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. It had potential to be delicious but the peppercorns I used were too strong. They also had a medicinal taste. Next time I’ll leave them out. Maybe I didn’t grind them well enough or used too many. Everything else was yummy.

  2. This recipe is outstanding. I didn’t have the Szechuan peppercorns but otherwise, I followed the recipe as written.

    1. Hi Cynthia. I’m so glad you loved the recipe! Thanks for taking time to share your awesome review!

  3. Omgosh!!! This was hands down THE most delish recipe we have had in a loooong time!
    Didn’t have any peppercorns. Subbed the rice wine for a hearty glug of dry white, only used 4 garlic cloves and used 1 fresh red chilli with half the seeds (we are still on our chilli journey!😁).
    This will without doubt be on regular rotation in our kitchen and we can’t wait to try it out for friends!🙌
    Please keep up the fab recipes Nora , you are a culinary legend 😉🥰

  4. Every time I say this is my new Nora favorite, you come out with something else I fall in love with. This one is AWESOME. Thank you so much!

    1. You’re so kind, Eleisha! Thank you so much for your amazing words and I’m thrilled you loved the tofu 🙂

  5. Red chiles – which type exactly did you use as there are many. Trying this recipe tomorrow and cannot wait to make it. Chile de arbol or Szechuan chiles, since they are the smallest? Thank you!

  6. So so good! I just had amazing vegan Chinese food in Las Vegas and this dish easily could have been on their menu. Peanut oil really is the ultimate way to make crispy tofu. The heat, and the saltiness & sweetness of the sauce, is just perfect. I didn’t eat the dried chilies themselves but the flavor and depth they add to the sauce is beautiful.
    For the bazillionth time, thank you for another amazing recipe Nora!! I look forward to the day you open a vegan restaurant in Portland 😉🤞🙏

    1. You are welcome, Shelly! I appreciate you! Your wonderful words are so encouraging! Thank you for sharing them, along with your fabulous review. Happy cooking!

  7. Do you think it would be possible to leave out the sugar in the sauce? I don’t want to replace it with artificial sugar. I just wanna leave it out to reduce my carbs in the dish? if I don’t leave it out. Do you think I could just reduce it to minimal? I love Kung Pao.

    1. Yes, you could just leave it out, the sauce won’t be sweet at all, but if that’s what you want, it will work. You could also cut it in half.

      1. Nora Nora Nora! This was so stinking good it’s not even funny. The first time I made it, I didn’t change a thing and it was perfection on a plate. After that I did cut back on the sugar and oil, but only because I’m an older plumpy dumpling. Tonight I’ll be having your black pepper tofu and I can’t wait. I love your recipes 😍

  8. This was delicious. I threw in some baby spinach that needed to be used but otherwise followed the recipe exactly! Can’t wait for the leftovers tomorrow.

  9. This was the best Chinese dish I’ve ever made! The key to pan frying is getting most of the moisture out of the tofu. Another one of your recipes that goes on the “do again” list! Thanks again Nora!

      1. This is one of my favourites and I have cooked this countless times. Is the old recipe still available somewhere? I didn’t save it and obviously there are quite some changes especially when it comes the ingredients of the sauce.

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