Hunan Chicken


Restaurant-inspired Hunan chicken with juicy, tender cuts of chicken stir-fried with a variety of colorful vegetables such as peppers and broccoli in a spicy sauce.

Recreating a beloved Chinese classic with an Americanized twist, with this easy Hunan Chicken recipe. This stir fry combines juicy chicken, peppers, broccoli and celery in a spicy, sweet and slightly tangy sauce. No need to get take-out when you can make your own healthy Chinese food at home with fresh ingredients.

Close up of hunan chicken stir fry in a wok with colorful vegetables like broccoli, celery and red peppers.


Stir fries, like Hunan Chicken, are a popular dish in Chinese American cuisine. Unfortunately, it’s easy to end up with dry, rubbery chicken if you don’t prepare your chicken correctly. In this Hunan chicken recipe, you’ll learn how to get moist and tender chicken at home with a few simple steps and using readily accessible ingredients from your local grocery store.

It begins by velveting the chicken, a simple yet effective technique that results in restaurant-quality chicken that is tender, silky and ready to soak up all that flavor from the sauce.  You’ll start with thinly sliced skinless, boneless chicken (either chicken breast, tenderloins or thighs) and marinate the thin cuts in a mixture of water and soy sauce. This will help season the chicken. Once most of the fluid is soaked up from the chicken, a combination of cornstarch and avocado oil are tossed into the chicken. Once cooked in a hot pan, the juices and flavor from the chicken are sealed inside resulting in juicy, velvet-like chicken.

The chicken and vegetables are quickly stir fried in a flavorful Hunan sauce made from ingredients you’ll probably find in your pantry. If not, the grocery store. The combination of chicken broth, soy sauce, oyster sauce, brown sugar free sweetener, rice vinegar and chili paste – along with the heat from jalapenos and zest from garlic, provides the perfect mix of hot & spicy and sweet flavors iconic of the Chinese American dish.

What is Hunan Chicken?

Hunan chicken is popular dish in Chinese-American cuisine. It features tender pieces of chicken stir-fried with a variety of peppers which take center stage to forming a hot, spice sauce.

Hot, spicy, sour and salty flavors are common in Hunan cuisine (also called Xiang cuisine), which is named after the Hunan province in China. It is enjoy throughout the entire country of China and is very popular in the United States and several countries in Europe.

Hunan Chicken Recipe Video

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Hunan Chicken Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs or breasts
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon soy sauce, divided
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup avocado oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar free sweetener
  • 2 teaspoons chili paste or chili garlic sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups broccoli florets
  • 4 celery stalks, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 green jalapeno, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

Hunan Chicken Directions

  • Hunan Chicken
  • A wok with chicken stir fry mixed with broccoli and red bell peppers.

    Importance of velveting chicken

    If you ever wondered how Chinese restaurants get their chicken and beef so juicy and tender, yet when you try to make the same stir fry at home, you get dry, tough or rubbery meat. That’s because they are velveting the chicken or beef before cooking.

    Velveting is a common technique used in Chinese stir-fry recipes to keep the meat tender, juicy and velvet-like. Before cooking, chicken or beef is marinated in a mixture of water, seasoning (like soy sauce or oyster sauce) and either cornstarch or baking soda. Egg whites can be added as an additional ingredient to help tenderize the protein.

    How to you velvet chicken with baking soda?

    Add 1 tablespoon baking soda to 1 1/2 pounds of chicken. Marinate for 20 minutes and then rinse well under running water to remove excess baking soda. Pat dry with a paper towel before cooking.

    What does velveting chicken do?

    The cornstarch coats each piece of chicken forming a thick layer that will turn solid when cooked and seal in those juices.

    What are the common ways to velvet chicken?

    • Water velveting – After the chicken in marinated in a cornstarch mixture, it is cooked by blanching in boiling water or broth. This is a method used to limit the fat and keep the dish light; however, water velveting can wash off some of the seasoning and sauce used to flavor the meat, so you may need to add more soy sauce and/or oyster sauce.
    • Oil velveting – The marinated chicken is stir fried in a wok or skillet with oil over high heat. This method is quick, adds more flavor, and can create a crispy outer layer on the chicken. The crust on the chicken will dissolve when the sauce is added to the skillet, creating a thicker sauce.

    What cuts of meat can be velveted?

    The process of velveting can be used on any cut of meat that can be tough or is prone to drying out when cooking.

    • Chicken breast
    • Chicken thighs
    • Chicken tenderloins
    • Flank steak
    • Skirt steak
    • Chuck steak
    • Sirloin steak
    • Lamb
    • Pork
    A dinner plate with stir fried chicken, broccoli and peppers over cauliflower rice.

    Vegetables in Hunan style chicken

    The vegetables used in Hunan chicken really depends on personal preference or what you need to use up in refrigerator.

    • Chili peppers – Dried or fresh red chili peppers are often used. Green peppers, like jalapenos are used in this recipe since they are available in most grocery stores.
    • Bell peppers – Although any color of bell pepper can be used (green or yellow peppers), red bell peppers are commonly used because they have a mild, sweet flavor and vibrant color.
    • Broccoli – Adds crunch and texture
    • Carrots – Adds color and crunch. Can be julienned or thinly sliced.
    • Baby corn – These are common in many Chinese stir-fry dishes.
    • Mushrooms – Various types of mushrooms can be used (portabella, button, or shiitake).
    • Water chestnuts – Adds crunch.
    • Bamboo shoots – Adds crunch and bulk. These resemble noodles once cooked.
    • Snap peas – Adds crunch.
    • Onions – To add flavor.

    Storage information

    Store hunan chicken in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to 5-7 days.

    Hunan Chicken: FAQS

    What does Hunan chicken taste like?

    Depending on the ingredients added to the sauce, Hunan chicken has a spicy, savory profile. The dish can be slightly sour, tangy or sweet depending on other ingredients added like vinegar or sugar. The spiciness comes from the chili paste and fresh chilies used in the recipe, which is characteristic of Hunan style cuisine.

    What is the difference between Hunan chicken and Szechuan chicken?

    Hunan chicken and Szechuan chicken are both popular dishes in Chinese-American cooking involving chicken and a various vegetables. The key difference between Hunan and Szechuan chicken (Sichuan) is in the sauce. Both are spicy but the heat from Hunan spicy chicken comes from a mix of fresh chili peppers stir-fried with the chicken. Szechuan chickens' spiciness comes from Szechuan peppercorns and dried chiles.

    How spicy is Hunan chicken?

    It heat level of chicken Hunan style depends on the recipe and how many chiles are used and the types of chiles. This is an Americanized version of Hunan cuisine, so the heat is downplayed to be more family friendly.

    Nutritional information & Macros

    Nutrition Information

    Hunan Chicken

    Servings: 6

    Amount Per Serving
    Calories 252
    Fat 16.6g
    Protein 20.2g
    Total Carbs 19.6g
    Net Carbs 6g

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