This Easy Kung Pao Tofu recipe is a plant-based alternative to the classic Chinese Kung Pao Chicken and it relish better than take-out and can be made pretty quickly at home! Cook your tofu until crispy in a pan, make the sauce in a bowl, stir fry the veggies, then add the sauce and peanuts. A delicious and high protein weeknight meal is ready in 30 minutes!
WHAT IS KUNG PAO?
Kung Pao Tofu is a popular Chinese dish and a plant-based alternative to Kung Pao Chicken, a stir-fried Chinese dish made with tofu, peanuts, vegetables, and bell peppers. It has a wonderful flavor that is super addicting! Salty, sweet, sour and spicy.
The classic dish in Sichuan cuisine originated in the Sichuan Province of south-western China.Although the dish is found throughout China, there are regional variations that are typically less spicy than the Sichuan serving. Kung Pao chicken is also a staple of Westernized Chinese cuisine.
What type of tofu to choose?
The best tofu for stir frying is the extra firm kind. If you cannot find this type, medium-firm tofu also works.
HOW DO YOU PRESS TOFU?
Pressing tofu is pretty essential if you are going to pan fry it. If the tofu is full of water, it will be nearly impossible to stir fry even with a lot of oil. Press tofu by wrapping it in paper towels or a clean tea towel and setting something heavy on top of it, like a cast iron pan or a few heavy books. Let it press for about an 15 mins.
HOW TO PAN FRY TOFU SO IT DOESN’T STICK?
Tofu is more delicate than meat, so you have to be gentle with it. If you are new to cooking with tofu, here are my best tips for pan frying it:
- Press your tofu! Dont skip it
- Use some oil while frying it. If you don’t want to use oil than I would bake it like in this recipe.
- Heat the oil in the pan over medium-high heat, then place the tofu in a single layer. Leave them to cook for 2-3 minutes before flipping or moving at all. Then use a thin, flexible spatula to gently flip them around and try to get them golden on all sides.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF TOFU
Tofu is a good source of protein and contains all nine essential amino acids. It is also a valuable plant source of iron and calcium and the minerals manganese and phosphorous. In addition to this, it also contains magnesium, copper, zinc and vitamin B1.
An excellent source of amino acids, iron, calcium and other micronutrients, tofu is a versatile ingredient with many health benefits.
WHAT ARE THE INGREDIENTS YOU’LL NEED?
Here’s a quick rundown of everything you’ll need. Plus, ideas and tips for ingredient substitutions.
- Firm tofu – You need to use firm or extra firm tofu.
- Veggies – The recipe includes a mix of bell peppers and onion. I love this combo, but you can change it up however you like.
- Ginger and Garlic – Fresh is best! For convenience, try using packaged, pre-minced garlic or ginger, even a paste is great, use 1 tbsp each (make it a heaping tbsp for extra flavor).
- Oil – Toasted sesame oil adds a wonderful distinct nutty & toasted flavor. But it’s completely optional and any regular oil (sesame, canola or olive oil) is will work for stir-frying.
- Soy sauce – Tamari, coconut amino’s or namu shoyu will work too. You may need to adjust for flavor as these all have different levels of saltiness. Use tamari if you’re looking for a gluten-free alternative to soy sauce.
- Hot sauce – You may use any hot sauce that you have on hand!
- Rice Vinegar – Adds a pop of brightness. Unseasoned is preferred, but if using seasoned you may need to adjust for flavor.Any other vinegar will do.
- Cornstarch – Used to thicken the sauce. Feel free to use arrowroot or tapioca flour instead.
- Dried red chillies – You can find dried red chili peppers in Asian markets or you can use cayenne powder, fresh chillies, or anything you want to make your Kung Pao Tofu spicy.
- Maple Syrup – Adds a touch of sweetness to the stir fry sauce, feel feel to adjust the amount. Any sweetener will do. Dates are a healthier alternative, but you’ll need to use a blender to make the sauce.
- Peanuts – A common ingredient used in kung pao tofu, adding texture and protein. Cashews can also be used. If you have nut allergies, feel free to omit the peanuts.
- Spring onions – They’re optional. Chives are also a good choice.
- Water – You can also use vegetable stock, but I prefer to use water to reduce the amount of sodium in the recipe.
HOW TO MAKE KUNG PAO TOFU
Here you go for a brief recipe,
- Prep and marinate the tofu.
- Prep the veggies while the tofu marinates.
- Use a wok (or large pan) to brown the tofu surface.
- Set aside tofu.
- Stir-fry the red chili peppers and vegetables.
- Add back tofu and simmer with sweet,tangy sauces and peanuts.
- Serve with rice (white or brown) or quinoa and garnish with peanuts and green onions.
TIPS FOR MAKING THIS RECIPE PERFECTLY
- Use firm or extra-firm tofu. This is important to make sure the tofu comes out crispy!
- Use enough oil to coat the bottom of your pan, so the tofu can pan-fry properly. This is also important for crispy tofu!
- Add any green veggies you love to this recipe. Some chopped broccoli or bok choy can be added it with the onion and peppers.
HOW TO STORE LEFTOVERS
- Refrigerator: Leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, in air-tight containers.
- Freezer: I don’t recommend freezing this recipe.
- Reheat: Leftovers can be warmed on the stovetop over low heat until warmed, or in the microwave using 30 second intervals, stirring between each, until warmed through.
KUNG PAO TOFU RECIPE:
For the Tofu:
16 oz firm tofu, cut into cubes
3 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp pepper powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp hot sauce
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp Maple syrup
2 tsp cornstarch
3 tbsp water
2 tbsp sesame oil
3 dried red chilies
1 tbsp garlic,grated
1 tbsp ginger,grated
1/2 cup red onion , cubed
1/2 cup green pepper, cubed
1/2 cup red pepper, cubed
2-3 stalks green onion, chopped
1/4 cup roasted peanuts, unsalted
Salt to taste.
- Place to block of tofu between a clean dish towel, gently press down on top and along the edges so the towel absorbs the moisture. Cut the tofu into cubes.
- Add cornstrach,garlic powder,onion powder,pepper powder and salt to a medium-sized bowl, add tofu and gently fold together until tofu is coated. Let tofu marinate while preparing the other ingredients.
- To make the sauce, whisk together water, soy sauce, rice vinegar, hot sauce, maple syrup and sesame oil in a small-medium bowl.
- Heat oil in a wok or large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add marinated tofu in a single layer in the pan and cook without moving for 2 – 3 minutes. Stir the tofu and cook for 2 – 3 minutes, stir once again and cook for 2 minutes. Transfer tofu to a plate.
- Turn heat down to medium and add sesame oil. Add dried red chiliies,grated ginger and garlic, saute for a minute. Add cubed onion and bell peppers and stir-fry for 3 minutes.
- Add the tofu back to the pan along with the prepared sauce mixture and allow to heat and bubble, about 1 to 2 minutes.Stir in the peanuts and turn off heat.
- Serve with rice or quinoa. Garnish kung pao tofu with peanuts and sliced green onions.
- Oil Free: Make sure you have a very high quality non-stick pan. Dry the tofu very well before cooking. OR you can bake it in oven.
- Gluten Free: Use gluten free tamari instead of soy sauce and it will be gluten free.
- Tofu Free: Substitute cauliflower florets or tempeh for the tofu.
- Nut allergies: If you have nut allergies, omit the peanuts.
- Store: Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for about 2 days. This dish does not freeze well.
Are you making this recipe? Then don’t forget to like and leave your comments for this recipe! I LOVE to see your creations so snap a photo and tag BlendOfSpicesbySara on Instagram with the hashtag #blendofspicesbysara