General Tso’s Chicken Vs Kung Pao Chicken: What’s The Difference?

You are definitely not the only one who has ever found yourself in this predicament: you’re out with your family and someone says “hey, we should get Chinese food!” but then there’s a debate on what to order.

Now there are two options: General Tso’s chicken or Kung Pao chicken? If you have no idea what they are and how to differentiate these two chicken dishes, this article is for you.

Learn more about Chinese cuisine, especially these recipes so the next time ordering or cooking Chinese food will be much easier.

What is General Tso chicken?

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General Tso is a dish from Hunan, China.

It is named after General Tso, who was the leader of Hunanese military that fought against the Qing Dynasty in the 19th century.

It is not clear if he ever ate this dish, but legend has it that his favorite food was roast chicken on special occasions.

This recipe typically consists of pieces of deep-fried dark meat (such as black pepper or soy sauce), cooked with garlic and ginger until browned and then simmered in either sweet cornstarch broth or water with sugar for sweetness and light soy sauce.

What is Kung Pao chicken?

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Kung Pao chicken is a Chinese dish that has become popular in the Western world.

This spicy and flavorful dish is made with chunks of meat, peanuts, and vegetables, such as green peppers or onions.

It’s one of China’s most famous dishes because it uses chili pepper as one of its main ingredients, and typically features two kinds of peppers: Sichuan pepper for flavor and red pepper to provide heat.

It’s considered the national dish of Sichuan Province in China.

The name comes from Cantonese dialect “Gong Bao Ji Ding” meaning “palace (gong) braised/stir-fried (bao) chicken (ji).

What are the differences between General Tso vs Kung Pao chicken?

General Tso and Kung Pao chicken differ in many ways, including their tastes, textures, and ingredients.

The table below will put these two dishes in comparison so that you can have the most general view about their differences.

 General Tso chickenKung Pao chicken
TasteSweet and savorySpicy and nutty because the dish calls for two kinds of popular peppers in China
ColorMore in brown color due to the more content of soy sauceMore in red color because it uses more red chili pepper  
TextureMore sauce, thicker The texture of General Tso is given by the sauce, which seems to be made from more liquid ingredients: soy sauce, rice vinegar, and wine. Then the mixture is thickened by cornstarch and sugar.  Less sauce, thinner On the other hand, Kung Pao sauce is made with chili paste, soy sauce, and other ingredients and spices, resulting a thinner sauce 
ingredientsInclude rice wine or sherry to create a sweet but tangy tasteHave peanuts to add a nutty flavor
Cooking methodChicken cubes are submerged in batter and deep-fried until crispy, then tossed in the sauce with vegetablesStir-fry all the ingredients with added sauce

What are the similarities between General Tso vs Kung Pao chicken?

Despite the main differences in their tastes, cooking methods, and how they look, General Tso and Kung Pao chicken also have some similarities:

1. They are Chinese chicken dishes

These dishes were created by Chinese cooks, although Kung Pao chicken originated in China and General Tso originated in an American-Chinese restaurant.

2. They can be served with rice or other similar side dishes

These recipes are both flavorful, therefore, they are great to enjoy with steamed rice with some vegetables served on the side.

3. They have many variations

Both recipes are getting popular in different cuisines all over the world.

Therefore, it’s easy to understand why they both have many variations to meet people’s different preferences.

With a twist on the ingredients, such as chicken to pork, beef, or shrimp, broccoli to cabbage, …, you will have a new but familiar dish to enjoy.

Which one is better?

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Product ImageOrganic Asian Fusion General Tso Sauce, 15 Ounce - Non-GMO, Organic...Lee Kum Kee Panda Brand Sauce for Kung Pao Chicken, 0g Trans Fat, No...
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So which one is better? Let’s break it down.

General Tso’s chicken has a spicy sauce that includes garlic, rice wine, soy sauce, and sugar while Kung Pao chicken features crushed peanuts mixed with chili peppers, vinegar, black beans and vegetables.

But really the best way to decide between these two dishes is to taste them both and depends on your personal preference to pick one that you prefer.

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