Chinese takeout just got a lot cheaper and healthier! Kung Pao is one of our Chinese Restaurant favourites, and it’s just so easy to make at home using simple ingredients! Whilst this dish works very well with chicken, we decided to go for an all-plant alternative! And we love it! Let us convince you with this recipe that once you taste this Crispy Kung Pao Tofu, you will see an otherwise bland tofu in a whole different light!
- Making Chinese Take-Away Recipes At Home
- Ingredients and Substitutes
- Additional Extras
- How To Prepare Tofu For Kung Pao?
- Watch How To Make It
- Recipe FAQs
- Storage & Reheating
- What To Serve Vegan Kung Pao Tofu With?
- Other Delicious Tofu Recipes To Try
- Recipe Card
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Making Chinese Take-Away Recipes At Home
Cooking your favourite takeaway or Chinese restaurant items at home is extremely satisfying, especially when they taste better than the dishes you were originally trying to replicate! Most importantly, you can:
- adjust the seasoning and spices to your own preferences.
- be sure you’re using the ingredients of the quality you like.
- be reassured that no added preservatives or flavour enhancers are added to your food.
- make your favourite dishes quicker than the delivery driver would have brought the food to your door!
- save money!
Ok, we do like a good takeaway, but we also cook our favourite Asian-cuisine-inspired dishes at home. And if you like our Crispy Tofu Kung Pao, you will definitely like our Gochujang Tofu, Korean Tofu Bulgogi and Tofu Pad Thai!
Ingredients and Substitutes
There are three main elements to this kung pao: crispy tofu, kung pao sauce and stir-fried veggies. Here’s what you will need:
- tofu: firm or extra firm. See the section below on how to best prepare your tofu for vegan kung pao.
- cornflour: also known as corn starch. You will need some to coat the tofu to make it crispy and some to thicken the Kung Pao Sauce.
- chilli powder: if you have some, use sichuan peppercorns (also spelt szechuan peppercorns) ground into a powder.
- oil: for frying. We use vegetable oil, but sunflower, rapeseed or avocado oil will work too.
- carrot: is a great vegetable to add to your kung pao dishes, as it provides both vibrant colour and beautiful crunch.
- bell peppers: choose whatever colour you like, or mix a couple of colours to create a rainbow on your plate. We used red bell pepper on this occasion.
- root ginger: peeled and finely chopped. Don’t be stingy, ginger gives Kung Pao sauce its unique flavor.
- garlic cloves: thinly sliced or minced.
- agave nectar: can be replaced with clear honey if you are not cooking for vegans. You can even use maple syrup or a level tablespoon of brown sugar instead.
- red chilli pepper: keep or remove the seeds depending on your spice preference.
- soy sauce: dark or light. If you are looking for gluten-free kung pao tofu, use Tamari. We used dark soy sauce.
- rice vinegar: can be replaced with distilled malt vinegar, white wine vinegar or Chinese black vinegar (brown rice vinegar).
- salted roasted peanuts.
- spring onion: scallion greens or green onions.
- Use toasted sesame oil to stir-fry the vegetables. Only use a teaspoon though, as it is a string flavour.
- To make a spicy sauce, add a teaspoon of sriracha or other chilli paste or hot sauce of your choice.
- Add some other veggies like baby corn and mange tout work well.
How To Prepare Tofu For Kung Pao?
There are many different types of tofu to choose from, but for this Crispy Tofu Kung Pao recipe, we need the firm or extra firm type. Half an hour before you start cooking, take your tofu out of the fridge and drain it.
If you want your dish crispy, you will need to press the tofu first. Yes, that applies to extra firm tofu too! Wrap in a clean tea towel and place something heavy on top: you can use a heavy pan, a chopping board with lots of cans on top or a bunch of books. Doing this ensures all excess water is pressed out. Whilst it is easy to press tofu with the things you can find at home, if you cook with it often, you may want to get a nifty tofu press.
All things cook at the same time: your crispy tofu, vegetables and sauce (and likely a side dish of rice). So you want to be organised from the very beginning. Get all your ingredients ready. Whilst the tofu is being pressed, peel your carrots and chop them into small (½ cm) cubes). Then deseed and chop the pepper into bite-size pieces. You’ll need your root ginger finely chopped and garlic cloves thinly sliced. Then deseed and thinly slice one red chilli (if you like things spicy, keep the seeds). And finally, slice your green onions on the diagonal.
STEP 1: Prepare the Kung Pao Sauce
In a small bowl, mix ½ tablespoon of cornflour with 6 tablespoon of water. Add 2 tablespoon of soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar and mix.
Put a small pan on low-medium heat and add a tablespoon of oil. Tip in ginger and garlic and fry for 1-2 minutes (don’t let them brown too much). Then add a tablespoon of agave nectar (or honey) and sliced chilli. Stirring, fry for another minute.
Stir your cornflour-soy sauce mixture to make sure the cornflour hasn’t sunk to the bottom and tip it into the saucepan. Stir until it thickens slightly and take it off heat. This is your Kung Pao sauce. Set it aside whilst you continue cooking other elements.
STEP 2: Make Crispy Tofu
In a large bowl, mix 2 tablespoon of cornflour with a generous pinch of fine salt and 1 teaspoon of chilli powder. After 30 minutes of pressing your tofu, break the tofu up into small pieces with rough edges. An uneven surface means that more cornflour can adhere to the tofu, making it extra crispy as you fry it.
However, if you want, you can simply cut the block of tofu into cubes.
Tip the tofu pieces into the cornflour mixture and mix gently to make sure all the pieces are covered thoroughly.
Heat a large pan with a generous glug of oil. Once hot, tip in your cornflour-covered tofu. Stirring occasionally, fry on medium-high heat for 8-10 minutes, until golden brown and very crispy on all sides. When cooked, place the tofu on paper towels to get rid of any excess oil. You may skip this step if the cornflour has absorbed all the oil and the pan is almost dry.
STEP 3: Stir-Fry The Veggies
Whilst the tofu is crisping up, heat another frying pan with a teaspoon of oil and stir-fry carrots and bell peppers on high heat. It will take about 5 minutes. They will char slightly, and soften but retain most of their crunch still.
STEP 4: Assemble Kung Pao Tofu
Combine everything together: tip your sauce, tofu and stir-fried vegetables into one pan (either veggie pan or tofu pan) and add peanuts. Stir everything, heat for 1 minute for the sauce to warm up again and cover the tofu and veggies. Scatter spring onions on top and serve with white rice. Chopsticks optional, but recommended 😉
Watch How To Make It
Yes, you can. Preheat the oven to 220 C Fan, spread the cornflour-coated tofu in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake it in the oven for 20-25 minutes, turning it halfway through.
Yes, absolutely! It will take about 3 minutes. But we find that deep-fried tofu isn’t that much crispier than shallow-fried, provided you thoroughly coat it with cornflour.
Simply add a tablespoon of water and stir on low heat. In contrast, if your sauce isn’t thick enough, increase the heat slightly, and stir to reduce it further.
Storage & Reheating
If you have leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days. Unfortunately, this dish does not freeze well.
We do not recommend reheating Kung Pao Tofu in a microwave. The tofu completely loses its texture and becomes extremely soggy. Our favourite way to warm this kung pao dish is to simply place everything in a frying pan, and stir fry it on high heat for a few minutes.
What To Serve Vegan Kung Pao Tofu With?
You will absolutely need some rice to serve with tofu kung pao. As the sauce is rather strong-tasting we recommend plain steamed white rice. If you are looking for a vegetable side dish too, we highly recommend our Grilled Pak Choi (Bok Choy) or Spicy Cucumber Salad.
Other Delicious Tofu Recipes To Try
Crispy Tofu Kung Pao
- 200 g tofu firm or extra firm
- 2½ tbsp cornflour 2 tablespoon for tofu and ½ tablespoon for sauce
- 1 teaspoon chilli powder
- oil for frying
- 1 carrot chopped intp ½cm cubes
- 1 bell pepper cut into bite-size pieces
- 25 g root ginger peeled and finely chopped
- 3 large garlic cloves thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon agave nectar or runny honey if not vegan
- 1 red chilli deseeded and thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 6 tbsp water
- 30 g salted roasted peanuts
- 1 spring onion sliced diagonally
- Thirty minutes before cooking, drain your tofu and wrap it in a clean tea towel. Put something heavy on top and leave pressed down for half an hour to get rid of any excess moisture.
- When ready to cook, bread tofu into small pieces with your hands (or cut into cubes). In a large bowl, mix 2 tablespoon of cornflour, a pinch of salt and chilli powder. Tip the tofu into the cornflour mixture and make sure it's thoroughly coated.
- Heat a generous glug of oil in a frying pan. Fry your tofu for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden and crispy. When done, transfer onto a paper towel to drain any excess oil.
- In the meantime, on high heat, stir-fry your vegetables in a separate frying pan with a little oil, until slightly browned, slightly softened but still retaining most of the crunch. It should take about 5 minutes.
- To make the sauce, add 1 tablespoon of oil to a small pan and add garlic and ginger. Fry for 1-2 minutes, then stir in a tablespoon of agave nectar (or honey) and add sliced chilli. Reduce the heat to the minimum. In a small bowl, mix ½ tablespoon of cornflour, 6 tablespoon of water, 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar and 2 tablespoon of soy sauce. Tip into the saucepan and stir until thickened. This is your Kung Pao Sauce. Add more water to loosen if required.
- Tip the sauce, crispy tofu and peanuts into the vegetables and stir. Serve scaterred with spring onions with a side of boiled white rice.