Hunan chicken is a classic Chinese stir fry dish of crispy chicken, vegetables, and a sticky, sweet, and spicy sauce, perfectly served over rice. It’s perfect for meal prep and takes no time to bring together.
Hunan chicken is a copycat version of the classic takeout chicken dish. Crisp chicken and tender vegetables combined with a sticky, savory sauce, this dish is sure to win the whole family over. Easily adjust the spice level if you have younger kids, or kick it up a notch for those that love the heat.
|WHERE IS HUNAN CHICKEN FROM?|
This Hunan chicken recipe originates from the Hunan province of China, an area that is famous for its use of hot and spicy flavors in its dishes. The chicken differs from other Chinese chicken dishes, having more spice and garlic than typical of other sweet dishes like General Tso’s chicken.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Made with the best sauce. The sauce for this hunan chicken has layers of flavors, from garlicky, to sweet, to spicy, you’ll have a party of flavor in your mouth!
- You control the heat. The spice in the dish can be adjusted to your spice tolerance.
- One pan dish. Besides whisking the sauce together in a small bowl, this recipe is made in one pan, making for easy cleanup.
- No marinating is required. The sauce gives the chicken ample flavor without having to marinate the chicken ahead of time!
- No deep frying. The chicken comes out crispy without needing to deep fry, as done in many restaurants.
Hunan Chicken Ingredients
For this Hunan-style chicken, you’ll need the following ingredients.
- Chicken- boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced for quick and even cooking. Or, substitute with chicken thighs for more juicy meat.
- Vegetables- use a combination of bell peppers, onion, broccoli, and mushrooms.
- Cornstarch- gives the chicken a crispy, crave-worthy coating.
- Sauce- the sauce consists of garlic, butter, broth, soy sauce, vinegar, honey, chili sauce, and cornstarch.
For a full list of ingredients and quantities, see the recipe card below.
How to Make Hunan Chicken
This recipe moves quickly, so be sure to have all your ingredients prepped ahead of time.
- Prep chicken: Add the chicken to a plastic zippered bag with the ⅓ cup of cornstarch. Shake to coat the chicken evenly.
- Cook chicken: Heat a pan or wok over medium heat with the oil. Once hot, add the chicken to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and sear on all sides for 3 minutes until golden brown. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels and cover to keep warm.
- Cook vegetables: Add the chopped vegetables to the pan and saute until desired tenderness. Then, add the chicken back to the pan.
- Mix sauce ingredients: In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix together the chicken broth, butter, soy sauce, garlic cloves, white vinegar, honey, garlic chili sauce, and cornstarch to bring together the Hunan sauce.
- Add sauce to chicken: Add the sauce to the pan and bring to a simmer. Cook until the sauce begins to thicken. Top with chopped green onions as an optional garnish.
- Serve and enjoy, friends!
- Cook in batches. Be sure not to overcrowd the pan to ensure the chicken sears rather than steams. You want the chicken to get crisp, so cook it in batches as needed.
- Dry the chicken. Pat the chicken dry to help the cornstarch adhere without getting wet and soggy for the best sear.
- Heat is key. For the crispiest chicken, be sure the oil is hot before adding the chicken to it.
Substitutions and Variations
Want to make a substitute in the recipe? The recipe is forgiving, so feel free to change it up as you’d like!
- Different meat: This recipe can be made with beef or pork. Be sure to slice thinly and evenly for even cooking.
- Swap the veggies: Replace the veggies with what you have in your fridge. Carrots, zucchini, eggplant, baby corn spears, or even celery can be used in the dish.
- Control the spice: For a spicier dish, add more chili sauce or a teaspoon of red pepper flakes. If you like less spicy meals, leave out some of the chili sauce.
- Add nuts: Though not traditional, you may add in some nuts like peanuts or cashews for a crunch.
Because the dish already has chicken and vegetables, there is no need for side salads. Here are some ideas for what you can serve with this dish.
- Rice: Serve the chicken over a bed of baked rice.
- With yum yum sauce: Drizzle homemade yum yum sauce over top makes this even more flavorful.
- Noodles: Serve with your favorite buttery noodles.
You must cook the sauce in order for it to thicken. If it doesn’t simmer and cook for a few minutes, it won’t thicken as it should.
Both chicken cuisines originate in China, but the main difference is that Hunan cuisine typically has a dry and hot taste from the chili paste as opposed to an almost numbing spice and deep flavor of Szechuan chicken.
This is great to make-ahead and meal prepping. Slice chicken and vegetables and keep them separately in the refrigerator. Make the sauce and keep refrigerated. When you are ready to eat, continue with the recipe.
The key to Hunan chicken is getting perfectly thin chicken slices. To do so, freeze the chicken breast for 20-30 minutes, then slice.
Also known as sambal oelek, garlic chili sauce is made from crushing chili peppers into a paste with garlic sauce. You can make homemade garlic chili sauce or buy it from most grocery stores or your nearest Asian market.
Store & Reheat
- Storage. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Hunan chicken is perfect for meal prep!
- Freeze. You can freeze the chicken recipe once cooled completely. Add to a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 4 months. Thaw and reheat before serving.
- Reheat. Reheat on the stovetop over low heat, or microwave for 1-2 minutes to reheat.
More Asian-Inspired Recipes
Hunan Chicken Recipe
chicken & vegetables:
Make chicken and vegetables.
- Place the chicken and 1/3 cornstarch in a resealable plastic bag, shake to coat evenly.
- Heat the oil in a large pan over high heat.
- Add the chicken to the pan in a single layer and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Cook for 3 – 4 minutes per side or until golden brown, cooking in multiple batches if needed.
- Remove the chicken from the pan and place on a plate lined with paper towels to drain the excess oil.
- Add the broccoli, onion, and mushrooms into the skillet and cook until tender.
- Add the chicken back to the pan with the vegetables.
Make sauce and combine.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the chicken broth, soy sauce, white vinegar, honey, chili sauce and 2 teaspoons cornstarch.
- Pour the sauce over the chicken and vegetables and bring to a simmer. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until the sauce has thickened.
- Serve and enjoy, friends.
Substitute vegetables: You can use your favorite vegetables for this recipe, such as baby corn spears, zucchini, or carrots.