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Kung Pao Tofu (Vegan)

A large spoonful of kung pao tofu being liften out of a black frying pan.
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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!

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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 (recipe coming soon), Korean Tofu Bulgogi and Tofu Pad Thai!

A serving spoon full of kung pao tofu hovering above a frying pan with the rest of the dish.

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 tbsp 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.
Ingredients for Vegan Kung Pao ona wooden chopping board.

Additional Extras

  • Use toasted sesame oil to stir-fry the vegetables. Only use a tsp though, as it is a string flavour.
  • To make a spicy sauce, add a tsp 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.

Tofu wrapped in a tea towel with a heavy cast iron skillet on top.

Method

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 (1/2 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 1/2 tbsp of cornflour with 6 tbsp of water. Add 2 tbsp of soy sauce and 1 tbsp of rice vinegar and mix.

Put a small pan on low-medium heat and add a tbsp of oil. Tip in ginger and garlic and fry for 1-2 minutes (don’t let them brown too much). Then add a tbsp 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 tbsp of cornflour with a generous pinch of fine salt and 1 tsp 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.

Crispy tofu in a large frying pan.

STEP 3: Stir-Fry The Veggies

Whilst the tofu is crisping up, heat another frying pan with a tsp 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 😉

Vegan Kung pao in a frying pan with spring onion scattered on top.

Watch How To Make It

Recipe FAQs

Can I Bake Tofu for Kung Pao Instead?

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.

Can I Deep Fry Tofu?

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.

My Kung Pao Sauce Thickened Too Much. What Can I Do?

Simply add a tbsp 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.

Crispy tofu pieces and vegetables covered in kung pao sauce.

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

Recipe Card

A large spoonful of kung pao tofu being liften out of a black frying pan.

Crispy Tofu Kung Pao

Chinese Take-Away just got a lot cheaper and healthier! Kung Pao is one of our Chinese Restaurant favourites, and it's just so simple to make at home using simple ingredients! Whilst this dish works very well with chicken, we decided to go for an all-plant alternative! We're convinced that once you taste this Crunchy Tofu Kung Pao, you will see Tofu in a whole different light!
5 from 10 votes
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 35 mins
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Asian, Chinese
Servings 2 portions
Calories 305 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

  • 200 g tofu firm or extra firm
  • tbsp cornflour 2 tbsp for tofu and ½ tbsp for sauce
  • 1 tsp 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 tbsp agave nectar or runny honey if not vegan
  • 1 red chilli deseeded and thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 6 tbsp water
  • 30 g salted roasted peanuts
  • 1 spring onion sliced diagonally

Instructions
 

  • 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 tbsp 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 tbsp of oil to a small pan and add garlic and ginger. Fry for 1-2 minutes, then stir in a tbsp of agave nectar (or honey) and add sliced chilli. Reduce the heat to the minimum. In a small bowl, mix ½ tbsp of cornflour, 6 tbsp of water, 1 tbsp of rice vinegar and 2 tbsp 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.

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Nutrition

Calories: 305kcalCarbohydrates: 35gProtein: 17gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 6gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gSodium: 1123mgPotassium: 539mgFiber: 6gSugar: 13gVitamin A: 7529IUVitamin C: 114mgCalcium: 173mgIron: 3mg
Keyword Chinese Tofu and Peanut Recipe, Chinese Tofu Recipes, Kung Pao (Vegan), Kung Pao Sauce, Kung Pao Tofu, Kung Pao Tofu Recipe, Tofu Kung Pao, Vegan Chinese Food, Vegan Kung Pao, Vegetarian Kung Pao
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15 Replies to “Kung Pao Tofu (Vegan)”

  1. 5 stars
    We are just staring to really enjoy tofu and this recipe looks amazing! Going to make it this weekend!!

    1. So glad you discovered tofu! I am sure you will like this recipe – it has heaps of flavour and texture!

  2. 5 stars
    I made this tofu kung pao for dinner last night and my whole family loved it. Thanks so much for sharing the recipe!

    1. You are most welcome! Thanks so much for taking the time to tell me you liked it! It really made my day! 🙂

  3. 5 stars
    Easy and delicious! Love the salted peanuts.

  4. 5 stars
    I don’t cook a ton with tofu (even though I love it), but I’m so glad I tried this! Absolutely delicious and crispy, and the other flavors in the dish knocked it out of the park! Thanks you!

    1. Thanks, Cara! How lovely of you to leave such great feedback 🙂

  5. 5 stars
    I love the way the cornstarch created a crispy coating on the outside of the tofu. The flavor was spot on too!

  6. 5 stars
    There are so many incredible flavors in this tofu!

  7. 5 stars
    I made this dish last night and it was a hit!! It’s going to be a repeat here.

    1. It’s on repeat in our house too! Glad you liked it 🙂

  8. 5 stars
    I am trying really hard to cut down on my meat consumption in 2023, and this is the perfect recipe to cure the Chinese food craving! Thanks so much!

    1. Yes, out of all the tofu recipes, we actually love Chinese and Korean-inspired tofu most of all!

  9. 5 stars
    I made this tofu for dinner last night and it was incredible! So flavorful and really easy to make!

    1. Thanks for trying this recipe – so glad you enjoyed it! 💗

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