Is Szechuan Or Kung Pao Chicken Better? Which One Do You Prefer?

szechuan vs kung pao chicken

For a good reason, Szechuan vs Kung Pao Chicken is two of the most popularly ordered Chinese dishes. They’re both made with chunks of chicken, vegetables, and a spicy sauce that coats the meat in a rich flavor.

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But which one is better? If you’re trying to decide between these two dishes at your favorite Chinese restaurant or making one at home, this post will help you make an informed decision!

SimilaritiesBoth are stir-fried chicken dishes with spicy sauces
Both have peanuts in the sauce
Both have bell peppers in the sauce
DifferencesSzechuan uses chili peppers and other spices, while Kung Pao uses sesame oil and ginger.


An age-old debate has plagued the globe since time immemorial: which country originated Szechuan and Kung Pao Chicken? While both dishes are Chinese, there is more to this question than geography. It’s a matter of culture, tradition, and flavor profiles.

Let’s look at some historical accounts of each dish to answer this question once and for all. The earliest record of Szechuan being identified as a province comes from Sima Qian’s Records of the Grand Historian (Shi Ji), written around 109 BC. This text refers to it as “Caozhou” or “Coting Kingdom.” In modern times, however—and after centuries of political turmoil—the name has been changed back to its original form: Sichuan Province.

Kung Pao Chicken is a Chinese dish first served in the late 19th century during the Qing dynasty. The story goes that an imperial chef named Ding Baozhen created it for Empress Dowager Cixi’s banquet celebrating her 60th birthday.

Only then did the dish become known as Kung Pao chicken, although different versions of the recipe have existed since at least 1792. Kung Pao Chicken is a spicy dish that uses peanuts and hot chili peppers as key ingredients. It is traditionally served with steamed rice on the side and garnished with green onion or cilantro leaves.


Szechuan Chicken and Kung Pao Chicken look like stir-fries. The two dishes share the same appearance and method of preparation, but that’s where the similarities end. If you asked me to guess which dish was which just by looking at it, I’d be stumped. The difference between Sichuan Chicken and Kung Pao Chicken is very simple.

The former is a spicy dish with a focus on heat and flavor, while the latter has more of an emphasis on texture and color. Kung Pao Chicken is a dish from the Sichuan province in China. The name translates to “Diced chicken with peanuts,” which you’ll find inside this iconic Chinese dish.

It’s made with pieces of chicken, red bell peppers, and peanuts tossed in a spicy sauce.

Main ingredients

It’s hard to say what exactly makes Szechuan vs Kung Pao Chicken so different. The main ingredients are pretty much the same: chicken, bell peppers, and onions are cooked in a spicy sauce that contains garlic, ginger, and chilies (to give it that kick!).

But seriously—what makes one dish more popular than the other? The answer is simple: it’s all in the sauce! Many people think that Szechuan vs Kung Pao Chicken is just two different sauces with the same ingredients, but they couldn’t be more wrong.

The main difference between the two dishes is that Szechuan sauce uses chili oil and garlic, while Kung Pao Chicken has chili powder and garlic. Both of the sauces are equally delicious, but they have very different flavors.

Szechuan sauce is much more flavorful and spicy than Kung Pao Chicken, making it an excellent choice for those who like their food with a kick. If you’re new to Chinese cuisine, we recommend trying both dishes before deciding which one suits your taste buds best.

Taste and flavor       

Szechuan and Kung Pao Chicken are two of America’s most popular Chinese dishes. They both have a slightly spicy flavor and are served with vegetables. The main difference between Szechuan and Kung Pao Chicken is their taste, which is different depending on where you get them from.

If you get Szechuan from one place, it will have a sour flavor, while if you get it from another, it will have a sweet flavor. Szechuan also has more of a spicy kick than Kung Pao Chicken does—it’s not just because those words sound similar!

When eating Szechuan, beware: even though the dish may look mild at first glance (especially when compared to other spicy foods), it has more heat than expected! Another difference between Szechuan and Kung Pao Chicken is their appearance.

Although both are served with vegetables, Szechuan has a brown sauce instead of a red one. The vegetables used in the dish will also vary depending on where you get it from; some places use bell peppers, while others don’t include them at all.


Kung Pao chicken has a whopping 811 calories, while Szechuan chicken has only 579 calories. That’s quite the difference! It seems like such a slight difference at first glance, but it adds up to over 160 more calories than Szechuan.

That’s about half an entire meal for some people! It also has more fat (28%) and sodium (1,024mg) than Szechuan. The protein content is pretty much the same in both dishes (26g), which may be something you care about if you are trying to maintain or build muscle mass.

Nutrition Winner: Kung Pao Chicken

Cooking time and method

Both dishes are great for beginners because they don’t require an elaborate set of ingredients or equipment. You can easily make either one in the oven or on the stovetop, which is a big plus if you’re new to cooking Chinese food.

Kung Pao Chicken takes about 15 minutes to cook, while Szechuan Chicken takes about 20 minutes. Both are easy to make, so if you want something fast and simple then go with Kung Pao Chicken; but if you want something more complex and flavorful, then go with Szechuan Chicken!

Both dishes are full of vegetables and chicken, which makes them a great option if you’re looking for something healthy. Plus, they both have a good amount of protein to help keep you full longer than many other Chinese recipes. If you’re new to cooking Chinese food, then these dishes are a great place to start, but even if you’re an experienced chef,

Side dishes to pair with

The side dishes you choose to pair your Kung Pao Chicken or Szechuan with can make all the difference in your meal. If you’re eating at a Chinese restaurant, it’s tempting to go for white rice, but many other options are just as good, if not better.

Here are some of my favorites:

  • Peanuts (preferably salted)
  • Steamed white rice
  • Noodles (preferably egg noodles)
  • Vegetables (carrots, cucumbers, lettuce leaves)

It’s also important not to forget about potatoes and tomatoes!


So which is better? It depends on what your taste buds are looking for. Szechuan chicken has a spicy flavor that can numb the taste buds and make them tingle. Kung Pao Chicken has a sweet and tangy flavor that is quite delicious.

Both dishes are great options, but if you have to choose just one, I will go with Kung Pao Chicken because it’s not as spicy as Szechuan Chicken.