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!
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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
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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”
How long do you think this sauce would keep in the fridge? Thanks!
I made this for first time came out really 👍. Thank you for sharing this recipe
Awesome!!!! I used a red and orange pepper; sambal oelek instead of dried chiles. I just sauteed the tofu in some olive oil, salt and pepper, until it was crisp on the outside, creamy inside (the way we prefer it). Otherwise, did everything according to the recipe. Delicious mix of sauces and spices. Don’t skip the peanuts and cilantro. They really elevate this dish.
Hi! This looks yummy. I am planning to try this out for a large get together. Any suggestions on prep ahead of time?
This tastes best when freshly made, the flavors are much better. You can definitely prep the sauce in advance, mix it all together and store in a container. And also cut peppers and keep them ready.
Great Recipe!! I’ll definitely be saving this one! Question: is the 295kcal per serving? (So there is 1180 calories in this whole dish?)
Hi Kate, calorie is just an estimate calculated automatically by a recipe plugin I use. I put the number of people I think this dish will serve (Which I think is 4 in this case) and then it just divides the calories by that number and shows you that number. For more accurate nutritional info please consult a nutritionist or use an app especially meant for this.
Made exactly as written except that I omitted the green bell pepper (because I really don’t like them). Absolutely delicious, even my kid and my meat-and-potatos loving husband gobbled this up.
I’m an omnivore, but I like to be able to cook for anybody. I can’t wait to make this the next time I have a vegan dinner guest.
Thanks for trying Krista!
Is the 20 minute tofu press not included in the prep time?
thanks for letting me know, I will fix it.
So good! I air fried the tofu, used nutritional yeast instead of cornstarch, and left out the sugar. It was delicious. A new favorite!
glad to know!
Very tasty! The sauce thickened quite quickly so I think I may ease up on the cornstarch a bit and I accidentally added 1 tbs (not 1 tsp) of dark soy sauce but it was very flavorful.
Glad to hear Sharlyn!
This recipe is incredibly tasty. I doubled the sauce.