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Kung Pao Chickpeas Recipe: Turn a Favorite Chinese Takeout Dish Vegan

I love Asian food, but being vegetarian makes it a little difficult from time to time to get takeout. While there are vegetable options, they can be less than interesting and sometimes bland.

This is one of those times when a vegan dish is so delicious it tastes better than the real thing. You can satisfy your craving for kung pao chicken — minus the meat — by swapping flavorful chickpeas for chicken in this classic Chinese dish.

I gave the chickpeas lots of flavor by using kung pao sauce, which has a sweet-but-spicy flavor. Serve these yummy chickpeas over steamed rice, and top with crushed cashews or peanuts for a super-flavorful meat-free dinner.

More: 23 Healthy Spring Vegetable Recipes You’re Guaranteed to Love

Kung pao chickpeas
Image: Brandi Bidot/SheKnows

Kung pao chickpeas recipe

Inspired by The Veg Life


For the chickpea marinade

  • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 lime, juiced and zested
  • 1 tablespoon agave or honey
  • 1 tablespoon organic coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder or cornstarch

For the chickpeas

  • 2 tablespoons organic coconut oil
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup bottled all-natural kung pao sauce (or homemade)
  • 2 – 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (1-inch) knob fresh ginger, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes or crushed red pepper

For the garnish

  • 1 small bunch green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 – 2 spicy red jalapeños or Thai chili peppers
  • Cashews, for garnish (optional)
  • Steamed white rice, for serving


  1. In a bowl, combine all the ingredients for the marinade. Add the chickpeas to the marinade, and stir well to coat.
  2. Cover the chickpeas, and allow them to marinate for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  3. To a large pan over medium heat, add the coconut oil, the marinated chickpeas and the remaining ingredients for the chickpeas.
  4. Sauté for about 6 – 8 minutes, until the chickpeas begin to caramelize and brown slightly.
  5. Remove from the heat, and allow the chickpeas to cool slightly.
  6. Serve the warm chickpeas over steamed white rice, and garnish with sliced peppers, cilantro, cashews and green onions.
Pin it! Kung pao chickpeas
Image: Brandi Bidot/SheKnows/Design: Yvonna Groom/SheKnows

A version of this article was originally published in August 2014.

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