauce)
  • Rice vinegar
  • Honey
  • Szechuan sauce (or sriracha)
  • Sesame oil
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Cornstarch (or arrowroot/tapioca starch)
Chinese kung pao shrimp in a wok with a wooden spoon.

How to Make Kung Pao Shrimp

Step 1: Pan-fry the peanuts

Add avocado oil to a skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the peanuts and stir constantly for 4-5 minutes so they don’t burn. Turn off the heat, let them cool in the pan, and then set them aside.

Step 2: Prepare the sauce

Whisk together all the ingredients for the kung pao sauce in a small bowl and set aside so it’s ready to go once you need it.

My Pro Tip

Recipe Tip

Have all your ingredients prepped and ready to go before you start to cook. This dish comes together quickly.

Step 3: Assemble the dish

Toss the prepared shrimp with salt, pepper and cornstarch in a large bowl until the shrimp are evenly coated.

Heat the avocado oil over a medium-high flame in the same skillet used to toast the peanuts. Once hot, add the shrimp and cook on both sides until they turn pink. 

Push the shrimp to one side of the pan, and add the remaining avocado oil along with the garlic, ginger and dried red chile peppers. Cook for about 1 minute until fragrant. 

Turn the heat up to high. Give the sauce a quick stir in case the cornstarch has settled to the bottom of the bowl, and then pour it into the skillet. Stir everything together. The sauce should thicken quickly in the pan.

Add the scallions and peanuts to the stir fry, toss to combine, then turn off the heat. Serve with cooked white rice and enjoy immediately.

A bowl of rice with shrimp and peanuts in it.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Kung pao dishes are loved for many reasons, but our favorite reasons for making this dish are:

  • The quick and easy prep and cook time involved. Making this at home is faster than ordering takeout if you have all the ingredients.
  • The sauce’s perfect balance of sour, spicy and savory flavors is so delicious.
  • The flexibility of side dishes to serve it with. While white rice is always the perfect accompaniment to a Chinese takeout dish, any steamed veggie will go great with this dish, keeping the overall effort low.
  • Once you have the method and sauce recipe down, you can change the protein and make dishes such as kung pao chicken, tofu, beef or pork.

Tips & Tricks for the Best Kung Pao Shrimp

To keep dinner simple, add any vegetables to the pan before adding the kung pao sauce. Options like bell peppersbroccoli or bok choy go well in this dish.

The sauce can be used as a marinade for the shrimp before cooking it off in the skillet. If you have the time, try marinating the shrimp in the kung pao sauce for 30 minutes before cooking.

Adjust the dried chile peppers to taste. If you love spicy dishes, use a few more than called for or add some red pepper flakes to the recipe as well. If you don’t tolerate spice well, use one or two peppers. Less spicy dishes such as shrimp lo mein may be a better-suited recipe.

Two bowls of rice and shrimp with chopsticks.

Where to Find Szechuan Peppers

These dried chile peppers are a hallmark of a proper kung pao recipe. Kung pao originates from the Sichuan region of China, known for its flavorful and spicy dishes. The best place to get these dried red peppers is in a specialty foods store or online. They’re relatively inexpensive, and a bag will last a long time.

04/11/2024 12:15 am GMT

What’s the Difference Between General Tso and Kung Pao?

These two popular Chinese recipes are similar in many ways, but the main differences are that General Tso’s is typically deep-fried and coated in a sauce that’s sweeter than spicy. Kung pao dishes are not deep fried, and the sauce is spicier.

A bowl of white rice and shrimp with kung pao sauce with chopsticks.

More Chinese takeout-inspired dishes to try

Spicy udon noodles — This dish is great for another spicy option with Chinese takeout vibes. 

Chinese boneless spare ribs — One of my favorite items as a kid, it’s hard not to love these boneless spare ribs with their sticky sweet sauce and crispy edges.

Shaved beef stir fry — Another quick and simple recipe with a quintessential Chinese takeout sauce coating thinly cut slices of beef and broccoli.

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4.98 from 45 votes

Kung Pao Shrimp

Servings: 4 servings
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 20 minutes
A white bowl with rice and kung pao shrimp in it.
An easy kung pao shrimp recipe made in minutes at home that rivals takeout. Serve it over some white rice with your favorite steamed vegetable.

Ingredients 

FOR THE PEANUTS:

  • 1/2 cup peanuts, raw, shelled
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil

FOR THE SHRIMP:

  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled & deveined
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch, or arrowroot/tapioca starch
  • 3 tablespoons avocado oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 dried red chiles, chopped, adjust to taste as these are quite hot
  • 4 scallions, chopped

FOR THE SAUCE:

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup tamari
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon Szechuan sauce, or sriracha
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon arrowroot powder

Instructions 

PAN FRY THE PEANUTS:

  • Heat the avocado oil in a wok or skillet over medium heat. Add the peanuts. Stir constantly for 4-5 minutes so they don't burn. Turn off the heat, and stir for another minute using the residual heat of the wok. Set aside to cool.

MAKE THE SAUCE:

  • In a small bowl whisk together all the sauce ingredients and set aside.

ASSEMBLE THE DISH:

  • Toss the shrimp with the salt, pepper and cornstarch in a large bowl.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of the avocado oil in same wok or skillet that you used for the peanuts, over a medium-high flame.
  • Once hot, add the shrimp and sear on both sides until they turn pink.
  • Push the shrimp to one side of the pan, add the remaining tablespoon of avocado oil to the other side along with the garlic, ginger and dried red chiles. Sauté for 1 minute or so until fragrant.
  • Increase the heat to high, give the sauce a stir in case the cornstarch settled to the bottom then pour it into the skillet. Toss everything together and stir-fry for 30 seconds to 1 minute. The sauce should thicken quickly and coat the shrimp mixture.
  • Toss the scallions and peanuts into the pan then turn off the heat.
  • Mix well then serve hot with rice.

Nutrition

Serving: 1SERVINGCalories: 354kcalCarbohydrates: 13gProtein: 22gFat: 25gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 5gMonounsaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 0.01gCholesterol: 143mgSodium: 1605mgPotassium: 346mgFiber: 2gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 324IUVitamin C: 3mgCalcium: 97mgIron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Main Dishes
Cuisine: Chinese
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Founder and Writer at Running to the Kitchen | About

Gina Matsoukas is an AP syndicated writer. She is the founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.

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Recipe Rating




25 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I loved PF Chang’s too! Great recipe for Kung Pao Shrimp. This is the first recipe I tried, and the sauce came out tasting like our local restaurant’s dish. Love a recipe that I have ingredients for. I just had to get the chilis, but we have an International Food Market that keeps me supplied with all types of ingredients.

  2. 5 stars
    Nailed it, and it’s as good as takeout. The shrimp is perfectly seasoned, and the sauce has the right balance of sweet and spicy. I used bokchoy and it was really delicious!

  3. 5 stars
    Forget takeout – this homemade kung pao shrimp is the real deal! The sesame oil and Szechuan sauce brought such depth to the dish. The shrimp just soaked up all the flavors. So yum!

  4. asian food is fast and that’s the way i like it and am accustomed to :) it’s mostly the sauces that make the dish so i think that’s why it’s so fast. this looks really good! i prefer to make chinese food at home (i’m slightly bias) cause it’s so watered down chinese food at pf changs or whatever. this shrimp though, looks phenom. i can see myself making this a lot! the sauce you made sounds finger licking good!

  5. Here in South FLA, PF Changs is our best “Chinese” food restaurant. What would I do with out PF Changs?
    I love the ingredients you put together for the sauce!

  6. Looks like one of my shrimp stir-fry go to’s! On a different topic, I’m so curious about your Cross Fit adventures – do you go every day? Are you seeing progress? I loved all your Half training posts last year, are you planning for any races this fall?

    1. Hi Shannon! I go about 5 times a week when work travel allows. I am definitely seeing progress and will probably do a crossfit post pretty soon about my first 2 months so stay tuned :) I haven’t signed up for any races this fall, I’m running at most 2-3 miles at a time and I’m just not really feeling the whole racing thing right now. I might do a local 5K or something spur of the moment but that’s about it. I’m enjoying crossfit and the 400/800s we do within the WODs much more than racing for now. We’ll see though..I tend to go through phases with running, it’s just a lull right now :)