Kung Pao Shrimp – Slender Kitchen

Kung Pao Shrimp cooked in a spicy and savory sauce with celery, red peppers, and peanuts. This Chinese takeout recipe can be made at home in less time than it takes to pick up the phone.
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Healthy Kung Pao Shrimp is a delicious Chinese takeout dish you can make at home in less than twenty minutes. Quickly cooked shrimp in a sweet and spicy sauce with bell peppers, celery, and crushed peanuts. Seriously, this stuff is amazing, We also love  Kung Pao Chicken and Kung Pao Tofu around here.

At least once a week, I get a major craving for Chinese takeout. I love it. And Kung Pao Shrimp is always at the top of my list when deciding what to order. Between the spicy sauce, sweet shrimp, and crunchy peanuts, I could eat it every day. 

Not surprisingly, last time the craving struck, I set out to make this dish at home. I wanted to make a version that was both healthy and easy to make. Since restaurant versions can have as many as 740 calories and use upwards of 15 ingredients, I knew I wanted to create something that worked in the home kitchen without sacrificing on flavor. This recipe does just that.

The sauce is punchy and spicy with just enough sweetness from the honey. It also has a nice, deep flavor from the soy sauce. For veggies, I went with celery and red peppers since that is what is used at our local restaurant and at Panda Express. But you could add any veggies you like. Serve it with rice, quinoa, cauliflower rice and save the leftovers for easy lunches.

Healthy Kung Pao Shrimp in a skillet with red pepper, celery, and peanuts.

What is Kung Pao sauce?

Kung Pao is a Chinese sauce that’s known for being spicy, savory, and just a touch sweet. Traditionally it’s made with dried chilies, soy sauce, Sichuan peppercorns, Shaoxing wine, Chinese black vinegar, and some other hard to find ingredients. However, for most of us, that’s just a bit too much for a busy weeknight.

That’s why we created this simple at home version that has all the great flavor without all the tricky ingredients. All you need is soy sauce, Asian garlic chili paste (or Sriracha), honey, garlic, and ginger.  It comes together in just a minute and tastes amazing.

Recipe Ideas for Kung Pao Shrimp

There are lots of ways you can adapt this recipe to switch up the flavor slightly or make it work for a Paleo, Keto, or Gluten Free diet.

  • For a Paleo option, substitute coconut aminos for the soy sauce and top with chopped cashews instead of peanuts.
  • For a keto Kung Pao Shrimp, just leave out the honey.
  • For gluten-free, use coconut aminos instead of the soy sauce.
  • For a peanut free option, you can use cashews or almonds. If you can’t have any nuts, use sunflower or pumpkin seeds to add some crunch.
  • For less spice, use less Sriracha. This version is pretty spicy since Kung Pao should pack some punch, but you can adjust as needed. You can also leave it out completely and just serve it on the side to make it work for the whole family. 
  • If you want to add extra veggies, you may want to make some extra sauce as well to ensure everything is packed with flavor. You will also want to remove the shrimp as soon as they are cooked and set them aside. Then once all the veggies are cooked, add the shrimp back in with the sauce. This ensures the shrimp doesn’t overcook.

What to serve with Kung Pao Shrimp

If you are like me, you want to have a whole Chinese feast when you make this shrimp. For that reason, I almost always make some Healthy Fried Rice or Copycat Panda Express Chow Mein for the side. I like to add a side of veggies as well, so I will usually make some simple stir-fried vegetables or these amazing Crispy Asian Brussels Sprouts

For something easier, just cook up some brown or white rice. Cauliflower rice or a bed of spaghetti squash is a great option for low carb or keto eaters. You can also turn it into a noodle dish with some cooked rice or soba noodles.

Can I freeze Kung Pao Shrimp?

If you end up with leftovers, you can actually freeze this shrimp. Start by letting the shrimp cool completely. Then pack it in a freezer safe bag and remove all the extra air. Place it in the freezer for 2-3 months.

To reheat the shrimp, remove it from the bag and place it in a hot skillet with a touch of oil. Cook for 3-4 minutes until it is cooked through. Make sure not to overcook it so the shrimp don’t get rubbery.

Shrimp Kung Pao with peanuts, red peppers, celery, and green onions.

What’s the best shrimp to buy?

Whenever I post a shrimp recipe, I always get lots of questions about buying shrimp. First up, I always recommend buying frozen shrimp. It’s usually more affordable and about 99% of shrimp in the grocery store is actually frozen. The stuff at the seafood counter has just been defrosted. Unless you are buying shrimp right off a boat, assume it’s frozen.

Next, I recommend buying shrimp that has already been deveined and peeled. This saves tons of time so you don’t have to peel and devein all the shrimp yourself. Make sure to buy raw shrimp.

Lastly, when it comes to size, this is completely up to you. Just keep in mind that smaller shrimp cook more quickly. Usually, I buy shrimp, that are 21-26 count, meaning 21-26 shrimp per pound.

How to defrost shrimp quickly

Although the best way to defrost shrimp is to let them defrost on their own in the fridge overnight, sometimes we need to defrost them a little more quickly. When this happens, simply place the shrimp in a large bowl in the sink. Cover the shrimp with cold water and leave the water running very slowly into the bowl. The shrimp will be defrosted after 10-15 minutes. Then just strain the shrimp and dry them.

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