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Kung Pao Sauce | The Recipe Critic


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Sweet, sour, and spicy, Kung Pao Sauce is easy to make and the perfect addition for your Chinese-inspired dishes. This homemade version is so flavorful, you’ll never want store-bought again!

Homemade kung pao sauce is made with fresh ingredients and pantry staples to use in a variety of Asian dishes. Use it to make General Tso’s chicken, Mongolian beef and kung pao chicken!

Kung pao sauce in a gray bowl, being stirred with a wooden spoon.Kung pao sauce in a gray bowl, being stirred with a wooden spoon.

Homemade Kung Pao Sauce Recipe

One taste of this homemade kung pao sauce, and you’ll want to add it to all of your favorite stir fry dishes. Kung pao sauce is a commonly used stir-fry sauce in Szechuan cuisine. It has rich, complex flavor from a combination of spicy ingredients like chili peppers, Sichuan peppercorns and sriracha with a mix of soy sauce and vinegar, and a hint of sweetness. Whether you’re whipping up a simple stir fry or want to add extra flavor to roasted veggies, you will love this sauce!

Don’t be intimidated by the list of ingredients because once you have everything needed to make this, you will want to make it on repeat. This recipe comes together quickly and then you have a jar of amazing sauce ready to use with your favorite Asian recipes. I love that I can just pull this one sauce out when I’m making any of my kung pao recipes instead of multiple sauces and ingredients to flavor the dish. Use it to make kung pao shrimp, kung pao Brussels sprouts and slow cooker kung pao chicken.

Ingredients Needed

This is everything you need to make kung pao sauce at home! Feel free to tweak the ingredients as needed to preference and what you have available in your pantry. Exact measurements can all be found in the recipe card below.

  • Sesame Oil: Gives the sauce a rich, nutty taste that’s beyond delicious.
  • Olive Oil: For sautéing the chili peppers and peppercorns.
  • Chili Peppers: A signature ingredient in kung pao recipes to really add some heat! Look for these in the international food aisle. You can remove the seeds for less heat and/or use fewer, as desired.
  • Ground Szechuan Peppercorns: These have a spicy, woody aroma and a pungent, biting flavor and unique numbing quality. If you can’t find these, use ground black peppercorns, although the flavor will not quite be the same.
  • Fresh Ginger: Grated ginger gives the sauce a spicy, peppery kick, and adds a touch of freshness.
  • Garlic: For a savory and slightly spicy flavor.
  • Scallions: Add a mild, slightly sweet oniony flavor.
  • Soy Sauce: Adds a salty and umami flavor! You can also substitute it with tamari sauce, which is gluten-free and has a similar flavor.
  • Brown Sugar: Adds sweetness and depth of flavor to the sauce. You can use either light or dark brown sugar, but the flavor will differ slightly.
  • Chinese Black Vinegar: Also known as Chinkiang vinegar or Zhenjiang vinegar, this adds a complex, mellow sweetness that rounds out the sauce. You can find this online or at your local Asian grocer. You can sub with balsamic vinegar, if preferred.
  • Sriracha Sauce: Adds a bit of extra spice to an already spicy sauce.
  • Chicken Broth: Thins the sauce while adding extra flavor. Use vegetable broth, if preferred.
  • Cornstarch: To help thicken the sauce.
  • Water: To get the consistency just right.

How to Make Kung Pao Sauce

A batch of homemade kung pao sauce is the perfect addition to your Chinese recipes to really take them to the next level. Whether you’re making meat dishes, rice bowls, or stir fries, it’s an incredible condiment to have on hand!

  1. Sauté Chilis and Peppercorns: Heat the sesame oil and olive oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Add the dried chilis and peppercorns. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until the peppers begin to darken in color.
  2. Simmer: Add the ginger, garlic, and scallions and cook for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, sriracha, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5-6 minutes to allow it to slightly reduce.
  3. Thicken: Mix the cornstarch and water to make a slurry. Stir into the reduced sauce and cook for 1-2 minutes, until the sauce has thickened. Remove from the heat and either use kung pao sauce immediately or store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 7 days.
4-photo collage of all of the sauce ingredients being combined.4-photo collage of all of the sauce ingredients being combined.

Tips and Tricks

This homemade kung pao sauce is really easy and straightforward to make, but here are some tips so it’s absolutely perfect!

  • Suggested Ingredients: For the best flavor, try to use the suggested ingredients. A few of them are more difficult to find, but you may use the substitute listed in the recipe card if you cannot find them.
  • Adjust the Heat: This is a very spicy sauce, but you may reduce the heat by using less chilis and less sriracha. As the peppers cook it can throw some of that heat from the peppers into the air, so make sure you are cooking in a ventilated space!
  • Storing Ginger: With both fresh ginger and fresh green onions, I love to buy extra and then throw them in the freezer for when I need them! Peel, chop or grate the ginger, and slice the scallions before freezing. Remove from the freezer and add directly into whatever recipe calls for them.

Kung pao sauce being mixed with a wooden spoon in a blue and white skillet.Kung pao sauce being mixed with a wooden spoon in a blue and white skillet.

Storing Leftovers

This homemade kung pao sauce doesn’t contain any preservatives, so it won’t last as long as something you’d get from the store. But the taste is so much better that it’s well worth it! Plus, it’s super easy to make, so you can just mix up another batch when you need it.

  • In the Refrigerator: Store homemade kung pao sauce in an airtight container, jar, or bottle for up to 7 days. The ingredients may settle as it sits, so give it a quick shake or stir before you use it.
  • In the Freezer: You can make this sauce ahead of time and freeze it for up to 3 months. Let it thaw for a couple hours in the fridge before using.

Closeup of sauce in a wooden spoon.Closeup of sauce in a wooden spoon.

More Homemade Sauces

I love making my own homemade sauces! They taste so much fresher than store-bought, and you can control the ingredients to suite your taste preferences. Here are more tried and true sauce recipes your family will go crazy over!

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  • Heat the sesame oil and olive oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Add the dried chilis and peppercorns. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until the peppers begin to darken in color.

  • Add the ginger, garlic, and scallions and cook for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, sriracha, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5-6 minutes to allow it to slightly reduce.

  • Mix the cornstarch and water to make a slurry. Stir into the reduced sauce and cook for 1-2 minutes, until the sauce has thickened. Remove from the heat and either use immediately or store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 7 days.

Serving: 1cup (the full recipe)Calories: 518kcalCarbohydrates: 59gProtein: 10gFat: 29gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 8gMonounsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 5mgSodium: 4480mgPotassium: 504mgFiber: 4gSugar: 39gVitamin A: 1178IUVitamin C: 20mgCalcium: 116mgIron: 3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.


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