Kung Pao Tofu

Kung Pao Tofu in a black bowl

Kung Pao Tofu is a zesty meatless meal that goes way beyond your favorite take-out dish! This vegan Asian stir fry is irresistible, and elevates tofu to gourmet status.

Kung Pao Tofu in a black bowl

Kung Pao Tofu is the plant based version of kung pao chicken

Perk up your ears, everybody— this next recipe in my Take Out at Home series is a winner. It got a big thumbs up from my husband, and I’ve been after him for years to join me in cutting down on meat, but I couldn’t convince him with my vegetarian dinners.
With this gutsy Kung Pao Tofu and my spicy tofu pad thai we now have a couple of really special meatless meals that we both agree on. If you are trying to cut down on animal protein I hope you’ll try this. If you are already a tofu lover, this is a great recipe for your files.

Kung Pao Tofu in a bowl with chopsticks

Tofu makes it easier to ease up on meat in our diet

I think everybody knows it’s so important to limit our meat eating, but some of us have a harder time than others letting go. I love vegetables and I’m happy with a plate of them for dinner any time,  but my husband literally can’t conceive of dinner without some kind of meat. Over the years the only two things that will lure him away from meat are tofu and mushrooms. They both have a ‘meaty’ texture and can be real godsends if you’re looking for ways to eat meatless meals, even once or twice a week.

Fried tofu for Kung Pao Tofu

Tofu picks up any flavors you’re cooking with

Kung Pao chicken is a Chinese restaurant favorite, and because of its spicy hot flavors it makes a good base for tofu, which will pick up the flavors of anything you add it to. In this recipe the tofu gets quickly fried, restaurant style, but you could skip that step if you want. The important thing is that the vivid flavors and famous heat of the kung pao recipe gives this vegetarian dish some oomph.

Kung Pao Tofu in a black bowl

With the exception of the Szechuan peppercorns, everything for this recipe is readily available in the grocery store

Although you may have to ask about the dried red peppers, they’re often hidden away in corners of supermarkets. It’s worth tracking down the  peppercorns, especially if you like to cook Asian food at home. The ‘peppercorns’ aren’t related to black pepper at all — they’re the seed pods of a tree in the citrus family. They’re one of the components of five spice powder, and aren’t hot like you might expect. They have a pungent, citrus flavor, and a unique tongue-tingling effect. You can use them whole or grind them, and it’s well worth having a little bag of them in your spice cupboard.

Kung Pao Tofu in a black bowl with chopsticks and floral napkin

More better than take out favorites:

Kung Pao Tofu in a black bowl
3.18 from 23 votes

Kung Pao Tofu

Kung Pao Tofu is a zesty meatless meal that goes way beyond your favorite take-out dish!  This vegan Asian stir fry is irresistible, and elevates tofu to gourmet status.
Course Main Course
Diet Vegan, Vegetarian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Yield 4 servings
Author Sue Moran


  • a 14 oz container of "firm" tofu I used about 3/4 of the block of tofu
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • 1-2 Tbsp chopped dried hot peppers to taste (or red pepper flakes)
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled and minced
  • 2 inch piece of ginger peeled and grated
  • approximately 2 cups sliced onion about 1 medium
  • approximately 2 cups of chopped colorful bell peppers
  • 1 cup raw peanuts you can use roasted unsalted if you like

for the sauce

  • 2 Tbsp packed brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Hoisin sauce
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp Szechuan pepper freshly ground, if possible
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup water


  • sliced green onions


  • Cut the tofu into 1/2 inch cubes, and set on paper towels to absorb excess moisture.
  • Mix the flour and salt together in a small bowl.
  • Heat several inches of oil in a pot to a temperature of 350F.
  • Working in batches, dredge the tofu in the flour, lightly coating all sides and shaking off excess. Drop into the hot oil and fry for a couple of minutes, until it just turns a light golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Work in small batches so you don't crowd the pan, and dredge the tofu just before dropping in the oil --- don't do that ahead of time.
  • Mix all the sauce ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.
  • Coat the bottom of a wok lightly with vegetable oil and heat over medium high heat. Stir fry the hot peppers, ginger and garlic for a minute or so until fragrant.
  • Add the onions and stir fry until they start to soften, and then add the sweet peppers. Stir fry a few minutes longer, just until the peppers become glossy and bright, don't over cook them.
  • Add the peanuts to the pan, and then the tofu. Heat through, stirring very gently so you don't break the tofu.
  • Push the contents of the wok to one side and add the sauce. Quickly bring the sauce to a boil, stirring constantly. It will start to thicken as it heats. Mix the sauce into the rest of the ingredients, again moving everything around gently so you don't break the delicate tofu. You are just looking to heat everything through. Add more water to the pan at this point if the sauce seems too thick.
  • Serve hot with rice, or on its own. Garnish with sliced scallions if desired.

Cook's notes

Be sure to buy firm tofu.
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although theviewfromgreatisland.com tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

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    Leave a Reply

    Please rate this recipe!

  • Reply
    Mike in Sweden
    January 30, 2018 at 8:47 am

    5 stars
    Just to let you know,since finding this,I am absolutely in love with kung pao !Excellent recipe ,thank you.

    • Reply
      January 30, 2018 at 9:12 am

      Yay Mike! I love to hear that…and stay tuned, we’re doing a Scandinavian recipe round up this Sunday, you’ll have to let me know how we do 🙂

    • Reply
      Michele Levin
      August 27, 2018 at 7:45 pm

      5 stars
      I agree Mike, best Kung Pao ever!! I froze the tofu first and then cooked it. It really did have a very nice texture.

      • Reply
        August 28, 2018 at 7:08 am

        I’ve never tried freezing it first, Michele, I have to try that, thanks!

  • Reply
    Lauren Gaskill | Making Life Sweet
    December 21, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    I just recently fell in love with tofu and can’t wait to make this! Pinning!

    • Reply
      December 21, 2015 at 1:25 pm


  • Reply
    2 Sisters Recipes
    January 9, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    I have never made a tofu Asian take out before, but this sounds so good and AMAZING! Love all the flavors incorporated into this one dish. This is a must try! Happy 2014!! 🙂 xxoo Anna and Liz

  • Reply
    Tricia @ Saving room for dessert
    January 9, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    Another beautiful dish Sue! I don’t normally love tofu but would eat this in a heartbeat. Love the peanuts and the colors. Have a wonderful weekend out there in that warm sunny place you call home!

  • Reply
    Tofu Mom
    January 8, 2014 at 6:35 pm

    I’ve always dredged my tofu in a light dusting of cornstarch. Otherwise, this looks VERY similar to the way we make it. One of our favorite dishes and SUPER fast and easy!

    • Reply
      January 9, 2014 at 7:05 am

      I tried cornstarch, which I use on chicken in dishes like this, but for some reason it gave me a weird texture, and I found that the flour gave me a little more golden color. Thanks for visiting!

  • Reply
    January 8, 2014 at 11:10 am

    This tofu looks so great that it’s making me want early lunch. You know, I’ve never made kung pao anything at home! I should definitely give it a try–and definitely with tofu for maximum edibility in our half-vegetarian household.

    • Reply
      January 8, 2014 at 5:12 pm

      I think the peanuts make kung pao irresistible!

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