Home Grilled Kung Pao Chicken Wings

Grilled Kung Pao Chicken Wings

by Brad Prose

One of my favorite Chinese take-out dishes hits the grill. Kung Pao Chicken Wings come together quickly with a barrage of peanuts, chiles, spices, and that sticky-sweet sauce. No one will pass these up.

Plate of Kung pao chicken wings

This recipe was originally created in collaboration with Derek Wolf at Over The Fire Cooking.


Asian flavors hit up the grill frequently, whether it’s glazing with teriyaki sauce, gochujang, or even the sweet orange chicken. Kung Pao chicken should be no stranger to the grill, the well-rounded spices and heat would do well with some wood-fired smoke.

What is Kung Pao Chicken?

Traditional Kung Pao Chicken uses Sichuan peppercorns and is a dry stir-fry. Some sauce is present, but it glazes the chicken just enough so it’s moist and juicy when you bite in. Searing the meat at very high heat in a wok creates some smokiness known as wok-hei, translated to ‘breath of a wok’. This is a complex aroma, typically found in Cantonese cooking. The Browning of the meat combined with the smoky oil and caramelized sugars created a unique sticky sear and aroma.

Most of us are probably used to the Westernized, American take-out style. This recipe for Kung Pao Chicken Wings uses a little of that, and a little of the traditional.

Sichuan peppercorns (also seen spelled as Szechuan) were banned from import in the United States for years, only recently lifted. This unique spice cannot be replaced for its flavor and complexity. It’s fragrant with a floral and citrus aroma but carries a very unusual property. The mouth-numbing, tongue-tingling that happens when you eat it when combined with chiles prompts your mouth to salivate, almost making you crave more and more as you eat.

You guessed it, our American version is much sweeter and saucier. Chinese take-out typically doesn’t cook with Sichuan peppercorns either, so you’re pretty much missing out on one of the most exciting parts. That’s why I made this version.

Crispy textures and spices in Kung pao chicken wings

Ingredients for Kung Pao Chicken Wings

The Kung Pao chicken wings come together quickly once the chicken is cooked, so you’ll need to have everything ready to go. Let’s break down the ingredients:

Stir Fry Ingredients

  • Red bell pepper: Sweet and sharp, this is the first ingredient to cook in the hot skillet.
  • Scallions: The greens and whites are diced and separated, as they have slightly different cooking times.
  • Roasted peanuts: Adds a nice crunch along with toasty flavors that compliment the wings.
  • Dried red chiles: Chinese chilis are recommended, but you can also use chile de arbol. Use plenty.
  • Garlic: This will cook very fast in the skillet, and goes in towards the end.
  • Fresh Ginger: Needs to be fresh for the strong, sharp flavors.
  • Szechuan peppercorns: This is absolutely key, with a flavor that cannot be substituted. Lemony, citrus flavors with a tingling sensation on the tongue.
  • Peanut Oil: Classic ingredient for the wok. You can substitute for vegetable oil if you need it.

You will have a few different bowls of ingredients, chopped and ready to go. They cook at slightly different times, so it’s important to separate out the parts. The skillet starts with the diced red bell peppers, which you’ll cook for about 1-2 minutes. Next, you’ll add in the peanuts and chiles, stirring to incorporate them. The scallion whites, ginger, and garlic are next, only to be cooked briefly before adding in the chicken and the sauce.

Once the vegetables are cooked in the skillet, the wings and stir fry are ready to be glazed. Adding this simple sauce at the very end provides a nice sweet tang, brightening the flavors. This final touch to the kung pao chicken wings is key.

Kung Pao Glaze Ingredients

  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 tsp white sugar

Mix the ingredients together in a small bowl, and pour into the hot skillet (or wok) right at the end. The glaze will thicken up quickly, so it hardly needs cooking at all. Toss in the Sichuan peppercorns and scallion greens and serve. Frying the ingredients together with the wings and sauce only takes about 3-4 minutes, so it’s best to have everything ready to go.

Watch the Quick Recipe

Cooking the wings indirectly

Equipment for Kung Pao Chicken Wings

There are a few things to consider when making this recipe. The two main steps are grilling and frying, which means you’ll need to have the right setup and equipment.

  • Large grill, big enough for a wok or skillet. Aside from grilling the wings, you’ll need to be able to heat a pan directly over the coals for frying the rest of the ingredients.
  • Wok, or cast-iron skillet. There are amazing flat-bottom woks designed for the grill. Using a wok will allow you to create the wok-hei flavors known in Szechuan cuisine. Cast-iron skillets come in a close second.

Preheat your charcoal and place it in the center, allowing a hotspot for the inevitable searing with room on the outside to cook the wings indirectly. See the image below for an example.

Starting the sauce for kung pao chicken wings

How to Cook Kung Pao Chicken Wings

  • STEP 1: Prep everything. Make sure you have the veggies chopped and separated. Mix the glaze ingredients into a small bowl. The last part of grilling the wings happens quickly, so you’ll need to be ready to go.
  • STEP 2: Season the wings. Mix the cornstarch with the Spiceology Lemon Chili Rye seasoning, or your preferred citrus chicken flavor.
  • STEP 3: Preheat the grill for 2-zone cooking. The wings need to be able to cook indirectly, and there needs to be an area for the coals to heat up a metal pan for frying. I recommend considering a round grill, such as the Weber 22″ Kettle Charcoal grill.
  • STEP 4: Cook the wings. Allow them to cook with the lid closed, providing ambient heat. Flip a few times, every 6-7 minutes to ensure even cooking. Grill the wings until they are about 170°F.
  • STEP 5: Heat up the metal pan. Remove the wings from the grill and set them aside. Heat up your wok or cast-iron skillet directly over the coals.
  • STEP 6: Stir fry the veggies. Follow the recipe below for the steps to fry the vegetables in order. This will only take a minute.
  • STEP 7: Add the wings and glaze. Toss the wings into the skillet to incorporate the flavors, and pour in the glaze. Everything will meld together nicely and you’re ready to eat within minutes.
Dropping in the wings into the kung pao sauce.
Kung pao chicken wings

More Grilled Chicken Recipes to Fire Up:

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Kung pao chicken wings

Grilled Kung Pao Chicken Wings

 Kung Pao Chicken Wings come together quickly with a barrage of peanuts, chiles, spices, and that sticky-sweet sauce. No one will pass these up.

  • Total Time: 30
  • Yield: Serves about 2-3 1x

Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 lb chicken wings
  • 3 tablespoons Lemon Chili Rye
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 scallions diced, greens and white separated
  • 1 red bell pepper finely diced
  • ½ cup roasted peanuts
  • 8 dried red Chinese chiles,  or chile de arbol
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger minced
  • 1 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns ground
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil

Kung Pao Sauce Ingredients

  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 tsp white sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat the charcoal grill for medium heat, with the coals in the center. We will be cooking the wings indirectly, and then using the coals to heat up the skillet for searing.
  2. Mix the cornstarch with the Spiceology Lemon Chili Rye seasoning. Add the chicken wings into a large bowl or plastic bag, and add the seasoning. Toss the wings to make sure they are coated evenly, and set them aside.
  3. We’ll prepare the rest of the ingredients, which will be added into the skillet later. Dice up the vegetables as instructed. Add the whites from the scallions to a bowl with the garlic and ginger. Set the peanuts and chiles together. The scallion greens can be added with the Szechuan peppercorns.
  4. Mix the sauce ingredients together.
  5. Set the wings on the grill, making sure they are not directly over the coals. They should be cooking indirectly. Allow them to cook on the grill for 6-7 minutes per side, flipping as needed. Close the lid on the grill to speed along the process. Grill the wings until they are about 170F internal temperature.
  6. Remove the wings and set them aside.
  7. Place a cast iron skillet directly over the coals and add the peanut oil, allowing it to heat up. Add a piece of red bell pepper to test the temperature, it should sizzle immediately if ready.
  8. Add in the diced red bell peppers into the oil, stirring immediately. Cook for about 2 minutes until softened. Add in the chiles and peanuts next, stirring for about 30 seconds. Next add in the bowl of scallion whites, garlic, and ginger. Stir the ingredients in the skillet well, and cook for about 1 minute.
  9. Take the chicken wings and add them into the skillet, tossing them gently to make sure they are frying with the ingredients. Add the sauce, continuing to stir and coating the wings. Cook for 1 minute, and add the scallion greens and Szechuan peppercorns. Toss to mix everything, and serve.

Notes

Prepping everything ahead of time is the key, everything cooks very fast! Be ready and you won’t be stressing.

  • Author: Brad Prose
  • Prep Time: 10
  • Cook Time: 20
  • Category: Chicken & Poultry
  • Method: Grilling
  • Cuisine: Asian

Keywords: kung pao, kung pao chicken, chicken wings, spicy food

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2 comments

Thomas Deyo June 8, 2022 - 6:45 am

After grilling chicken wings, if you add a little smoke into these, you will love it. Thanks for sharing 🙂

Reply
Brad Prose June 8, 2022 - 6:47 am

Hey Thomas! I like to add smoke while they are grilling, typically I’ll use wood chips. Hope you enjoy the recipe!

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