Difference Between Hunan, Szechuan, and Kung Pao

Hunan vs Szechuan vs Kung Pao

Chinese dishes that have been westernized and available to the people in the country have become very popular, especially those that are made using chicken or beef. Hunan, Szechuan, and Kung Pao are three chicken dishes that seem to be alike to those who are not aware of the nuances. Of course, these three chicken dishes are very spicy and also taste somewhat similar, but there are differences that will be highlighted in this article.


There is a province called Western Hunan in China that gives its name to a particular cuisine called Hunan. It is also referred to as Xiang. Hunan is a very important cuisine emanating from China and one of the 8 important traditions of the country. The dishes in this cuisine are known for their spiciness and sweetness. There are various Hunan dishes including vegetarian ones, but the Americans know it as Hunan chicken that is fried and eaten with a spicy sauce called Sichuan. Hot peppers are the characteristic feature of the Hunan dishes. Hunan chicken is fast fried and very spicy as it makes use of chili paste or dried peppers.


Sichuan is the name of a province in the southwestern China that gives its name to a cuisine that is also known as Szechuan. The recipes in this cuisine are spicy because of the use of chili paste and garlic. Peanuts and ginger are other important ingredients in this cuisine. Americans love Szechuan chicken that is hot for them as it makes heavy use of chili oil.

Kung Pao

Kung Pao is the name of a dish originating from Sichuan province of China. It contains chicken, peanuts, vegetables, etc. that are all tossed up in a brown concoction. Soft chicken pieces contrast well with crisp peanuts and celery.

What are the differences between Hunan, Szechuan, and Kung Pao?

• Szechuan and Hunan are the names of cuisines originating from their respective provinces of Sichuan and Western Hunan in China whereas Kung Pao is the name of a spicy chicken dish from Szechuan cuisine.

• Chicken dishes made according to Hunan cuisine and Szechuan cuisine is also available in Chinese restaurants in USA.

• People in US believe Hunan, Szechuan, and Kung Pao to be three different spicy chicken dishes from China.

• Hunan cuisine contains dishes that are considered spicier or hotter than the recipes in Szechuan because of the fact that Hunan dishes use fresh peppers whereas Szechuan recipes make use of processed pepper paste.

• Hunan cuisine makes use of more vegetables making it more flavorful than Szechuan recipes.

• Chefs use more elaborate methods of cooking in Hunan than in Szechuan cuisine and this is reflected in the appearance of the recipes.

• Hunan recipes employ dark sauce made of soy and bean paste.

  • BetsyRogers

    The article says, “Americans know it as Hunan chicken that is fried and eaten with a spicy sauce called Sichuan.” I’m not sure where this statement came from, but it’s not very accurate. I’m an American, and I know Hunan as a style of preparing food (may include meat, shrimp, or tofu, etc) stir fried with certain types of vegetables in a slightly sweet, spicy sauce.