Kung Pao Shrimp (and how to make shrimp extra plump)

This dish is an easy Chinese stir-fry that features extra plump and crunchy shrimp with the help of a secret ingredient.
kung pao shrimp with rice on a white plate
Do you ever have problems when cooking your shrimp? They shrink in size, sometimes get dry if you cook them too long, etc. Well I learned a simple technique to keep the shrimp plump, juicy and crunchy. I’m so excited to share it.

The shrimp don’t shrink at all. Instead they actually expand and stays plump and juicy during the cooking process.
a close-up of chopsticks holding a kung pao shrimp
The secret? Baking soda. You soak the shrimp in some baking soda for about 20-30 minutes. And when you cook your shrimp, you’ll see the results. Kung Pao Shrimp tastes so much better with plump shrimp.
chopsticks holding a piece of shrimp

Kung Pao Shrimp

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Course: Main Dishes
Cuisine: Chinese
Servings: 2

Sometimes homemade kung pao shrimp dishes just aren't the same as a restaurant version because the shrimp shrink or dry out when you try and make it at home. Well, I learned a simple technique to keep the shrimp plump, juicy and crunchy: baking soda. Soak the shrimp in some baking soda for about 20 to 30 minutes and when you make this kung pao shrimp, you'll see the results. 

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz medium or large shrimp deveined and shelled (cut in half if using large shrimp)
  • 1 heaping tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp roasted peanuts
  • 6 chili peppers
  • 1/2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 clove of garlic minced
  • 1 scallion finely chopped

For the sauce

  • 3 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp shaoxing cooking wine
  • 2 tsp granulated white sugar
  • 1 tsp black vinegar
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp cornstarch

Directions:

  1. Add shrimp to a medium-sized bowl and submerge in cold water. Add 1 heaping tsp baking soda into water and dissolve. Massage shrimp gently to mix baking soda in. Let shrimp soak for 20-30 minutes before removing water and rinsing shrimp (make sure to rinse so that your shrimp don't taste bitter from lingering baking soda).
  2. Add oil to the wok and turn stove heat to medium-high. Add in garlic and cook until aroma comes out. Add in shrimp and stir-fry until shrimp are just cooked. Stir in chili peppers and peppercorns. Add in peanuts and cook for about another minute.
  3. Mix sauce ingredients in a small bowl, making sure cornstarch is dissolved. Heat sauce in a small saucepan until it thickens. Then add sauce into wok and cook for a few minutes until shrimp is completed coated in sauce. Garnish with scallions. Serve warm with rice.

Nutrition Facts
Kung Pao Shrimp
Amount Per Serving (0.5 of recipe)
Calories 368 Calories from Fat 143
% Daily Value*
Fat 15.9g24%
Saturated Fat 4.5g28%
Polyunsaturated Fat 3.6g
Monounsaturated Fat 6.6g
Cholesterol 182.5mg61%
Sodium 1624.7mg71%
Carbohydrates 28.1g9%
Fiber 3.6g15%
Sugar 15.6g17%
Protein 32.8g66%
Vitamin A 250IU5%
Vitamin C 268.1mg325%
Calcium 120mg12%
Iron 2.7mg15%
Net Carbs 25g50%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
The nutrition information provided are only estimates based on an online nutritional calculator. I am not a certified nutritionist. Please consult a professional nutritionist or doctor for accurate information and any dietary restrictions and concerns you may have. All images and content are © Kirbie's Cravings.

18 comments on “Kung Pao Shrimp (and how to make shrimp extra plump)”

  1. This is awesome! Will have to try this the next time I get shrimp. I wonder exactly how it works??? 

    By the way, love the new look of the blog!

    • i know it has something to do with the pH level of baking soda, but beyond that, I don’t know exactly how it works. It’s a technique chinese restaurants use a lot. and I’m glad you like the new look! i do too =)

  2. Hmm, I haven’t heard of that before. That sounds like a great trick! I usually am good at not overcooking shrimp but plump shrimp sounds even better. Thanks for sharing.

    I agree with J.S. – I like your new blog changes. It’s subtly different from your last design.

    • I used the same developer (Purr), but just had her update it with some more features. I’m glad you like it! My shrimp usually aren’t overcooked, but they do shrink a lot and the meat ends up being quite firm rather than plump.

  3. I’m definitely gonna have to try this baking soda trick!

    • yes, give it a try! just be careful not to oversoak too long or to add too much baking soda, or it will leave a bitterness on the shrimp.

  4. I’ve never heard of the baking soda trick! Did a family member teach you? I can’t wait to try it out and share it with my grams. Could it work with other proteins or is it only specifically to shrimp?

    • I saw it used on a few Chinese shrimp recipe dishes and it suddenly clicked because my mom used to complain sometimes that a restaurant had used too much baking soda in the shrimp dim sum dishes. I never really knew what she was talking about but once I saw the baking soda technique used in a few recipes, it all came together. haha. i think it’s specific to shrimp though. cornstarch works great with chicken and beef to keep it tender.

  5. Yes, baking soda will do the work, but remember don’t soak in too long.
    If you soak the shrimp in baking soda too long, it will taste funny.
    Restaurant also use egg white to coat, so it will not shrink.

  6. I LOVE the new blog design! So much purple hehe. Didn’t know about the baking soda, either – great tip! =)

    • hehe, i love purple! i love the look too, and the bigger photo space as well as better indexing and a few other neat things.

  7. Love this and especially love the baking soda trick. So great!

    • it’s such an easy little prep and it makes such a difference! I’ve also seem some more complicated versions with egg white/marinating overnight which is supposed to get it super crunchy, but this easy fix was enough for me.

  8. Everything which will increase the pH to 8-9 will firm up the flesh of shrimps, it doesn’t have to be baking soda. This works also with other types of meat as long as the surface area is large (small cuts).

    • thanks for the tip. I read that somewhere too, but I think baking soda is the easiest, at least for me. Interesting information about it working with other types of meat. I will have to experiment.

  9. Hi Kirbie. I love steaming fresh shrimps with the shells on.
    Can I do the baking soda soak and rinse well even with the shells on? 
    Hope to hear from you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *