Sunday, Dec 3, 2023

Kung Pao Tofu

cooked kung pao tofu and vegetables in a large black cast iron skillet.

Kung Pao Tofu features pan-fried tofu, stir-fried veggies, and peanuts in a boldly flavored sauce. A plant based dinner everyone can get on board with, and it’s easy to make.

Want more easy takeout-inspired tofu dinners? Try my Easy Teriyaki Tofu, Black Pepper Tofu, General Tso’s Tofu, and Orange Tofu recipes as well!

close up on cooked kung pao tofu and vegetables in a large black cast iron skillet.

Why I love this recipe

  • It’s a fast, easy, and flavor-packed weeknight dinner.
  • Everything comes together in one pan!
  • A sticky, savory and sweet kung pao sauce coats every bite of crispy fried tofu and stir fried vegetables.

How to make kung pao tofu

Press the brick of tofu to drain the excess water, then rip it into bite-sized pieces. Add them to a large bowl and toss with the cornstarch.

Tofu pieces covered in cornstarch in a large white bowl.

Heat the peanut oil (or avocado oil or other high-heat safe oil) in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Once it’s hot and shimmery, add the tofu and fry until the pieces are browned on all sides. Transfer to a plate.

Fry in batches: The secret to golden and crispy pan-fried tofu is to fry the cubes in a single layer in the pan with space in between each piece. If your pan isn’t big enough to fit all of the tofu, then fry the cubes in batches.

Alternatively, bake the tofu using this method: Crispy Baked Tofu.

a pile of fried tofu pieces on a white plate.

Next, make the easy kung pao sauce by whisking the ingredients in a bowl until smooth.

Pour a little more oil into the now-empty skillet. Add the bell peppers, the white part of the onions, and dried red chilies, then stir fry for a few minutes. Next, add the garlic and ginger.

stir fried bell peppers and dried chili peppers in a black skillet.

fried tofu pieces, peanuts, and green onions on top of stir fried vegetables in a black cast iron skillet.

Pour the sauce into the pan and stir until it thickens. Add the tofu back into the pan, along with the green parts of the onions and peanuts. Toss to coat, then serve the vegan kung pao tofu over rice. Enjoy!

cooked kung pao tofu and vegetables in a large black cast iron skillet.

Frequently asked questions

Do I have to press the tofu?

I always recommend pressing the brick of tofu before you cut it up and fry the pieces. If the tofu is full of water, it will be nearly impossible to stir fry even with a lot of oil. To get around this, buy the super-firm variety of tofu in a vacuum pack, not the kind in water.

What can I use instead of tofu?

Roasted cauliflower florets, vegan chicken, soy curls, or fried tempeh would be just as delicious as the tofu in this recipe.

Is kung pao tofu spicy?

It depends on the dried red chili peppers you use. There are so many types of dried chili peppers to choose from, all varying in flavor and spice level. For a mild heat, use Anaheim chilies or ancho chili peppers. If you can handle more heat, give the dish a boost with guajillo, chipotle, or arbol chili peppers.

Fun fact: Szechuan peppercorns have an almost magical numbing spice (known as málà), which has been known to help you eat more spicy chilies. So, as long as you don’t forget the peppercorns, you can make this dish as spicy as you want!

I can’t find Szechuan peppercorns and/or dried chilies. What can I use instead?

You can omit both the Szechuan peppercorns and dried chilies from the recipe if you can’t find them. The only downside is that the dish won’t have as much flavor without them.

Can I air fry the tofu instead?

Absolutely. Just follow my Air Fryer Tofu recipe to learn how!

vegan kung pao tofu and vegetables served on a bed of rice in a black bowl.

cooked kung pao tofu and vegetables in a large black cast iron skillet.


Kung Pao Tofu

Kung Pao Tofu features pan-fried tofu, stir-fried veggies, and peanuts in a boldly flavored sauce. A plant based dinner everyone can get on board with, and it's easy to make.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Chinese
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Tofu pressing time 1 hour
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Calories 395kcal
Author Nora Taylor


Crispy Tofu

  • (2) 14.5 ounce blocks extra-firm tofu
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 4 tablespoons peanut oil

Kung Pao Sauce

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 6 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice wine
  • 2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons ground Szechuan peppercorns see Notes
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

Stir Fry

  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 1 large red bell pepper cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large green bell pepper cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 green onions white separated from green and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 6-10 whole dried red chilies cut smaller if needed
  • 5 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
  • 1/2 cup peanuts


Press and pan fry tofu

  • Press the tofu: Press the tofu by wrapping it in paper towels (or a clean dry tea towel). Place a plate or pan on top of the wrapped tofu, and put a couple of heavy books or cast iron pan on top of that. Let the tofu press for 30 minutes to an hour.
  • Rip the tofu into 1-inch pieces and add to a large bowl. Sprinkle on the cornstarch and toss gently to coat.
  • Heat a large non-stick pan or wok (or cast iron) over medium-high heat and add the peanut oil to coat the pan. Once the oil is hot, add the tofu in batches. Let the tofu brown on all sides, it should be nice and golden all over. I use a fork to gently flip the pieces over in the pan.
  • Transfer the tofu to a plate nearby and continue frying until it's all cooked.

Make the sauce and finish the stir fry

  • Make the sauce: In a medium bowl, whisk all sauce ingredients together until well combined.
  • Add a little more oil to the pan if needed. Stir fry the bell peppers, white part of the onions and dried red chilies for 2-3 minutes over medium-high heat. Now add the garlic and ginger and cook for 1 more minute.
  • Pour the sauce into the pan and stir constantly until it thickens.
  • Now add the tofu back to the pan, along with the green parts of the onions and peanuts.
  • Serve over rice.


  1. If you can’t find Szechuan peppercorns, you may leave them out.
  2. May leave out the dried chilies, but they do add a lot of flavor.
  3. For gluten free, use tamari instead of soy sauce. For less sodium, use low sodium soy sauce.
  4. For more heat, add a teaspoon or so of Sriracha hot sauce, especially if you leave out the dried chilies.
  5. Instead of pan frying the tofu, you could either air fry or bake it, then add it in at the end with the veggies.
  6. Leftovers will keep up to 3 days in the refrigerator. Reheat in a pan or microwave until warm.


Serving: 1serving | Calories: 395kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 10g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Sodium: 1020mg | Potassium: 272mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 1037IU | Vitamin C: 59mg | Calcium: 205mg | Iron: 3mg

This recipe was originally published in April of 2018 and has been updated with new photos and writing October 2019. The recipe is the same.

By: Nora
Title: Kung Pao Tofu
Sourced From:
Published Date: Sat, 23 Sep 2023 14:24:00 +0000

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are some plant-based foods that you might like?

Plant-based diets are gaining popularity because of their potential environmental and health benefits. Common plant-based meals are foods derived from plants. They include fruits, vegetables (vegetables), legumes/nuts, seeds and legumes. These foods provide vital vitamins, minerals. antioxidants, and diet fiber. Some excellent sources of plant-based protein include beans and pulses like lentils, chickpeas, and kidney beans; lower-fat soya products such as tempeh or edamame; higher-fat nuts like almonds and cashews; quinoa or dairy alternatives made from oats, coconut, or almond milk; vegan yogurt; soy burgers; hemp powder; nutritional yeast flakes; whole wheat bread with no added sugar or vegetable oils; chia seeds; flaxseed oil; whole grain cereals such as oats and barley with added nuts or nut butter. Healthy fats such as olive, flaxseed and avocado are also available from plants. Additionally, many ready-to-eat meals are now available, which can further reduce your overall grocery cost. Plant-based diets may be cheaper than other options depending on what you buy and how many.

Are plant-based foods environmentally sustainable?

For their environmental and health advantages, plant-based foods are becoming more popular. A plant-based diet is more sustainable than eating foods from animal sources. It generally produces less pollution and generates fewer greenhouse gasses. A plant-based diet also takes up fewer resources as plants are typically grown with fewer inputs than animal products. Additionally, animals raised for profit often require large amounts water, land, or fossil fuel resources. As some environmental effects of livestock production have been linked to global warming, reducing consumption of these foods through introducing more plant-based meals into one's weekly rotation could help reduce an individual's carbon footprint and support healthier, more eco-friendly practices.

Is a plant-based diet harmful?

While many people have reported health benefits from switching to a plant-based lifestyle, there are risks involved in any type of diet. People transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle should carefully consider proper vitamin and mineral intake, such as B12, iron, zinc, and Omega 3 fatty acids. A diet lacking in these essential nutrients can lead to health issues and deficiencies. Living a vegan or plant-based lifestyle could also mean you cut out dairy and eggs. This can cause muscle damage. People who follow a plant-based diet must adapt their diets to meet their nutritional needs.

Can I eat meat while following a plant-based diet

Although plant-based diets prohibit meat, fish and poultry, they allow certain food items to be prepared that do not contain animal products. People on a plant-based lifestyle can still eat eggs and dairy in moderation. For those looking to move to a plantbased diet, there are many options. Plant-based diets include fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes and lentils, whole grains like oatmeal and rice, as well as soybeans and lentils.

You can find vegan products at most grocery stores, in addition to vegan restaurants that specialize in vegan food. Many soy-based meats, such as seitan (wheat Gluten), tempeh ("fermented soybeans"), and mock duck (made from mushrooms), can mimic traditional meat dishes' flavor and texture. You can get a vegetarian burger made from black beans and quinoa, which are very similar to beef burgers.

There are plenty of plant-based substitutes available to those who do not want to sacrifice their carnivorous favorite foods. You can substitute vegan ingredients such as coconut bacon strips and eggplant bacon bits; tofu Mayo; veggie hotdogs with seasoned, textured soy protein; or faux chicken strips using wheat gluten. Even though some processed forms, such as mushrooms and coconut bacon, may taste similar to pork or steak, when cooked well, they can still have similar sensory properties to meat but are far less environmentally impactful than livestock production. You can safely replace the meat you once ate with these alternative foods, which makes it easier to switch to a plant-based lifestyle.

What are some great sources of protein in a plant-based diet.

On a plant-based diet, legumes like chickpeas and beans are excellent sources of protein. Many plant-based protein sources provide fiber along with essential micronutrients, such as vitamins or minerals. The addition of omega-3 fatty acids from flaxseeds or chia seeds to a plant-based diet can help to balance nutrient levels.

Is a plant based diet the same thing as a vegan?

No. A plant-based eating plan is not the exact same as a vegan. A plant based diet is an eating pattern that focuses on whole grains, fruits and vegetables. This eating pattern generally reduces or eliminates animal products like meat and dairy. However, some animal proteins may still be consumed. Veganism on the other side is a ethical lifestyle choice. This involves eating only plant-based foods and avoiding animal products. Although vegans may also choose to adopt a plant based diet as part their lifestyle, they are separate concepts.

Can you build muscle with a plant-based diet

Yes, you can build muscle with a plant-based diet. You don't have to eat vegetarian food to build muscle. It just means that the type of food you eat will determine how strong and large your muscles can become. High-protein plant-based foods may include legumes (beans/lunch/peas), seitan, nuts and nutritional yeast. A well-balanced plant-based diet, when combined with regular exercise and proper vitamin and mineral supplementation, can help you achieve your fitness goals and promote better overall health. Whole food sources should be emphasized over processed products, often full of unhealthy additives or preservatives. For consistent gains, it is important to eat enough protein each day. To do this, you can include foods such as quinoa, flaxseed oils, and nut butters into your daily diet. It doesn't matter if you are looking to increase muscle mass or improve your overall health, meeting with a nutritionist who is trained in plant-based nutrition may be beneficial.


  • According to research published, going plant-based can cut grocery bills by $750 a year per person, Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition. (
  • In fact, according to research published in the going plant-based can cut grocery bills by $750 a year per person, Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition. (

External Links





How To

How to navigate social situations with a plant-based lifestyle?

Transitioning to a plant diet is difficult. This includes social situations like eating out with friends. To ensure you can stick to your chosen dietary lifestyle while still having enjoyable meals, take proactive steps before dining out. You should confirm which restaurant options you are interested in before going.

If you are able to order at the venue that is suitable for vegans please have a friendly conversation with your friends and family about the food you prefer. This will prevent awkward questions or confusions regarding your dietary restrictions. Trust your chef when creating vegan dishes. Have a chat with them if needed to better understand your needs.

Be sure to bring healthy snacks and drinks for those who are not familiar with vegan food. As your non-vegan relatives settle into incorporating vegan recipes over time, recognize even the smallest gestures made regarding a plant-based diet: after all, adjusting kitchen habits is an ongoing process.

Even though it can seem daunting at first, it's possible to make friends and maintain a vegan lifestyle. It becomes second-nature over time. So start small and have faith!


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