This sweet and spicy vegan kung pao tofu recipe features oven-baked crispy tofu, bell peppers and onions in a flavorful, spicy sauce.

Tofu cubes with chopped pepper and onions in sauce in a wok.

You’ll need just a few simple ingredients to make this Chinese-inspired vegetarian version of kung pao chicken. This makes a yummy weeknight dinner and great way to incorporate tofu into your diet.

Flavor-packed and quick and easy to make, this is a simple but bold dish you’ll love to make again and again!

Serve over rice, topped with crunchy peanuts or cashews for a delicious meal!

Recipe Highlights

  • Vegan (no egg, meat or dairy).
  • Can be gluten-free.
  • Ready in 30 minutes.
  • Good for meal prep.
  • Source of plant-based protein.

Ingredient Notes

A collage of all the ingredients needed for making a vegan kung pao tofu recipe.
  • Tofu: Extra firm tofu is recommended for this recipe though firm tofu can be used if that’s what you have. I did not press the tofu but you can if you like!
  • Soy Sauce: Low sodium soy sauce (light soy sauce) is recommended. For a gluten-free recipe, you can substitute gluten-free tamari or coconut aminos.
  • Coconut Sugar: You can substitute brown sugar.
  • Bell Peppers: I used one red pepper and one green bell pepper but any variety works.
  • Onion: I used red onion but you can substitute white or yellow onion.
  • Sesame Oil: You can use regular or toasted sesame oil, toasted is preferred. This contributes flavor to the dish so I don’t recommend substituting a different oil. For the tofu, you can use olive oil, avocado oil, etc.
  • Rice Vinegar: I used unseasoned rice vinegar.

This list is not complete. Please see the recipe card at the end of the post for the complete ingredient list with measurements and detailed instructions.

Variations

  • For a more traditional source of heat, omit the red pepper flakes from the sauce and add 3-4 whole dried red chilies when you add the garlic and ginger. Remove the chilies before serving. Dried red chilies can be found in a Latin American or Asian grocery store.
  • The tofu can be baked, air fryed or pan-fried. See the Recipe FAQs and notes in the recipe card for how-to.
  • You can swap out the vegetables for broccoli, carrot, bok choy, cauliflower, zucchini, snow peas, baby corn or eggplant. Cooking times will vary. You’ll need a bit longer to cook cauliflower, carrot and eggplant. It’s recommended to only add an additional 1 cup of vegetables.
  • 2-4 tsp red pepper flakes is recommended but you can reduce it to 1 tsp if you’re sensitive to spice. If you don’t like heat at all, I’d suggest a different recipe like my Orange Tofu or Vegan Sweet and Sour Tofu Recipe.
  • This could be made as kung pao chickpeas for an even simpler and soy-free recipe (foys soy-free you’ll need to swap the soy sauce for coconut aminos as well). Omit the tofu. Add 1 19 oz can rinsed chickpeas with the garlic and proceed with the rest of the recipe.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Cubes of tofu tossed in soy sauce in a bowl.

Step 1: Toss the tofu cubes with 1 tsp sesame oil and the soy sauce, cornstarch, pepper and garlic powder.

Baked tofu cubes on a baking sheet.

Step 2: Place the tofu cubes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 425 for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

Sauce with red pepper flakes in it in a measuring cup with a spoon in it.

Step 3: Once the tofu is in the oven, mix all of the sauce ingredients in a small bowl or container.

Garlic and ginger cooking in a wok.

Step 4: When the tofu has just under 10 minutes left, heat the sesame in a large wok, cast iron skillet or non-stick skillet over medium heat and then add the garlic and ginger. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.

Chopped bell pepper and onion cooking in a wok.

Step 5: Add the peppers and onions and stir fry for 3 minutes until tender but still crisp.

Cubes of tofu, bell pepper and onion cooking in a sauce in a wok.

Step 6: Stir the stir fry sauce again and then pour it into the pan cook, bright to a simmer and cook for 1-2 minutes until it starts thickening. Add the baked tofu pieces, mix well and cook another 3-4 minutes until thickened to your liking.

Tofu and bell peppers in a thick sauce over rice in a bowl.

Serve your kung pao tofu over brown or white rice, topped with green onions, sesame seeds and peanuts or cashews.

Recipe FAQs

How long does kung pao tofu keep?

You store kung pao tofu in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat leftovers over medium heat in a skillet or in the microwave until heated through.

Should I press the tofu?

I don’t usually press extra-firm tofu because it doesn’t have a high water content but pressing it will help remove any excess liquid it does have and help improve texture and flavor absorption, if you have the time.

To press the tofu, place the block in a tofu press or between paper towels or a clean kitchen towel and place a heavy object on it for 15-20 minutes.

How spicy is kung pao tofu?

With a full tablespoon of red pepper flakes, the kung pao sauce is quite spicy. I don’t have a very high tolerance for spicy food and I can eat it but it’s definitely hot.

If you’re sensitive to spicy food, reduce the red pepper flakes to 1 tsp.

Can I make the tofu in an air fryer?

Yes. Toss the tofu with the corn starch, soy sauce, garlic powder and black pepper. Preheat the air fryer to 37 5 F. Place the tofu cubes in a single layer in the air fryer basket and air fry 15-20 minutes, flipping half way through until the pieces are golden and cirspy.

Chef’s Notes

  • I prefer baked tofu for the perfect crispy texture but you can pan-fry the tofu if preferred. See recipe notes for how-to.
  • If you prefer the cashews or peanuts softened, add them to the stir fry when you add the sauce instead of using them as a topping.
  • I believe the recipe has the perfect balance between the sauce, tofu, and vegetables; however, if you desire an extra veggies, feel free to incorporate up to an additional cup.
  • This is not an authentic kung pao recipe but my version of the classic Chinese dish.

Did you try this recipe? I’d love to hear about it! Scroll down to the comment section to leave a star rating and review.
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Easy Vegan Kung Pao Tofu

Enjoy a flavorful and satisfying Vegan Kung Pao Tofu Stir-Fry, featuring crispy cubes of tofu tossed, vibrant vegetables and crunchy cashews, all tossed in a sweet and spicy homemade sauce.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Asian
Diet: Vegan
Servings: 4
Calories: 238kcal
Author: Deryn Macey

Ingredients

For the Tofu

  • 1 400 g block extra firm tofu cut into approx. 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 tsp cooking oil of choice
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce 15 mL
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch 10 g
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • pinch of black pepper

For the Stir Fry

  • 2 tsp toasted sesame oil 10 mL
  • 5 cloves garlic minced or grated (15 g)
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger grated (10 g)
  • 1 red bell pepper chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper chopped
  • 1/2 a red onion chopped
  • 1/4 cup peanuts or chopped cashews for serving
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions for serving
  • cooked rice for serving

For the Sauce

  • 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce 125 mL
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar 80 mL
  • 2 tbsp coconut sugar 30 g
  • 1 tbsp crushed chilli flakes*
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch 20 g
  • 2 tbsp water 30 mL

Instructions

  • Prepare: Preheat the oven to 425 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Coat Tofu: Place the cubed tofu in a bowl with the oil, soy sauce, cornstarch, garlic powder and black pepper. Gently mix with a rubber spatula to coat.
  • Bake Tofu: Place the tofu cubes on the baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes until browned and puffy. Note: The tofu can also be pan-fried, see notes, though I prefer the texture of baked.
  • Mix Sauce: Once the tofu is in the oven, mix the sauce ingredients in any container or bowl.
  • Start Stir Fry: When the tofu has just under 10 minutes left, heat the sesame oil in a large wok or non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the bell peppers and onions and cook for 3 minutes, stirring often, until tender but still crisp.
  • Add Sauce and Tofu: Stir the sauce again and pour it into the pan. Bring to a simmer and cook while stirring for 1-2 minutes until it starts thickening. Add the baked tofu cubes, mix well to coat in sauce and cook for another few minutes until thickened to your liking.
  • Serve: Serve the kung pao tofu over rice or with lettuce cups. Top with the crushed cashews and chopped green onions.

Notes

To pan-fry tofu, toss the tofu in the cornstarch, garlic powder, black pepper and soy sauce and pan-fry in 2-3 tsp oil. Cook 6-7 minutes, flipping often until golden brown on all sides. Add the garlic, ginger and peppers, cook 4-5 minutes until the veggies are tender. Add the sauce and stir until thickened. I prefer the texture of baked tofu.
*Use 1-4 tsp chili flakes based on spice preference. I don’t tolerate spicy food that well and 2 tsp is best for me. If you’re sensitive to spice, reduce to 1 tsp. If you love heat, you can increase to 4 tsp. This is meant to be a spicy recipe, so for a good amount of heat for those that enjoy spicy food, 1 tbsp (3 tsp) is recommended. For a more authentic source of heat, omit the red pepper flakes from the sauce and add 3-4 whole dried red chilies with the garlic and ginger. Remove before serving.
Nutrition facts do not include cashews, green onion or rice.

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 238kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 9g | Sodium: 959mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 11g