Mongolian Chicken vs. Hunan Chicken: Differences & Which Is Better?

Mongolian Chicken VS. Hunan Chicken
Share on:

Mongolian chicken and Hunan chicken are two popular Chinese dishes that have made their way to many hearts worldwide, including mine. Even though the main ingredient in both dishes is chicken, their flavor profiles and preparation methods differ to a great extent. So, what are the differences between Mongolian chicken and Hunan Chicken? 

Mongolian chicken is a sweet and savory dish made with thinly sliced chicken, vegetables, and a sweet soy sauce. Hunan chicken is a spicy and savory dish made with sliced chicken, vegetables, and a spicy sauce containing chili paste and garlic.

Knowing the differences between Mongolian and Hunan chicken means knowing how to enjoy each of them respectively. Therefore, I will explain the differences between Hunan and Mongolian chicken in the following paragraphs. I’ve also compiled a table for you to have all the information in one place!

Preparation and Ingredients 

Mongolian chicken is a sweet and savory dish typically made with sliced chicken breast or thigh meat. The chicken is traditionally sliced, making this dish so flavorful and delicate. Still, some versions of this dish use chicken that is diced instead. 

It is stir-fried with various vegetables, most commonly bell peppers, onions, and carrots, and coated in a nice, thick, and sticky sauce made from soy sauce, hoisin sauce, brown sugar, and garlic. 

The dish is often accompanied by steamed rice or noodles and garnished with sesame seeds.

Before cooking, Mongolian chicken needs to be marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, cornstarch, and rice vinegar for at least 30 minutes. While the chicken and vegetables stir-fry, the sauce is added and cooked until it becomes thick and sticky, giving this dish its irresistible appearance. 

On the other hand, Hunan chicken is a spicy dish originating in the Hunan province of China. It is traditionally made with sliced chicken breast or thigh meat, stir-fried or dip-fried with a mix of vegetables such as green and red bell peppers, scallions, and garlic, and seasoned with a spicy sauce made from chili paste, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sugar. 

The preparation of Hunan chicken involves marinating the chicken in a mixture of soy sauce, rice wine, and cornstarch for a minimum of 30 minutes before stir-frying it with the vegetables. The sauce is then added, and the mixture is cooked until the sauce thickens and coats the chicken and vegetables.

Both dishes typically include bell peppers and onions, but Hunan chicken may also contain other vegetables, such as green beans or broccoli. The vegetables used in both dishes may vary depending on the cook’s preference. I have encountered many variations of both dishes and the vegetable choices usually also depend on what is in season, which is great because you get a higher quality meal.


Taste-wise, both Mongolian and Hunan chicken are similar, but Mongolian chicken is the sweeter and less spicy of the two. While Mongolian chicken most commonly includes ingredients such as brown sugar, hoisin sauce, and sesame oil, Hunan chicken uses chili paste and Sichuan peppercorns, which is why it is so spicy.

As the name states, Hunan chicken is a representative of Hunan cuisine, known for its merciless spiciness and pure hot flavors. If you don’t like flavors as expressive as the signature Hunan flavor, the Hunan chicken would definitely be a mistake. However, if you can handle spicy, then I assure you, you will like it.

Many people think that Mongolian chicken is Szechuan since it isn’t Hunan. However, Mongolian chicken is not spiced up in Szechuan style and is also a bit more saucy as well as tangier. Although Mongolian chicken is also generously spicy, it is gentler than Hunan chicken.

Considering that Mongolian chicken is neither Hunan nor Szechuan, it is an excellent representative of Mongolian cuisine, which has its own markings. 

Since the vegetable mixture is left at the cook’s discretion, Hunan and Mongolian chicken may vary in flavor depending on which vegetables the cook decides to use. Nevertheless, Hunan chicken has a purer vegetable flavor, while Mongolian chicken has a noticeably combined flavor. 


Both Mongolian and Hunan chicken is rich nutrition-wise when viewing them as representatives of their respective cuisines. They both contain lean meat, vegetables, and healthy sauces, so it is easy to conclude that both are rich in protein and fiber. 

However, due to their sauces, they both contain a good amount of sugar and salt, so consider that when deciding the amount and frequency in which you have them.

Nevertheless, Mongolian and Hunan chicken can be relatively healthy options since they are made from healthy base ingredients. Moreover, they are not excessively fatty since they aren’t deep-fried but stir-fried. Still, since Hunan chicken can be dip-fried instead stir-fried, it can be fattier than Mongolian chicken. 

Serving Styles

Serving Styles of Mongolian Chicken and Hunan Chicken

Mongolian chicken is traditionally served as a main dish. It most comes with steamed rice or noodles. When it comes to serving styles, Mongolian chicken and Hunan chicken are very different. 

This dish mainly uses chopped scallions or sesame seeds as garnish, though you can decorate them any way you find appealing. It is essential to mention that scallions and sesame seeds are the preferred garnish as they add texture and flavor, so you might want to consider this when deciding on the decoration of your Mongolian chicken.

Hunan chicken is often not traditionally intended to be the main dish, and it is more of a spicy appetizer or a side. It is often garnished with chopped peanuts and cilantro. Served on lettuce leaves, you may even consider Hunan chicken a finger food. 

Nevertheless, if you want to, nothing stops you from making it your main dish, but due to the spiciness and intensity of flavor, the preferred Hunan chicken serving style is an appetizer. If you do decide to have Hunan chicken as a main dish, make sure you have plenty of steamed rice and noodles to balance out the spiciness. 


In terms of popularity, food enthusiasts worldwide love both Mongolian chicken and Hunan chicken. However, they both have their audiences. Mongolian chicken is more popular with those who prefer milder flavors and is regarded as the safer option. 

Spicy yet easily tolerable, Mongolian chicken is a great point to start exploring Mongolian cuisine.

On the other hand, Hunan chicken is more popular among bold adventurists who want edgier things in life. Moreover, to be able to enjoy this dish, you need some experience in the Chinese cuisine department. 

Nevertheless, if you are having Hunan chicken in a restaurant setting, chances are it will be adjusted to the local palates and not be as intense as it usually is. 

To say that Hunan chicken is more popular than Mongolian or vice versa wouldn’t be correct or fair. They are both strong representatives of two old and world-renowned cuisines and have their fans. 

The table below sums up the differences between these two dishes, simplifying your decision-making process.

DifferencesMongolian ChickenHunan Chicken
OriginMongolian cuisineHunan cuisine
Cooking MethodStir-friedStir-fried or deep-fried
SauceSweet and savory, typically made with soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and brown sugarSpicy and savory, typically made with chili peppers, garlic, and ginger
VegetablesTypically includes scallions and sometimes carrots or bell peppersTypically includes a variety of vegetables such as celery, onions, and bell peppers
FlavorSweet and savory, with a hint of smokinessSpicy and savory, with a bold umami flavor
Spiciness LevelMild to mediumMedium to hot
GarnishOften garnished with sesame seeds or chopped scallionsOften garnished with chopped peanuts and/or cilantro

Which Is Better, Mongolian Chicken or Hunan Chicken?

Mongolian chicken and Hunan chicken cannot be placed in frames of better or worse, as they are too different to be compared that way. Yes, they are considered similar, but coming from different cuisines made in different styles, at their cores, they are two different dishes. 

Both Mongolian chicken and Hunan chicken are delicious and have gained immense popularity around the world. While Mongolian chicken is known for its sweet and savory flavor and is typically served as a main course dish, Hunan chicken is known for its spicy and savory flavor and is often served as a spicy appetizer or side dish. 

Which one you choose depends on your taste, preference, and what you want at a given moment. 

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments