Slow Cooker Kung Pao Chicken

Ancho (Ahn-cho) Chile (Capsicum Annum) means Wide Chile Pepper. This chile ranges from 3 – 4 on a heat scale of 1 to 10. An Ancho is the dried form of a Poblano Pepper and often is mislabeled as a Pasilla or Mulato Pepper. Anchos have sweet fruity flavor with hints of cherry, prune, and fig. Anchos, combined with the Pasilla and Guajillo, form the Holy Trinity of chiles used to prepare the traditional mole sauces. Scoville heat units are 1,000 to 3,000.

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1 ½ pound chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons oil
⅓ cup water
⅓ cup low sodium soy sauce
⅓ cup rice wine vinegar
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon grated ginger
6-10 dried red chile peppers, split and seeds removed
2 tablespoons cornstarch + 2 tablespoons water
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon oil
⅓ cup peanuts
Green onions, chopped, for garnish
Rice, for serving

Heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Season the chicken cubes with salt and pepper and cook until browned on all sides. Place the browned meat in the slow cooker, along with the dried chile peppers.

Combine water, soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, hoisin sauce, garlic, and ginger in a bowl. Stir until well combined. Pour over the chicken and peppers in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours.

Combine the cornstarch and water. Whisk until smooth. Add this mixture to the chicken at the end of its cooking time, and let warm through for 5-10 minutes. The sauce will thicken.

While the sauce is thickening, sauté the red pepper in oil, until softened, but still crisp. Add the peppers and the peanuts to the slow cooker and stir gently to combine. Garnish with chopped green onions and serve immediately, over rice, if desired.