Make this hot and spicy, restaurant-style Hunan chicken at home in under 30 minutes. It’s budget-friendly, loaded with colorful veggies and the spices can be adjusted to your taste.
About This Recipe
Hunan chicken is a famous Chinese recipe made with chicken and vegetables tossed in a spicy and savory sauce. It is also a very popular takeout dish in Chinese American restaurants around the world.
If you have been to Hunan Express or Panda Express in the US, it’s quite a possibility that you ordered this favorite takeout dish, Hunan chicken along with their Kung Pao chicken, Mongolian chicken, or Orange chicken.
Hunan chicken comes from the Hunan province of China, where the use of spicy and tart flavors is very common in their dishes. It is hotter in flavor and not sweet. If you want something sweet and spicy, you can go for Schezuan chicken.
To make Hunan chicken, thinly sliced chicken is tossed with colorful mixed veggies and a spicy and savory sauce. Making this restaurant favorite at home is very budget-friendly and the dish can come together in under 30 minutes from start to finish.
Serve it with stir-fried noodles or rice for a comforting weeknight meal. The best part of making it at home is that you can control the level of spices according to your taste.
This Hunan chicken is,
- Loaded with vegetables
- Ready under 30 minutes
- Just like the takeout one
Chilli Oil: Chilli oil is made of vegetable oil infused with chili peppers. It adds a beautiful, vibrant red color to the dish and heat from the infused chilies. It renders a smoky flavor and nutty texture to the dish. If you don’t have chili oil, use regular oil instead.
Garlic and Ginger: Ginger and garlic are the main ingredients in Chinese cuisine. Using fresh ingredients adds the best flavor to the dish
Sichuan Peppercorn: Sichuan peppercorn is found in the Sichuan region of China and is an important ingredient of Sichuan cuisine. These add heat to the dish. They are not very hot but add the amount of heat required in the Hunan chicken. Order them online or get them from an Asian store.
Dry Red Chillies: Dry red chilies add a vibrant red/orange color along with heat to the Hunan-style chicken.
Chicken Breast: I prefer chicken breast while making this chicken as it cooks quickly and remains tender. It is also easy to slice it thinly. You can also use chicken thighs.
You can also go for other meat options and substitute chicken with pork, beef, fish etc.
Chilli Paste: You can add or skip chili paste depending on how spicy you like your Hunan-style chicken. If you prefer more heat, add a little chili paste. Check out my homemade chili paste recipe here.
Black Bean Sauce: Black bean sauce adds a unique strong flavour to a dish.
Vegetables: I have used broccoli and bell pepper. You can use any vegetables that you like, such as carrots, beans, zucchini, corn, mushroom, and bamboo shoots.
Chinese Cooking wine: It is also known as mirin and is one of the few most important things in Chinese cooking. If you don’t have it, use any white wine.
Rice Vinegar: Rice vinegar is made from fermented rice and adds a mildly sweet flavor to the dish.
Sesame Oil: Sesame oil is an important ingredient in Chinese cooking and adds a nutty flavor. Use regular oil if it’s not available.
Scallion Greens: Use the greens from scallion to garnish the dish once it is done to add some crunch.
Toasted Sesame Seeds: Sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds before serving to add nutty texture to the dish.
How to make Hunan Chicken?
Hunan chicken comes together very quickly if all the ingredients are ready. So let’s start by preparing the ingredients.
Slice 1 lb (2 large) chicken breasts into thin slices. I like to freeze the chicken breasts for 20-30 minutes until they firm up. Then cut them against the grains into thin slices, almost shaved. Freezing makes the slicing easier.
Finely chop 4-5 cloves of garlic and a 1-inch piece of ginger. Thinly slice the white part of 3-4 green onions, cut a small head of broccoli into small florets, cut ½ red bell pepper into 1-inch cubes, and chop the stalk of 2 green onions. To save time, you can buy already chopped veggies.
Keep all the ingredients next to the cooking area. Once we start to stir fry, we need to be quick.
Make The Hunan Chicken
Heat 3 tablespoon vegetable oil in a pan or a wok over high heat.
Once the oil is hot, add 2 tablespoon finely chopped garlic, 1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger, 5-6 whole Sichuan peppercorns (optional), 5-6 whole dry red chilies, and ¼ cup chopped white part of scallion and saute for a minute.
Toss the chicken slices with 1 teaspoon cornstarch.
Add the cornstarch-coated chicken to the pan and fry on high heat for 4-5 minutes.
Note – If you like crispy chicken, then toss the chicken in some more cornstarch and shallow fry in oil until crisp. Then add it to the pan.
Add 1 tablespoon red chili paste, 1 tablespoon black bean sauce, 1 cup broccoli florets and ½ cup red bell pepper to the pan and cook for a minute.
Now add 2 tablespoon of Chinese cooking wine, 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, salt, and pepper to taste and mix everything well.
Garnish with chopped green onions and toasted sesame seeds. Serve hot with steamed rice or noodles.
Frequently Asked Questions
To cut the chicken breast into thin pieces, keep your knife at 45 Degrees angle and cut the chicken at this angle. Cutting the chicken against the grains with making sure it turns out juicy and flavourful.
Here is a nice article which talks about cutting the chicken in a detailed manner. Do check it out.
Hunan cuisine is also known as Xiang cuisine. Food from Xiang River, Western Hunan province and Dongting Lake comes under Hunan cuisine.
Hunan recipe is simple, spicy, and oily. Whereas Szechuan or Szechwan or Sichuan chicken originated in Sichuan province, southwestern China.
Sichuan peppercorn is used to make it, which adds a distinctive aromatic citrusy taste to it. Szechuan chicken is sweet and spicy.
Although both dishes are made using chili peppers and garlic, the Hunan recipe is usually hotter than Szechuan chicken.
Hunan chicken is a stir-fried chicken dish, which calls for vegetables and a light, spicy sauce made with oyster sauce.
Whereas General Tso’s Chicken is battered, fried crispy chicken tossed in a sweet and spicy sauce, with no vegetables.
The sauce of Hunan-style chicken is light as compared to Kung Pao chicken which is starchy and syrupy.
The chicken in Kung Pao chicken is fried until crisp whereas, in the Hunan recipe, it is just sautéed.
To make a saucy version of this, mix 1 teaspoon cornflour in ½ cup chicken broth and add it at the end of cooking. Cook for another 2-3 minutes and serve.
If you want the chicken to have a crispy texture in Hunan chicken, just coat it with cornstarch and pan fry the same until it turns golden brown and a little crispy on the outside. Once done, mix the pan-fried chicken with veggies and sauce to make Hunan Chicken.
Pro Tips By Neha
Do not overcrowd the pan while stir-frying otherwise the chicken will steam instead of searing.
You can adjust the amount of spiciness in the dish by increasing the quantity of chili paste.
I like to add chicken without pan-frying, but if you need a crispy texture, coat the chicken with cornstarch and pan fry before mixing with other ingredients.
You can add as many veggies as you want. Just make sure the vegetables complement the chicken as well as the sauce.
Do not overcook the chicken, otherwise it will become chewy.
Slow Cooker – To make this chicken in a slow cooker, heat oil in a skillet and saute the chicken slices until they are browned from both sides. Now add all the ingredients including the browned chicken in a slow cooker. Close the lid and cook on slow for 4 hours.
Veggies – You can add other veggies like water chestnut, mushrooms, baby corn, celery, snow peas, zucchini and bamboo shoots.
Meat – You can make this recipe with other meat like pork, beef, seafood like shrimp or scallops and fish like salmon and sea bass.
Nuts – Add nuts like cashew nuts, or peanuts for a nice crunch.
If you have leftovers, they last in the refrigerator for about 2 to 3 days. Store it properly in an airtight container.
When it comes to freezing, I would not recommend you to freeze these Hunan chicken. The veggies will become mushy and won’t taste good while reheating.
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Hunan Chicken Recipe
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
- 5-6 whole Sichuan peppercorns (optional)
- 5-6 whole dry red chilies
- ¼ cup thinly sliced white part of green onion
- 1 lb boneless chicken breast (500 g, cut into thin stripes along the grains)
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon red chili paste
- 1 tablespoon black bean sauce
- 1 cup broccoli florets
- ½ cup cubed red bell pepper
- 2 tablespoons Chinese cooking wine (optional)
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- salt & pepper (to taste)
- 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
- Heat vegetable oil in a pan or a wok over high heat.
- Once the oil is hot, add garlic, ginger, Sichuan peppercorns(optional), whole dry red chilies, and white part of scallions, and saute for a minute.
- Toss the chicken slices with cornstarch and add it to the pan.
- Fry on high heat for 4-5 minutes.
- Add red chili paste, black bean sauce, broccoli florets, and red bell pepper to the pan and cook for a minute.
- Now add Chinese cooking wine, rice vinegar, sesame oil, salt, and pepper to taste and mix everything well.
- Garnish the chicken with chopped green onions and toasted sesame seeds. Serve hot with steamed rice or noodles.