Hunan chicken is a popular Chinese-American dish made with tender pieces of chicken cooked with vegetables and tossed in a thick savory and spicy sauce. 

Bowl of Hunan Chicken | pickledplum.com

I L-O-V-E Chinese food.

I spent three years living and working in Hong Kong, Singapore, Taipei, Shenzhen and Shanghai so I consider myself fairly well informed about Chinese food. And while it’s obvious that authentic Chinese food is delicious, I still very much enjoy eating American-Chinese food because I grew up on it.

Hunan chicken is one of those dishes that was altered by Chinese restaurants (like general Tso chicken) in order to please the American palate.

The original dish is hot, spicy and savory. However, the Hunan chicken we are used to eating here in America is sweeter, than savory and quite mild.

The real Hunan chicken also comes with bone-in chicken pieces and contains vegetables such as scallions, peppers and chilis.

ingredients for hunan chicken

I’ve tasted both versions and can honestly say I enjoy both of them.

Maybe it’s because they taste so different that it feels like I am eating two completely different dishes!

I grew up eating Chinese buffet food from places with names like Jade Palace and Imperial Garden so you can see why a dish like Hunan chicken with a little sweetness is appealing to me.

I didn’t discover really spicy food until later in my life – my mother (like most Japanese people) never made anything spicy since she couldn’t handle the heat. It wasn’t until my first trip to Thailand that I got my first taste of mouth numbing – eyes popping out of my sockets – spicy.

And I fell in love with it instantly.

This Hunan chicken recipe is very simple and packs a punch in taste. It’s spicy enough to give you a little lip sweat but not enough to make you want to call the fire squad. Alright, let’s get to the recipe!

pan fried chicken

Ingredients for Hunan Chicken

  • Chicken: skinless breast of fillet are better because they marinate well and absorb a lot of flavor.
  • Egg: Dipping chicken pieces in egg helps preserve the moisture when they are cooking.
  • Cornstarch: constarch tenderizes meat by breaking down myosin, a protein that’s known for making meat tough.
  • Salt and Pepper: to season the chicken.
  • Oil: You can use any type of neutral oil for this dish.
  • Garlic: To add pungency and nuttiness.
  • Ginger: To add a little heat.
  • Vegetables: I’m using a mix of zucchini, red bell pepper and carrot.
  • Hunan Sauce: A combination of sugar, apple cider vinegar, cornstarch, chili bean paste, oyster sauce, soy sauce, chicken stock, and white ground pepper.
hunan chicken sauce

How To Make Hunan Chicken

  1. Whisk the eggs and cornstarch in a bowl and add the chicken pieces. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Make the hunan sauce by mixing the ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Cook the chicken in a pan until it’s cooked through and golden brown. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
  4. Add the vegetables to the pan and cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Return the chicken to the pan and stir in the sauce for about 1 minute, until it thickens.
  6. Serve with white or brown rice.

Variations

Use button onions and/or mushrooms instead of zucchini. You can also use firm tofu instead of chicken and add more chili bean paste for a spicier taste.

stir fried vegetables

What Does Hunan Chicken Taste Like?

As I previously mentioned, the American version is on the sweeter and milder side. My version is more savory and has a bit more heat. I wouldn’t call it fiery, but just spicy enough to make your lips tingle.

What To Serve With Hunan Chicken

If you feel like serving an all Chinese theme dinner this evening, here are some dishes that will pair really nicely with hunan chicken. They are also quite popular in Chinese restaurant so you will recognize them right away!

Serve this recipe with a side of Japanese rice. Watch our video on How To Make Japanese Rice the stove top or rice cooker method!

Bowl of Hunan Chicken | pickledplum.com Bowl of Hunan Chicken | pickledplum.com

Did you like this Hunan Chicken Recipe? Are there changes you made that you would like to share? Share your tips and recommendations in the comment section below!

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Easy Hunan Chicken

Hunan chicken is a popular Chinese-American dish made with tender pieces of chicken cooked with vegetables and tossed in a thick savory and spicy sauce.

  • Author: Caroline Phelps
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 2 1x
  • Category: Stir Fry
  • Method: Stir Fry
  • Cuisine: Chinese
Scale

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound skinless (boneless chicken breast, chopped bite size)
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 large egg (whisked)
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 clove garlic (minced)
  • 1 thumb size ginger (peeled and finely chopped)
  • 2 cups mix of zucchini, red bell pepper and carrot (sliced bite size)

For the sauce:

  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons chili bean paste or chili paste (such as tobanjan, Sambal Oelek)
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup low sodium chicken stock
  • white ground pepper

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, combine egg and cornstarch and season with a little salt and pepper. Add chicken pieces and marinade for 5 minutes.
  2. Add all the ingredients for the sauce into a bowl and whisk until well blended.
  3. In a large pan over medium high heat, add 1 tbsp vegetable oil. Drop chicken pieces and cook until both sides are golden brown. Remove chicken from the pan and set aside.
  4. Add remaining 1 tbsp vegetable oil to the pan (still over medium high heat) and add garlic and ginger. Cook for 1 minute and add vegetables. Cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Return chicken to the pan and add sauce. Stir and coat vegetables and chicken for 1 minute and turn the heat off.
  6. Transfer to a plate or bowl and serve Hunan chicken with a side of white rice.

Notes

If you ran out or cannot find chile bean paste, substitute it for 2 tsp gochujang.

This Hunan Chicken Recipe is:
High in Vitamin A

Sambal Oelek is made of chilies with no other additives such as garlic or spices for a more simpler taste. Use this sauce to add heat to a dish without altering the other delicate flavors.

Keywords: main, poultry

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