Make this hot and spicy takeout copycat Chinese Hunan Chicken at home in under 30 minutes. It’s budget-friendly and loaded with colorful veggies, and the spices can be adjusted to your taste.
Here are some more Chinese-style dishes: Easy One Pot Shrimp Chow Mein, Chinese Hot and Sour Soup, Chilli Chicken, General Tso’s Chicken, Pad Thai Noodles, and Chilli Prawns.
About Hunan Chicken
Hunan Chicken is a very popular Chinese recipe from the Hunan region. It is made by tossing juicy, thinly sliced chicken breasts (or thighs) and veggies with a spicy and savory sauce.
Hunan chicken recipe comes from the Hunan province of China, where spicy and tart flavors are prevalent in their cooking style. It is hotter in flavor and not sweet, unlike the Schezwan chicken, which is a little sweeter.
This Hunan style chicken is also one of the most popular takeout dishes from Chinese restaurants worldwide.
I love it so much that I made it a point to perfect my homemade recipe, and now I can very proudly say that my homemade Hunan spicy chicken tastes as good, if not better, than most takeouts.
The cooked chicken is tender and juicy, and the Hunan sauce it is coated with is incredibly flavorful and delicious.
It comes together in under 30 minutes using simple ingredients. This customizable recipe lets you adjust the heat, sauces, and veggies. It is much more economical to make it at home too.
If you love spicy food, try this chicken Hunan recipe.
Serve it with stir-fried noodles or steamed rice for a comforting meal.
Ingredients & Variations
Chicken – Make this spicy Hunan chicken recipe with boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts.
Cornstarch – Cornstarch is required to coat the chicken before sauteeing and thickening the sauce.
Veggies – I used red bell peppers, broccoli, and celery.
Others – You will also need vegetable oil, salt, black pepper, garlic, and low-sodium chicken broth.
Replace black pepper powder with crushed Sichuan peppercorns if you have them.
Hunan Sauce Ingredients
Hunan chicken is a spicy dish that gets its spicy kick from a spicy Hunan sauce.
You will need dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice vinegar, honey, and red chili paste to make the sauce.
You can make chili paste at home using my easy red chili paste recipe or buy a bottle. Adjust the amount as per your spice level.
You can add nuts like cashew nuts or peanuts for a nice crunch.
Make this recipe with other meat like pork, or beef, seafood like shrimp or scallops, and fish like salmon and sea bass.
You can also replace chili paste with sambal oelek.
For a more authentic taste, replace vegetable oil with sesame oil.
You can use other fresh vegetables like mushrooms, zucchini, sugar peas, green beans, baby corn, etc.
Canned veggies like water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, etc., are also great additions.
Rice vinegar is made from fermented rice and adds a mildly sweet flavor. If it’s not readily available, replace it with regular white vinegar.
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.
Pat dry 1 lb (2 large) chicken breasts using paper towels and slice them into thin slices. I 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.
Cut a small broccoli head into small florets, slice a stalk of celery, core, deseed 1 red bell pepper, and cut it into ½ inch cubes.
Mince 3-4 cloves of garlic.
Gather the remaining ingredients and keep them next to the cooking area. Once we start to stir fry, we need to be quick.
Fry The Chicken
Add 1 pound (500 g) chicken breast (cut into thin slices) to a mixing bowl. Add 2 tablespoon cornstarch and toss well to coat the chicken pieces.
Heat a wide flat pan or a large skillet over high heat. Once the pan is hot, add 2 tablespoon vegetable oil.
Add the chicken pieces to the pan and spread them in a single layer. We want the chicken to fry instead of steam. Hence it is essential to use a wide pan.
Note – I used a 12-inch pan for 1 pound of chicken. If you are scaling the recipe, then fry it in batches.
Stir the chicken a few times while cooking and fry until nicely browned from both sides (6-8 minutes). Remove on a plate.
Note – Do not overcook the chicken; otherwise, it will become chewy.
Make The Hunan Sauce
Add 2 tablespoon vegetable oil to the same pan and heat over medium-high heat.
Once the oil is hot and shimmery, add 2 teaspoon minced garlic and saute it for 3-4 seconds.
Add 1 cup broccoli florets, ½ cup thinly sliced celery, and 1 red bell pepper (cored, seeded, and cut into ½ inch cubes) and saute for 15-20 seconds.
Add the fried chicken back to the pan and mix well.
Stir 2 tablespoon cornstarch with ½ cup low sodium chicken broth in a small bowl and add the slurry to the pan.
- 2 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 2 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 2 teaspoon rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon honey
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper powder
and mix well.
Note – Be very careful about the extra salt. The sauces already have a lot of salt, so add a little, taste, and add more if required.
Add 2 teaspoon red chili paste and mix well again.
Garnish with green onions and sesame seeds, and serve hot.
Frequently Asked Questions
To cut chicken breast into thin pieces, keep your knife at a 45-degree angle and cut at this angle. Cutting against the grains will make sure it turns out juicy and flavourful.
Here is a nice article that talks about cutting the chicken in detail. 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 recipes are simple, spicy, and oily.
Szechuan (Szechwan or Sichuan) chicken originated in Sichuan province, southwestern China. Sichuan peppercorn is used to make it, adding a distinctive aromatic, citrusy taste. Szechuan chicken is sweet and spicy.
Although both dishes use chili peppers and garlic, the Hunan chicken is usually hotter than Szechuan chicken.
Hunan-style chicken is a stir-fried dish that calls for vegetables and a light, spicy sauce.
Whereas General Tso’s Chicken is battered, crispy fried chicken tossed in a sweet and spicy sauce, with no vegetables.
The sauce of Hunan-style chicken is light 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, increase the quantity of cornstarch from 1 tablespoon to 3 tablespoon and chicken broth from ½ cup to 1-½ cup. Add the slurry to the pan and cook until the sauce thickens.
To make Hunan chicken in a slow cooker, heat oil in a skillet and saute the cornstarch-coated chicken slices until they are browned from both sides. Now add all the ingredients, including the browned chicken, to a slow cooker. Close the lid and cook on slow for 4 hours.
You can serve Hunan chicken with stir-fried green beans, Jasmine rice, Basmati rice, fried rice, garlic noodles, shrimp chow mein, or Hakka noodles.
If you have leftovers, store them in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 2-3 days.
I would not recommend you freeze Hunan chicken. The veggies will become mushy and won’t taste good after reheating.
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Easy Chinese Hunan Chicken Recipe (Takeout Copycat)
- 1 pound boneless chicken breasts (500 g)
- 4 tablespoons cornstarch (divided)
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil (divided)
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 cup broccoli florets
- ½ cup thinly sliced celery
- 1 red bell pepper (cored, seeded and cut into ½ inch cubes)
- ½ cup low sodium chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon honey
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper powder
- 2 teaspoons red chili paste
- Pat dry chicken breasts using paper towels and slice them 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.
- Gather the ingredients and keep them next to the cooking area. Once we start to stir fry, we need to be quick.
Fry The Chicken
- Add chicken breast (cut into thin slices) to a mixing bowl. Add 2 tablespoon cornstarch and toss well to coat the chicken pieces.
- Heat a flat wide pan or a large skillet over high heat. Once the pan is hot, add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
- Add the chicken pieces to the pan and spread them in a single layer. We want the chicken to fry instead of steam, hence it is very important to use a wide pan.
- I used a 12 inch pan for 1 pound of chicken. If you are scaling the recipe, then fry in batches.
- Stir the chicken a few times while cooking and fry until nicely browned from both sides (6-8 minutes). Remove on a plate.
- Do not overcook the chicken otherwise, it will become chewy.
Make The Hunan Sauce
- Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil to the same pan and heat over medium-high heat.
- Once the oil is hot and shimmery, add minced garlic and saute it for 3-4 seconds.
- Add broccoli florets, celery, and red bell pepper and saute for 15-20 seconds.
- Add the fried chicken back to the pan and mix well.
- Stir together 2 tablespoon cornstarch with chicken broth and add the slurry to the pan.
- Add dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper powder, and mix well.
- Be very careful about the extra salt. The sauces already have a lot of salt in them so add little, taste, and add more if required.
- Add red chili paste and mix well again.
- Garnish with scallions and serve hot.
Did you make this recipe? Let me know!