Kung Pao Shrimp

with hot chili peppers

I made a version of this kung pao shrimp a few years back, but I figured in the spirit of a new year and new diets and all of that, now would be a good time to revisit the recipe and maybe spruce it up a bit. We all know that kung pao shrimp or kung pao chicken are about as far from traditional Chinese food as you can get, but despite that, I still have a soft spot for both in my heart because I’m American and this is the first kind of Chinese food we’re typically introduced to before we grow up and discover things like xiaolongbao (soup dumplings) or spicy Szechuan peppercorns. Some variety of Americanized shrimp was always on the table whenever my family would go out to eat Chinese food, usually honey walnut shrimp more often than kung pao, but both made an appearance when I was a kid. Of course, I was never interested in the shrimp as a child, so I’d pick around them to get at the sweet walnuts or crunchy peanuts until I was in college, at which point I couldn’t get enough shrimp. This kung pao shrimp may have been a bit too spicy for my tastes back when my family would go out for Chinese food together, but if you like things a little more mild, cut back on the chile peppers or hot chili sauce, and you’ll be good to go. Of course, you’re welcome to go the other route and completely douse your shrimp in as much hot sauce as you can handle. As long as you have a healthy portion of warm white rice at your side to combat any painfully spicy bites, you’re good to go.

kung pao shrimpDinner at Okonomi, my New Year’s Eve recovery kit (pizza + egg + coffee), another delicious breakfast made by Kramer and a big ol’ chocolate chip cookie made by yours truly. Get more by following me on Instagram!

Another reason I’m a fan of the bastardized Americanized Chinese food genre of cooking is that, in general, it can all be prepared pretty fast. Stir fry is always your friend, and when it comes to American style Chinese food, it’s pretty much either fast stir fries or something deep fried. You know, the basic food groups. Kung pao shrimp takes almost no time to cook, mostly because shrimp itself cooks very quickly. Just cook down your onions, add your sauce, let it thicken a bit, toss your shrimp in some cornstarch, add it to the pan, cook for another 6 or 7 minutes, toss with your peanuts and garnish with some scallions, and ta-da! Kung pao shrimp is yours to enjoy, just like takeout but without feeling like a bloated, over-salted mess once you’ve finished eating. Don’t get me wrong, Chinese take-out is a staple here in New York, but I only order it if I know that I won’t have to get off of the couch for the rest of the night, and if I can wear my most comfortable pair of sweatpants. In contrast, this recipe for kung pao shrimp is light and perfect for a quick weeknight dinner – the leftovers make a great lunch the next day, too.

kung pao shrimpkung pao shrimpA tote from Toby’s that I must own, kimchi and eggs with soy sauce and avocado for a Monday blues breakfast, New Year’s Eve lemon bars and a rousing game of Catan.

kung pao shrimpNow – time to cook! Here’s what you’ll need.

kung pao shrimpStart cooking your onions and peppers.

kung pao shrimpAdd in your ginger and garlic, then your sauce.

kung pao shrimpAdd in your shrimp and cook until they are pink and opaque, another 6-7 minutes.

kung pao shrimpToss with your peanuts and sprinkle with your scallions before serving hot alongside some white rice.

kung pao shrimpkung pao shrimp

Kung Pao Shrimp
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2-3
Restaurant style kung pao shrimp, perfectly sweet and spicy, made at home!
  • 1 pound peeled and de-veined shrimp, washed thoroughly (tails on or off are up to you - I left mine on for purely aesthetic purposes)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 6-7 dried red chile peppers
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely minced or grated
  • 1 1-inch piece of ginger, finely minced or grated
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoons hot chili sauce (this can be found in the Asian section in any grocery store) or Sriracha
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup dry roasted peanuts
  • 3-4 scallions, thinly sliced (for garnish)
  • cooked white rice, for serving
  1. First thing's first: cook your rice while you cook the shrimp, either in a rice maker, on the stove or in the microwave, however you prefer.
  2. Combine the de-veined, peeled, and cleaned shrimp and cornstarch in a small bowl and toss everything together to coat. Heat your sesame oil in large skillet over medium-high heat and add in the minced onion and chile peppers. Cook for 8 minutes or so, until turning translucent, then add in the garlic and ginger and stir quickly to cook, about another minute.
  3. Whisk together soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, chili sauce and sugar in a bowl, then add the sauce to the pan and cook for 3 minutes or so, until the sauce has begun to thicken. Add in the shrimp and cook for 6-7 minutes, until the shrimp are a bright pink/orange color and are cooked through. Stir in the dry roasted peanuts, sprinkle with some sliced scallions and serve over rice.


5 Responses

  1. cparks121 says:

    Looks amazing! I’m on the lookout for more tasty weeknight meals. I’ll add this to the menu for next week!

  2. Looks incredible! Also Settlers….my favorite!

  3. Yum! Lovely photos. Going to buy shrimp this weekend so we can eat this up!!

  4. Zaid says:

    Is there any substitute for the rice wine vinegar, something not with alcohol?

    • Sydney says:

      I don’t think that there’s actually any alcohol content in rice wine vinegar, so you should be good!

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