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.
4.94 stars (29 ratings)

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.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Tofu pressing time: 1 hour
Total: 25 minutes
Servings: 6 servings


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
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Chinese
Author: Nora Taylor
Did you make this recipe?Mention @nora_cooks_vegan_ or tag #noracooks!

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.

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  1. We are not fans of tofu so I substituted soy curls with chick’n seasoning.  Otherwise, made the recipe as written. It was delicious!!   Thank you for such great recipes!

  2. Really tasty and easy to make, I substitute the tofu for mushrooms, would recommend you give it a go you won’t be disappointed.

  3. Excellent flavor! I had run out of cooking sherry AND rice wine, so I used a middle amount of apple cider vinegar. We loved it so much, but this isn’t enough for 2nds. Double the recipe because the pan WILL be scraped clean.

    1. Thanks for sharing your wonderful and fun review and comments! I’m thrilled that you guys loved the Kung Pao Tofu!

  4. My 4 year old can’t have peanuts, but this dish is so good that I make it for my husband and I and we let the kids have sandwiches.

  5. I made this last night and it was a hit! My family loved it. 
    It was very easy to make. I already had all the ingredients, I just had to cut everything up and put it altogether. Yummy ? 

  6. Delicious! It was so quick and tasted better than any restaurant around here. Thanks! We added mushrooms too. Didn’t have corn starch and used flour which seems to have worked fine! 

  7. This is AMAZING! The sauce has a perfect balance of flavors! My only change is to bake the tofu (@ 400 degrees for 30 minutes, tossed with 1 tablespoon olive oil). I’ve made it three times and I honestly can’t think of a way to improve it. It has a lot of steps, but if you organize everything correctly it’s actually pretty quick to make in terms of hands-on time. I love your recipes!!

  8. Hi Nora, first of all, I absolutely love all your recipes.
    Question, Can I use tempeh for this recipe? What should I do so it doesn’t get too dry?
    Thank you

  9. I made this dish last night and we couldn’t stop raving about it. Next time I will double the sauce like others suggested. Thanks for a wonderful recipe.

  10. Turned out perfectly! I baked the tofu and didn’t use any oil on the vegetables. Healthy and delicious. Added some gochujang for heat on the adults’ plates. Terrific!

      1. Made this for lunch & it was AMAZING! I did sub eggplant for tofu, mirin for rice vinrgar since I didn’t have it on hand and added some celery. Quick, simple, delicious!!

  11. Made this dish tonight and it was fabulous!! Definitely adding to the list of faves! I just decided to go vegan a little over a week ago, and have been trying all kinds of new dishes!!

  12. Fantastic! And stunningly beautiful. We added about 4 ounces of very small shiitakes, and by the time we got done we could have used a bit more sauce. Maybe next time 1.5x on the sauce ingredients. But overall this is a keeper!

  13. I made this for lunch today for my husband and it is/was delicious!! I did pan fry the tofu much longer because I wanted it dryer and crispier ( Husband does not like squishy tofu)
    Once again another Nora winner!
    Thank you!

  14. This recipe looks wonderful although I’ve never tried regular sugar in a Kung Pao recipe–I always use maple syrup or brown sugar. Will be giving your recipe a try tonight and doubling the sauce! Thank you!

  15. Sounds really good. What can I substitute for the seasame oil? Will unroasted and unsalted peanuts work?

    1. Thanks Sam! You can totally leave out the sesame oil if you don’t have it or don’t want to use it, it just adds flavor but it will be fine without it. Yes, unroasted and unsalted peanuts should work just fine.

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