This Easy Kung Pao Tofu recipe tastes better than take-out and can be made pretty quickly at home! Make the sauce in one bowl, cook your tofu until crispy in a pan, stir fry the veggies, then add the sauce and peanuts. A delicious weeknight meal!
What is Kung Pao?
Kung Pao chicken or tofu is a popular Chinese dish in America, usually made with dried red chiles. It has a wonderful flavor that is super addicting! Salty, sweet, sour and spicy. Yum.
This recipe for Easy Kung Pao Tofu isn’t really traditional AT ALL, because I just can’t be bothered with dried red chiles. But I think this version turned out super delicious and it’s really easy so I’m happy. Hopefully you will be, too!
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How to pan fry tofu so it doesn’t stick
Tofu is more delicate than meat, so you have to be gentle with it. If you are new to cooking with tofu, here are my best tips for pan frying it:
- Press your tofu! More on this below, but don’t skip it.
- Use a quality pan that isn’t known for food sticking to it. Non-stick is best.
- Use oil, UNLESS you have some magical non-stick pan that truly doesn’t need it. I don’t have one of those, and if you don’t want to use oil than I would bake it like in this recipe. Works beautifully and you won’t be crying over stuck tofu.
- Heat the oil in the pan over medium-high heat, then place the tofu in a single layer. Leave them to cook for 2-3 minutes before flipping or moving at all. Then use a thin, flexible spatula to gently flip them around and try to get them golden on all sides.
This is how easy it is to make Kung Pao Tofu:
- Pan fry the tofu, then set it aside on a plate.
- Add the vegetables to the pan and stir fry for a few minutes.
- Add the easy Kung Pao sauce to the vegetables and stir until it thickens.
- Add the tofu and peanuts and stir.
How do you press tofu and why?
Pressing tofu is pretty essential if you are going to pan fry it. If the tofu is full of water, it will be nearly impossible to stir fry even with a lot of oil.
Press tofu by wrapping it in paper towels or a clean tea towel and setting something heavy on top of it, like a cast iron pan or a few heavy books. Let it press for about an hour.
You can avoid pressing tofu if you buy the super firm variety that is sealed in a vacuum pack, not in water. Just pat that one dry and you’ll be good to go.
A tofu free option
Substitute the tofu for cauliflower or tempeh. I would probably roast a head of cauliflower and then add it to everything else, but you could also just stir fry it.
Hungry for more vegan take-out?
- Crispy Baked Orange Tofu
- Thai Peanut Noodles
- Vegan Pad Thai
- Red Thai Curry Vegetables
- Sticky Sriracha Tofu
- 20 Minute Chickpea Curry
Easy Kung Pao Tofu
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- (1) 16-oz block extra-firm tofu
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 large red bell pepper
- 1 large green bell pepper
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/3 cup peanuts
Easy Kung Pao Sauce
Optional, for garnishing
- 1/4 cup green onions, chopped
- sesame seeds
- more peanuts
- 4 cups cooked brown or white rice
- Press the tofu by wrapping in paper towels or a clean dish towel, and set something heavy on top (like a cast iron pan or a few heavy books). Let it sit for an hour, if possible.
- Chop the onion and slice the bell peppers. Set aside.
- Make the sauce: In a medium bowl, add all sauce ingredients and whisk well to combine.
- Slice the pressed tofu into 3/4 inch cubes.
- In a large skillet, heat the oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Add the tofu in a single layer. Let cook for 2-3 minutes on one side, then carefully flip the pieces with a spatula and cook for a few more minutes on each side, until the tofu are golden and crispy on all sides. Remove from the pan and set on a plate while you cook the vegetables.
- In the hot pan, add the onion, bell peppers and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes. Now add the Kung Pao sauce and stir constantly until it thickens. Lower the heat.
- Add the peanuts and crispy tofu and stir, then turn off the heat.
- Serve over brown or white rice, and garnish with green onions, sesame seeds or more peanuts.
- Oil Free: Make sure you have a very high quality non-stick pan. Dry the tofu very well before cooking. OR bake it following the directions in this recipe. I would bake it for best results, as it sticks quite easily when frying without oil.
- Gluten Free: Use gluten free tamari instead of soy sauce and it will be gluten free.
- Tofu Free: Substitute cauliflower florets or tempeh for the tofu.
- Nutrition facts do not include rice.
- Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for about 2 days. This dish does not freeze well.
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.