Easy Dinner Recipes – Kung Pao Chicken
Summer – okay really any time of year – means I need healthy dinner ideas that are super easy dinner recipes. Kung Pao Chicken is one of my favorite go-to dinners. It’s healthy, easy and can be planned or made with whatever is leftover in the fridge. (Sorry about the less-than picture but we were already dishing up when I remembered I needed to grab a quick pix – no staging time allowed when my family was already serving up).
If you need an even faster dinner meal, chop up all your vegetables for this easy dinner recipes or for the entire week. Then when you need the items they’re ready to go. Because, let’s be honest, the cutting and prepping work is the most time consuming. I’d love for my son to be my sous chef but as a teenager now, he’s just not that interested in helping in the kitchen. He does make one meal a week for the family and some version of noodles with meat and vegetables is his quick solution.
This is also one of my favorite healthy dinner ideas because you can virtually add almost any vegetable and it’ll taste great with the Kung Pao Chicken sauce. Plus, you can add any meat . . . it could be Kung Pao Pork or Kung Pao Tofu . . . it all tastes great.
Kung Pao Chicken Substitutions
So let me point out some ways that you can make this easy dinner recipes without committing to any particular ingredients.
- Tamari – if you don’t have tamari, use soy sauce or coconut aminos.
- Corn starch – feel free to use agar or arrowroot. I like the glossy look of corn starch and my co-op has non-GMO corn starch.
- Dry sherry – if you don’t have dry sherry, use dry white wine.
- Chicken breasts – use whatever meat, or meat substitute, you like. I’ve even used leftover rotisserie chicken. Or go no-meat; it’s still a tasty, healthy dinner ideas.
- Crushed red peppers – these are absolutely optional. If you don’t like too spicy, stick with just the chilies in the oil. If you want to bring up the heat, add the crushed red peppers.
- Vegetables – I wrote up red pepper, celery, mushrooms, snow peas, green onions and bean sprouts. But, you can chop up summer squash, any color pepper, green beans, asparagus, etc. You can also use canned mushrooms instead of fresh. The only vegetable that I feel is kind of required are the green onions. A regular yellow onion, even a sweet one, just doesn’t have the same flavor. So, if you can, keep the green onions.
- Peanuts – I think I actually used cashews in this picture because that’s what I had in the refrigerator. But, usually I like the taste of peanuts better in this recipe but don’t get too caught up in the specifics.
- Noodles – use fresh or dried. Find the one that you like best. We’ve found we enjoy ramen noodles and plain old brown rice spaghetti noodles but we’ve used various types and styles of noodles and they’ve all tasted great.
Don’t Change with Easy Dinner Recipes
- Thickener – don’t skip a thickener on this Kung Pao Chicken recipe. You want that saucy feel over all the noodles and vegetables.
- Tofu – if you choose tofu, don’t use the cornstarch on the tofu. But, do marinate the tofu in the broth, tamari, sherry and cornstarch for about 30 minutes for a better flavor.
- Oil – don’t skip the oil; it adds so much flavor! Also, make sure you saute the chilies until browned. This spices up the oil and the whole dish.
- Green onions – there’s really no substitute in this recipe.
Tips for Easy Dinner Recipes
As I noted earlier, chop up as many vegetables in advance as possible. Use leftovers whenever you can. Use whatever combination you have in your refrigerator – no celery, no problem – this healthy dinner ideas will still taste great!
Kung Pao Chicken Ingredients:
- ½ cup chicken broth
- ½ cup tamari
- ½ cup dry sherry
- 2 T cornstarch
- 1-1 ½ lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
- 2 T sesame oil, divided
- 5 dried chilies
- 4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
- 2 T fresh garlic, minced
- ½ t dried crushed red peppers (optional)
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 2-3 stalks celery, chopped
- 5-6 mushrooms, chopped
- 2 cups snow peas, trimmed
- 6 green onions, cut into 1-in pieces
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- ½ cup roasted unsalted peanuts
- 4-5 servings of noodles or linguine
- 2 T sesame seeds
- Chop all ingredients. Allow onions and garlic to rest 5-10 minutes. Boil water for noodles.
- Combine chicken broth, tamari, sherry and 1 tablespoon cornstarch in small bowl. Toss chicken with remaining tablespoon of cornstarch.
- Cook noodles al dente.
- While noodles cook. Heat a wok over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil. Sauté the chilies for 1-2 minutes, until browned.
- Add the garlic, ginger and crushed red pepper if using. Sauté for 30 seconds or until fragrant.
- Add the chicken and sauté until almost cooked through. Transfer chicken to plate.
- Heat remaining tablespoon of oil. Add all vegetables and sauté for 1-2 minutes.
- Return chicken to wok; add peanuts and chicken broth mixture. Cook until mixture thickens slightly, about 3 minutes.
- Add noodles to the wok and toss to coat. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve immediately.