This vegan & gluten-free Kung Pao Tofu is made with crispy tofu, stir-fried veggies, and a tangy kung pao sauce. It's truly the most delicious tofu stir fry that can be whipped up in just 40 minutes!
If you loved my Black Pepper Tofu Stir Fry or my Tofu Lo Mein then you are going to love this Vegan Kung Pao Tofu recipe.
This recipe combines the same pan-fried crispy tofu you love with a sweet & tangy sauce, stir-fried peppers, and a little kick of spice!
Ingredient & substitution notes:
- Black Vinegar: This is the Black Vinegar I use in many of my Asian recipes. If you can't find any, you can replace it with rice wine vinegar for similar results.
- Dark Soy Sauce: This is the Dark Soy Sauce I use. Dark Soy sauce has a slightly sweeter flavor than light soy sauce (which tastes saltier) and it is what gives the sauce its gorgeous dark color. However, it can be replaced with 1 Tablespoon of soy sauce+ 1 teaspoon of fancy molasses (not blackstrap) for similar results.
- Toasted Peanuts: Can also be substituted 1:1 with roasted cashews or omitted completely if you want to make this recipe nut-free.
- Sichuan peppercorns: I used these Sichuan peppercorns and ground them before using. They add a slight citrus flavor and numbing effect to this dish but can be omitted if you do not like the flavor.
- Dried Chili Peppers: Here are the dried chili peppers I used. They are milder in flavor, so I used 8-10 peppers cut in half to release as much spice as possible. However, feel free to adjust the spice level to your desired level by adding more or less!
- If you want spice without using dried chili peppers, you can add chili oil to the sauce or sriracha to the kung pao sauce.
How to make kung pao tofu:
Saute tofu until crispy
The first trick to crispy pan-fried tofu? Always press tofu to remove excess moisture!
The second trick? Always coat the tofu in cornstarch before cooking! I also decided to season the tofu in this recipe with a little bit of white pepper and salt before cooking, but that is totally optional.
Pan-frying tofu until crispy will take about 15 minutes and is the majority of the cooking time needed for this dish.
Make vegan kung pao sauce
While the tofu is cooking, make the stir fry sauce by adding the light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, black vinegar, brown sugar, cornstarch, and water to a bowl. Whisk until smooth and set aside for later.
Saute veggies and aromatics
Remove the tofu from the saute pan and set it aside. Then, add the red pepper, green pepper, dried chili peppers, garlic, and ground Sichuan peppercorns to the wok.
Saute on high heat for about 5 minutes until the peppers start to brown and crisp and the garlic becomes fragrant.
Add tofu & sauce
Next, add the crispy tofu and kung pao sauce to the wok full of veggies. Cook everything together for another 2-3 minutes until the sauce thickens. The sauce will start off thin but will thicken once heated because of the cornstarch.
Finish with scallions & toasted peanuts
As a final step, add in the chopped scallions and toasted peanuts and saute everything together for another 1-2 minutes. Then, remove from the heat and serve over a bowl of freshly cooked rice!
FAQ & Tips:
Can you eat dried chili peppers?
I honestly don't eat them even though they are edible. They add a ton of flavor and a bit of heat to this dish, but aren't the best texture compared to the rest of the dish.
How do I store kung pao tofu?
Leftovers can be stored in a closed container in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.
Can I use different vegetables in this vegan stir fry?
Definitely! While I choose to use red and green peppers, you could totally substitute green beans, mushrooms, boy choy, broccoli, or any vegetable you would like. Just keep in mind that cooking time may vary depending on the vegetable you use.
I can't wait for you to try this Vegan Kung Pao Tofu! It's the newest addition to a list of delicious SGTO tofu recipes that not only taste good, but are packed with protein too. Enjoy!
More vegan tofu recipes you will love:
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Vegan Kung Pao Tofu
- 1 Tablespoon sesame oil or other cooking oil
- 14 ounces extra-firm/firm tofu
- 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper optional
- salt to taste optional, I use about ½ teaspoon
Kung Pao Sauce
- 3 Tablespoons soy sauce
- 3 Tablespoons water
- 1 ½ Tablespoons black vinegar
- 1 ½ Tablespoons brown sugar or any sugar
- 1 Tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
Veggies & Aromatics
- 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 small red pepper, diced or ½ large
- 1 small green pepper, diced or ½ large
- 5 cloves garlic finely sliced or chopped
- 8-10 dried chili peppers cut in half (optional, for heat)
- ¼ teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns optional
- 3 scallions chopped
- ¼ cup toasted peanuts optional
- First, prep the tofu by removing it from the package, cutting in half, and pressing it between two towels or paper towels to remove excess moisture. While the tofu is pressing, prep the veggies by chopping the red pepper, green pepper, and garlic.
- Once the tofu is pressed, cut it into 1-inch cubes and add it to a bowl. Add in the cornstarch, white pepper, and salt to your liking. Then toss together until the tofu is completely coated in cornstarch.
- Add 1 Tablespoon of sesame oil to a wok and turn on the heat. Once the oil is hot, add in the tofu. Cook the tofu on medium/high heat for about 15 minutes until it is crispy on the outside. Once it is done cooking, remove from the wok and set aside.
- While the tofu is cooking, make the kung pao sauce. Add the soy sauce, water, black vinegar, brown sugar, dark soy sauce, and cornstarch to a bowl. Whisk together and set aside.
- Add the additional 1 Tablespoon of sesame oil to the wok and turn to high heat. Then, add in the chopped green peppers, red peppers, garlic, ground Sichuan peppercorn, and dried red chili peppers. Cook in the oil for about 5 minutes until the peppers are beginning to brown and the garlic is fragrant.
- Add the crispy tofu and kung pao sauce to the wok. Cook with the veggies for another 2 minutes until the sauce begins to thicken.
- Finish by adding in the chopped scallions and toasted peanuts and cooking everything together for another 1-2 minutes. Then, serve over rice and enjoy!
- Please see the blog post for substitution ideas under ingredients & substitutions.
- Leftovers can be stored in a closed container in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.
- For even crispier tofu, you can freeze it. Here's a good guide on how to freeze & cook with frozen tofu.
- For more heat, feel free to add chili oil or sriracha to the kung pao sauce.
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