Tender, juicy chicken is tossed with mixed peppers, ginger, garlic, and a scrumptious savory sauce. This version of Hunan chicken is quick and healthy – a perfect one-bowl dinner.
There are two types of Hunan chicken recipes out there:
- The American Chinese version: Chunks of chicken breast are deep fried, and served in a hot sauce that is quite sweet.
- The authentic Chinese version: A whole chicken is chopped into bone-in bite-size pieces, then cooked with tons of chili peppers and just enough sauce to coat the ingredients.
When I developed the recipe at home, I combined the goodness of both versions and made this Hunan chicken using traditional Chinese ingredients and a modern approach. It results in a recipe that is faster and more practical to prepare in a Western kitchen, is possible to cook in a nonstick skillet, and is healthier and easier to serve with rice to make a one-bowl meal.
Why this recipe
Use fresh peppers to spice up the dish
I’ve seen recipes that use hot sauce to season the dish. However, I went with the traditional Chinese way, which uses a bunch of mixed peppers. Not only does it make the dish more colorful, but it also adds a good amount of veggies to your dish and makes the meal more balanced.
In Chinese cooking, a type of long pepper is usually used in this dish. It is a bit spicier than an Anaheim pepper, but slightly less spicy than a jalapeno pepper. It usually comes in both red and green, a combination that makes this dish look really pretty. Living in Austin, I couldn’t find the long peppers, so I used a mixture of Anaheim and serrano peppers. I like the crisp, tender texture of the Anaheim peppers, and the serrano peppers add a ton of spiciness.
If you want a milder dish, you can switch to a mixture of bell pepper and jalapeno, or simply use mild peppers exclusively.
Select whatever cut of chicken you prefer
Although the Hunan chicken in China uses bone-in chicken, I opted for a boneless cut simply because it’s more practical. I used chicken thighs in the recipe, but you can switch to chicken breast, as well. The recipe yields tender and juicy chicken no matter which cut you use.
A saucier version that works great with rice
Although the authentic version uses very little sauce (known as a dry stir fry), I made a much saucier version just because it works so well with steamed rice. The sauce is similar to a basic brown sauce, but I used oyster sauce and sesame oil to add more umami and a bit of sweetness. It tasted SO GOOD that I might consider doubling the amount of sauce next time.
That’s it! A traditional Chinese Hunan chicken with a modern twist. It takes 20 minutes to prep and cook. Get your rice cooker going first, then make this stir fry, and you’ll have dinner ready in no time.
More delicious stir fry recipes
- Crispy Sesame Chicken (without Deep Frying)
- Real-Deal Moo Shu Pork
- Black Pepper Steak
- Chinese Orange Chicken
- Real-Deal Xinjiang Cumin Lamb
- Moo Goo Gai Pan
If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @omnivorescookbook on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.
- 1 lbs (450 g) skinless boneless chicken thigh (or breast), cut into 2/3-inch (1 cm) pieces
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 4 clove garlic , sliced
- 2 teaspoons ginger , finely chopped
- 3 Anaheim peppers (or 2 bell peppers, seeded and sliced)
- 1 to 2 serrano peppers (or 1 to 2 jalapeno peppers), sliced (Optional) (*Footnote 1)
- Combine chicken, Shaoxing wine, salt, and cornstarch in a medium-sized bowl. Mix well with your hands, so the chicken is evenly covered with a thin slurry.
- Mix all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium high heat until hot. Add the chicken. Stir and cook until the all surfaces turn white, but the inside is still a bit pink, 2 minutes or so. Transfer the chicken to a big plate.
- Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon oil, garlic, and ginger. Stir a few times to mix well.
- Add the peppers. Stir and cook until the peppers just turn tender, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Stir the sauce again to dissolve the cornstarch completely. Pour into the pan. Quickly stir a few times until the sauce thickens. Return the chicken to the skillet and mix again. Immediately transfer everything to a plate.
- Serve hot over steamed rice as a main dish.
- Using some spicy peppers will enhance the umami of the dish. Use jalapeno peppers (seeds removed) for a milder taste. For a super spicy taste, use sliced serrano peppers without removing the seeds.