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Kung Pao chicken vs. General tso's chicken — Health Impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan by Victoria Mazmanyan | Last updated on November 10, 2022
Medically reviewed by Igor Bussel Article author photo Igor Bussel
Kung Pao chicken
vs
General tso's chicken

Summary

General Tso’s chicken is made by deep-frying chicken in batter, while Kung Pao chicken is stir-fried.

General Tso is considerably higher in calories, protein, fats, cholesterol, and net carbs. General Tso’s chicken is also richer in vitamin K, vitamins B12 and B2, selenium, zinc, and phosphorus.

Kung Pao chicken is a better source of vitamin A, vitamin C, copper, and manganese.

Introduction

Kung Pao and General Tso’s chicken are two popular dishes you can get at many Chinese restaurants. Both consist mainly of diced-up chicken, served with various other ingredients, but what sets them apart? This article will answer this and other questions by comparing Kung Pao chicken with General Tso’s chicken.

History and Origin

Kung Pao chicken, also spelled as Gong Bao or Kung Po, originates in the Sichuan province of China. It has since spread all across China and the West.

The origins of General Tso’s chicken are a little more uncertain. It is said to be named after Zuo Zongtang of the Qing dynasty; however, the dish did not exist in his time. There are competing claims for the origin of General Tso’s chicken. Regardless of the story, General Tso’s chicken is rooted in the Hunanese cuisine of China with American influence.

Ingredients and Preparation

Kung Pao is stir-fried cubed chicken in sauce, usually served with peanuts and vegetables, such as carrots, broccoli, red or green pepper, mushrooms, onions, and others. Except for chicken, the ingredients of Kung Pao can greatly vary based on the version.

The chicken in General Tso is not only cubed and mixed with a sauce but also covered in batter and deep fried. General Tso’s chicken meat is usually of darker cuts, such as thighs. This dish can also be served with vegetables, usually broccoli.

Kung Pao tends to be spicier, while General Tso’s chicken can have more of a sweet taste to it.

Nutrition

The nutritional information below is presented for Kung Pao and General Tso’s chicken dishes from Chinese restaurants. Rice was not included in the dishes; however, ingredients and amount of breading and sauce vary by restaurant.

The nutrition of the Kung Pao chicken dish can include carrots, broccoli, red or green pepper, mushrooms, onion, and celery. General Tso’s chicken can include broccoli and red pepper.

The infographics provide information based on 100g servings of these dishes. However, one average order of Kung Pao chicken weighs 604g, while one General Tso’s chicken order weighs 535g.

Macronutrients and Calories

General Tso is much denser in nutrients compared to the Kung Pao chicken dish, potentially due to the added water content of the carrots in Kung Pao chicken.

General Tso’s chicken contains 46% water and 54% nutrients, while Kung Pao chicken consists of 75% water.

Calories

Naturally, being denser in overall nutrients, General Tso’s chicken is much higher in calories. General Tso’s chicken provides over two times more calories compared to Kung Pao chicken.

Both dishes are very high-calorie foods. One average order of Kung Pao chicken provides 780 calories, while one order of General Tso’s chicken contains 1580 calories.

Protein

Compared to Kung Pao chicken, General Tso’s chicken is around 2g richer in protein per 100g serving.

The protein found in both General Tso and Kung Pao chicken is of high quality. One order of either of these dishes covers the daily needed values of all essential amino acids.

Naturally, General Tso’s chicken is higher in all essential amino acids compared to Kung Pao chicken.

Fats

General Tso’s chicken is also over two times higher in fats and cholesterol than Kung Pao chicken.

General Tso is higher in all three types of fatty acids - saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated.

Carbohydrates

Kung Pao chicken contains 3.5 times fewer carbohydrates compared to General Tso’s chicken.

General Tso’s chicken is high in net carbs, mostly due to the cornstarch found in the sauce and batter. This dish is 4 times higher in starch than Kung Pao chicken.

Kung Pao chicken is slightly higher in dietary fiber due to the added vegetables.

Vitamins

It’s hard to choose a definitive winner in this category as the two dishes are rich in different vitamins.

General Tso’s chicken is a better source of vitamin K, vitamin B12, and vitamin B2.

At the same time, Kung Pao chicken is richer in vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin B6.

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" charts below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food.
:
Contains more Vitamin A +1281.9%
Contains more Vitamin C +343.8%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +18.5%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +20.3%
Contains more Folate +45.5%
Contains more Vitamin E +18.6%
Contains more Vitamin D +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +114.5%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +23.4%
Contains more Vitamin B12 +100%
Contains more Choline +11%
Contains more Vitamin K +180.9%
Equal in Vitamin B3 - 2.853
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Choline Vitamin K 78% 21% 0% 24% 8% 13% 52% 30% 57% 12% 14% 21% 34%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Choline Vitamin K 6% 25% 6% 6% 7% 28% 54% 38% 47% 9% 28% 23% 96%
Contains more Vitamin A +1281.9%
Contains more Vitamin C +343.8%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +18.5%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +20.3%
Contains more Folate +45.5%
Contains more Vitamin E +18.6%
Contains more Vitamin D +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +114.5%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +23.4%
Contains more Vitamin B12 +100%
Contains more Choline +11%
Contains more Vitamin K +180.9%
Equal in Vitamin B3 - 2.853

Minerals

The two chicken dishes are similar in mineral content. However, Kung Pao chicken is higher in copper, magnesium, and calcium.

General Tso’s chicken contains more iron due to the darker cuts of the meat used. It is also richer in phosphorus and zinc.

Kung Pao and General Tso’s chicken are similarly high in sodium.

Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" charts below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food.
Contains more Calcium +66.7%
Contains more Magnesium +33.3%
Contains more Copper +58.7%
Contains more Manganese +241.3%
Contains more Iron +52.6%
Contains more Phosphorus +35.1%
Contains more Zinc +75.7%
Contains more Selenium +77.8%
Equal in Potassium - 201
Equal in Sodium - 435
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 6% 29% 18% 41% 20% 53% 21% 25% 34% 45%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 4% 44% 13% 55% 18% 57% 36% 16% 10% 79%
Contains more Calcium +66.7%
Contains more Magnesium +33.3%
Contains more Copper +58.7%
Contains more Manganese +241.3%
Contains more Iron +52.6%
Contains more Phosphorus +35.1%
Contains more Zinc +75.7%
Contains more Selenium +77.8%
Equal in Potassium - 201
Equal in Sodium - 435

Health Impact

While Kung Pao and General Tso’s chicken can be good sources of protein, vitamins, and minerals, they are also high in saturated fats, net carbs, and sodium, which may have adverse effects on health.

Cardiovascular Health

Overall, high consumption of fried food has been researched to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular mortality, and cancer incidence (1, 2). However, compared to shallow-fried food, lower amounts of deep-fried food were found to lead to the same increased risk of coronary heart disease (1).

Diabetes

Frequent consumption of fried food has also been associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes (3, 4).

Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Last updated: November 10, 2022
Medically reviewed by Igor Bussel

Infographic

Kung Pao chicken vs General tso's chicken infographic
Infographic link

Macronutrient Comparison

Macronutrient breakdown side-by-side comparison
Contains more Water +65.6%
Contains more Protein +32.2%
Contains more Fats +134.4%
Contains more Carbs +249.2%
Equal in Other - 1.6
10% 7% 7% 75%
Protein: 9.76 g
Fats: 6.98 g
Carbs: 6.87 g
Water: 74.78 g
Other: 1.61 g
13% 16% 24% 45%
Protein: 12.9 g
Fats: 16.36 g
Carbs: 23.99 g
Water: 45.15 g
Other: 1.6 g
Contains more Water +65.6%
Contains more Protein +32.2%
Contains more Fats +134.4%
Contains more Carbs +249.2%
Equal in Other - 1.6

Fat Type Comparison

Fat type breakdown side-by-side comparison
Contains less Saturated Fat -51%
Contains more Monounsaturated Fat +78.5%
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +148.4%
21% 33% 46%
Saturated Fat: 1.352 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 2.173 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 3.02 g
20% 27% 53%
Saturated Fat: 2.76 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 3.879 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 7.501 g
Contains less Saturated Fat -51%
Contains more Monounsaturated Fat +78.5%
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +148.4%

Carbohydrate type comparison

Carbohydrate type breakdown side-by-side comparison
Contains more Starch +367.6%
Contains more Sucrose +462.4%
Equal in Glucose - 0.62
Equal in Fructose - 0.51
46% 33% 11% 10%
Starch: 2.53 g
Sucrose: 1.86 g
Glucose: 0.63 g
Fructose: 0.54 g
Lactose: 0 g
Maltose: 0 g
Galactose: 0 g
51% 45% 3% 2%
Starch: 11.83 g
Sucrose: 10.46 g
Glucose: 0.62 g
Fructose: 0.51 g
Lactose: 0 g
Maltose: 0 g
Galactose: 0 g
Contains more Starch +367.6%
Contains more Sucrose +462.4%
Equal in Glucose - 0.62
Equal in Fructose - 0.51

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the rightmost column. It displays the amounts side by side, giving a clearer understanding of the difference.
Kung Pao chicken General tso's chicken
Lower in Sugar ok
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in Cholesterol ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in Glycemic Index ok
Lower in price Equal
Rich in minerals Equal
Rich in vitamins Equal

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Kung Pao chicken General tso's chicken Opinion
Net carbs 5.37g 23.09g General tso's chicken
Protein 9.76g 12.9g General tso's chicken
Fats 6.98g 16.36g General tso's chicken
Carbs 6.87g 23.99g General tso's chicken
Calories 129kcal 295kcal General tso's chicken
Starch 2.53g 11.83g General tso's chicken
Fructose 0.54g 0.51g Kung Pao chicken
Sugar 3.03g 11.6g Kung Pao chicken
Fiber 1.5g 0.9g Kung Pao chicken
Calcium 20mg 12mg Kung Pao chicken
Iron 0.76mg 1.16mg General tso's chicken
Magnesium 24mg 18mg Kung Pao chicken
Phosphorus 94mg 127mg General tso's chicken
Potassium 218mg 201mg Kung Pao chicken
Sodium 402mg 435mg Kung Pao chicken
Zinc 0.74mg 1.3mg General tso's chicken
Copper 0.073mg 0.046mg Kung Pao chicken
Manganese 0.256mg 0.075mg Kung Pao chicken
Selenium 8.1µg 14.4µg General tso's chicken
Vitamin A 1299IU 94IU Kung Pao chicken
Vitamin A RAE 65µg 11µg Kung Pao chicken
Vitamin E 1.02mg 1.21mg General tso's chicken
Vitamin D 0IU 6IU General tso's chicken
Vitamin D 0µg 0.2µg General tso's chicken
Vitamin C 7.1mg 1.6mg Kung Pao chicken
Vitamin B1 0.032mg 0.027mg Kung Pao chicken
Vitamin B2 0.055mg 0.118mg General tso's chicken
Vitamin B3 2.757mg 2.853mg General tso's chicken
Vitamin B5 0.5mg 0.617mg General tso's chicken
Vitamin B6 0.243mg 0.202mg Kung Pao chicken
Folate 16µg 11µg Kung Pao chicken
Vitamin B12 0.11µg 0.22µg General tso's chicken
Choline 37.4mg 41.5mg General tso's chicken
Vitamin K 13.6µg 38.2µg General tso's chicken
Tryptophan 0.118mg 0.142mg General tso's chicken
Threonine 0.407mg 0.552mg General tso's chicken
Isoleucine 0.431mg 0.564mg General tso's chicken
Leucine 0.775mg 1.026mg General tso's chicken
Lysine 0.449mg 1.089mg General tso's chicken
Methionine 0.24mg 0.332mg General tso's chicken
Phenylalanine 0.402mg 0.563mg General tso's chicken
Valine 0.47mg 0.607mg General tso's chicken
Histidine 0.265mg 0.333mg General tso's chicken
Cholesterol 26mg 53mg Kung Pao chicken
Trans Fat 0.034g 0.09g Kung Pao chicken
Saturated Fat 1.352g 2.76g Kung Pao chicken
Omega-3 - DHA 0.003g 0.005g General tso's chicken
Omega-3 - EPA 0.003g 0.005g General tso's chicken
Omega-3 - DPA 0.004g 0.006g General tso's chicken
Monounsaturated Fat 2.173g 3.879g General tso's chicken
Polyunsaturated fat 3.02g 7.501g General tso's chicken
Omega-6 - Eicosadienoic acid 0.005g 0.011g General tso's chicken
Omega-6 - Linoleic acid 2.688g 6.47g General tso's chicken
Omega-6 - Gamma-linoleic acid 0.002g 0.005g General tso's chicken
Omega-3 - ALA 0.244g 0.84g General tso's chicken
Omega-3 - Eicosatrienoic acid 0g 0.001g General tso's chicken
Omega-6 - Dihomo-gamma-linoleic acid 0.005g 0.01g General tso's chicken

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Kung Pao chicken General tso's chicken
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet ok
Low Calories diet ok
Low Glycemic Index diet ok

People also compare

Vitamins & Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score

The summary scores indicate the extent to which this food can fulfill your daily vitamin and mineral requirements if you consume 3 servings, consisting of 100 grams of each (an approximation of 3 serving sizes).
Vitamins Daily Need Coverage Score
28%
Kung Pao chicken
28%
General tso's chicken
Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score
29%
Kung Pao chicken
33%
General tso's chicken

Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Sugar?
Kung Pao chicken
Kung Pao chicken is lower in Sugar (difference - 8.57g)
Which food contains less Sodium?
Kung Pao chicken
Kung Pao chicken contains less Sodium (difference - 33mg)
Which food is lower in Cholesterol?
Kung Pao chicken
Kung Pao chicken is lower in Cholesterol (difference - 27mg)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Kung Pao chicken
Kung Pao chicken is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 1.408g)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
General tso's chicken
General tso's chicken is lower in glycemic index (difference - 55)
Which food is cheaper?
?
The foods are relatively equal in price ($)
Which food is richer in minerals?
?
It cannot be stated which food is richer in vitamins. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information.
Which food is richer in vitamins?
?
It cannot be stated which food is richer in vitamins. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information.

References

All the values for which the sources are not specified explicitly are taken from FDA’s Food Central. The exact link to the food presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Kung Pao chicken - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/167676/nutrients
  2. General tso's chicken - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/167675/nutrients

All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000-calorie diets.

Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.