Slow Cooker Kung Pao Chicken makes the perfect easy weeknight meal. Best of all, this popular takeout favorite is lightened up with low carb keto & paleo friendly options with the same classic sweet & spicy flavors as your local Chinese restaurant.

Kung Pao Chicken – Slow Cooker + Instant Pot – the perfect easy weeknight meal to curb that takeout craving. Best of all, this popular favorite can be made in the crock-pot or your Instant Pot pressure cooker. Lightened up with the same classic sweet & spicy flavors as your local Chinese restaurant. Plus recipe video.

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 3 hrs
Total Time 3 hrs 15 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: chinese chicken, Kung Pao chicken
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 163 kcal
Author: Kelly


  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch use arrowroot powder or almond flour for paleo & keto
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 - 1-1/4 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 2-3 pieces), cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 3-4 Tablespoons olive oil or avocado oil
  • 4-6 dried red chili peppers to taste; found in Asian supermarkets or the International section of a large chain grocery store
  • 2/3 cup roasted cashews or roasted peanuts
  • 1 red bell pepper chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 zucchini chopped into halves
  • Sesame seeds and chopped green onions for garnish (optional)
SAUCE: (If you like this dish saucier - feel free to double the amount and save the rest for another dish)
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce use gluten free tamari or coconut aminos if necessary
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons honey use low carb sweetener for keto
  • 3 Tablespoons hoisin sauce use gluten free hoisin sauce if necessary - leave out for keto
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper chili flakes
Cornstarch Slurry:
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch use arrowroot powder for paleo
  • 3 Tablespoons water
For Meal Prep:
  • Cooked rice quinoa or noodles
  • Lunch containers


  1. In a large bowl or zip-top bag, combine the chicken, cornstarch, salt, and black pepper. Shake until well-coated.
  2. Make the sauce: In a medium bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the sauce, set aside.
For Slow Cooker Method:
  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. (You can skip this stove-top step if you prefer or are in a pinch. Just add chicken directly to slow cooker. The chicken will not have that crispy coating) Cook chicken about 2-3 minutes on each side, until lightly browned. Transfer chicken into the slow cooker and pour sauce over top.
  2. Cover and cook on LOW for 2.5 - 4 hours or HIGH for 1.5 - 3 hours. (SEE NOTES)
  3. About 30 minutes before serving, whisk together the cornstarch and water in a small bowl and stir into the slow cooker. Toss in the dried red chili peppers, red bell peppers, zucchini, and cashews, stirring to combine. Cover and cook on HIGH for another 20-30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the sauce has thickened up. (if your slow cooker is not hot enough to thicken the sauce - pour sauce into a pot and heat on the stovetop on high to thicken the sauce or you can just skip the cornstarch slurry instead)
  4. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, green onions and serve over zoodles, cauliflower rice, quinoa or your favorite rice.
For Instant Pot Method:
  1. Turn Instant Pot to SAUTE (skip steps 1-2 and just cook on MANUAL or PRESSURE COOK (high) for 5 minutes if you are in a pinch or prefer. The chicken won't have that crispy coating.)
  2. Allow pan to heat up for a few minutes then add oil. Cook chicken in batches (placing the browned chicken on a paper-towel lined plate) about 3-4 minutes on each side, until lightly browned. Once all the chicken is browned, add back to the Instant Pot and pour sauce over top.
  3. Close and seal Instant Pot and set the valve to sealing.
  4. Press MANUAL or PRESSURE COOK (high) and set for 3 minutes. Once the 3 minutes is up and the Instant Pot beeps, do a quick release after 5 minutes. Open the lid and transfer chicken to a large serving plate or bowl.
  5. Return inner pot back to the Instant Pot. Press the SAUTE button and add additional oil as needed. Toss in the zucchini, bell peppers, and dried red chili peppers. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until tender. Combine the cornstarch with water to make a slurry and stir into the Instant Pot. Allow the sauce to bubble and thicken up. Return chicken back to the pot along with the cashews and cook for another 1-2 minutes until everything is heated through.
  6. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, green onions and serve over rice, quinoa or zoodles, if desired.
For Meal Prep:
  1. Cook rice or your favorite side and divide evenly into lunch containers. Add cooked chicken and vegetables, cover and store in fridge for up to 4 days.

Recipe adapted from: https://lifemadesweeter.com/

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