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Sweet heat, bold flavors, and healthy lean protein take this Kung Pao Shrimp recipe to instant hit status. We also can’t forget to mention that it takes less than 10 minutes to cook this Chinese takeout-style dinner, making it a go-to for busy weeknights!

authentic recipe for kung pao shrimp

Why You’ll Love This Kung Pao Shrimp Recipe

  • Adapted From a Reader Favorite. If you loved my Kung Pao Chicken, then you’ll also adore this quick and easy shrimp stir-fry, which is based on that recipe!
  • Shrimp: An Under-Appreciated Protein Option. I love shrimp, but sometimes I kind of forget about it when I’m planning my meals for the week. Really, though, shrimp should rank right up there with weeknight stalwarts like chicken breast and ground beef—they’re high in protein, low in calories, and everyone loves ‘em. Just like my Shrimp Fried Rice and Shrimp Tacos, this kung pao shrimp recipe is a healthy dinner you can whip up in minutes.
  • The Quickest of Dinners. When we’re talking homemade meals, it really doesn’t get much quicker than kung pao shrimp. You only need about 3 minutes to cook the shrimp itself, then give the veggies a quick stir-fry, toss it all together, and dinner’s done. (Want some more lightning fast shrimp dinner options? Try my Garlic Butter Shrimp and Grilled Shrimp.)
  • It’s Versatile. As written, this kung pao shrimp is served over rice. However! As with my Bang Bang Shrimp, you can definitely tuck these juicy, spicy shrimp into tortillas and make them into tacos (see my Bang Bang Shrimp Tacos), or spoon the stir-fry into sturdy lettuce leaves a la my Lettuce Wraps, or serve them with noodles like another Chinese favorite, Chicken Chow Mein.
easy recipe for kung pao shrimp made on the stove

How to Make Kung Pao Shrimp

The Ingredients

  • Jumbo Raw Shrimp. We’ve already covered the fact that shrimp are a great source of lean protein, but their bona fides don’t end there! They’re also loaded with calcium, phosphorus, zinc, and magnesium.
  • Low-Sodium Soy Sauce. Using low-sodium soy sauce gives you more control over the saltiness of the finished dish.

Substitution Tip

Gluten-free substitutes for soy sauce include tamari sauce or liquid aminos.

  • Rice Vinegar. Be sure to use unseasoned rice vinegar; the seasoned variety has added sugar.
  • Sesame Oil. Use toasted for added flavor or untoasted for a milder option.
  • Cornstarch. To make a sticky stir-fry sauce.
  • Kosher Salt. My go-to salt for cooking.
  • Honey. Use a runny honey, not the thick, creamy kind that has to be spread with a knife.
  • Crushed Red Pepper Flakes. Dried red chilies, fresh chili pepper, and Sichuan peppercorns can all be used to deliver heat in a kung pao dish, but I use red pepper flakes because most of us have them on hand already.
  • Cooking Oil. Canola, grapeseed, or avocado oil.
  • Vegetables. Red bell pepper, green bell pepper, and yellow onion.

Market Swap

A combination of peppers and onions is the traditional choice for kung pao, but feel free to break from tradition and clean out your crisper drawer—celery, bok choy, broccoli, zucchini, and other vegetables absolutely work here.

  • Peanuts. Unsalted is best, but salted is fine too; you may want to be a little more conservative with the salt you add to the recipe, though.

Dietary Note

Have a peanut allergy? Cashews are a great alternative to peanuts in this dish. Or, for a nut-free crunch, add crispy wonton strips for garnish.

The Directions

  1. Make the Marinade. Combine in a zip-top bag.
  2. Marinate the Shrimp. Toss to coat and marinate at room temperature or in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.
  3. Make the Sauce. Whisk together the kung pao sauce ingredients until the cornstarch dissolves.
kung pao shrimp easy recipe with shrimp and veggies
  1. Cook the Shrimp. This only takes a few minutes.
veggies for kung pao shrimp recipe
  1. Stir-Fry the Vegetables. Until they’re softened a bit but still crisp. Stir in the peanuts.
kung pao shrimp recipe with vegetables and shrimp
  1. Add the Aromatics. Cook until fragrant.
  2. Finish. Return the shrimp to the skillet and stir them into the vegetables and sauce; heat for about a minute.
  3. Serve. Add the remaining green onions to the skillet and serve the kung pao shrimp with brown rice. ENJOY!
the best kung pao shrimp recipe in a pan

Storage Tips

  • To Store. Kung pao shrimp is best enjoyed immediately, but leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
  • To Reheat. Warm leftover kung pao shrimp in a skillet on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave.
  • To Freeze. Transfer the shrimp and vegetables to an airtight freezer-safe storage container and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating according to the instructions above.

Meal Prep Tip

Get a head start on this recipe by chopping the vegetables up to two days in advance. Store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

make chinese kung pao shrimp with this simple recipe

What to Serve with Kung Pao Shrimp

  • Wok. A wok isn’t absolutely necessary, but if you make stir-fries often, it’s nice to have one.
  • Whisk. I love this whisk size for small-batch sauces and marinades.
  • Chef’s Knife. There’s no need for pricy vegetable prep tools when you’ve got a good chef’s knife at the ready.

Recipe Tips and Tricks

  • Buy Deveined Shrimp. This saves you the prep work of having to devein the shrimp yourself. If you’re using fresh shrimp, you want to look for raw shrimp that are deveined and EZ-peel or already peeled.
  • Thaw Frozen Shrimp. Want to use frozen shrimp here? You can! You will need to thaw it first, though. You can do this by letting the shrimp thaw in the refrigerator overnight, or place them in a bowl of cold water for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Have a Mise en Place. In other words, prep everything in advance because stir-fries cook up fast! I make the marinade and while the shrimp marinates for 15 minutes, I chop the veggies and whisk together the sauce. 
  • Know When the Shrimp Is Done. The upside of shrimp is that they cook fast. Unfortunately, that’s also the downside of shrimp! If you’re not careful, they’ll overcook and end up tough and rubbery. Once they’re opaque, firm, and curl just a bit, they’re ready to remove from the skillet.
kung pao shrimp with rice in a bowl

Kung Pao Shrimp

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This kung pao shrimp recipe is a restaurant-style stir-fry that takes less than 10 minutes to cook, making it a go-to for busy weeknights!

Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 30 minutes

Servings: 3 -4 servings


  • 1 pound jumbo 12- to 15-count raw shrimp, fresh or frozen and thawed, peeled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce divided
  • 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons rice vinegar divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil divided toasted or untoasted
  • 3 teaspoons cornstarch divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes more or less to taste
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil or grapeseed or avocado oil
  • 1 red bell pepper diced into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 green bell pepper diced into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 medium yellow onion diced into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup peanuts preferably unsalted
  • 3 garlic cloves minced about 1 tablespoon
  • 1 tablespoon minced or grated fresh ginger from about a 1-inch piece
  • 3 green onions thinly sliced white and green parts separated from the dark green parts (about 1/2 cup)
  • Cooked brown rice for serving


  • In a medium bowl or zip-top bag, combine 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil, 1 teaspoon cornstarch, and the salt. With a fork, whisk to combine and dissolve the cornstarch so that the mixture is smooth
  • Pat the shrimp dry, then add to the marinade and toss gently to coat. Cover the bowl or tightly seal the bag. Marinate at room temperature for at least 15 minutes or refrigerate for up to 2 hours.
  • When you’re ready to cook the kung pao shrimp, in a small bowl combine the remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, honey, red pepper flakes, and 2 teaspoons cornstarch. Whisk to combine and dissolve the cornstarch.
  • In a large skillet or wok, heat 1 tablespoon of the canola oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, add the shrimp along with its marinade. Cook, undisturbed, until the shrimp is golden brown on one side and releases from the pan, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  • With a spatula or large spoon, toss the shrimp to turn and redistribute it. Continue cooking, just until the shrimp is opaque and firm to the touch, about 1 minute more. Transfer to a plate or bowl.
  • To the skillet, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of canola oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the red bell pepper, green bell pepper, and onion. Cook, stirring constantly, until the vegetables are crisp-tender, about 1-2 minutes. Add the peanuts
  • Add the garlic, ginger, and white and light green parts of the green onions. Cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Return the shrimp and any juices that have accumulated to the skillet. Cook, stirring constantly, until everything is hot and evenly coated with the sauce, about 1 minute more. Sprinkle with the dark green parts of the green onions. Enjoy hot with rice.


  • TO STORE: Kung pao shrimp is best enjoyed immediately, but leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
  • TO REHEAT: Warm leftover kung pao shrimp in a skillet on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave.
  • TO FREEZE: Transfer the shrimp and vegetables to an airtight freezer-safe storage container and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating according to the instructions above.
Adapted from my Kung Pao Chicken


Serving: 1(of 3)Calories: 421kcalCarbohydrates: 22gProtein: 29gFat: 25gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 6gMonounsaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 0.05gCholesterol: 191mgPotassium: 633mgFiber: 5gSugar: 9gVitamin A: 1880IUVitamin C: 89mgCalcium: 131mgIron: 2mg

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is Kung Pao Really Spicy?

Kung pao does tend to be spicy, as it’s made with red pepper flakes or dried red chiles, but when you make it at home, you can adjust the heat level and use as much (or as little!) red pepper flakes as you like.

Which Is Spicier, Kung Pao or General Tso?

General Tso dishes are sweet and a little bit spicy, while Kung Pao is heavier on the heat. To compare the two, try my General Tso Chicken or General Tso Tofu.

What Is the Difference Between Szechuan and Kung Pao Shrimp?

Shrimp cooked Szechuan style are much spicier than kung pao shrimp, and also less sweet.  

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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