Whole30 Kung Pao Chicken & Zoodles

Get ready for a flavor party! This healthy Whole30 Kung Pao Chicken recipe is made with fresh, whole ingredients and lots of veggies. It’s not too spicy, so it’s great for kids and the whole family. Zucchini noodles served on the side make this entire dish Gluten Free and Paleo, with a super easy Keto Kung Pao Chicken recipe adaptation!

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Kung Pao Chicken is one of my all-time favorite meals ever!

Steaming hot kung pao chicken and peppers are in a skillet with a wooden spoon.

In typical teenager fashion, my friends and I would go to this hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant and order big tubs of all the classic takeout dishes.

Of course I always had lots of fried rice and a big fountain soda with it. And it was DELICIOUS. These days, even though I’m not really into eating a ton of rice and MSG, I still really love Kung Pao Chicken!

But I want to eat it and feel good, so I thought I’d come up with a healthy, Whole30 and Low Carb version of Kung Pao Chicken.

That’s the thing about eating healthy — you don’t have to give up everything that you love!

Kung Pao Chicken, plated on a small white plate, served with spiralized zucchini noodles and topped with sesame seeds.

One of the cool things about Asian cuisines in general is that they’re pretty easy to Paleo-fy.

It just so happens that there are absolutely awesome substitutes available for some of the most common but also most problematic ingredients.

  • Instead of soy sauce, you can swap coconut aminos
  • Instead of white rice, use cauliflower rice
  • Instead of peanuts, use cashews or almonds.

Another awesome Paleo substitute is arrowroot powder! I didn’t discover arrowroot powder as a substitute for thickening agents (like cornstarch or flour) until recently. But I’m SO glad I did. It works like a charm, and it’s totally Paleo and Whole30 compliant!

A hand sprinkling the skillet with sesame seeds.

Traditional vs. Whole30 Kung Pao Chicken

Now my version of healthy Kung Pao Chicken isn’t exactly traditional… but then again, most of the Whole30 takes on classic dishes are going to be at least a little unconventional (like my take on Spaghetti & Meatballs).

Kung Pao Chicken is normally pretty high on the heat scale, but I wanted to make it so my kids would actually eat it too. Because I just don’t have the time/patience/energy/will to make a separate dinner for my kids… like, ever.

And I don’t expect them to eat something as spicy as you’d get using a more traditional Kung Pao Chicken recipe that’s made with lots of chili peppers.

A close up shot of the cooked chicken, peppers, and cashews in the skillet. The sticky sauce is being mixed in with a wooden spoon.

Classic Flavors Made Kid-Friendly

The most important, classic flavors in Kung Pao Chicken are from the spicy peppers and Sichuan Peppercorns. To make this recipe family-friendly, I substituted red bell peppers to cut down on the spice factor.

If you’re not cooking this for spice-sensitive people, just use the traditional chili peppers.

But to keep the classic flavors in line, I still used Sichuan peppercorns. Sichuan peppercorns are really important to giving Kung Pao Chicken its Kung Pao-ness. You know what I mean, right?

Unlike other peppercorns, they’re not hot or spicy at all (read: kid-friendly)… they’re actually more lemony and aromatic and are known to actually numb your mouth a bit (it’s one of the spices in Chinese Five Spice blends, too). I’ve found that Sichuan peppercorns are pretty easy to come by in most large grocery stores, but they’re available on Amazon, too.

Whole30 compliant Kung Pao Chicken is served in a large skillet. The sticky sauce is mixed in and it's topped with sesame seeds. A small bowl of extra sesame seeds sits beside the skillet.

Some Kung Pao Chicken recipes will call for the peppercorns to be added whole to the stir fry, but I like toast and blend them to add into the sauce. The main reason I do that? It’s so a certain little kid won’t spend all of dinner picking them out. 

To Toast Sichuan Peppercorns:

  1. Add them to a hot skillet.
  2. Stir frequently and allow them to toast for about 1 minute, sometimes even a little less.
  3. Once you can smell them (it happens quickly), remove them, set them aside and let them cool completely.
  4. Grind them up with a mortar and pestle. 

*Side note: If see any black seeds mixed in with the peppercorns, just remove them and set them aside. 

Whole30 compliant Kung Pao Chicken made family-friendly (and LOW CARB!) is served on a white plate with side of raw zucchini noodles. A fork sits on the plate.

I like to serve my Kung Pao Chicken over raw zucchini noodles. It has a nice texture to it that really holds up against the crunchy cashews and tender chicken.

But if you prefer, feel free to sauté the zucchini noodles with the sauce (I included that option in the recipe instructions), or serve with cauliflower rice instead. You can never go wrong with cauliflower rice, #amiright?

Keto & Low Carb Kung Pao Chicken

You can follow this recipe almost exactly to make Low Carb Kung Pao Chicken. However, dates are high in carbs, so you should make one small change to make this recipe Keto.

To make Keto Kung Pao Chicken, simply omit the dates and substitute a small amount of keto-friendly sweetener like Stevia or Monk Fruit extract. Easy peasy!

If you like this recipe, check out some of my other healthy dinners!

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Image to be used for Pinterest, a photo of the finished dish with the words "Whole30, Low Carb Kung Pao Chicken with Zucchini Noodles"

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Two white plates with spiralized zucchini noodles and a serving of Kung Pao Chicken.
5 from 2 votes
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Kung Pao Chicken (Whole30) and Zucchini Noodles

This is a family friendly (not very spicy!) version of the classic takeout meal, made using only clean and whole ingredients. It’s Whole30, Paleo, Keto & Gluten Free! 

Course Dinner
Cuisine Chinese
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 6 people
Calories 391 kcal

Ingredients

Kung Pao Chicken

  • 2 lb chicken breasts
  • 2 tbsp olive or avocado oil
  • 1 red bell pepper or substitute chili peppers (for a hot & spicy, more traditional flavor!)
  • 1 cup cashews, raw & unsalted
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 small zucchini

Marinade

  • 2 tbsp coconut aminos
  • 1 tsp rice wine vinegar or substitute apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp arrowroot powder

Sauce

  • 2 medjool dates
  • 1/4 cup coconut aminos
  • 1/2 – 2 1/2 tsp hot sauce, depending on how spicy you’d like it
  • 1 tsp rice wine vinegar or substitute apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp arrowroot powder
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp ginger minced
  • 2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, toasted and ground into powder
  • 1 tsp tomato paste

Instructions

Marinate the Chicken

  1. Add all marinade ingredients together in a small bowl and whisk together. 

  2. Cut the chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel and place in a bowl. Pour the marinade over the chicken, gently mix, then cover and marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Make the Sauce

  1. Add all ingredients to a blender and pulse until incorporated. Start with less hot sauce, taste the sauce to test how spicy it is, and add more if desired. 

Prep the Veggies

  1. Cut the red pepper into bite-sized slices. Slice the green onions, separating the white parts from the green. 

  2. Spiralize the zucchini and set it aside. 

Cook the Dish

  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken to the hot skillet, stirring occasionally, and cook about 2-3 minutes.

  2. Stir in the red pepper and whites of the green onion. Sauté, stirring occasionally, another 2-3 minutes. 

  3. Pour the sauce into the chicken, turning to coat. Bring it just to a simmer, then remove the pan from the heat. 

  4. Stir in the cashews (and zucchini, if you prefer it cooked a bit), and season to taste with salt and pepper, if desired. 

  5. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and the green parts of the sliced onion. Serve over zucchini noodles or with cauliflower rice. 

Nutrition Facts
Kung Pao Chicken (Whole30) and Zucchini Noodles
Amount Per Serving
Calories 391 Calories from Fat 162
% Daily Value*
Fat 18g28%
Saturated Fat 3g19%
Cholesterol 97mg32%
Sodium 592mg26%
Potassium 923mg26%
Carbohydrates 20g7%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 9g10%
Protein 37g74%
Vitamin A 812IU16%
Vitamin C 37mg45%
Calcium 35mg4%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Orange Sesame Chicken and broccoli is a really delicious whole30, paleo, and gluten free dinner recipe. My kids absolutely love it!

If you liked this recipe, be sure to check out my Whole30 Orange Sesame Chicken and Broccoli recipe too! It’s one of my most popular recipes to date. It always gets rave reviews!