Kung Pao Tofu

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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, a lighter (and vegetarian) take on one of my favorite Chinese takeout dishes!
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 you should also try this quick and easy 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!

Kung Pao Tofu in a large wok.

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.

How to stir fry extra firm tofuHow to stir fry extra firm tofuMarinating tofu before stir frying.Stir fried tofu for Kung PaoKung Pao Tofu, a lighter (and vegetarian) take on one of my favorite Chinese takeout dishes!

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Kung Pao Tofu, a lighter (and vegetarian) take on one of my favorite Chinese takeout dishes!
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4.64 from 25 votes
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Kung Pao Tofu

6
8
6
SP
244 Cals 12 Protein 21 Carbs 12.5 Fats
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins
Total Time: 40 mins
Yield: 4 servings
COURSE: Dinner
CUISINE: Asian, Chinese
Kung Pao Tofu, a lighter (and vegetarian) take on one of my favorite Chinese takeout dishes!

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.

Nutrition

Serving: 11/2 cups, Calories: 244kcal, Carbohydrates: 21g, Protein: 12g, Fat: 12.5g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Sodium: 938mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 9g
Blue Smart Points: 6
Green Smart Points: 8
Purple Smart Points: 6
Keywords: asian tofu, kung pao, sauce for tofu, tofu stir fry chinese, vegetarian tofu recipes

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65 comments

  1. Long time patron (have some cookbooks as well). I’m half Chinese and wanted to point out that this recipe is very similar to what I grew up with, there’s nothing particularly ‘lightened’ about it–the pre-roll story of this recipe mostly drips with anglo-racism toward Asian foods.

    For some reason people have the perception that take-out is unhealthy (maybe some of the deep-fried add-ons that are popular in America), but at its base stir-fries you get are usually not much more than a vegetable oil, veggies, protein, and a starch-based thickener.

    Gina! Please take a moment when writing your posts to double check biases–there is a somewhat long history of white people “cleaning up” Chinese food; it is erasure and ridiculous when this recipe could have come from my mom.

  2. I have 2 questions.  1.  What can I substitute for the sherry?  2.  What do the asterisks in the list of ingredients signify?  

    I look forward to trying this recipe!

  3. Can this be done in an air fryer instead? If so, what temperature and time would you recommend.

  4. I was new to tofu. I’ve bought it before and then toss it before actually using. I made this on a day that my husband was working. It was very good. My cooked tofu doesn’t actually look like the picture. But that’s OK.

  5. Added a crown of broccoli to one red pepper and two small zucchini., and 1/2 cup scallions, and a couple teaspoons sesame seeds. Really liked the tofu and I baked it on parchment rather then stir frying it, at 400 (after marinating in the low sodium soy sauce and cornstarch and I did add 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil.) It turned out wonderfully and I could have eaten the whole lot just like that without anything else on it. I roasted the veggies in the oven on baking sheets rather then trying to stir frying, since oven already on and it is easy to do. I made the soy sauce rice vinegar etc marinade with addition of 1/2 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice on the stove top. Instead of tossing all the roasted veggies and tofu with all the sauce, I just added about 1/4 cup sauce to the finished veggies in a large bowl, and then husband able to add more sauce to his portions as desired, so a lot of extra sauce available. I did that as I am not fond of any type of Asian sauce–or rarely am, so that way it was not overwhelming amount of it in veggies and tofu. Husband loved sauce. (I did use an extra firm tofu silken ( Mori-nu) at 45 calorie per 1/4 serving.–worked great–did press out moisture as directed for a good hour or so)

  6. Wow! This was really good! In the past, I’ve not been a huge tofu fan but thus this recipe changed my mind. The tofu was great, the sauce was just right, veggies came out excellent and the peanut topped it all off. This will be one of my favorites.

  7. This was great. I really enjoyed the spice. I added cauliflower and peas to mine because I didn’t have tofu on hand. Wonderful, easy recipe. Highly recommend.

  8. I do not have alcohol in my home so what would be a good substitute for the sherry?

    • I omitted the sherry and the meal turned out fine. I’ve made this meal numerous times over the past year and have enjoyed it!

  9. I would like to try cooking the tofu in the air fryer. However, I’m not sure what temperature to use or how long to cook it. Does anyone have any suggestions? Thank you for your help! I’m looking forward to trying this recipe!

  10. This tasted nothing like Kung Pao. I felt like it was way too vinegar based where normally it’s the perfect combo of sweet and spicy. :/

  11. Great recipe! Sauce is amazing! I did have to make some substitutions based on what we had on hand and personal preference. Was out of cornstarch so used flour instead – cornstarch would for sure have added that extra “crisp” though. I did put the tofu in the air fryer vs sautéing. Used one zucchini and then a head of broccoli. Did not have sherry so added a splash of white wine instead. Added some mushrooms that needed to be used up as well. Love the versatility and will definitely be making this recipe again! 

  12. Delicious! Had to make a couple substitutions because of what I had in my house, but it was still tasty. I used broccoli instead of zucchini (which, honestly, I think I prefer!), and I didn’t have sherry so I used brandy (this was questionable, but luckily it still turned out. I am looking forward to making it with sherry like it’s supposed to be! ha!). Was filling and lots of different textures.

  13. Made this last night and added shrimp and used curry paste instead of chili paste
    DELICIOUS!!!
    My family LOVED it! Will definitely make it again!

  14. This is a delicious recipe. I was hesitant at first because I don’t cook with tofu often, but the directions to sponge it dry and then let it marinate in the cornstarch and soy sauce mixture really helped it to crisp up nicely. This is an easy and yummy recipe. Thank you for sharing!

  15. I’ve made this two times now, love it! Second time I air fried the tofu and it was perfect! Less messy too

  16. I thought this was quite delicious, but husband thought it lacked flavor because he likes very spicy. More chili paste next time! We are restricted in our sodium intake, so I cut the soy sauce in half, even though I use a lower sodium gluten free soy sauce. Maybe I cut it too much! His bias against tofu is strong, but since we cut our meat consumption, including chicken, his cholesterol went from 230 to 208. I gave him a bottle of garlic chili sauce.

  17. I’ve made this recipe twice, and it’s delicious, but my tofu always gets stuck in the pan and I have to scrape it to flip it. It ends up not being crispy because the cooked edge of the tofu remains stuck on the pan. I’ve tried with more oil and less, neither made a difference. Please help!

    • I’ve found it easier to bake tofu and then toss the hot tofu in the marinade. It makes for very crispy tofu with a more meat-like texture. Make sure it’s extra-firm, press it with a towel to remove as much of the water as possible, cut into cubes, and bake at 425 for about 25-30 minutes. toss immediately with a bit of sauce.

    • And no cornstarch.

  18. Pretty tasty recipe, so good I made it twice. On the second attempt I subbed out 1/2tsp xanthan gum for the 1 tbs cornstarch and it tasted a lot better with the same consistency (and marginally fewer calories). 4 stars with the substitution.

  19. Made this for dinner and it was such a hit. Definitely adding this to the menu rotation. 

  20. Hi!

    Do the points for this include the rice pictured ? The 6 seems high for just tofu and marinade but I’m not sure.

    Thanks

  21. My husband said this is one of best meals I’ve ever made (and he usually likes my cooking), and I would have to agree! My 6 year old daughter did a lot of the vegetable prep for me, and it came together so quickly! Definitely recommend having everything chopped and sauce mixed prior to starting the cooking. 

  22. What a great recipe. Key is prepping everything first.
    I think I let my tofu sit in the marinade too long. It stuck to the bottom of the pot and never really became crispy, good flavor..just not crispy.
    I also used asparagus instead of zucchini, because that is what I had on hand, yummy and nice green color!
    For those who like it spicy but not burning I mistakenly but in 2 T of Sambal Oelek before I realized it was 2 t.–yikes!! But it was very good!
    I’ll make this again and play around w/veggies on hand.

  23. This was great! My husband and I both thoroughly enjoyed; such a nice crispy texture to the tofu. The sauce was delightful with the right amount of spice. We served this over cauliflower rice for a no point bulker. Thank you!

  24. My 15 year old made this on Friday night. We added a package of pea pods to amp up the veggies and make sure there was a veggie his little brother would like. 3 out of 4 of us loved it, there were no leftovers!

  25. Thank you for the tofu recipe! Would love to see more. This is a really versatile recipe. Could easily swap out the tofu for another protein. 

  26. I really enjoyed this recipe! Easy to make. The spice was just right with the two tsp of Sambal. I wasn’t brave enough for 3.. lol. If you are new to cooking (like me) I highly suggest prepping your ingredients prior to turning on the stove. 🙂 Once you get going this dish comes together fast. This dish is going into our families rotation.

    • *family’s…. I got excited to share!

      • For some reason when I mixed the corn starch and liquid aminos it got hard and I could hardly mix it. I had to just use the soy sauce for the remaining tofu. It still turned out good though! 

        Do you know why this happened for the next time I make? 

        Thanks so much,

  27. We swapped in chicken, but this is delicious!!! We did 2 tsp of the sambal and we love spicy food…so maybe just do one if you aren’t crazy about heat. The sauce is awesome, the veggies were soft, and the peanuts added the perfect texture. Will definitely make again!

  28. I made this tonight. Followed the recipe exactly. It was amazing! Husband loved it! I will make this again and again! Could sub lots of different veggies (though I loved these ones) and could sub shrimp or chicken for the tofu (but we LOVED the tofu). Thanks Gina!

  29. I am a serious Skinnytaste follower and this has to be one of my all-time favorites! So yummy! Will definitely be making this again!

  30. What could I use in place of the Sambal Oelek? I’ve never heard of it and guessing my tiny country grocery will not carry it. Could I use sriracha? That I have. I’m not a fan of tofu so going to try with chicken.

  31. I’m a die hard skinnytaste follower and this one was phenomenal! The sauce was so so so good we licked our plates! I subbed broccoli for zucchini as we eat a TON of zucchini and wanted something different.
    Cannot recommend this enough!!!

  32. This was so good! It really was like eating from a restaurant. We served over brown rice and everyone loved it. Definite keeper.

  33. Made this tonight. I haven’t done much cooking with tofu, and I’m fairly inexperienced with Chinese inspired meals, but I’m trying to add more vegetarian meals into my weekly rotation, and I thought Id give this a shot.

    I followed the recipe exactly, and it turned out AMAZING. I couldn’t be happier. with the results. I paired it with your Spicy Shrimp Fried Rice that I had leftover from last night, and the whole meal was a big hit with my family.

    I love all your recipes, but this one was the first that inspired me to write a review. Really good, thank you.

  34. I love this!! Could you tell me if the calories include the rice and how many servings this makes? Thanks so much!!

    • The calories don’t include the rice as it is not listed in the ingredients. The serving size is listed below the prep/cook/total time, and it is 4 servings.

  35. Is is accurate that you need 12 inches of ginger ?

  36. Oh my gosh! I have loved every recipe so far and am so excited to cook Chinese food! I will be making your Kung Pao, Chicken Broccoli and Orange Chicken. I freeze meals. One of my favorites is General Tso…do you have a recipe for it? My go-to restaurant is always Chinese, but haven’t eaten it for 6 months. Thank you Gina!

  37. This looks amazing! I can’t wait to try. Is there anything I could sub for the dry sherry?

    • Similar question…assume you are using the alcohol dry sherry and not the grocery store “cooking sherry” that has a ton of salt? Thanks!

  38. I love your recipes and recently switched to 90% plant based so so happy to see this recipe of yours to try

  39. I’ve been looking for a good asian tofu recipe for a while, this looks amazing! Thanks for the share!

  40. I’m excited to try this recipe – do the points include the rice?

    • There is no rice in this recipe – maybe you read “rice vinegar”? Of course, you can add rice but count extra points. I believe 3 blue points for 1/2 cup. 1 and 1/2 cups of the Kung pao tofu and 1/2 cup rice would be a portion and it will cost you 9 points. If you prefer not to have the extra points for just a 1/2 cup of rice, try cauliflower rice. Or just have more of the Kung pao and no carbs. I can’t wait to try this but I will probably switch to chicken instead of tofu since my husband won’t eat the tofu.

  41. What is a good substitute for dry sherry? Thank you.

  42. Can you substitute the sherry for anything else?

  43. I haven’t made this yet (obviously since it was just posted), but I almost jumped for joy when I saw it. I LOVE Kung Pao Tofu, and I know it’s so unhealthy to order – so I haven’t had it in years. I can’t wait to try this recipe! Thank you, Gina!