This Kung Pao Tofu is a blend of tofu, bell peppers, chilies, green onions and peanuts, all in a savory and spicy sauce. A vegan remake of the take out classic that’s even better than the restaurant version!

Kung Pao Chicken has always been one of my favorite dishes to order at our local Chinese restaurant – I love the combination of the tender chicken and crunchy vegetables in a flavorful, spicy sauce. So, I set out to make a vegan version of this tasty meal!  

I love to recreate my family’s favorite Chinese style foods at home, including Vegetable Chow Mein, Orange Tofu and now this Kung Pao Tofu. This tofu dish is so easy to make, and is perfect served over steamed rice.

Kung Pao tofu served over white rice in a small white bowl

What is Kung Pao?

Kung Pao is typically made with chicken and is a popular Chinese stir fry featuring spicy chilies, salty peanuts and colorful veggies. Kung Pao is thought to have come from the Sichuan province in China. Now you can find Kung Pao in restaurants around the world. With this recipe, you can easily make this spicy (you control the heat), savory dish at home!

Making Vegan Kung Pao Tofu

To make a plant-based Kung Pao recipe that’s completely vegan, we’re using tofu instead of chicken. Don’t worry, this Kung Pao Tofu recipe still includes the classic sauce that we love so much! 

You could actually use chicken in this recipe, but it’s so good with saucy pieces of tofu. Coating the tofu in cornstarch ensures that it will have a fabulous texture without having to fry it in a ton of oil.

Instead of picking up the phone to call for take out, whip up this tasty recipe at home in just 40 minutes! Let’s get to all of the delicious details!

skillet of tofu, bell peppers and dried chilies in a sauce

Key Ingredients

Here’s a quick rundown of the key ingredients needed to make Kung Pao Tofu. 

  • Tofu. You will want to use firm or extra firm tofu, so it holds up to pan frying.  
  • Cornstarch. Gives the tofu a nice, slightly crisp outside layer and helps the sauce thicken as it cooks.
  • Soy sauce. Combines with the other sauce ingredients for that classic Kung Pao flavor. Substitute with gluten-free tamari, if you’d like.
  • Chinese black vinegar. Adds acidity to the sauce and gives it a subtle sweet flavor. You can use balsamic vinegar instead.
  • Chinese shaoxing wine. Gives this sauce a vinegary, spicy and caramel-like flavor. Sub with dry sherry, if you’d like.
  • Hoisin sauce. Has a salty and slightly sweet flavor. It adds delicious richness to the sauce.
  • Sugar. A small amount of sugar is used to sweeten the Kung Pao sauce. Sub with maple syrup, if you prefer.
  • Sesame oil. Gives the marinade a rich, nutty taste that’s totally delicious. I love using toasted sesame oil!
  • Garlic + ginger. Adds delicious aromatic flavor to the sauce.
  • Vegetables. The recipe includes a mix of bell peppers and green onions. 
  • Red pepper flakes. Optional, but I love that extra bit of heat!
  • Dried chilies. Look for these in the international food aisle. You can remove the seeds for less heat and/or use fewer, as desired.
  • Peanuts. A common ingredient used in Kung Pao Tofu, adding texture and delicious saltiness. Can sub with cashews. If you have a nut allergy, feel free to omit.

How to Make Kung Pao Tofu

Making Kung Pao Tofu at home is easy and way faster than waiting for delivery. Here’s a quick rundown of the process, but for full, printable instructions, reference the recipe card at the bottom of the post.

  1. Prep tofu. Prepare the tofu by pressing the liquid out. HERE is my full guide on pressing tofu with AND without a tofu press. Once pressed, tear the tofu into large bite-sized chunks. Mine were all roughly an inch long and varied in size a little. Toss tofu with cornstarch, salt and pepper. Then, cook for about 10 minutes and until browned on all sides; set aside.
  2. Make the sauce. While the tofu is cooking, make the sauce. Whisk together the broth, soy sauce, vinegar, Chinese Shaoxing wine, hoisin sauce, sugar, and cornstarch; set aside.
  3. Stir fry. In the same skillet used for the tofu, heat oil and stir in the garlic, ginger, bell peppers, dried chiles, and red pepper flakes. Stir fry for 3 minutes. Add in the sauce and bring to a simmer. Once simmering and beginning to thicken, add the tofu back in as well as the green onions and peanuts. Stir to coat thoroughly, about 2 additional minutes.
  4. Serve. Enjoy the Kung Pao Tofu served over your favorite grain and ENJOY!
skillet filled with cooked Kung Pao Tofu

Recipe Tips & Suggestions

  • Tofu. I recommend tearing rather than slicing the tofu for this recipe. You’ll want to tear the tofu into large bite-sized chunks. The chunks end up looking a lot more like chicken, which is fun, but more importantly, the chunks create a lot of rough edges and pockets where the sauce can cling to. It also creates a texture that is meatier and just overall so much better. Watch the video within this recipe for a visual. This is my favorite way to serve tofu!
  • Gluten free. To make gluten-free Kung Pao Tofu, simply use tamari in place of soy sauce.
  • Spiciness. Traditionally, Kung Pao is meant to be a bit spicy. If you’d like to make a milder version or just want more control over the heat level, try using less of the dried chilies, or just remove the seeds (where most of the heat is). You can also skip using the dried chilies altogether.
  • Vegetables. Bell peppers are the typical veggies used for Kung Pao, but feel free to add in other favorite veggies. Some great options are broccoli, carrots, snow peas and/or baby corn.

What to Serve With Kung Pao Tofu

We usually enjoy this dish served over a bed of steamed rice. Feel free to use any favorite rice variety! For a lower carb option, try using cauliflower rice. Kung Pao Tofu is also really tasty served over noodles, on a bed of steamed broccoli, or with stir-fry veggies. So many options!

Make-Ahead and Storage Tips

  • Make-ahead. Kung Pao Tofu is a great recipe to meal prep for daily lunches or make in advance for dinner. It becomes even more flavorful the next day! You could also just prep the tofu and/or the sauce a day or so in advance.
  • Leftovers. Leftover Kung Pao Tofu stores really well! Place any extras in an airtight container and refrigerate. It will keep fresh for about 4 to 5 days.
  • To reheat. Rewarm in a pot or skillet on the stovetop or pop it in the microwave to reheat. Reheating in a skillet will yield the best results.
Kung Pao Tofu served over white rice

More simple tofu recipes to try:

If you love this Kung Pao Tofu, try one of these other delicious tofu recipes next:

As usual, PLEASE let me know if you make this recipe and how you like it! You can come back here and leave a comment and/or tag me on instagram (@foodwithfeeling).

Print
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Kung Pao Tofu cooked in a large skillet

Kung Pao Tofu


  • Author: Brita Britnell
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: serves 4 1x
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

This Kung Pao Tofu is a blend of tofu, bell peppers, chilies, green onions and peanuts, all in a savory and spicy sauce. A vegan remake of the take out classic that’s even better than the restaurant version!


Ingredients

Scale

For the tofu:

  • 1416 oz block of firm or extra firm tofu
  • 2 tablespoons of cornstarch
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon of oil

For the sauce:

  • ½ cup of veggie broth
  • ⅓ cup of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of Chinese black vinegar (or balsamic vinegar)
  • 2 tablespoon of Chinese Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
  • 2 teaspoons of hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar (can sub with maple syrup)
  • 2 teaspoons of cornstarch

Other ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons of cooking oil (I like toasted sesame oil)
  • 4 cloves of  garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of freshly grated ginger
  • ½ of a red bell pepper, diced
  • ½ of a green bell pepper, diced
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 10 dried chilies cut into ½-inch pieces, seeds removed for less heat (can also use less of these as desired)
  • 4 green onions, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • ½ cup of roasted peanuts

Instructions

  1. Prepare the tofu by pressing the liquid out. HERE is my full guide on pressing tofu with AND without a tofu press. Once pressed, tear the tofu into large bite-sized chunks. Mine were all roughly an inch long and varied in size a little. Don’t worry too much about the size and shape. The idea is for it to have rough edges to give the tofu a little more texture and to hold onto flavors a little better.
  2. Place the tofu chunks into a large bowl and sprinkle on the cornstarch, a good pinch of fine sea salt, and freshly cracked black pepper. Toss to combine so that the tofu is mostly covered in the cornstarch, salt and pepper.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add in the tofu and cook for about 10 minutes, tossing often so that it gets browned on all sides. Once done, remove tofu from the skillet and set aside.
  4. Meanwhile, make the sauce by whisking together the broth, soy sauce, vinegar, Chinese Shaoxing wine, hoisin sauce, sugar, and cornstarch. Set aside.
  5. In the same skillet used for the tofu, add in 2 tablespoons of oil and place over medium heat. Once hot, stir in the garlic, ginger, bell peppers, dried chiles, and red pepper flakes. Stir fry for 3 minutes.
  6. Add in the sauce and bring to a simmer. Once simmering and beginning to thicken, add the tofu back in as well as the green onions and peanuts. Stir to coat thoroughly, about 2 additional minutes.
  7. Serve over your favorite grain and ENJOY!

Notes

This dish reheats well and is great for meal prep! Store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to about 4 to 5 days.

If you want extra flavor and you have time, you can marinate the tofu chunks in the sauce before coating it in the cornstarch. Save the sauce so that you can then proceed with the recipe as directed.

  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Chinese, American

Keywords: tofu recipe, healthy tofu recipe, Kung Pao Tofu