This Hunan shrimp recipe is a spicy and flavorful Chinese dish featuring succulent shrimp stir-fried with vibrant vegetables in a delicious sauce, providing a tantalizing combination of heat, sweetness, and savory goodness. This version comes together in one pan and in under 20 minutes.
It’s a takeout classic loved for its robust flavor profile, thanks to the use of chili paste, garlic, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and oyster sauce. (I love Hunan sauce as a spicier alternative to my go-to Easy 3-Ingredient Stir Fry Sauce Recipe or Ground Beef Stir Fry).
What is Hunan Shrimp?
Hunan Shrimp is a Chinese seafood dish that originates from the Hunan province, known for its vibrant and bold flavours. It features succulent shrimp lightly stir-fried to juicy perfection.
The real star of the show, however, is the Hunan sauce, a spicy blend of chilli paste, soy sauce, rice vinegar, oyster sauce, and honey that adds a perfect balance of heat, tang, and sweetness to the dish. Hunan sauce pairs perfectly with the shrimp, creating a flavour explosion that will leave your taste buds tingling.
Green beans and green onions add veggies and bulk to this hot and spicy Chinese takeout favorite.
(P.S. if you love quick, easy Asian takeout-inspired recipes, you must also try my Pad Woon Sen, Gochujang Chicken, Thai Basil Pork, Chili Oil Ramen, Orange Chicken, and Honey Garlic Chicken recipes.)
Hunan Shrimp vs. Szechuan Shrimp
Love spicy Chinese shrimp but not sure about the difference between Hunan Shrimp and Szechuan Shrimp? Here’s a quick rundown:
- Hunan Shrimp: Originates from Hunan province with a tangy, slightly sweet taste and spicier flavors. Often includes green beans and green onions.
- Szechuan Shrimp: Originates from Sichuan province with a bolder, numbing taste from Szechuan peppercorns. Often includes bell peppers and carrots with darker, richer sauce.
Both are tasty and it all depends on personal preference.
What is Hunan shrimp made of? Gather Your Ingredients.
To make delicious Hunan Shrimp, you’ll need to get your hands on some fresh ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need.
- Chicken Broth: This is the base for our spicy Hunan sauce and adds depth of flavour to the dish.
- Chinese Chili Bean Paste: Chinese chili bean paste (a.k.a. Doubanjiang) is made from fermented soybeans, chili peppers, salt, and spices. It has a complex, salty, and spicy flavor that’s perfect for stir-fried dishes and marinades.This paste adds heat and tons of flavor to the sauce. More on this ingredient and substitutions below.
- Soy Sauce: This salty ingredient adds umami flavour to our dish. Use tamari instead for a gluten free option.
- Rice Vinegar: A tangy and mildly sour ingredient that helps balance out the richness of the sauce.
- Oyster Sauce: This sauce adds a savoury and slightly sweet flavour to the dish.
- Honey: We need this to balance out the spice and add a touch of sweetness to our sauce. You could substitute brown sugar if you like.
- Large Shrimp: This is the star of the dish and provides a protein-rich and tender element.
- Cornstarch: Used to coat the shrimp, creating a crispy texture and helping the sauce stick to the shrimp.
- Vegetable Oil: Used to stif fry, so choose a high-heat cooking oil like avocado or canola oil.
- Garlic: Adds pungent and slightly sweet aroma and flavour to the dish.
- Green Onions: Green onions (aka scallions) add a fresh and light onion flavour and some visual appeal to the dish.
- Green Beans: We use these to add a crunchy texture and a light vegetable flavour to the dish.
- Salt: This is added to season and enhance the flavour of the dish.
- Red Pepper Flakes (Optional): This is for those of you who like your dishes even spicier. It adds heat and zing to our Spicy Hunan Shrimp.
You could also include some sliced red bell peppers, zucchini or broccoli in place of the green beans if you like. Swap in thin slices of beef to make hunan beef, or chicken to make hunan chicken.
Chinese Chili Bean Paste: A Fiery and Flavorful Condiment
Let’s take a closer look at Chinese chili bean paste, an essential condiment that adds a fiery kick and complex umami flavor to many dishes in Chinese cuisine.
Chinese chili bean paste, also known as chili bean sauce, doubanjiang or toban djan, is made from fermented broad beans, chili peppers, salt, and various spices. The process of fermentation gives the condiment a unique and intense aroma that pairs perfectly with stir-fries and marinades.
The paste’s texture can range from smooth to chunky, with varying levels of spiciness depending on the brand and the region of China it comes from. It can be found in many different colours, from light red to dark brown, depending on the amount of fermentation involved.
When cooked with other ingredients, the chili bean paste adds a deep, complex flavor that’s both salty and spicy with a hint of sweetness. It can be used to add heat and depth to a variety of dishes, from stir-fried vegetables to noodles to meat dishes.
Gochujang vs. Doubanjiang: What’s the Difference?
Gochujang is a Korean condiment made from fermented soybeans, glutinous rice, and red pepper powder. It’s a thick, sticky paste that’s spicy and sweet with a savory, umami flavor. Gochujang is a vital ingredient in many Korean dishes, such as this Gochujang Chicken Recipe or Korean Sticky Wings.
Doubanjiang, on the other hand, is a Chinese chili bean paste made from fermented soybeans, chili peppers, salt, and spices. It has a complex, salty, and spicy flavor that’s perfect for stir-fried dishes and marinades.
While gochujang and doubanjiang can look similar (they’re both red and pasty), gochujang is sweeter, while doubanjiang is earthier and saltier. Both condiments are versatile and can add a depth of flavor to dishes.
Looking for an Authentic Doubanjiang Substitute? I’ve got you.
There are two near-perfect replacements for the complex salty umami flavor of doubanjiang, which can be tricky to find. Here are the best doubanjiang substitutes I’ve tested:
- Miso and Sriracha. The miso paste provides the umami flavor that’s similar to doubanjiang, while Sriracha adds the spicy and tangy components without adding other flavors present in different chili sauces.
- Gochujang – This covers the spicy, and slightly funky flavor of doubanjiang with its fermented rice and soybeans as well as chili peppers. It adds a very similar depth of flavor, and a little extra sweetness (which is nice, in most dishes).
If you can’t find Chinese chili bean paste, don’t let that put you off of trying a recipe. Try either of these substitutions above, based on what you already have in your fridge or what you’re most likely to use up (may I suggest my Boom Boom Shrimp recipe to use your sriracha, or my Almost-Instant Miso Noodle Soup and Miso Mac and Cheese to finish your miso paste?)
Grab These Tools: Essential Gadgets for Making Hunan Shrimp at Home
Here’s what you’ll need (or is nice to have):
- Large Skillet or Wok – You’ll need a roomy skillet or wok to cook up this amazing dish. Make sure you have one in your arsenal before getting started!
- Whisk – Combine all the ingredients for the Hunan sauce with a trusty whisk. This will create a flavorful, tangy coating for your shrimp.
- Tongs – Flip your shrimp with ease using a reliable pair of tongs. This will ensure they cook evenly and achieve that perfect golden, crispy exterior.
- Mini Food Processor – Skip hand mincing garlic and let a mini food processor do the job. This will save you time and effort, especially if you’re cooking for a crowd.
- Chef’s Knife – Trim your green beans and slice your green onions with confidence using a sharp knife.
How to Make It: Step-by-Step Directions for Preparing Shrimp Hunan Style
Ready to make this delicious and spicy hunan shrimp at home? Follow these easy step-by-step directions:
- Whisk the Sauce – Begin by whisking together all the ingredients for the spicy Hunan sauce in a small bowl. This will create a tangy, flavorful coating for the shrimp.
- Coat the Shrimp – Coat the shrimp with cornstarch and salt to give help them stay moist and juicy inside. It also gives them a nice, more browned exterior when cooked, and the residual starch thickens the sauce.
- Cook the Shrimp – Heat up oil in a skillet or wok and cook the shrimp in a single layer. Make sure to flip them over to cook evenly. The result should be a perfectly golden crust on your shrimp.
- Stir Fry the Vegetables – Add green beans and green onions to the same skillet or wok and stir fry on high heat until blistering. Adding garlic in this step will add flavor and aromatic quality to the finished dish.
- Add in the Sauce and Shrimp – Add the shrimp back to the skillet with the vegetables and pour the spicy Hunan sauce over everything. Cook for a few minutes until thickened, stirring occasionally. This guarantees that the Shrimp will be coated evenly with the sauce and that it will have just enough thickness to really bring out the flavor.
- Garnish – Once the dish has finished cooking, sprinkle some red pepper flakes on top for an added kick of heat that elevates the flavor.
And voila! Your Spicy Hunan Shrimp is ready to impress your taste buds and those of your loved ones! So grab your tools and bring the heat to your cooking!
How to Serve It: Delicious Ways to Enjoy Hunan Style Shrimp
Congratulations, you’ve just whipped up a batch of ridiculously delicious Hunan Shrimp! Here are some ways to make it a meal:
- The Classic on Rice – Scoop a generous amount of Spicy Hunan Shrimp over a bed of steaming white rice for a classic, filling meal that’s bursting with flavor. Try my mother-in-law’s instagram-viral method of cooking rice.
- Lettuce Wraps – Wrap the shrimp with fresh lettuce leaves, a sprinkle of chopped peanuts, and a squeeze of lime juice for a low-carb, refreshing twist that’s perfect for summer (similar to shredded chicken lettuce wraps or pork mince lettuce wraps).
- Stir Fry Noodles – serve the spicy shrimp with a side stir fry of noodles, carrots, bok choy, and bean sprouts (with my easy 3-Ingredient Stir Fry Sauce) for a delicious meal that’s guaranteed to satisfy.
- Spicy Shrimp Tacos – Stuff the spicy shrimp in flour tortillas or crunchy taco shells with some shredded cabbage and a drizzle of Kewpie mayo for a fun and filling meal that everyone will love.
- Shrimp and Salad – Serve the shrimp with a side of mixed greens, chopped cucumber and carrots, topped with Creamy Asian Dressing for a light, refreshing, and satisfying meal.
Hunan Shrimp is a perfect combination of tender shrimp with a spicy, tangy, and sweet Hunan sauce. The sauce’s spiciness level can be customized, and it pairs perfectly with the delicate flavour of the shrimp. The cuisines’ salty, savoury, and sweet elements come together in perfect harmony to create a taste that’s unforgettable. Trust me, give it a try, and you won’t be disappointed.
Hunan sauce is made of bold and flavourful ingredients, including:
Chili Paste: This is the first ingredient that comes to mind when we think about Hunan cuisine. It’s a crucial element that brings the heat to the dish and contributes significantly to its flavour.
Soy Sauce: We use soy sauce to add salt and umami flavour to the Hunan sauce.
Rice Vinegar: This mild-flavoured vinegar adds a tangy taste and helps balance out the spiciness of the dish.
Oyster Sauce: This is a thick and savoury sauce that contributes a slightly sweet flavour to the Hunan sauce.
Honey: We use honey to balance out the heat from the chili paste and give the sauce a pleasant sweetness.
Garlic: This adds a pungent and slightly sweet aroma and flavour to the sauce.
Cornstarch: We use cornstarch to thicken the sauce and give it a glossy sheen.
All of these ingredients come together to create a sauce that packs a punch of bold and flavourful heat. You can adjust the spice level by adding more or less chili paste and red pepper flakes to suit your preference.
If you’re a fan of spicy cuisine, you may be curious about the difference between Szechuan and Hunan food. Originating from the Hunan and Sichuan provinces of China, respectively, Hunan cuisine boasts spicy and sour flavors with fresh ingredients and a lot of garlic and shallots, while Szechuan cuisine is known for “numbing” flavors using Sichuan peppercorns alongside a spicy, savory, and sweet flavor profile that can include fermented bean paste, chili oil, and soy sauce. Both styles of cuisine are bold and full of flavor.
Generally speaking, Hunan cuisine is known for being hotter than Szechuan. Szechuan cuisine is known for its complex and numbing flavors, which can distract from the overall spiciness of the dish.
But let’s be real here – both styles of cuisine can bring the heat! Whether you prefer the bold and direct spiciness of Hunan cuisine or the multi-layered flavors of Szechuan cuisine with its numbing peppercorns, you’re sure to experience some exciting and fiery flavors.
Make Ahead and Storage Tips: How to Keep This Spicy Shrimp Fresh!
So you’ve made a big batch of Spicy Hunan Shrimp and now you’re wondering how to keep it fresh for longer. Don’t fret, we’ve got some excellent tips to keep your dish spicy and delicious:
- Make Ahead – Preparing the Hunan sauce ahead of time and storing it in the fridge can save you precious time in the kitchen. To ensure the freshest flavor, make the shrimp the day you plan to enjoy it.
- Storage – If you have leftover Spicy Hunan Shrimp, store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- Reheat – To reheat your spicy shrimp, place it in a skillet or wok and warm it up over medium heat. Add a splash of water or chicken broth to help loosen up the sauce and bring back that fresh, spicy flavor.
- Freeze – If you have lots of leftovers or want to meal prep, freeze the shrimp in an airtight container for up to 2 months. When you’re ready to eat, thaw in the fridge overnight and reheat as usual.
Other Shrimp Recipes You’ll Love
If you loved this Hunan Shrimp recipe, you’ll also love my
- Boom Boom Shrimp – Juicy shrimp are lightly fried until crispy, then coated in a sweet and spicy sauce.
- Jamaican Curry Shrimp – Tender shrimp are cooked in a spicy coconut sauce with bold Caribbean flavors.
- Shrimp Korma – A delicious Indian shrimp curry with tomato, yogurt, cream, nuts, and warming spices.
For spicy hunan sauce:
- ⅓ cup chicken broth
- 1 ½ tbsp chili paste
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp rice vinegar
- 1 tsp oyster sauce
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 lb large shrimp
- 4 tbsp cornstarch
- 4 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 3 green onions sliced
- ⅓ lb green beans trimmed and cut into 2” pieces
- ⅛ tsp salt
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes optional
- Whisk together all ingredients for the sauce and set aside.
- Toss shrimp pieces with cornstarch and salt to evenly coat. Heat oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat until shimmering hot.
- Add shrimp in a single layer and cook, undisturbed, until golden on the bottom. Flip and cook another minute (don’t worry about cooking it through yet). Transfer shrimp to a plate.
- Add green beans and green onions to same skillet and stir fry on high heat until blistering, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook a minute more.
- Add shrimp back to the skillet along with the sauce mixture, stirring to coat. Let it come to a simmer and cook until thickened, 2-3 minutes more.
- Taste and add red pepper flakes if you like it spicier
Last Updated on August 30, 2023 by Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD