This Kung Pao tofu is made with chunks of gingery baked tofu tossed with stir fried veggies and peanuts in spicy sauce. An easy Chinese-inspired vegan dinner that's better than takeout and easy enough for a weeknight!
There was a time when I ate at Chinese vegetarian restaurants constantly. I loved those places! Most of them have a full menu that looks like a normal Chinese restaurant menu, but every item is totally meatless.
The kung pao tofu was my favorite! Unlike many of the dishes that were made with fried tofu, this dish used baked tofu. It was awesome! Baked tofu is delicious, and perfect with the finely diced and stir-fried veggies and crispy peanuts you find in any Kung Pao dish.
So I when I went and decided to create my own Kung Pao tofu recipe, I marinated and baked my tofu. That was a great decision! This loads the tofu with flavor, and when you pair it up with crispy stir-fried veggies and drench it in sauce you've got one delicious meal. This dish is scrumptious and perfect for everything from weeknight dinners to date nights!
Ingredients You'll Need
- Shaoxing wine or dry sherry. Using either of these ingredients will add lots of flavor to your baked tofu and sauce, but feel free to substitute vegetable broth or water if you prefer.
- Soy sauce. Substitute gluten-free tamari if you'd like.
- Maple syrup. You can substitute with another liquid sweetener, such as agave.
- Toasted sesame oil. Look for this in the international foods section of your supermarket.
- Tofu. Extra-firm works best for this recipe. It has the best texture and is great at absorbing marinade. You'll need to press it before cooking.
- Rice vinegar. You can use another variety of vinegar, such as white vinegar, if that's what you've got on hand.
- Hoisin sauce. You can find this in the international foods sections of most supermarkets.
- Sambal oelek. Another ingredient to look for in the international aisle! Feel free to substitute sriracha or another hot sauce, or leave it out for a milder version of the dish.
- Canola oil. Just about any high-heat oil can be substituted. Peanut oil, vegetable oil, and corn oil are all fine choices.
- Scallions. Also known as green onions.
- Dried chile peppers. You can also find these in Asian markets, or, if you're lucky, at your regular grocery store (another item from the international aisle). Leave them out if you'd like to reduce the heat in this dish.
- Bell peppers. Any color will work! I used red and green, but orange and yellow also work, in any combination.
- Baby corn. Fresh baby corn is ideal, but canned can be substituted if fresh isn't available. Simply add it with the sauce instead of with the peppers, since it won't require as much cooking time
- Peanuts. Buy ones that are roasted and salted.
- Cooked rice. Serve your kung pao tofu over this. Feel free to use your favorite variety — I'm a big fan of jasmine rice.
Tip: Tip: Feel free to use your favorite stir-fry veggies in place of the peppers and baby corn, keeping in mind that harder veggies may take a bit more time to cook, while softer veggies will cook faster. Broccoli, carrots, snow peas, and cabbage are all great options!
How It's Made
The following is a detailed photo tutorial on how to make this dish. Scroll all the way down if you'd like to skip right to the recipe!
Bake the Tofu
- Stir the tofu marinade ingredients together: Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, maple syrup, sesame oil, and ginger.
- Place diced tofu in a shallow dish and pour the marinade over it. Give everything a gentle stir and let it marinade for 30 minutes to 12 hours.
- Be sure to cover and chill it if marinating longer than 2 hours.
Tip: Although marinating the tofu is recommend, you can certainly skip this step if you're short on time.
- Arrange your tofu on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake it until the pieces shrink up and become very firm. Flip them about halfway through.
Tip: To save time the day of serving, you can prepare the tofu a day or two in advance. Store it in a sealed container in the fridge, and warm it up a bit before adding it to your stir-fry.
Make the Stir-Fry
Once your tofu has baked, you can move on to this step.
- As with any stir-fry, prep your veggies and mix up your sauce first. You'll also want to slice open your chiles (or cut them in half) and remove the seeds. Things will move pretty quickly once you start cooking!
- Heat up some oil in a skillet or wok and start cooking your aromatics: ginger, garlic, scallions (just the white parts) and dried chile peppers. Within less than a minute, the garlic and ginger should become very fragrant and your peppers should darken up a bit. Use medium heat at this point.
- Crank up the heat and get ready to stir-fry. Add diced bell pepper and baby corn. Cook your veggies just until they become tender-crisp, stirring them constantly with a spatula. This should only take a couple of minutes.
Tip: A good quality wok is generally the best vessel for stir-frying. I recommend using a carbon steel wok like this one. Otherwise, a large nonstick skillet (such as a cast iron one) will do.
- Add your baked tofu to the wok, along with the peanuts. Carefully pour the sauce in.
- Continue to stir-fry everything for about a minute, just until the sauce thickens up.
Note: Always be super careful when pouring sauce into a hot cooking vessel, particularly when the sauce contains alcohol (which is flammable).
- Top your kung pao tofu with the green parts of your scallions and serve it with rice.
Leftovers & Storage
Leftover kung pao tofu will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for about 3 days, or in the freezer for about 3 months.
Frequently Asked Questions
It is if you use gluten-free tamari in place of soy sauce.
This dish is meant to be on the spicy side. If you prefer a milder version or just want more control over the heat level, try skipping the dried chili peppers, or just removing the seeds (where most of the heat is). You can also adjust the amount of sambal oelek, and if you're not sure how much to use, add it at the end, just a bit at a time.
More Chinese-Inspired Vegan Recipes
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Kung Pao Tofu
This Kung Pao tofu is made with chunks of gingery baked tofu tossed with stir fried veggies and peanuts in spicy sauce. An easy vegan dinner that's better than takeout and easy enough for a weeknight!
For the Baked Tofu
- 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine or dry sherry (substitute water or vegetable broth for a non-alcoholic version)
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
- 1 (14 ounce or 400 gram) package extra firm tofu, drained, pressed for at least 15 minutes, and cut into ½ inch cubes
For the Kung Pao Sauce
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine or sherry (omit for an alcohol-free version)
- 1 tablespoon sambal oelek, or to taste, optional
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
For the Stir-Fry
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
- 3 scallions, chopped, white and green parts separated
- 5-10 dried chile peppers, sliced open and seeds removed
- 2 bell peppers, any color, diced (½ inch)
- 2 cups fresh baby corn, cut into 1 inch sections
- ½ cup roasted and salted peanuts
- Cooked rice
To Make the Baked Tofu
Stir the wine, soy sauce or tamari, maple syrup, sesame oil and ginger together in a shallow dish. Add the tofu and gently stir the tofu to coat it with sauce.
If you have the time, allow the tofu to marinate for 30 minutes or up to 12 hours (Note 1). If you don't have time, don't worry about it!
Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange the tofu cubes in an even layer on the baking sheet.
Bake the tofu for 30-35 minutes, until the pieces have darkened and shrunken a bit, flipping them halfway through.
Make the Stir-Fry
Whisk all ingredients for the sauce together in a small bowl.
Coat the bottom of a large wok or skillet with the oil and place it over high heat.
Give the oil a minute to heat up, then add the garlic, ginger, white parts of scallions, and dried chili peppers to the pan.
Stir-fry the ingredients until the garlic and ginger become fragrant and the chili peppers darken a bit, about 1 minute.
Add the bell peppers and baby corn. Stir-fry the veggies until they're tender-crisp, about 3 minutes.
Lower the heat a bit, then carefully add the sauce, tofu, and peanuts to the pan (Note 2). Continue to stir-fry just until all of the ingredients are hot and coated with sauce, about 1 minute.
Remove the pan from heat and stir in the green parts of scallions.
Divide onto plates and serve with rice.
- Cover and refrigerate the tofu if marinating it for more than 2 hours.
- Be super careful when adding sauce to a hot wok or skillet and keep in mind that alcohol is flammable. Watch out for sputtering.
- This is meant to be spicy! If you aren't into that, skip the dried chiles and the Asian chili paste. If you aren't sure of just how into that you are, just skip the chiles and add the chili paste at the end, a bit at a time.
- Nutrition information does not include rice.