Hunan Chicken is our answer when we’re craving super spicy Asian food. We take tender chicken tenders and stir-fry them until crisp, along with green beans and then coat it all in a super easy, fiery, and tangy chili bean sauce. 25 minutes of prep and cook time, virtually fool proof.
Spicy Hunan Chicken
Crispy chicken. √
Crunchy veggies of your choice. √
Spicy chili bean sauce √
Easy peasy. √√√
This is Spicy Hunan Chicken.
Like so many fakeout takeout Asian dishes out there, our Hunan Chicken is a great way to whip up a quick, easy dinner at home. Although unlike so many other classic takeout Asian dishes that have a more mild spice, Hunan Chicken uses concentrated chili pean paste for an in-your-face spice we can’t get enough of. We also throw in hints of soy sauce (just a little bit!), plenty of garlic and vinegar.
It’s spicy, tangy, salty, and all things wonderful.
Which brings us to What is Hunan Chicken?
If you’re not an Asian food expert (I’m not), the true makeup of Hunan chicken can be quite blurry. But after a lot of research, I think I’ve come up with the perfect version of Hunan Chicken that will rival any Chinese restaurant. (We also shared our favorite Hunan Shrimp a while back if you’re interested in a seafood version.) True Hunan Chicken is similar to Szechuan chicken because they use the same super spicy chili bean paste, but Hunan chicken is more chili forward and has a little bit less of a sweet and spicy balance than Szechuan chicken has.
If you’re looking for a more traditional dish, I’d check out our General Tso Shrimp (which can easily use an protein you want).
Ingredients in Hunan Chicken
Chicken. Whenever I have to cut chicken into bite-size pieces, I just go ahead and buy chicken tenders. As they imply, they are the tender part of the breast, so I never have to worry about them becoming chewy or tough.
Cornstarch. We use cornstarch in two ways here. First, we use it to coat the chicken to create a crispy exterior. This step isn’t necessary, as you can just stir-fry the chicken in oil, but our family likes a little crispiness in our Hunan Chicken. Second, we use it to thicken up the sauce just a touch.
Veggies. There is not a cut-and-dry rule on what veggies to use in Hunan Chicken. I love blistered green beans and green onions, so that’s what we used here, but red peppers, bok choy, or even zucchini would work well.
Chili paste. Chili paste is the most essential ingredient in our Hunan chicken. We prefer to use a fermented chili bean paste called Doubanjiang. Not only is it really spicy, but since it’s fermented, it has a really lovely tanginess you just can’t get from other chili pastes.
Some grocery stores may have it, and an Asian market would most definitely carry it, but your best bet is to order it on Amazon. If you already have Gochujang or Sambal Oelek in your pantry, you can use those in a pinch.
Tamari. As I’ve mentioned before, tamari is a less salty, more savory, and (most of the time) gluten-free version of soy sauce. I prefer it to soy sauce as I think it adds a richer flavor to dishes, but of course, if soy sauce is all you have on hand, use that.
Chicken stock. Chicken stock creates a more sauce-like texture, use more if you like a LOT of sauce. Remember, you can always add more, but you can’t take it away. Make sure to buy a version that’s low-sodium so you can control the amount of salt that goes into the dish.
Let’s make Hunan Chicken!
Stir-fry the green beans. Add a little bit of oil to the wok. Swirl it around and add the green beans. Stir-fry until they start to blister and soften, 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the green onions and garlic, and stir-fry for another minute. Remove all the veggies and set aside.
Cook the chicken. While the green beans cook, toss the chicken in cornstarch. After you remove the veggies from the wok, add a little bit more oil. Swirl the pan to coat it. Once the oil is shimmering, add the chicken. Stir fry quickly until the chicken is brown and crisp, about 6-7 minutes.
Make the sauce. While the chicken cooks, make the sauce. Add chili paste, soy sauce, rice vinegar, chicken stock, and cornstarch. Whisk to combine.
Toss everything together. When the chicken is brown and crisp, pour in the sauce and reserved veggies. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer until the sauce has thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Substitutions and Tips and Tricks for Recipe Success
- If you don’t have rice vinegar, you can also use sherry vinegar or just dry sherry.
- Feel free to swap our chicken for your favorite protein.
- As mentioned, you can use just about any veggie you want. Red peppers, bok choy, zucchini, water chestnuts, or mushrooms are all good options.
- We really recommend using Doubanjiang, but you can use any other chili bean paste if that’s what you have on hand.
Perfect side dishes
- What’s an Asian dish without fried rice? And we have so.many. fried rice recipes on the site. If you’re looking for something healthy, check out our Quinoa Fried Rice or our Broccoli Fried Rice. Want something a little more traditional? This Fried Rice with Egg and this Shrimp Fried Rice are delicious.
- I don’t know about you, but I have to have some sort of dumpling whenever I order Chinese takeout. These easy Asian Dumplings are a favorite.
- There’s nothing in the rule books that says you can serve salad with spicy asian food. We LOVE our Broccoli Ramen Salad with Peanut Dressing. Really easy to throw together and great leftover.
- 2 tbsp canola oil, divided
- 8 oz green beans, roughly chopped
- 3 scallions, sliced
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 cup + 2 tsp cornstarch, divided
- 1 1/2 lbs chicken tenders cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 tbsp tamari
- 2 tsp Doubanjiang or another chili bean paste, or more if you really like spice
- 1 tsp rice vinegar
- 1 tsp oyster sauce
- 2 tsp ketchup
- 3/4 cup chicken stock
- Heat a large wok or skillet to a high heat. When it's hot, add 2 tsp canola oil. Swirl to coat the pan. Add the green beans, stir-fry for 2-3 minutes until they start to blister. Add the scallion and garlic, stir-fry another minute. Remove veggies from the wok and set aside.
- While the veggies cook, season chicken with salt and pepper. Add the chicken tenders to a large plastic ziplock bag. Add in 1/4 cup of cornstarch. Seal the bag and shake to coat the chicken.
- Add half of the remaining oil to the wok. Swirl to coat the pan. Once the oil is shimmering, add half of the chicken. Stir-fry until the chicken is brown and crisp, about 6 minutes. Remove from the pan to the same plate with the veggies. Add remaining oil to the wok. Swirl to coat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the remaining raw chicken. Again, stir-fry until brown and crisp, about 5-6 minutes.
- While the chicken is cooking, whisk the tamari, chili paste, rice vinegar, oyster sauce, ketchup, remaining 2 teaspoons cornstarch, and chicken stock together in a small bowl.
- When the chicken is done cooking, add the othe cooked chicken and veggies back to the wok. Pour in the sauce. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Toss the chicken until the sauce is thickened. Serve with steamed or fried rice.