Despite her deep-seated hatred for peanuts in savory dishes, as well as dark meat chicken, Crist was kind enough to send me a recipe for Kung Pao chicken tacos that she came across a while back that contains BOTH. I’m pretty sure she got through it without gagging, too!
Anyways, I will be eternally grateful for her momentary ability to overlook the phrase “finish by sprinkling with chopped peanuts”, because those tacos were AWESOME. They are definitely getting a place in the regular recipe rotation; I just can’t resist the combination of quick and delicious!
Kung Pao Chicken Tacos
recipe adapted from here
1 lb chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces
4 T soy sauce, divided
3 T vegetable oil, divided
4 cloves of garlic
2 T honey
1 T rice wine vinegar
1 T sriracha
1 1/2 t sesame oil
1 1/2 t cornstarch
2-3 green onions, sliced
1 medium carrot, sliced into thin rounds
1/2 red or orange bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
pinch of kosher salt
1/4 c roasted, salted peanuts, chopped
1.) Place your chicken thighs into a large ziploc bag. Pour in 2 T soy sauce, 1 T vegetable oil, and toss in two cloves of garlic that you’ve smashed. Squeeze all the air out of the bag, close it, and work everything around until all the chicken is coated. Leave the bag at room temp for about 30 minutes.
2.) While the chicken is marinating, mix up your sauce. Combine the remaining 2 T of soy sauce, honey, rice wine vinegar, sriracha, sesame oil, cornstarch, and 2 gloves of garlic (grated); whisk until everything is combined into a smooth sauce. Set aside.
3.) When the chicken has been marinating for half an hour, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, and add 1 T of vegetable oil to the pan. Add about half the chicken, and cook it until it’s golden brown and cooked through, about 5-6 minutes (in order to make sure the chicken browns nicely, put it in the pan and don’t mess with it for at least 2-3 minutes before flipping – this will allow a nice, brown crust to form). Remove the chicken to a paper towel-lined plate, and repeat with the remaining chicken (adding more oil to the pan if necessary).
4.) When all the chicken is cooked, add a bit more oil to the pan if necessary. Add the carrots to the pan, then the peppers, then the onions (allowing about a minute between additions), and cook until softened, but still pretty crisp, 2-3 minutes total.
5.) Add the chicken back to the pan, and pour the sauce over everything. Stir to combine, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the sauce thickens a bit and coats the chicken and vegetables nicely.
6.) Spoon the chicken mixture into warm flour tortillas (I like to warm mine in a dry skillet heated over medium heat – just 30-45 seconds per side), and sprinkle chopped peanuts on top.
Now, I know some people are not big fans of dark meat chicken (Crist); trust me when I say you should give chicken thighs a try in this recipe. Thighs have so much more flavor and moisture than chicken breasts, and I think this dish would be a little less spectacular without them (though it would still be tasty, for sure).
There are so many things to love about these tacos. First, they’re quick and simple! They came together in less than 30 minutes. Second, there are so many great flavors – the fruity heat of the sriracha, the sweetness of the honey, the acid from the rice wine vinegar, and the salty crunch from the peanuts… if we’re being honest, I might be drooling a little, just thinking about it. I’ll be making these again, in the very near future!
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