Hunan Chicken Recipe (2024)

If you are craving authentic Chinese food, that has not been Americanized, then you gotta try this Chinese Hunan Chicken. If you never tried making it at home, you should at least once, and you will be hooked. It’s filling, it’s spicy, it’s flavorful, and the best part, it is ready in 30 minutes!

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Living in NYC for over a decade, I had my fair share of Chinese take-out. That made me start my journey of finding the best and most authentic Chinese food in the city. I developed this recipe after having the most delicious Hunan Chicken at a family-owned restaurant in Chinatown.

Hunan Chicken is a Chinese stir-fry made with chicken andcrunchyvegetables in an authentic spicy Hunan Sauce. Using my cooking expertise, I have polished this recipe to resemble the original to perfection. I can go ahead and say that my version is even better, and hear me out why!

Why you’ll love homemade Hunan Chicken:

First, because you can make this dish at homein just about 30 minutes, that is quicker than ordering takeout. Also, it is cheaper than having this dinner at a restaurant.

The second reason is that you can control the quality of the ingredients. A lot of restaurants re-use their frying oil or use cheaper and unhealthier oils. While at home, you are in charge of what you are using.

The third reason is that you can control the flavors and spiciness of the dish. Also, you can make it more nutritious, by using your favorite veggies! I make mine with lean protein and lots of fresh vegetables!

Also, because I use a tried and true method called “velveting” to cook the meat, it helps it stay tender and juicy on the inside and very crispy on the outside. I have kept the recipe on the healthier side and haven’t battered and deep-fried the meat.

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Ingredients for Hunan Chicken


Here you have two options, for the juiciest and most tender meat, I recommend you get boneless-skinless chicken thigh. The fat content makes a difference. However, if you want something leaner, with no fat at all, choose boneless-skinless chicken breasts.


For these, there isn’t a well-defined rule. However, the “original” dish, contains a mix of bell peppers, and lots of green onions. However, you can use anything that you have on hand or that you like. I recommend that you choose between a variety of textures and colors. For example, use bell peppers as they stay crunchier, and use zucchini or broccoli, as they will get softer when cooked. Having a combination of textures will make this dish truly remarkable.


Obviously, this dish is defined by the use of chili peppers (or any other spicy alternative) and the sauce! In this case, the sauce is flavorful, garlicky, and spicy. In Hunan cuisine, garlic is kind of a star ingredient, and you can use as much as you please. To make it authentic and flavorful, I also always use fresh ginger, in addition to staples like soy sauce, oyster sauce, and rice wine.

Based on my experience of cooking Chinese food over the years, I also discovered that adding a bit of sugar brings the flavors together. The sweet and savory combo is especially great in recipes that have an elevated spiciness level like this one. Because the sugar works to counteract the hit, a pinch will be just enough to balance it.

How to make Hunan Chicken

I have created and organized this recipe for you in a way so you can easily and seamlessly make it at home while saving time and effort.

First, I recommend that you mix the sauce ingredients so you have them on hand. In a bowl or jar combine minced garlic, ginger, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, salt, cornstarch, and chili paste. Then, add rice wine, and broth. Stir the mixture until the cornstarch is fully dissolved.This can be done the day ahead, it takes just a few minutes but will be helpful to have it ready when you start cooking.

When you are ready to cook dinner,start by adding the chicken pieces to a large bowl and toss them with the cornstarch, salt, and pepper. After that brown them in a large skillet or wok.Afterward, remove the chicken from the pan and set it aside.

Next, add a bit more oil to the pan and cook the veggies until tender but still crisp. Add the meat back to the pan, give the sauce a good stir, and pour it on top of the veggies. Stir for 1-2 minutes until the mixture thickens and the meat is heated through.

This classic Chinese food is served with steamed rice, soba noodles, or some egg rolls, for an Asian feast.

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Expert tip:

Velveting the meat

First, velveting is a technique in Chinese cuisine that preserves the moisture and tenderness of the meat while cooking, therefore resulting in “velvety” meat. The technique is applied to raw meat, by creating a protective coat before browning it.

To be more specific, the meat is coated in a mixture of oil, egg white, cornstarch, and sometimesrice wine,and then blanching and drying follow. This way, the moisture is retained and the protective coat adds crispiness and texture.

Sometimes, the velveting is kept simpler, by tossing the raw meat in some cornstarch before browning it.

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Recipe Variations:

  • Meat: This recipe is easily adaptable and can be made with beef, or pork instead of chicken. The Hunan Beef is equally delicious.
  • Vegetarian: Convert this Hunan stir fry into a vegetarian dish by using firm tofu.
  • Gluten-Free: Keep in mind that soy sauce contains gluten, so make sure to use amino acids instead.


  1. Store: If you have leftovers, add them to a sealed container and store them in the fridge for 3-4 days.
  2. Freeze: This recipe freezes very well. First, let the dish fully cool, and then add it to a freezer-safe container or Ziploc bag. After that, freeze for up to 3 months.
  3. Defrost: When ready to serve, plan ahead of time, and let the frozen meal thaw in the fridge overnight or defrost in the microwave. After that, add it to a skillet over medium-high heat and stir-fry for a few minutes. Make sure to taste and adjust for seasonings as needed.
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Frequently Asked Questions

What is Hunan Chicken made of?

Hunan Chicken is a Chinese stir-fry that originates from the Hunan Province in China. Hunan cuisine, also called Xiang cuisine, is known for its hot and spicy dishes, and the colorful variety of ingredients that it uses.

Therefore, this recipe is no exception and is a combination of usually fried chicken strips, with vegetables like bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, zucchini, Chinese corn, green onions, and green beans.

Also, like in many other Chinese recipes, ginger and garlic are used, rice vinegar, oyster sauce, and soy sauce. To make it spicy, usually chili paste, fresh chilies, or sambal oelek paste is used.

What is the difference between Hunan and Szechuan Chicken?

While both Hunan and Sichuan cuisine are known for their spicy takes on dishes, there are slight differences between the two.

The first difference is in the origin of the recipe. Szechuan Chicken comes from the southwestern Chinese province Sichuan which is famous for its delicious cuisine. Known for its liberal use of garlic, chili peppers which are often dried, and the unique Sichuan pepper.

The Hunan Chicken originates from the Hunan province, and the spiciness is added using just chili peppers. Also, the Hunan version is less oily and will have more veggies, while the Sichuan one incorporates some nuts into the dish.

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What does Hunan sauce taste like?

This dish has a sophisticated, rich Asian flavor because of the ingredients specific to this cuisine.The chili paste adds that Chinese flair to this recipe alongside the oyster sauce.

It is on the spicier side, but you can tone it down by limiting the amount of chili paste that goes into it. In addition, the sugar, fermented rice wine, and soy sauce balance nicely out all the spiciness. It has the right amount of sweetness to it, with some hint of sourness, and an unmistakenly invigorating aroma from the ginger.

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Recipe Tips:

  • As a trained chef, planning to make cooking easier is key. You can make the sauce ahead of time, and freeze it in individual Ziploc bags, to always have some on hand. When the time comes, simply defrost it and use it as needed.
  • If making this recipe with beef, cut it against the grain. If you find it difficult to cut, a simple trick is to freeze the meat first and then cut it.
  • To easily thinly slice the chicken for this recipe, use the same trick, freeze the meatfor 20-30 minutes to firm it up.
  • It is important to cook the chicken in batches and to now overcrowd the pan. Otherwise, the chicken will steam, and it won’t be crispy.

More Asian Dishes You’ll Love:

  • Orange Chicken
  • General Tso’s Chicken
  • Mongolian Chicken
  • Korean Beef Bulgogi

One Pan Hunan Chicken Recipe

  • Prep Time10 MIN
  • Cook Time20 MIN
  • Servings 4 servings


  • 2 large boneless chicken breasts cut into strips
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil canola or peanut oil
  • 1 red bell pepper sliced
  • 1 zucchini cut into rounds
  • 1 cup carrots sliced into rounds
  • 3 chili peppers
  • 1 tablespoon sprouted black beans optional


  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of rice wine
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger minced
  • 2 tablespoons chili paste such as Sambal Oelek
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil optional, but great if you have any on hand


  • Green Onions
  • Sesame seeds

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Make the Hunan Sauce:

  • Add all the ingredients for the sauce into a bowl and whisk until well combined.

Cook the meat:

  • In a bowl add ¼ cup cornstarch and season with a little salt and pepper. Stir to combine with a fork. Add chicken pieces and toss to coat well.

  • In a large pan over medium-high heat, add vegetable oil. Drop chicken pieces and cook until both sides are golden brown. Cook chicken in one layer, do not overcrowd. If needed cook in batches. Remove chicken from the pan and set aside.

Cook the Vegetables:

  • Add a bit more vegetable oil to the pan and add vegetables and chili peppers, also add the sprouted beans. Cook for 7-8 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Add the meat and sauce:

  • Return the chicken to the pan and also add the sauce. Stir and coat everything into the sauce and cook for 1-2 more minutes, until the sauce thickens.


  • Transfer to a plate or bowl and serve Hunan chicken with a side of white rice or noodles.

  • Garnish with green onions and sesame seeds before serving.

Nutrition Facts

Hunan Chicken Recipe (2024)


What is Hunan chicken made of? ›

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.

What is the difference between Szechuan chicken and Hunan chicken? ›

Hunan chicken contains stir-fried vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, mushrooms, and zucchini. Szechuan chicken has no veggies other than seasonings such as garlic, ginger and occasionally some green onion.

Is Hunan spicy or sweet? ›

Smoked beef with crisp dried chiles—Hunan cooking is all about spicy, savory flavors. .

What does Hunan sauce taste like? ›

Hunan sauce typically includes ingredients such as soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, garlic, ginger, and chili peppers. These ingredients come together to create a savory, slightly sweet, and spicy flavor profile. Is Hunan sauce spicy? Yes, Hunan sauce is known for its spicy kick.

What is the healthiest thing to order at a Chinese restaurant? ›

Steamed fish or seafood with ginger, scallions and soy sauce. Steamed fish and veggies are packed with fiber and protein. One of the healthiest places you can choose an entree on a Chinese restaurant menu from is the seafood section, according to Amy Yiu, RD, a registered dietitian with Health Stand Nutrition.

Which is hotter Szechuan or Hunan? ›

If you prefer a more intense and straightforward spiciness, the chili-driven Hunan dishes are for you. Szechuan peppercorn does have some spice, but it's milder and has the unique component of its numbing and tingling effects. Another distinguishing factor is the complimentary flavors.

Which is hotter Szechuan chicken or Hunan chicken? ›

Sichuan style cooking also is more about sweet/spicy/savory combinations, Hunan style leaves out the sweet and favors bold/savory/hot/sour combinations. Chicken in Hunan is hotter and Chicken in Szechuan can make you have no sense on your lips.

Is General Tso chicken from Hunan? ›

"The original General Tso's chicken was Hunanese in taste and made without sugar," he says, "but when I began cooking for non-Hunanese people in the United States, I altered the recipe." In the late 1980s, having made his fortune, he sold up and returned to Taipei.

Is Hunan or Szechuan better? ›

Those who prefer a more intense heat may enjoy Hunan dishes more while those who look for a unique type of spice may look to Szechuan dishes instead.

What is the best Hunan dish? ›

The 10 Best Hunan Foods that You Must Try
  1. Dong'an Chicken. Source: Cooking for Keeps. ...
  2. Steamed Fish Head. Source: Pinterest. ...
  3. Red Braised Pork Belly. Source: ...
  4. Fried Chilli Pork. Source: ...
  5. Hunan Rice Noodles. Source: Pinterest. ...
  6. Changsha Stinky Tofu. Source: Pinterest. ...
  7. Hunan Shrimp. ...
  8. Soy-roasted duck.
Nov 23, 2023

What is special about Hunan? ›

Hunan consistently ranks first nationally in rice output and exports a large surplus to other provinces. It is estimated that most of the province's cultivable land is devoted to paddies (wet-rice fields), a great many of which in the south produce two crops of rice per year and demand careful cultivation.

What is kung bo chicken? ›

Kung pao chicken is Chinese-style stir-fried chicken cubes with dried chili peppers. It's a Sichuanese staple that was brought over to America and reinvented for local flavors and tastes. The Sichuanese version is a tad more complex, seasoned with Chinese peppercorns and a large heap of dried chili peppers.

What is the hottest Chinese dish? ›

China: Huo Guo

The spiciness of Huo Guo is due to the Sichuan pepper oil used. The very tasty, but palette destroying dish from China contains a number of raw ingredients, from fish and beef, to tofu and vegetables.

What spice is in Hunan? ›

Hunan cuisine uses a wide variety of chili peppers, including fresh, dried, and pickled peppers. Different varieties of chili peppers have varying levels of heat and flavor, so the type of chili pepper used can greatly influence the spiciness of the dish.

Is Hunan chicken healthy? ›

Is Hunan Chicken Healthy? Chicken breast is a lean source of protein that is low in fat and calories. It features broccoli, zucchini, and red peppers — a variety of vegetables that are rich in minerals and nutrients. The chicken stock and soy sauce are high in sodium so lower them if your sodium intake is a concern.

What is Hunan chicken similar to? ›

Both Hunan and Szechuan cuisine are known to be spicy. Hunan cuisine gets its spice from fresh chilies or chili paste. Szechuan cuisine gets it spice from dried chili peppers, but also Sichuan peppers. Szechuan cuisine often also contains a lot of garlic and onion flavors.


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