Our kung pao tofu is a vegan stir-fried recipe with a piquant, sweet, savory flavor blend and a sticky and chewy texture.
Make this delicious Chinese-inspired dish in less than 30 minutes and get plenty of plant-based protein, nuts, and fresh veggies.
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This kung pao tofu recipe takes inspiration from one of the most popular Chinese takeouts: Kung pao chicken.
Our recipe is simplified so that you can make it at home with simple pantry staples.
First, we substitute cubes of firm or extra firm tofu for chicken. Tofu has a neutral flavor and works great in a stir fry with bold sauces like this one. It's also packed with wholesome plant protein.
Second, we make the marinade with soy sauce, rice vinegar or white vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, cornstarch, salt, and pepper.
Finally, we stir fry in three steps: peanuts first, tofu second, and fresh veggies like peppers and mushrooms third.
We love serving this vegan kung pao tofu recipe with rice and fresh herbs; it's a great way to add color and spice to a weeknight dinner.
Ps. You don't need a wok to make this recipe. Instead, we stir-fry it in a large non-stick pan.
Choose firm or extra firm tofu. Soft tofu and silken tofu won't work in this recipe. We cut the tofu into ¾ Inch cubes.
We like to use yellow or red bell peppers and white or brown mushrooms. They are crunchy and chewy, cook quickly, and fit the sauce perfectly.
You can, however, use your favorite veggies such as zucchini, eggplant, celery, carrots, and more.
Grated ginger and garlic are essential in kung pao tofu, and we strongly recommend using both. You can also add scallions, green onions, or spring onions.
Traditionally, the original recipe calls for Chinese whole dried red chiles, but if you can't find those, you can use red pepper flakes or any other type of dried chili peppers.
Traditionally, the Chinese combine the chiles with Sichuan peppercorn to create a mouth-numbing spiciness called málà. However, we don't use Sichuan peppercorns in this recipe.
Peanuts are another key ingredient. We use toasted peanuts and gently fry them for a minute with sesame oil.
You can substitute cashew nuts for peanuts.
Kung pao sauce
We make our sauce and tofu marinade with:
- Soy sauce or tamari sauce (use coco aminos for gluten-free)
- Rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
- Brown sugar (you can substitute hoisin sauce for sugar)
- Sesame oil: we use raw sesame oil (not toasted sesame oil) for stir-frying. If you don't have that, use vegetable oil such as canola or sunflower.
- Corn starch
- Salt and black pepper
You don't need a wok to make kung pao tofu. A non-stick frying pan is good enough.
Kung pao tofu cooks fast, so you want to prepare all your ingredients before you start cooking.
Clean and chop the bell peppers into one-inch dice. Chop the mushrooms into chunks. Finely slice the green onions. Grate the garlic and ginger.
Whisk together soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, cornstarch, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl.
Take the tofu out of its package, pat it dry with a kitchen towel, and cut it into ¾-inch pieces.
Transfer the tofu to a large dish and pour in the marinade. Toss gently to cover each piece and set aside.
In a large non-stick pan, gently fry the peanuts with half a tablespoon of sesame oil for 1 minute on medium-low heat.
Transfer the peanuts onto a plate lined with paper towels to absorb excess oil.
To the same pan, add one tablespoon of sesame oil, then take the tofu out of the marinade and add it to the pan (without the marinade).
Reserve the excess liquid of the marinade for later.
Fry the tofu on medium heat for about 10 minutes, flipping it every 2 minutes.
Add diced bell peppers, chopped mushrooms, and dried red chilies or red pepper flakes.
Stir-fry for 2 minutes on high heat, stirring often.
Pour in the leftover marinade and ¼ cup of water. Stir-fry, moving the pan around and stirring for another 1 to 2 minutes.
Turn the heat to low, and add grated ginger, grated garlic, and the white part of sliced scallions. Give it a stir, then add the peanuts and stir fry for a final minute.
Serve kung pao tofu on steamed or boiled rice. We like to sprinkle it with the green part of finely sliced green onions, chives, fresh basil, or sesame seeds.
Serve kung pao tofu with grains, such as white rice, brown rice, or noodles. Or pair with bread to sop up the sauce, for example:
- Homemade wrap (piadina) made with only 3 ingredients
- Flatbread brushed with parsley and garlic marinade
Serve with extra greens, such as:
- Roasted broccoli with a lemon-garlic marinade
- Tender baked eggplant with fresh herbs and garlic
- Easy roasted cauliflower ready in just 30 minutes
- Roasted bell pepper that adds a sweet and fruity taste to your meal
You can make this kung pao tofu with different veggies. It's an easy way to clean up your fridge and camouflage vegetables with a delicious sauce.
Try broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, onions, celery, kale, cabbage, and more.
Store kung pao tofu leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave for two minutes or on a non-stick pan with a dash of water. We don't recommend freezing this recipe.
More tofu recipes
If you are looking to add some plant protein to your diet, try one of these quick and fun tofu recipes:
- Tofu with mushrooms: a wholesome quick dinner, ready in just 25 minutes!
- Cutlets of tofu in pizzaiola tomato sauce with authentic Italian flavor
- Crispy tofu salad with fresh veggies and a smooth tahini sauce
- Tofu scramble served on toast and avocado
- No-chicken cacciatore: a restaurant-like recipe with chewy chunks of tofu
- Marinated tofu on rice with a grilled and irresistible flavor
- Tofu meatballs in a rich marinara sauce, perfect on pasta and in a sub
- Lemon tofu with a creamy lemon juice sauce, ready in just 20 minutes
- Fried tofu and air fryer tofu: a simple recipe to add to other dishes
More Asian-Inspired recipes
- Tofu soup: packed with vegetables and healthy plant-based protein
- Easy tofu curry with cauliflower, an easy and whole everyday dinner
- Orange tofu with a sticky and finger-licking good sauce
- Sweet and sour eggplant: a tender and veggie-packed side dish
Kung Pao Tofu
- 14 - 16 ounces tofu firm or extra firm
- 1½ tablespoons sesame oil
- ½ cup peanuts or cashews
- 1 bell pepper yellow or red
- 5 mushrooms white or brown
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes or more to taste (or whole dried red chiles)
- 3 cloves garlic grated
- 2 teaspoons ginger grated
- 1 small bunch scallions (optional)
- ¼ cup water
Kung Pao Sauce
- ⅓ cup soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons rice vinegar white vinegar, or balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 twists black pepper
- Prepare all your ingredients before you start cooking.Clean and chop the bell peppers into one-inch dice. Chop the mushrooms into chunks. Finely slice the green onions. Grate the garlic and ginger.
- Whisk together soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, cornstarch, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl.
- Take the tofu out of its package, pat it dry with a kitchen towel, and cut it into ¾-inch pieces.Transfer the tofu to a large dish and pour in the marinade. Toss gently to cover each piece and set aside.
- In a large non-stick pan, gently fry the peanuts with half a tablespoon of sesame oil for 1 minute on medium-low heat.Transfer the peanuts onto a plate lined with paper towels to absorb excess oil.
- To the same pan, add one tablespoon of sesame oil, then take the tofu out of the marinade and add it to the pan (without the marinade).Reserve the excess liquid of the marinade for later.
- Fry the tofu on medium heat for about 10 minutes, flipping it every 2 minutes.
- Add diced bell peppers, chopped mushrooms, and dried red chilies or red pepper flakes.Stir-fry for 2 minutes on high heat, stirring often.
- Pour in the leftover marinade and ¼ cup of water. Stir-fry, moving the pan around and stirring for another 1 to 2 minutes.
- Turn the heat to low, and add grated ginger, grated garlic, and the white part of sliced scallions. Give it a stir, then add the peanuts and stir fry for a final minute.
- Serve kung pao tofu on steamed or boiled rice. We like to sprinkle it with the green part of finely sliced green onions, chives, fresh basil, or sesame seeds.
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We are not vegan but my daughter has decided she doesn’t love meat lately. This was so tasty! It was too salty for me, so I’d change that next time, but wow, it was so so good!
Hi Heather, I'm so delighted your family liked the Kung Pao, and that it could cater to different eaters 🙂 Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment here, we really appreciate it.
Delicious! Easy, really does come together in 30 minutes. Thank you for this recipe.
Hi Lynda, I'm super happy you liked the tofu!! Thanks for taking the time to comment after you made this. Have a great day. Cheers, Louise
Very good recipes you have.
You should try adding Szechuan peppercorns and Juan Cheng.
Thanks, Rani! I will check it out 🙂 Have a great day! Nico