It’s not often that you find a recipe that tastes as good as any restaurant version, has just 300 calories / 4 WW points, and only takes 15 minutes to make, but Kung pao shrimp is amazing like that. It’s a shrimp stir fry with bell pepper, scallions, and chopped peanuts, tossed in kung pao sauce: a thick, glossy topping that’s deliciously salty-savory-sweet-and sour.
Kung Pao chicken, or kung pao shrimp in this case, is one of the most popular dishes at Chinese restaurants and for good reason: it’s delicious. It’s a simple sauté of chicken or shrimp (no batter or breading) with bell pepper and chopped peanuts. And like all great Chinese food favorites, the sauce is complex—mostly savory with just the right amount of salty, an ever-so-slight sweetness, and a hint of sour. It gets its flavor from garlic, fresh ginger, chili paste, soy sauce, chicken broth, and the key ingredient: oyster sauce.
First: what is oyster sauce? Bon Appetit describes it best: “It’s a mixture of caramelized oyster juices (a byproduct of cooking oysters in water for a prolonged period of time), salt, sugar, and sometimes soy sauce that is thickened with cornstarch. What you end up with inside the bottle is a dark, syrupy sauce that resembles whatever the love child of soy sauce and barbecue sauce would look like.” You can’t make kung pao shrimp without it.
How to Make Kung Pao Shrimp in 15 Minutes
Whisk together the ingredients for the sauce: chicken broth, soy sauce, chili paste, oyster sauce, and cornstarch (for thickening). Set those aside. In a large skillet, cook your shrimp and chopped peanuts. When they’re pink and opaque (after about 3 minutes), remove them to a plate and add your chopped red bell pepper, scallions, garlic, and ginger to the skillet. Cook for 1 minute then add your sauce, bring it to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer, stirring until the sauce is glossy and thickened. Return your cooked shrimp and peanuts to the skillet, stir it all together and voila! Kung pao shrimp is ready in under 15 minutes.
This recipe is just one reason why I always keep a bag of frozen raw shrimp in my freezer. It allows me to make a quick and easy dinner anytime. Frozen shrimp defrost quickly if you set them in a colander and run them under cold water for five or so minutes (if you have more time, set the frozen shrimp in a bowl in the fridge overnight). And once thawed, the shrimp cook up in under five minutes.
The Best Kung Pao Shrimp
- 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
- 3 tbsp oyster sauce
- 2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
- 2 tsp chili paste recommended: Sambal Oelek
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 tsp vegetable oil
- 1.5 lbs large raw shrimp peeled and deveined (tails can be removed or left on)
- .333 c unsalted peanuts roughly chopped
- 1 red bell pepper stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 6 scallions, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
- In a small bowl, whisk the broth, oyster sauce, soy sauce, chili paste, and cornstarch. Set aside
- .In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and peanuts and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp is pink and opaque throughout, about 3 minutes. Remove the cooked shrimp and peanuts to a plate and return the skillet to heat.
- Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add the bell pepper and scallions and cook until tender but still crisp, about 2 minutes. Stir in the garlic and grated ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the oyster sauce mixture and bring the skillet to a boil, stirring frequently as the sauce thickens.
- Once the sauce is thick and glossy, remove the skillet from heat and stir in the cooked shrimp and peanuts. Serve with rice or cauliflower rice.