Kung Pao Tofu, a lighter, healthy (and vegetarian) take on one of my favorite Chinese takeout dishes! So good and loaded with veggies!
Kung Pao Tofu
I love Chinese takeout, but I don’t love all the extra calories. That’s why I like to take classic Chinese dishes and make lighter versions. If you love tofu, see more tofu recipes like my Sriracha Tofu or this Tofu Stir Fry recipe. For more take-out makeovers try Orange Chicken and Chicken and Broccoli Stir-Fry makeovers. Kung Pao Tofu would awesome served with my take on Wonton Soup. The only thing better than eating one of your favorite Chinese meals is eating a healthier version so you can enjoy it more often!
In this recipe, I’m keeping it vegetarian with tofu as the main protein in the dish, but shrimp or chicken would also work great. I wanted to use easy to find ingredients but still get that authentic flavor, which I think we nailed it. It’s so good! I subbed sherry for Chinese vinegar and Sambal Oelek for whole chilies (which I find annoying when trying to eat around them anyway).
Tofu is so versatile because it takes on the flavor of whatever sauce it’s cooked in. Tofu is excellent in Chinese stir fries, and kung pao sauce is perfect for tofu.
This recipe takes a little time to prep, but once everything is ready, it comes together quickly. It’s an easy stir fry that would be perfect for a busy weeknight. Just prep the vegetables, tofu, and sauce ahead of time. Then, stir fry the ingredients when you’re ready for dinner. It cooks in under 15 minutes! Leftovers would make an easy lunch the next day. Although I served this over rice, the servings are so large you could def skip ir.
What is kung pao sauce made of?
Kung pao sauce is a brown, spicy, salty, and slightly sweet sauce. The ingredients for this kung pao sauce are soy sauce, rice vinegar, sherry, brown sugar, and sambal oelek. Rather than using chili peppers, I like making it with sambal oelek which gives the sauce its heat. This popular red condiment consists of red chili peppers, vinegar, and salt. I recommend using 2-3 teaspoons depending on your preference for spice.
What kind of tofu is best for stir fry?
Extra firm tofu is best for stir frying, but firm tofu would also work. Extra firm tofu holds its shape really well, so it won’t fall apart in the high heat. It’s also great for baking and grilling.
How do you stir fry crispy tofu?
To get crispy stir-fried tofu, start with extra firm tofu. It won’t fall apart and get mushy once cooked. It’s important to drain excess water out of the tofu. Just put it between some paper towels or tea towels and press to release the water. Then, cut the tofu into cubes and add to a wok on medium heat. Pan fry the tofu for 8-10 minutes, flipping the cubes until they’re brown and crispy on all sides.
More Chinese-Inspired Recipes You’ll Love:
- Spicy Shrimp Fried Rice
- Honey Garlic Shrimp
- Teriyaki Chicken and Asparagus Stir-Fry
- Spiralized Shanghai Beef and Broccoli
- Chicken Zoodle ‘Lo Mein’
Kung Pao Tofu
- 1 14-ounce package extra firm tofu, drained
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons reduced sodium or gluten-free soy sauce*
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch, divided
- 1 2-inch piece ginger, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 medium scallions, chopped, whites and green separated
- 2 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise cut 1/2 inch cubes
- 2 medium red bell peppers, cut 1 inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons dry sherry
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2-3 teaspoons Sambal Oelek, fresh ground chili paste*
- 2 tablespoons, 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil, divided
- 2 tablespoons lightly salted peanuts, chopped
- Place tofu on a tea towel or paper towels. Cover with another towel and gently press tofu to get rid of excess water.
- Transfer to cutting board, flip on its side and slice in half lengthwise. Flip it back over to lay flat on the cutting board and cut into 32 equal cubes.
- Place in a medium size shallow container so the cubes can lay in an even layer.
- In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons soy sauce with 2 tablespoons cornstarch. Whisk to combine and then pour over tofu. Gently flip cubes to make sure all sides are covered in marinade. Allow to sit while you make the sauce.
- In a medium bowl, combine remaining 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup water, remaining 1 tablespoon cornstarch, vinegar, sherry, brown sugar and Sambal (use 3 teaspoons if you like it really spicy*). Whisk to combine.
- Heat 2 tablespoons sesame oil in a large deep skillet or wok over medium heat. Carefully add the tofu (the oil may splatter).
- Fry the tofu for 8-10 minutes, flipping every minute or so to brown all sides. Transfer to a plate.
- Add remaining teaspoon of sesame oil to the pan then the add ginger, garlic and scallion whites. Sauté 30 seconds.
- Increase heat to high and add the zucchini and peppers. Cook 3 to 4 minutes, stirring until slightly cooked, then add the tofu and sauce.
- Cook, stirring often, to combine, for 2 to 4 minutes until thickened.
- To serve sprinkle peanuts and scallion greens on top and serve immediately.