Kung Pao Chicken Lettuce Wraps


Quick Chinese-style lettuce wraps. photo: Nancy Duran

Please don’t be intimidated by the list of ingredients in this recipe. I know it looks time-consuming, but truly, this dish comes together very quickly. Actual cooking time is just over 15 minutes. And the results are well worth the time involved in gathering the bits and pieces.

This recipe is based on the Chinese take-out classic Kung Pao Chicken, which is one of my favorites. Sadly, take-out Chinese doesn’t tend to be the best option for the waistline. So for a healthier take, I make it myself and then serve it in lettuce cups. As a bonus, my kids think it’s more fun to eat it that way. Fun, healthy, and less than 20 minutes cooking time equals win-win-win. And the January healthy reset continues!

Serves 4

1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin
1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine (or cooking sherry)
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch (dissolved in 1 tablespoon water)
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 celery stalks, sliced thinly
1 large carrot, sliced thinly
1/3 cup shelled unsalted peanuts
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1-inch piece fresh ginger, finely chopped
4 scallions, chopped, white and light green parts separated from dark green parts
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the chicken, 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce, and the hoisin. Combine to coat all over. Let sit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  2. To make the sauce, in a small bowl, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of soy sauce with the Chinese cooking wine, honey, vinegar, sesame oil, and dissolved cornstarch. Set aside.
  3. In a wok or large frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil over high heat. When very hot, add 1/2 the chicken and cook for about 4 minutes, until just cooked through. (For a nice sear, I like to let the chicken sit for about 1 minute, then flip the pieces and leave them for about 1 minute, then cook stirring for an additional 2 minutes.) Remove to a plate and repeat with the remaining chicken. Remove the second batch of chicken to the plate.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of peanut oil. Add the celery, carrot, and peanuts and cook, stirring for about 5 minutes, until starting to soften.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the garlic, ginger, scallion, and the crushed red pepper flakes if using. Cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, until fragrant.
  6. Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan and add the sauce. Cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes until the sauce boils and thickens. Serve with rice or in lettuce cups.

Nutritional analysis based on 4 servings, including crushed red pepper flakes (does not include lettuce and rice serving options):
Calories 371, Fat 19g, Sodium 1245 mg, Carbohydrate 17g, Fiber 2g, Sugar 8g, Protein 33g

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2 Responses to Kung Pao Chicken Lettuce Wraps

  1. jennifer says:

    made this on sat night for a bunch of grownups and kids — everyone loved it. even the picky eaters! Thanks!


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