I really like to make Kung Pao dishes. But I have never found a bottled Kung Pao sauce that suits me. When you get a Kung Pao dish from a great Chinese restaurant (and “great Chinese restaurant” can be a pretty grim looking, from the outside, mom and pop shop) it has the perfect combination of zing, flavor, and body. None of the bottled sauces I’ve ever tried provide that–in fact, most are just plain bad. So I spent a couple of months zeroing in on a Kung Pao sauce recipe that suits me. This one isn’t quite there yet, but it’s very close. I want to try grating a little fresh ginger into it. I think that might help round it out a bit.

I don’t like to add garlic to this sauce–and I put garlic in everything! I prefer to add the garlic to the primary contents of the meal. That way, when I am making a meal that uses this sauce, I can add as much garlic as I want knowing that this sauce won’t push the garlic needle too far into the red zone!

I make this sauce in advance and keep it in the freezer. It never fully freezes but lasts for a long time in its “nearly frozen” state. Having it readily available makes it much quicker to whip a Kung Pao-based meal together.

Kung Pao sauce
Cook time
Total time
This Kung Pao sauce is easy to make and vastly better than any bottled variety.
Recipe type: Sauce
Cuisine: Asian
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • ⅔ cup soy sauce (or maybe a little more--but watch the saltiness)
  • ⅓ cup rice wine vinegar
  • ⅓ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili paste
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons of water
  1. Add all ingredients except cornstarch and water to a sauce pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently with a whisk. When the sauce starts to boil, reduce heat to bring to a simmer. Let simmer for 15 or 20 minutes.
  3. Mix the cornstarch and water in a small bowl. After 20 minutes or so, bring the sauce back to a boil. After the sauce starts boiling, and add the cornstarch/water mix.
  4. Stir vigorously with a whisk until the sauce thickens. When the sauce covers the back of a spoon (the sauce will continue to thicken a bit as it cools), remove from heat and use immediately or freeze for use later. No matter how hard I try, I almost get a few few pasty clumps from the cornstarch, so I usually strain the sauce as I poor it from the pan.
This recipe makes enough for two or three dishes. It freezes well.

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