What is Kung Pao shrimp?

Kung pao shrimp is a traditional Chinese stir-fry dish that is popular all over the world. It is a derivative of kung pao chicken, the original dish of kung pao preparation.

Outside China, kung pao shrimp are reinterpreted in endless variations to suit local tastes. The authentic version uses large amounts of Szechuan peppers, chili peppers, green onions and peanuts. Kung pao shrimp from other countries are relatively less spicy and contain more vegetables.

In this kung pao shrimp recipe, I use a moderate amount of Szechuan chilies, dried chilies, peppers and replace the peanuts with cashews.

Message: The following translations are the same: kung pao shrimp, kung bao shrimp, cong po shrimp and kung bo shrimp. They all come from the Chinese name 宫保虾球。

Let’s get into the details.

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How to prepare kung pao shrimp

1. Shrimp preparation

Kung pao shrimp are best prepared with medium-sized shrimp.  You can buy frozen peeled shrimp to save time, but they won’t have the best flavor.

Here are the steps

  • Rinse the shrimp with plenty of water to remove dirt. Drain the water from the shrimp in a colander.
  • Remove the head and shell, but keep the tail for better presentation.
  • Coat the shrimp with butter by cutting them in half lengthwise and flattening them.  The shrimp will look better after being fried this way. It is also easier to remove the black thread (digestive tract) that runs down the back.
  • Dry the shrimp with a paper towel or dry cloth. Shrimp that are too wet will splatter when fried in oil.
  • Season with a little salt and ground white pepper. White pepper helps to mask the unwanted smell of fish.
  • Brush the shrimp with egg white, then add enough cornstarch so the shrimp begin to stick.


Remove the casing by carefully brushing it with egg white and flour. Egg white and cornstarch are the classic coating for deep frying in Chinese cuisine.  They protect the shrimp from the direct heat of the oil and form a juicy interior with a crispy crust on the surface.

How to make crabs crispy

This step is optional if you prefer a crispy shrimp texture. This is a standard method of processing shrimp, giving the shrimp a crispier, meatier texture. This method is essential for the preparation of crab dumplings (har gow, the famous dim sum), when the crispy texture of the crab is needed.

  • After you have stripped the shrimp of their seeds and their shell, run them under running water for ten minutes to rinse them well.  You can also clean them in a container to save water, but you will have to change them several times.
  • Place the shrimp in a container with enough water to submerge them. Add 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of baking soda and soak for ten minutes. This process changes the texture of the crab meat and makes it crispy.
  • Take out the shrimp and remove the salt and baking soda.

2. Making Kung Pao sauce

The kung pao sauce contains light soy sauce for a spicy flavor, chinkiang vinegar for acidity, and a little sugar to balance the vinegar.  In addition to these basic spices, a small amount of dark soy sauce adds a caramelized color, a little sesame oil and Shaoxing wine enhances the flavor.

The ratio of these ingredients varies, but some chefs swear by a secret combination. The taste is mainly salty, sour and sweet, complemented by the spiciness and numbness of chilli and Sichuan pepper.

No technique is required to prepare the sauce. All you have to do is combine all the ingredients and add them to the wok while cooking. Frying is a quick and tedious process, so it’s a good idea to measure out all the seasonings ahead of time.

3. Other optional ingredients


The main seasonings of kung pao shrimp are garlic, ginger and the white part of the shallots.

  • Peel the garlic and then coarsely chop it.  I usually don’t chop it because it can burn quickly in the wok.
  • Cut a few slices of ginger into thin strips.
  • Divide the shallots in half by cutting them crosswise to separate the white from the green part. Cut the white part into quarter-inch pieces and the green part into one-inch pieces. Use the white part to season it and the green part to add it to the wok in the final step.


The recipe for kung pao shrimp uses two spices.

  • Sichuan pepper gives a pleasant taste to the mala/麻辣.  It is not hot or spicy, but it leaves a unique tingle in the mouth that is characteristic of Szechuan cuisine.
  • Some people prefer to add ground Zehaun peppers to sauté with the spices. I like to pepper the oil by heating it for a minute or two and then removing it.  Not everyone wants to bite into the peppers.
  • The dried chilli peppers add a little spice to the dish.  The amount of dried chilli depends on the desired spiciness. You can remove the seeds by cutting them lengthwise and soaking them in water. The seeds fall out by themselves. Soak the chillies until soft, then add them to the wok.  If dried chili peppers are not available, ground chili flakes can be used instead.

Other ingredients

The traditional recipe for kung pao shrimp doesn’t include many ingredients other than peanuts. This recipe includes several peppers (red and green), yellow onions, and roasted cashews instead of peanuts.  This makes it more colorful and visually appealing.

4. How to cook kung pao shrimp – step by step

Cooking kung pao shrimp is done in two steps. You should fry the shrimp first, then stir-fry the rest of the ingredients and finally add the cooked shrimp back to the wok.

Fried shrimps

For best results, I deep fry the shrimp in a deep fryer. However, some people frown on recipes with fried foods. I strive to bring the best food to the table, and that’s what the blog is about.  As a practicing pharmacist for 25 years, I always advise my clients to consume any food in moderation unless a medical condition requires a special diet.

These shrimps are fried in moderately hot oil. You can use corn, canola, palm or peanut oil, as long as they have a high smoke point and are suitable for frying.

Here are the steps:

  • After dipping the shrimp into the egg white and cornstarch, add them in groups to the hot oil.  I fried the shrimp in small portions so I needed less oil to fry all the shrimp.
  • When you add the shrimp to the wok, leave them for 15 seconds, then stir and separate them.  Stirring also prevents them from sticking to the wok.
  • When the shrimp have turned opaque to light pink, remove them from the pan and place them on a colander to drain the oil. Repeat this process to deep fry all batches of shrimp in the fryer.

If you use a cast iron or steel wok, the impurities will stick to the surface.  However, these deposits can be easily removed if the wok is properly seasoned. You can also use a non-stick pan to stir-fry the shrimp, as the cornstarch tends to stick to the wok.

Sautéing for cooking

  • Clean the wok after stir-frying the shrimp.
  • Heat some oil in a clean wok, add the Szechuan peppers and fry over a low heat for a minute or two to release the flavor. Discard the peppers.
  • Fry the garlic, ginger, the white part of the chives and the dried chillies in the oil and pepper over a low heat until fragrant.
  • Cut the onions into half-inch cubes and mix them in the wok. Fry until slightly translucent, then add the peppers (cut into 2cm squares). Fry them on medium-high heat for half a minute.
  • Pour the kung pow sauce into the wok. Mix well.
  • When they start to bubble, put the fried shrimp back in the wok.
  • Mix two teaspoons of cornstarch with two tablespoons of cold water to form a paste. Add the dry mixture little by little to thicken the sauce. You may not need to use the entire suspension. Stop adding when the sauce thickens and is no longer liquid.
  • Add the green parts of the spring onions.
  • When the sauce is thick enough, turn off the heat and add the toasted cashews. Arrange on a platter and serve.

If you like kung pao shrimp, you should also try the following dishes:

Kung pao chicken is a dish related to kung pao shrimp. The cooking process is almost identical. This recipe shows you how to prepare this classic stir-fry dish, which originates from Sichuan province in China.

Chinese deep fried shrimp have a very different taste than kung pao shrimp. It’s fried with the gut! Try this dish if you are in the mood for something less spicy.

This fried rice recipe will show you how to take fried rice with shrimp to the next level. Here are all the tips summarized on how I prepared restaurant fried rice.

Cooking time
15 minutes

Cooking time
15 minutes

Total time
30 minutes


Ingredients A

  • 500 g to shrimps, weight after cleaning and peeling of shells
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 egg white
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Ingredients B

  • 2 teaspoons Szechuan pepper
  • 4 Buttons, grob hacked
  • 5 ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 shallot stems, cut the white part into 1 cm pieces and the green part into 1 cm pieces
  • 8 dry chillies
  • 1/2 green pepper cut into 1-inch squares
  • 1/2 red pepper, cut into 1 cm squares
  • 1 medium-sized wafer, cut into cubes
  • 2 tbsp walnut approx

Ingredients C

Ingredients D

  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Frying oil


Fry the shrimps

  1. Wash the shrimp, drain them and dry them. Dip the shrimp into the butterfly and remove the black thread running down the back.
  2. Season with a little salt and ground white pepper.
  3. Brush the shrimp with egg white, then add enough cornstarch so the shrimp begin to stick.
  4. Put the shrimp in small groups in the hot oil. Let stand for 15 seconds, then stir and separate the shrimp.
  5. Once the shrimp have turned from opaque to light pink, remove them and pour in the oil.

Sautéing for cooking

  1. Heat a little oil in a clean wok and stir-fry the Szechuan peppers over low heat for a minute or two. Discard the peppers.
  2. Fry the garlic, ginger, the white part of the chives and the dried chilli pepper in the oil and pepper over a gentle heat until fragrant.
  3. Add the onion and sauté until slightly translucent, then add the peppers and sauté for half a minute over medium heat.
  4. Add the kung pow sauce (ingredients C) to the wok. Mix well.
  5. When they start to bubble, put the fried shrimp back in the wok.
  6. Mix water and cornstarch with ingredients D to form a slurry. Add it gradually to thicken the sauce.
  7. Add the green parts of the spring onions.
  8. When the sauce is thick enough, turn off the heat and add the toasted cashews. Arrange on a platter and serve.

As an Amazon affiliate and member of other affiliate programs, I receive income from eligible purchases.

  • NOW Foods Organic Raw Cashews

  • Soeos Authentic Szechuan Peppercorns (4 oz), red A pepper, Szechuan pepper, Chinese pepper, less seeds, Szechuan spice pepper, Szechuan Mapo pepper

  • Soeos Szechuan dried chili, dried chili peppers, dried chili peppers, Szechuan pepper, dried red chili, 4 oz, (very mild and hot).

  • Lodge 14 inch cast iron wok. Flat-bottomed wok for Asian stir-fry dishes and sauces.

Performance information:





Quantity per serving :

Calories : 285Total fat: 9 gSaturated fat: 1 gTrans fat: 0 gSaturated fat: 7 gCholesterol: 211 mgSodium: 1882 mgCarbons: 26 gFibre: 3 gSugar: 9 g Protein: 27 g

These data were provided and calculated by Nutritionix on

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