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Kung Pao Tofu

Kung Pao Tofu with bell peppers, zucchini, onions, tofu, peanuts, and magical spicy sauce you can make at home, no need for takeout! The best part, this vegan stir fry is ready in under 30 minutes.

top down view of a serving of kung pao tofu and rice in a bowl with things surrounding.

Dinner is on with this vegan Kung Pao Tofu recipe loaded with protein-packed tofu and a variety of colorful, chunky vegetables for a highly addicting meal!

This is my vegan version of American-Chinese Kung Pao Chicken and I think you’re going to love it. It’s a fabulous combination of salty, sweet, sour and spicy using everyday plant-based whole foods!

For those who love Chinese cuisine and want to make it at home instead of ordering takeout, you will love this mix of flavorful tofu and crunchy veggies tossed in a spicy sauce – but you control the heat!

Plus, it’s pretty much foolproof and can easily be customized to suit your taste!

top down view of ingredients used to make healthy kung pao tofu recipe.

Ingredients You’ll Need

In this recipe, tofu is pan-fried, and veggies, peppers, and spices are stir-fried in a delicious sauce, creating a mouth-watering and tasty vegan stir fry.

Here’s a quick rundown of everything you’ll need. Plus, ideas and tips for ingredient substitutions.

  • Tofu – Use super-firm, extra-firm tofu or firm, organic preferred. My favorite for this recipe is super-firm high protein tofu with its ‘meaty’ texture. Plus, it doesn’t need to be pressed.
  • Veggies – The recipe includes a mix of bell peppers, onions, and zucchini. I love this variety, but you can change it up however you like.
  • Ginger & Garlic – Fresh is best! For convenience, try using packaged, pre-minced garlic or ginger (even a paste is great). Use 1 tablespoon each (make it a heaping tablespoon for extra flavor).
  • Tamari – Soy sauce, coconut aminos, or namu shoyu will also work. You may need to adjust for flavor as these all have different levels of saltiness.
  • Oil – This recipe uses two types of oils. Toasted sesame oil adds a wonderfully distinct nutty and toasted flavor, while regular oil (sesame, canola, or olive oil) is used for stir-frying.
  • Rice Vinegar – Adds a pop of brightness. Unseasoned is preferred, but if using seasoned you may need to adjust for flavor.
  • Pure Maple Syrup – Adds a touch of sweetness to the stir-fry sauce, feel free to adjust the amount.
  • Cornstarch – Used to thicken the sauce, organic cornstarch (affiliate link) is preferred. You can use arrowroot or tapioca flour instead.
  • Spices – Just black pepper and red pepper flakes are all the spices used. Adjust both to suit your taste.
  • Peppers – You can find dried red chili peppers in Asian markets or at your local grocery store in the Latin section (chiles arbol). We’ll use them whole and add them early in the stir-fry process. If you have Szechuan peppercorns on hand, add up to 1 tablespoon ground with mortar.
  • Peanuts – This nut is a common ingredient in kung pao tofu, adding texture and protein. Cashews can also be used. If you have nut allergies, omit them.
side by side photos showing the process of making crispy tofu.

How To Make Kung Pao Tofu

(Note – The full printable recipe is at the bottom of this post)

  • 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 liquid ingredients.
  • Add cornstarch slurry until the sauce thickens.
  • Add peanuts.
  • Serve with rice (white or brown) or quinoa and garnish with green onions.

Do you eat dried Sichuan chili peppers?

No. Dried sichuan peppers are not meant to be eaten, even after cooking, as they are added just for their flavor and aroma. Plus, they do add a nice pop of color. Simply pick them out or eat around them, but do leave them in with the leftovers as the flavors will enhance even more.

Can I Make This Recipe Oil-Free?

Yes, but I must say that the toasted sesame oil is so scrumptious in this kung pao tofu recipe and is really a noticeable ingredient. With that said, you can make this oil-free by using a water saute or vegetable broth in place of oil when stir-frying. Also, omit the oil in the marinade and sauce.

top down view of freshly made kung pao tofu in a wok.

How To Store Leftovers

  • Refrigerator: Leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, in covered containers. This stir-fry is great for weekly meal prep too, using these handy glass storage containers (affiliate link).
  • Freezer: Once it has fully cooled, you can freeze it by storing it in an airtight container or freezer bag. You can store it in the freezer for up to 2 months. Let it thaw before reheating.
  • 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.
top down view of a serving of kung pao tofu and rice in a bowl with things surrounding.

More Asian-INspired Recipes!

If you make this vegan stir fry recipe, please let me know! Leave a comment and rate it below. I love to hear what you think, or any changes you make.



5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 4 reviews

Quick, healthy and so easy to make, Kung Pao Tofu is loaded with veggies and full of flavor!

  • Author: Julie | The Simple Veganista
  • Prep Time: 10 min
  • Cook Time: 15 min
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4
  • Category: Entree
  • Method: marinate, stir fry
  • Cuisine: Vegan, Asian


  • 1 block (14 – 16oz.) tofu, super firm, extra firm or firm (organic pref.)
  • 5 tablespoons tamari, soy sauce or coconut aminos, divided
  • 1 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons dark sesame oil (toasted), divided
  • 2 tablespoons regular oil (sesame or olive oil), divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1012 dried red chilies (see notes)
  • 1 small white onion, diced 3/4 inch
  • 2 bell peppers, red and green, cored and diced 3/4-inch
  • 1 zucchini, quartered and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 inch knob ginger, minced
  • 2 teaspoons organic cornstarch (or arrowroot or tapioca powder)
  • 1/4 cup roasted peanuts (unsalted)
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced


Prep the tofu: Place the 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 3/4 inch cubes.

Marinate the tofu: Add 2 tablespoons tamari, 2 teaspoons dark sesame oil, black pepper and red pepper flakes to a medium-sized bowl, add tofu and gently fold together until tofu is coated. Let tofu marinate while preparing the other ingredients.

Stir-fry sauce: To make the sauce, whisk together 3 tablespoons water, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 3 tablespoons rice vinegar, 3 tablespoons maple syrup, and 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil in a small-medium bowl.

Brown tofu: Heat 1 tablespoon regular 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.

Stir-fry veggies: Turn heat down to medium and add 1 tablespoon regular oil. Add red chili peppers, stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the onion and stir-fry 1 minute. Add bell peppers and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add zucchini, garlic, ginger, and cook for 1 minute.

Add tofu & sauce: Add the tofu back to the pan. Add the sauce to the pan and allow to heat and bubble, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Add slurry mix: Make a cornstarch slurry by mixing together 2 teaspoons cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water. Add to the pan, stirring to combine, continue stirring until the sauce is thickened, about 1 minute.

Serve: Serve with rice or quinoa. Garnish kung pao tofu with peanuts and sliced green onions.

Serves 4 – 6

Store: Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.


For convenience, try using packaged, pre-minced garlic or ginger, even a paste is great, use 1 tablespoon each (make it a heaping tablespoon for extra flavor).

Red Chili Peppers: You can find dried red chili peppers in Asian markets or use the ‘chilies de arbol’ found in the Latin section of your local grocery store. Use whole (like I do), or cut them in half and remove the seeds. Use as many as you like for flavor. Do not eat them.

Nut allergies: If you have nut allergies, omit the peanuts.

Oil free: You can make this oil-free by using a water saute or using vegetable broth in place of oil when stir-frying. Omit the oil in the marinade and sauce.

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  1. This recipe is soooo good! My grocery store didn’t have any red chiles (not even chiles de arbol) but I just added extra crushed red pepper and it was totally fine. I bough fresh ginger for the first time to make this recipe, and not sure if it was worth it to me (I would be willing to try a dried ginger powder next time to save money). I also had some frozen stir fry veggies so I supplemented the fresh veg your recipe calls for with the frozen. Honestly this is one of the meals I’m proudest of putting together, even if I just followed your recipe. Thanks for putting such good stuff on your site for us to find

  2. Delicious; make it all the time

  3. This was delicious! I’ve been trying to diet and eat healthier and this hit the craving for Chinese food. I’m Asian and I found it to be a little too sweet for me and strong on ginger. Next time I’ll cut the maple syrup in half and ginger too. Thank you for sharing!

  4. super tasty – we loved it!

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