Recipe: Healthy Kung Pao Shrimp

Dinner Recipes, Seafood Recipes

By: Chris Freytag, CPT

This Kung Pao Shrimp recipe is absolutely delicious and super easy to make for a healthy weeknight dinner! Skip the takeout with its extra oils and unhealthy additives and instead make your own Kung Pao shrimp at home.

This recipe is ready in just under 30 minutes and you can completely customize it to your liking.

It’s high in protein, low in carbs, and full of flavor! It’s a healthy shrimp recipe that utilizes many ingredients you’ll likely have on hand already and is great for the whole family.


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    How Many Calories in Shrimp?

    A 1-pound bag of shrimp typically contains around 280 calories. Shrimp is a great low-calorie protein option and delicious too. This healthy shrimp recipe is a nice way to pack on flavor without packing on calories.

    How To Cook Kung Pao Shrimp

    This Kung Pao shrimp recipe is very easy to make. It consists of 4 parts.

    1. Make rice (see below for our favorite Instant Pot rice method).
    2. Whisk together sauce ingredients.
    3. Cook spices, vegetables, and shrimp.
    4. Combine!

    And just like that, you’ll have a delicious and healthy shrimp recipe in just under 30 minutes.

    How Spicy is Kung Pao Shrimp?

    Whole red chiles, Sambal Oelek and crushed red pepper flakes lined up on a white background

    Whole dried red chiles are traditional in a Kung Pao recipe, but if you can’t find them at your local grocery store (you can also find them online), you can always substitute with some crushed red pepper flakes.

    The other spicy ingredient in this recipe that we use is Sambal Oelek, which has a delicious flavor, but any chile paste will work, such as Sriracha.

    This Kung Pao Shrimp is on the mild side, with just a little bit of heat. For reference, one of our team members shared it with her toddler who enjoys a bit of spice, and this was just fine for him. However, it can absolutely be tweaked to add more heat. When making this recipe we used 4 dried red chiles and 1 tablespoon of Sambal Oelek to yield a mild level of heat.

    If you like more heat, you can use additional chiles and an additional tablespoon or more of sambal oelek. You could also add crushed red pepper or additional chile paste when serving.

    What To Serve With Kung Pao Shrimp

    We serve this kung pao shrimp over a bed of jasmine rice. You can also add additional vegetables to your liking either in the dish or on the side. Broccoli, bok choy, pickled cucumber go well with Chinese shrimp recipes.

    Our favorite method for cooking perfect jasmine rice is using the Instant Pot:

    • Rinse 2 cups jasmine rice in a fine-mesh strainer until liquid runs clear
    • Add to the bowl of instant pot
    • Pour in 2 cups water, a pinch of salt, and a drizzle of olive oil
    • Set the Instant Pot to the manual function and set it for 4-5 minutes
    • Once the timer goes off, allow it to naturally release for 10 minutes (just let it sit until it counts up to 10)
    • Quick pressure release and fluff with a fork


    There are a number of substitutions you can use in this dish based on what you have on hand and your preferences.

    Whether for dietary reasons or preference, here are a few easy substitutions below (of course, nutrition information and flavor may vary based on substitutions):

    • Dried red chiles: crushed red pepper, sriracha, etc.
    • Green pepper: red or yellow bell pepper, alternative vegetable options include bok choy, celery, broccoli
    • Soy sauce: soy sauce can be omitted for additional oyster sauce or hoisin sauce; tamari or coconut amines can also be used as a soy sauce alternative
    • Oyster sauce: hoisin sauce, additional soy sauce (see above)
    • Sambal Oelek: sriracha, other chile paste
    • Cornstarch: arrowroot powder

    Kung Pao Shrimp Shortcuts

    While this Kung Pao shrimp recipe comes together pretty easily already, there are a few shortcuts you can use.

    If you’re short on time, you can save yourself some chopping by purchasing frozen chopped onions and peppers, often in a stir-fry blend. They may not be cut to the exact specifications that this recipe calls for, but the end product will still be delicious. And contrary to what many think, frozen veggies can be just as healthy as fresh!

    Garlic and ginger can also be added as a paste, sold at most grocery stores fresh or frozen.

    Healthy Kung Pao shrimp recipe in a white bowl with fork

    This recipe serves two adults with enough for some leftovers!

    Try Another Healthy Meal Favorites

    Asian Noodle Edamame Salad with Peanut Dressing

    Moroccan Grilled Tilapia with Mango Chickpea Salsa

    Copycat Trader Joe’s Curry Chicken Salad

    Total Time: 25 minutes

    Yield: 3 serving(s)


    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 4-6 dried red chiles
    • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
    • 1-inch knob ginger root, minced
    • 1 yellow onion, large dice
    • 1 green pepper, julienned (can also use yellow or red)
    • 1 pound large tail-off shrimp
    • For the Sauce
    • 1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
    • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce (or hoisin)
    • 1-2 tablespoons sambal oelek (chile paste) (see notes)
    • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
    • 2 tablespoons water
    • Optional
    • Peanuts or cashews
    • Green onions
    • To serve
    • Cooked jasmine rice


    1. Heat olive oil in heavy bottomed skillet or wok. Add chiles and heat through a few minutes until fragrant. Set aside.
    2. Add garlic and ginger and sauté 1 minute.
    3. Add onion and pepper and cook until softened with still some texture.
    4. Add shrimp and sauté until pink.
    5. Add sauce and let coat shrimp and vegetables. Heat through until thickened.
    6. Add in peanuts or cashews, stir to coat, and garnish with green onions.

    Nutrition Information Per Serving

    Calories: 302

    Protein: 24 gram(s)

    Fat: 6 gram(s)

    Carbohydrates: 35 gram(s)

    Fiber: 2 gram(s)

    Sugar: 5 gram(s)

    *You do not eat the dried red chilies. They release heat into the oil as they cook and are pretty left in the finished dish as a garnish, but should not be eaten.

    From the kitchen of:

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