Sweet and spicy Kung Pao Tofu is one of my favorite ways to enjoy tofu.
Pan fried tofu is tossed in a sweet and spicy sauce along with pepper, dried chilies and peanuts.
This tastes best with brown rice!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. For more information on my Affiliate and Advertising Policy, please click here.
Kung Pao Tofu was one of the first tofu dishes that made me like tofu.
Before that, I didn’t think much of it.
This is also the only way Sarvesh enjoys tofu. He would eat the tofu tikka masala too but the kung pao tofu, he would eat happily!
The first time I tasted this dish was at a local Asian restaurant some 6-7 years back.
I remember being blown away by the flavors.
The sweet and spicy sauce, the crunch from the peanuts, it all came together so wonderfully.
Unfortunately though that restaurant removed the dish from their menu recently (I wonder why!).
So now when I want to eat it, I simply make it at home.
This homemade Kung Pao Tofu is an easy recipes and tastes just as good as the one at my favorite Asian restaurant.
What is Kung Pao Tofu
It is the vegetarian version of kung pao chicken which is the more popular dish.
This spicy Chinese dish is a stir-fry made with sichuan peppers, dried red chili, peppers, peanuts.
This dish doesn’t have a lot of sauce, it’s more on the dry side but it sure is super flavorful!
For this recipe, the tofu is first pan fried (you can even deep fry) and then tossed in the sauce.
Kung Pao Sauce
The flavor of dish comes from the sauce.
And there a lot of ingredients that go into it.
Soy sauce: I use a combination of regular soy sauce and dark soy sauce. You may even use light soy sauce in place of regular one if you want to make the dish less salty.
The dark soy sauce gives it a nice color so definitely use it if possible.
Hoisin sauce: this gives the dish a sweet and salty taste.
Rice vinegar: adds flavor and little tang. You can even use balsamic vinegar here.
Rice wine: I use mirin (Japanese sweet cooking rice wine) since that’s what I had at home. You can also use sherry, rice wine vinegar.
Hot sauce: you may use any hot sauce that you have on hand. I have used sriracha. Also add more of it if you are a spice fan!
Toasted sesame oil: a little goes a long way to add its unique flavor.
I have linked all the sauces that I used in the recipe below.
For the stir-fry I go heavy on the garlic and ginger.
Peppers are traditionally added. I also add onions since Sarvesh loves them and most definitely wants them in his kung pao tofu.
I garnish with lots of green onion and also cilantro.
I am not sure if cilantro is traditionally used or not but the Asian restaurant where I had this dish for the first time always garnished it with cilantro and so I do the same! 🙂
This kung pao tofu goes well with either rice or noodles.
I personally think it goes best with brown rice.
You can also serve it with white jasmine rice or hakka noodles.
Press tofu with heavy object for 20 minutes. This drains excess moisture and also helps in tofu absorbing more flavor.
Then cut it into cubes and set aside. While the tofu is being pressed, grate the garlic, ginger and chop the peppers, onion and green onion.
1- Once 20 minutes are up, cut tofu into cubes and transfer to a large bowl. Add cornstarch, white pepper powder and salt and toss the tofu until it’s coated with with cornstarch.
2- Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet (or any pan) on medium heat. Add the tofu to the pan.
3- Cook for 6 to 7 minutes, flipping once in between until tofu is golden brown from both sides. Drain on paper towel.
4- Make the sauce by combining all the ingredients- soy sauce, dark soy sauce, hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, mirin, sriracha, toasted sesame oil, brown sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl or measuring jar.
Whisk until it’s all combined together. Set aside.
5- To the same pan now add the dried red chilies, garlic and ginger. Saute for 1 minute.
Then add the diced peppers, onion and chopped green onion. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes.
6- Add the prepared sauce and mix. It will thicken immediately.
7- Add in the pan fried tofu and mix until all the tofu is well coated with the sauce.
8- Stir in the peanuts and turn off heat.
Garnish Kung Pao Tofu with cilantro and serve with brown rice.
Ingredients used in this recipe
If you’ve tried this Kung Pao Tofu Recipe then don’t forget to rate the recipe! You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram to see what’s latest in my kitchen!
This post has been updated from the recipe archives, first published in November 2013.
Kung Pao Tofu
For the Tofu
- 14 oz extra-firm tofu cut into cubes
- 2.5 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper powder
- 1/4 teaspoon + 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 2.5 tablespoons oil 37 ml
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce 45 ml
- 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce 5 ml
- 3 teaspoons hoisin sauce 15 ml
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar 15 ml
- 1 tablespoon rice wine (mirin) 15 ml
- 1 teaspoon sriracha or any hot sauce, 5 ml, add more to taste
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil 5 ml
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 3 whole dried red chilies or more to taste
- 1 tablespoon grated garlic
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger
- 1 medium green pepper cut in squares
- 1 medium red pepper cut in squares
- 1 medium yellow onion quartered and petals separated
- 2-3 stalks green onion chopped
- 1/4 cup roasted peanuts unsalted
- cilantro to garnish
- Press tofu with heavy object for 20 minutes. This drains excess moisture and also helps in tofu absorbing more flavor.Then cut it into cubes and set aside. While the tofu is being pressed, grate the garlic, ginger and chop the peppers, onion and green onion.
- Once 20 minutes are up, cut tofu into cubes and transfer to a large bowl. Add cornstarch, white pepper powder and salt and toss the tofu until it's coated with with cornstarch.
- Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet (or any pan) on medium heat. Add the tofu to the pan.Cook for 6 to 7 minutes, flipping once in between until tofu is golden brown from both sides. Drain on paper towel.
- Make the sauce by combining all the ingredients- soy sauce, dark soy sauce, hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, rice wine (mirin), sriracha, toasted sesame oil, brown sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl or measuring jar.Whisk until it's all combined together. Set aside.
- To the same pan now in which you had fried the tofu, now add the dried red chilies, garlic and ginger. Saute for 1 minute.
- Then add the diced peppers, onion and chopped green onion. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add the prepared sauce and mix. It will thicken immediately.
- Add in the pan fried tofu and mix until all the tofu is well coated with the sauce. Stir in the peanuts and turn off heat.
- Garnish Kung Pao Tofu with cilantro and serve with brown rice.
- Use tamari (gluten-free soy sauce) to make this dish gluten-free. The hoisin sauce that I have used here was already gluten-free.
56 thoughts on “Kung Pao Tofu”
This was really good and easy to make! I used TVP instead of tofu and it worked really well. I’m saving this to make again.
Turned out super yummy!
glad to know!
Can tofu be replaced with cottage cheese?
you mean with paneer? Yes absolutely
This is a keeper. It was good when made yet better as a leftover. Thanks, Manali!
We are going to try this with chicken thighs replacing the tofu, too.
As you all recipes , it was also a very nice recipe. But my Tofu turned out to be little chewy. Anything which i can take care in future?
which tofu did you use? if it was extra-firm, next time don’t press it for too long if you prefer softer texture.
It was firm and i did not press it. Shall i cook it at high flame?
hmm I am not sure, if you prefer it to be soft, maybe buy soft tofu and see how that works? yeah don’t overcook it, that might make it chewy too.
We have gluten-free soy sauce (tamari) but I have never seen gluten-free dark soy sauce. How do you substitute for the dark soy sauce to make it gluten-free?
I would just use regular tamari for both, no big deal
Ok, thank you!
This is hands down one of the most flavorful and most forgiving Asian vegetarian recipe I ever made. My husband and I have turned vegan and are struggling to find flavorful and healthy recipes. Either the recipes are meh or are chokeful of salt. I increased the sauce and added some water because my husband doesn’t like very dry dishes. Perfection! Thanks Manali!
glad to know Anna!
I’m an ardent fan of you, Manali. Have tried couple of your recipes and have always come out well. Tried Kung Pao Tofu yesterday and my kids and hubby simply loved it. I didn’t change anything and did exactly the way you had mentioned. Simply delicious. Thank you so much!
Thanks for the support Radhika, so glad to know you enjoy the recipes that I share 🙂
My husband Doesn’t like to mix dry rice with dry sides, should I add water or coconut cream to get some curry? Im worried coconut milk will change the taste and I don’t want to mess with the taste. Would water work? Thanks n
you are right, coconut milk will change the taste and it won’t be kung pao tofu anymore. Why not try other tofu curries? Search “tofu” on the blog, there are several. You can add some water here also to make it kind of semi-dry so that there is some curry.
I would just double or triple the sauce
just made this for my family! I pretty much did your recipe exactly, but I added some broccoli for some extra added nutrition…the sauce was EXACTLY what I was looking for–something with depth!
just saved this to my “Keep Forever” folder!
glad to hear that Eva!
Substitute for mirin as I am unable to get in jaipur india. Can this recipe for chicken too?
maybe try rice vinegar with some sugar. I don’t know about chicken, I am a vegetarian and have never cooked one.
the great thing about this recipe is that it can be easily adapted to what you have such as extra veggies or added additional protein such as chicken