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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Frequently asked questions
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.
Roasted cauliflower florets, vegan chicken, soy curls, or fried tempeh would be just as delicious as the tofu in this recipe.
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!
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.
Absolutely. Just follow my Air Fryer Tofu recipe to learn how!
Kung Pao Tofu
- (2) 14.5 ounce blocks extra-firm tofu
- 4 tablespoons cornstarch
- 4 tablespoons peanut oil
Kung Pao Sauce
- 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.
If you can’t find Szechuan peppercorns, you may leave them out.
May leave out the dried chilies, but they do add a lot of flavor.
- For gluten free, use tamari instead of soy sauce. For less sodium, use low sodium soy sauce.
For more heat, add a teaspoon or so of Sriracha hot sauce, especially if you leave out the dried chilies.
- Instead of pan frying the tofu, you could either air fry or bake it, then add it in at the end with the veggies.
- Leftovers will keep up to 3 days in the refrigerator. Reheat in a pan or microwave until warm.
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.