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Air Fryer Kung Pao Chicken is one of my favorite things to make on busy weeknights. It’s so quick, delicious, and makes a full meal if you pair it with steamed rice.
But the best part? It’s full of spicy flavor from dried chiles and Szechuan peppercorns. Toasted peanuts add a delicious crunch, too.
Kung Pao chicken originates in the Sichuan region of China. Sichuan cuisine (also called Szechuan cuisine) is generally known for its use of chiles and mouth-numbing Szechuan peppercorns. It’s one of my favorite Chinese food dishes.
When you order Kung Pao Chicken in Chinese restaurants, the chicken is often deep fried or stir fried in a skillet along with hot chiles, vegetables, and seasonings. In this version, we air fry chicken pieces and then add them to a stir fry of veggies, seasonings, and sauce. Air frying the chicken is both easier and a healthier option.
With the help of my air fryer, this dish is easy to make. To make this Air Fryer Kung Pao Chicken, I marinate cut-up chicken breasts or chicken thighs in a mixture of soy sauce and rice vinegar. Cornstarch and egg white are added to the marinade to help coat and tenderize the chicken.
The chicken is then air fried until it is tender and cooked through. Meanwhile, chiles, garlic, ginger, bell peppers, and other ingredients are stir-fried in a skillet. Roasted peanuts add the perfect crunch.
WHAT INGREDIENTS DO YOU NEED FOR THIS AIR FRYER KUNG PAO CHICKEN?
- Boneless, skinless chicken thighs or chicken breasts
- Dark soy sauce
- Egg white
- Rice wine vinegar
- Corn starch (or substitute potato starch)
- Cooking oil
- Balsamic vinegar
- Ground black pepper
- Ground Szechuan peppercorns or Sichuan Peppercorns (you can substitute ground white pepper or simply omit)
- Shiaoxing wine (or substitute sake, sochu, dry sherry, or dry white wine)
- Red and green bell peppers
- Green onions cut into 1-inch pieces
- Hot dried red chiles
- Roasted peanuts
How do you make Kung Pao Chicken in an air fryer?
It’s easy to make kung pao chicken using the air fryer. The marinated chicken pieces cook in the air fryer while the remaining ingredients cook in a skillet.
Toss everything together at the end and serve over rice. Dinner sorted, just like that! Here are the steps (the complete step-by-step instructions, along with measurements, are in the recipe card below):
1. Combine the marinade ingredients in a medium bowl and add the chicken. Marinate the chicken for 15 to 30 minutes (or longer if time permits)
2. Arrange the chicken pieces in the air fryer basket in a single layer (you may have to cook in two batches) and cook, turning over once, until the chicken is golden brown on the outside and cooked through.
3. Stir together sauce ingredients.
4. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds. Add the chili peppers and bell pepper and then the sauce mixture and bring to a boil. Let cook for a minute or two.
5. Add dried red chilies and cubed red and green bell peppers. Stir fry it for 30 to 60 seconds.
6. Give the prepared sauce a mix, then pour it into the pan and bring it to a boil.
7. Add a cornstarch slurry to the skillet along with the cooked chicken pieces and scallions and cook, stirring, until the sauce thickens. Add the peanuts, saving some for garnish.
8. Serve over steamed rice, garnished with the reserved peanuts.
What do you serve with it?
One of the things I love about this Air Fryer Kung Pao Chicken is that it has both protein and vegetables. All it needs is a side of steamed rice to make it a full meal. You can use either white rice or brown rice.
If you are serving a larger crowd, you can serve it with Singapore Noodles, Dry Fried Green Beans, Pork Fried Rice, or Sweet and Sour Tofu.
Air Fryer Kung Pao Chicken
For the chicken
- 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 1 egg white
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 3 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 chicken boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into bite size pieces
For the sauce
- 3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground Szechuan peppercorns optional, see note
- 2 tablespoon Shiaoxing wine see note
- ½ cup water
For the stir fry
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- 1 teaspoon chopped ginger
- 4 to 5 dry red chilies cut into ½ inch pieces
- 1 green bell pepper cut into cubes
- 1 red bell pepper cut into cubes
- Green onions cut into ½ inch pieces
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons water
- ½ cup roasted unsalted peanuts
- In a large bowl make the marinade by combining the soy sauce, egg white, rice vinegar, cornstarch, and salt. Add
the chicken and toss to coat. Marinate for 15 to 30 minutes (or longer as time permits).
- In a small bowl, make the cooking sauce. Combine the soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, black pepper, Szechuan peppercorns, Shiaoxing wine, and water and stir to mix.
- Preheat the air fryer for 5 minutes at 350ºF. Brush the basket with a little oil.
- Remove the chicken from the marinade (discard the marinade) and arrange the chicken in a single layer in the basket (you’ll probably need to cook the chicken in 2 batches). Brush a little oil on top.
- Cook the chicken for 3 minutes on one side then turn the pieces over and cook for 3 minutes more on the second side, or until the chicken is golden brown. Transfer the cooked chicken to a bowl and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.
- While the chicken is cooking in the air fryer, heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the ginger, garlic, and chilies to the skillet and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds, until it becomes fragrant.
- Add the red and green bell peppers to the skillet. Cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes.
- Give the sauce mixture a stir and then pour it into the skillet. Bring to a boil.
- In a small bowl mix together the cornstarch and water to make a slurry. Add the slurry to the skillet and stir to mix.
- Stir in the green onions, pepper, Szechuan peppercorns, if using, and the air-fried chicken pieces. Stir until the sauce thickens and the chicken is evenly coated.
- Stir most of the peanuts, reserving some for garnish. Cook for a minute or two more.
- Serve hot over rice and garnished with the reserved peanuts.