Kung Pao Tofu

Take-out style vegan Kung Pao Tofu is infused with sweet-sour vegan Kung Pao sauce with just a hint of heat thanks to dried red peppers. You’ll love the big flavors in this recipe, delivered with minimal ingredients and prepared fast! Serve it with brown rice, cauliflower rice, or over noodles.

A dish of kung pao tofu is served over rice. There is a bowl with more rice in the background.

Kung Pao Tofu is popular in this house. It may not be on most take-out menus, but I’ve found if a restaurant has a kung pao sauce, they’re more than willing to substitute the chicken for tofu. It’s the combination of salty, sweet, and sour that makes this sauce so addictively delicious.

Why This Recipe is a Winner

  • Coating tofu cubes with cornstarch before frying helps creates a crispy crust
  • Using Hoisin Sauce adds authentic flavors to this sweet and sour sauce
  • Adding colorful bell peppers makes this dish a feast for the eyes as well as the tastebuds

What You Need

You can find the full printable recipe, including ingredient quantities, below. But first, here are some explanations of ingredients and steps to help you make this recipe perfect every time.

Here are the ingredients you’ll need for this recipe:

  • Extra-firm tofu — Tofu is available at most stores these days. Here’s more on Where to Buy Tofu.
  • Cornstarch — If you don’t want to use cornstarch, substitute arrowroot or tapioca powder.
  • Salt
  • Sesame oil — Using either sesame oil or toasted sesame oil adds flavor to this recipe. You can find it in the international aisle of most grocery stores.
  • Tamari — This is a gluten-free soy sauce that you can find in the international aisle or at health food stores. You can substitute soy sauce or coconut aminos.
  • Hoisin sauce — I find hoisin sauce in the international aisle near soy sauces. It’s a salty and sweet sauce that adds lots of flavor to this dish.
  • Rice vinegar — Yet another ingredient you can find in the international aisle. Or substitute white wine vinegar.
  • Maple Syrup — Kung Pao is a mixture of salty and sweet and this is accomplished thanks to maple syrup.
  • Garlic — You’ll need 3 to 4 cloves of garlic.
  • Fresh ginger — We’ll use a 1-inch piece of fresh ginger or you can substitute 1 teaspoon of dried ginger.
  • Onion — I used a yellow onion because it’s mild and sweet. You can use a red or white onion.
  • Dried red chilies — Most grocery stores will carry a small package of dried red chilies either in the produce section or international aisle. Otherwise, you’ll be able to find them at health food stores, Asian markets, or online.
  • Red bell pepper — You can use a mixture of bell peppers to add more color to this finished dish.
  • Green onion — I like adding large pieces of green onion (both the white part and the green stalks) to add color and flavor.

How to Make Kung Pao Tofu

  1. Cut pressed tofu into ½-inch cubes. Pat cubes dry with paper towels.
  2. Mix the cornstarch and salt.
  3. Add tofu to the cornstarch and stir to make sure each piece is coated.
  4. Cook tofu in an oiled skillet for 5 to 6 minutes on each side until browned.
  5. Pulse the sauce ingredients in a food processor until it’s combined, leaving some texture.
  6. Cook dried red peppers, bell peppers, and green onions for 2 to 3 minutes over medium heat.
  7. Pour in the sauce and stir while cooking until it thickens.
  8. Stir in the tofu and serve over brown rice with steamed broccoli.

Here are more detailed instructions with step-by-step photos:

Step One: Fry the Tofu

  1. Remove the tofu from the package and press it to remove excess liquid.
  2. Cut pressed tofu into ½-inch cubes. Pat cubes dry with paper towels.
    A hand holds a knife and is cutting tofu. It's sitting next to a tofu presser gadget.
  3. Mix together the cornstarch and salt.
  4. Add tofu to the cornstarch and stir to make sure each piece is coated.
    Tofu cubes are surrounded by a cornstarch mixture in the bottom of a bowl.
  5. Heat oil over medium-high heat. Then reduce heat to medium and use tongs to add tofu.
  6. Cook tofu for 5 to 6 minutes on each side until browned. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel.
  7. To bake tofu: When the tofu is ready, preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Cover a baking dish with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray. Place the tofu in a single layer in the baking dish. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.

Step Two: Make Kung Pao Sauce

Pulse the sauce ingredients in a food processor until it’s combined, leaving some texture.

Ingredients like Tamari, chopped onions, garlic, and fresh ginger are in the bottom of a food processor bowl.

Step Three: Stir Fry

  1. Using the same pan from frying the tofu, add the dried red peppers, bell peppers, and green onions. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes over medium heat. Add a teaspoon of the kung pao sauce if necessary.
  2. Pour in the sauce and stir while cooking until it thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. 
    Kung Pao sauce is being poured into a skillet with cooked veggies.
  3. Stir in the tofu and serve over brown rice with steamed broccoli.
A pan holds tofu with vegetables and dried chili peppers.

Frequently-Asked Questions

What does Kung Pao Sauce taste like?

Kung Pao has an intense flavor that is both sweet, salty, and sour. There is a hint of heat thanks to dried red peppers added to the sauce.

Is Kung Pao Tofu vegan?

You would expect Kung Pao sauce combined with tofu to be vegan because it’s not made with chicken or some other meat. However, some restaurants or recipes might include animal-based ingredients in their sauces so it’s always advisable to check the ingredients.

Serving Suggestions

Serve Kung Pao Tofu with any of the following:

Storage Tips

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. This recipe is not recommended for freezing.

Looking down on a plate of tofu and vegetables. There is a bowl of sauce and chopsticks beside it.

Vegan Asian Favorites

If you love this Kung Pao recipe, you’ll want to try these tasty vegan Asian favorites:

A dish of kung pao tofu is served over rice. There is a bowl with more rice in the background.

Kung Pao Tofu

You'll love this deliciously easy vegan kung pao tofu. Serve it over brown rice, cauliflower rice, or even zucchini noodles.
5 from 2 votes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Asian
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Resting time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 282kcal
Author: Marly

Ingredients

Fried Tofu

  • 15 ounces extra-firm tofu
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil

Kung Pao Sauce

  • ¼ cup tamari
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 cup chopped onion

Stir Fry

  • 3 small dried red chilies
  • 1 medium red bell pepper
  • 3 stalks green onion

Instructions

For the Fried Tofu:

  • Remove the tofu from the package and press the tofu to remove excess liquid. 
  • Cut pressed tofu into ½-inch cubes. Pat cubes dry with paper towels. Mix together the cornstarch and salt. Add tofu and stir to make sure each piece is coated.
  • Heat oil over medium-high heat. Then reduce heat to medium and use tongs to add tofu. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes on each side until browned. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel.
  • To bake tofu: When the tofu is ready, preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Cover a baking dish with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray. Place the tofu in a single layer in the baking dish. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.

For the Kung Pao Sauce:

  • Add the sauce ingredients to a food processor. Pulse in short bursts until the sauce is combined and the onions are broken down into smaller bits. There should be some texture left.

For the Stir Fry:

  • Using the same pan from frying the tofu, add the dried red peppers, bell peppers, and green onions. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes over medium heat. Add a teaspoon of the kung pao sauce if necessary.
  • Pour in the sauce and stir while cooking until it thickens, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Stir in the tofu and serve over brown rice with steamed broccoli.

Recommended Equipment

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Notes

Use a tofu press like the one in the post above to press tofu. Or if you don’t have a tofu press, wrap tofu in a kitchen towel and place it on a plate. Top it with something heavy and let it sit for a while to press the moisture out.
If you don’t have issues with gluten, feel free to sub soy sauce for the tamari.
Nutrition Facts
Kung Pao Tofu
Amount Per Serving
Calories 282 Calories from Fat 144
% Daily Value*
Fat 16g25%
Saturated Fat 2g10%
Cholesterol 1mg0%
Sodium 1241mg52%
Potassium 476mg14%
Carbohydrates 23g8%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 10g11%
Protein 11g22%
Vitamin A 1344IU27%
Vitamin C 92mg112%
Calcium 70mg7%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

The nutrition information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator and should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

One Response to Kung Pao Tofu

  1. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyKim Reply

    I can’t believe how easy this recipe was to make. We both went back for seconds. It’s delicious!

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