Kung Pao vs. Szechuan Chicken: What Is the Difference?

There are two types of people when it comes to ordering in Asian diners – those who eat the same food every single time and those who always order something completely different on the contrary.

If you belong to the second group, it’s without a doubt that you have at least once tasted either Kung Pao or Szechuan chicken.

That’s because these two meals belong to the most frequently served ones in Asian fast-food restaurants throughout the United States. And it isn’t hard to understand why – they’re both just delicious!

With that being said, though, it’s important to point out that they’re not quite the same, although a lot of people tend to think so; they’re simply confused. You don’t have to be, though, so let’s answer the question:

What is the difference between Kung Pao and Szechuan chicken? The most significant difference between Kung Pao and Szechuan chicken is that Kung Pao is usually slightly spicier. Additionally, it also contains Peanuts, but Szechuan chicken does not.

But is this all we can say about the differences between these two? Not at all, so keep reading to make sure you indeed understand this kind of complicated topic!

Kung Pao vs. Szechuan ChickenPin

Is Kung Pao and Szechuan chicken the same?

No, Kung Pao and Szechuan chicken are not the same dishes, despite both coming from the same region, Szechuan. Kung Pao, however, is usually a bit spicier.

Szechuan chicken also often uses mushrooms and a lot of herbs as additional flavoring, while Kung Pao peanuts for the same purpose.

What is Kung Pao?

Kung Pao is one of the most popular dishes in Asian restaurants throughout the whole United States. It comes from China (more specifically Szechuan) and is made using stir-fried chicken, delicious sauce, vegetables.

What is Szechuan chicken?

Szechuan chicken is a staple piece of Chinese cuisine, originating from, as the name suggests, the Szechuan region. It is popular due to its sweet and spicy flavor.

That taste is the result of the delicious sauce, chicken pieces, vegetables, and mushrooms, one of the main ingredients in this dish.

What is the difference between Kung Pao and Szechuan chicken?

Although Kung Pao and Szechuan chicken come from the same region (that is, as the name of the former suggests, Chinese province Szechuan), they are pretty different.

Kung Pao is hotter and contains peanuts, whereas Szechuan chicken is sweeter (though still a bit spicy) and contains mushrooms.

Another essential difference may be that the meat for Kung Pao is just stir-fried, but Szechuan chicken should be stir-fried and steamed.

What do Kung Pao and Szechuan chicken have in common?

Despite the differences between them we mentioned in the last paragraph, Kung Pao chicken and Szechuan chicken still share some similarities.

They are both dishes based on mixing meat with some rice and sauce, and even though the difference in this sauce, they will simply always taste alike.

Which one tastes better, Kung Pao or Szechuan chicken?

Because of that, it’s hard to say which one of Kung Pao and Szechuan chicken taste better. And anyway, this goes for any two meals – the choice between them will always depend only on you and your tastebuds.

Therefore, instead, taste both and make your own opinion. Nevertheless, it can be said that you’ll probably like Kung Pao better if you like spicy meals more.


Kung Pao is one of the most famous dishes of Chinese cuisine, but despite that, many people don’t know it comes from Szechuan. Of course, that would make many people think it is similar to Szechuan chicken, another popular dish from China, but that isn’t entirely true.

Most often, Kung Pao has a more robust, spicier taste, even though it isn’t that much spicy either, to be fair. On the other hand, although still sort of hot, Szechuan is sweeter.

Additionally, Kung Pao, as is widely known, contains peanuts, but Szechuan chicken does not. What it does contain, though, are not rarely mushrooms and herbs.



Image credits – Canva

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