Hunan Chicken
Hunan Chicken is a favorite Chinese American stir fry made with juicy, thinly sliced chicken breasts, broccoli, carrots, bell peppers and celery blanked in a dynamic savory, spicy, garlic, ginger sauce. This Hunan Chicken recipe allows you to remake this classic in the comfort of your own home and adjust the heat from mild to numbingly hot. You can also swap the vegetables for your favorites or whatever you have on hand. This Hunan Chicken uses the easy restaurant velveting technique to produce undeniably tender, deeply flavorful chicken you will have to taste to believe. I love to serve this Hunan Style Chicken with homemade egg rolls and cream cheese wontons for a complete takeout fakeout feast.
Servings Prep Time
4-6 servings 30minutes
Cook Time
15minutes
Servings Prep Time
4-6 servings 30minutes
Cook Time
15minutes
Hunan Chicken
Ingredients
  • 1lb. chicken breaststhinly sliced
  • vegetable, peanut or canola oil
MARINADE
ADD LATER
  • 1/4cup cornstarch
  • 3tablespoons flour
HUNAN SAUCE
  • 1/3cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4cup reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 2tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 2tablespoons bottled chili bean sauce (Toban Djan)see notes*
  • 2tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 1/2tablespoons ketchup
  • 1tablespoon Japanese rice wine(like Kikkoman Aji Mirin)
  • 1/2tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2teaspoons cornstarch
STIR FRY
  • 2-6 red jalapenos peppers, seeded, diced*may sub chili sauce – see notes)**
  • 1/2 large yellow onioncut into 1” pieces
  • 3cups broccoli floretsbite size
  • 3 carrotsthinly sliced
  • 3 stalks celerysliced 1/2″ thick
  • 1 red bell peppercut into 1” pieces
  • 4-6cloves garlicminced
  • 1tablespoon minced ginger
Instructions
  1. Add the velveting ingredients to a large freezer bag or bowl; whisk to combine. Add chicken and turn until evenly coated. Let sit at room temperature while you prep your veggies; preferable 30 minutes (no more). After 30 minutes transfer chicken to a bag with ¼ cup cornstarch and 3 tablespoons flour. Toss to evenly coat.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk Hunan Sauce ingredients together in a medium bowl; set aside.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoon oil in a large cast iron skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Once very hot, add chicken in a single layer and cook until golden; flip chicken over and cook an additional minute, until browned on all sides (does not need to be cooked through). Remove chicken to a paper towel lined plate.
  4. To the now empty skillet (don’t wipe out), heat one tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add red jalapenos, broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, celery and onions. Stir fry until vegetables are crisp tender, about 2-3 minutes. (Don’t over-cook because they will continue to cook in sauce). Add garlic and ginger to the veggies and stir fry 30 seconds.
  5. Whisk sauce (to recombine) and add to pan along with chicken. Bring the sauce to a boil then reduce to a simmer until sauce has thickened;1-2 minutes.
  6. Garnish with green onions. Taste and add chili sauce if desired.
Recipe Notes

INGREDIENT TIPS AND SUBSTITUTIONS

  • *What is chili bean sauce?  Chili bean sauce delivers the signature savory, salty, spicy, sour, satisfying richness to Hunan Chicken.  Chili bean paste is made with a special blend of salted chilies and soybeans that are fermented together to create a deep, complex umami flavor.  Chili bean paste should be located in the Asian aisle of your grocery store or you can Amazon it.  I used Lee Kum Kee chili bean sauce. It is possible to make Hunan Chicken without it, but it will be missing a dimension of flavor.
  • **Red Jalapeno Pepper Substitution. If you can’t find red jalapeno peppers, you can substitute them with green jalapenos, or with serrano peppers. If you use jalapeno peppers, you will need slightly more and if you use serrano peppers, you need far less as they are much spicier.  You may also substitute the red jalapenos with Asian chili sauce (such as sambal oelek) which is made from a combination of chilies.  Add the Asian chili sauce directly to the Hunan Sauce.
  • Japanese rice wine:  should become a pantry staple if you do much Asian cooking.  I use “Kikkoman Aji-Mirin: Sweet Cooking Rice Seasoning” which is commonly found in the Asian section of most grocery stores or you can Amazon it.  I highly suggest you google image before you head off to the grocery store so you know exactly what you are looking for.  The best substitute for rice wine is pale dry sherry.  Please note that Rice wine is NOT rice vinegar- DO NOT switch them out.  Rice wine adds a sweetness and depth of flavor; rice vinegar, on the other hand, will add an acidic flavor. 
  • Use QUALITY oyster sauce like Lee Kum Kee or Kikkoman because you literally can TASTE the difference!
  • Customize veggies.  You can substitute the veggies for your favorites.

RECIPE TIPS AND TRICKS

  • Freeze chicken. It is much easier to thinly slice chicken if it has been frozen for an hour.  The sliced chicken will quickly come to temperature while it marinates.
  • Don’t marinate chicken for too long. The chicken should not be marinated longer than 30 minutes or else it can become mushy.
  • Prep veggies and Hunan sauce first.  While your chicken is marinating, chop all your veggies and prep your sauce.  You want everything ready before you start your stir fry because the actually cooking just takes a few minutes. If you have to stop to make your sauce while your veggies are still in the pan, they can end up soft and even worse – mushy.
  • How to chop ingredients.  The most important key to making a good stir-fry is cutting each ingredient to a uniform size as specified in the recipe. As detailed earlier in the post, chop the long cooking vegetables smaller and the short cooking vegetables larger.
  • Don’t overcook chicken.  For the juiciest chicken, don’t overcook!  Brown it in the skillet but let it finish cooking in the sauce.
  • Don’t overcook veggies.  I suggest setting the timer for 3 minutes for the initial stir frying of your veggies – it can go fast and you don’t want to overcook them initially.  It is better to under-cook them when stir frying then allow them to reach desired-crisp tenderness once you add the stir fry sauce.

HOW TO CUSTOMIZE THE HEAT 

Hunan Style Chicken is meant to be spicy but it is very EASY to customize the heat.  You can keep the recipe flavorful with the chili bean paste, garlic and ginger but use less peppers.  

  • MILD HUNAN CHICKEN:  Only use 1 red jalapeno pepper or 1 tablespoon Asian chili garlic sauce (like sambal oelek).  For a little more heat, bordering on medium, use 2 red jalapeno peppers.
  • MEDIUM HUNAN CHICKEN:  For moderately spicy Hunan Chicken, use 2 to 4 red jalapeno peppers. When I used 2 peppers, I would consider it mild-medium as I could taste some heat but it wasn’t very “spicy.” Use more than 2 peppers if you want to really taste the heat.
  • SPICY HUNAN CHICKEN: I would consider 4 or more red jalapeno peppers spicy. Of course, it will depend on the heat of the actual peppers as each pepper can vary greatly.

If you aren’t sure how spicy you want it, you can start with less red jalapeno peppers then add chili paste to spice up individual servings.

HOW TO PREP AHEAD

Hunan Chicken has a few steps, but you can prep almost everything ahead of time for a speedy dinner. Here’s how:

  • Slice chicken:  you can thinly slice the chicken any time before marinating then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  • Make Hunan sauce:  whisk the ingredients together up to 24 hours in advance and store, covered in the refrigerator.  Let the sauce sit at room temperature for 30 minutes or so before using.  You may also freeze for up to three months.
  • Chop veggies:  you can chop your garlic, grate your ginger and chop all your veggies 24 hours in advance and store in separate air tight containers in the refrigerator.
  • Cook!  Within the next 48 hours, proceed with the recipe starting with marinating the chicken for 20-30 minutes