Make this hot and spicy, takeout copycat Chinese 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 very popular Chinese recipe from its 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 the use of spicy and tart flavors are very common in their cooking style. It is hotter in flavor and not sweet, unlike the Schezwan chicken that is a little sweeter in taste.
This Hunan style chicken is also one of the most popular takeout dishes from Chinese restaurants around the world.
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 is tender is juicy and the Hunan sauce that it is coated with is incredibly flavorful and delicious.
It comes together in under 30 minutes using simple ingredients. This recipe is customizable and lets you adjust the heat, sauces, and veggies. It is much more economical to make it at home too.
If you love spicy food, then give this chicken Hunan recipe a try.
Serve it with stir-fried noodles or steamed rice for a comforting meal.
Ingredients & Variations
Chicken – Use boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts to make this spicy Hunan chicken recipe.
Cornstarch – Cornstarch is required to coat the chicken before sauteeing and also to thicken the sauce.
Veggies – I used red bell peppers, broccoli, and celery.
Others – You will also need vegetable oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and low sodium chicken broth.
Hunan Sauce Ingredients
Hunan chicken is a spicy dish and it gets its spicy kick from a spicy Hunan sauce.
To make the sauce, you will need dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice vinegar, honey, and chili paste.
You can either make your own at home using my easy red chili paste recipe or by 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, 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 any fresh vegetables of your choice 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 to the dish. If it’s not easily available, then 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 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.
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 flat wide 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 very important 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 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 together 2 tablespoon cornstarch with ½ cup low sodium chicken broth and add the slurry to the pan.
Add 2 tablespoon dark soy sauce, 2 tablespoon oyster sauce, 2 teaspoon rice vinegar, 1 teaspoon honey, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper powder, and mix well.
Note – 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 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 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 recipes are simple, spicy, and oily.
Whereas Szechuan (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 chicken is usually hotter than Szechuan chicken.
Hunan style chicken is a stir-fried chicken dish, which calls for vegetables and a light, spicy 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, 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.
If you have leftovers, then store them in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 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 breast (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 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 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.