Ready in under 30 minutes, kung pao tofu is a vegetarian take on a Chinese takeout classic that's super simple to make at home. I've replaced the usual chicken with tofu for a plant-based version that can easily be made vegan and is every bit as tasty as the meat version!
Do you love a good stir fry? I KNOW YOU DO! And HOW do I know this? Well, here are the current top 3 recipes on this site:
So, given we've been reducing our meat consumption in this house for the past few months, I thought it was high time that I bring you some vegetarian stir fry options. For another great option that's also vegan, try this Udon Stir Fry (Yaki Udon)!
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People usually raise an eyebrow when I say this, but it's just the truth: I love tofu. At it's best, it is easily as crave-able as any meat, to me.
My favorite ways to prepare it are to bake or pan fry it like in this recipe or these easy tofu wraps. Cooked this way, it has a great texture. Crisp yet chewy on the outside and soft on the inside.
It easily takes on any flavors you add to it, but since it's bland on its own, it's best paired with bold flavors, which makes it ideal in Asian cooking.
There are plenty of health benefits to eating tofu, which is a product made from condensed and pressed soy milk. It's basically a plant-based cheese. Since soybeans are usually genetically modified, I opt for non-GMO organic tofu, which I find pretty easily in the organic section of my grocery store.
However, it's worth noting that there are some valid environmental concerns about soy farming and tofu production as a replacement for meat. In the end, as in all things, I choose to err on the side of moderation.
Our family eats both meat and tofu, in limited quantities, with an emphasis on plant-based sources of nutrition. We follow something that loosely resembles the Mediterranean diet. Check out the flexitarian/Mediterranean diet category for plenty of inspiration.
You can find tofu in soft, firm or extra firm textures. "Firm" and "extra firm" are best suited for baking and frying.
Now that we know all about tofu, let's learn how to cook it.
Kung Pao Tofu Step-by-Step
- Cut a 1-lb block of tofu into ½ inch cubes. If you have the time, pressing your tofu before using it is always a good idea for optimal texture and flavor absorption!
- Toss the tofu cubes in soy sauce and let it sit while you chop the vegetables.
3. Preheat the oven to 300 F. Chop the red pepper and mince the garlic and ginger. Cut the green onions into 1-inch pieces.
4. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat and cook the tofu, turning occasionally until golden brown and crispy on all sides - about 8-10 minutes. Transfer it to a sheet pan and put in the oven to keep it warm and crispy.
5. In a measuring cup, combine rice vinegar, sesame oil, vegetable broth, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce (or more hoisin sauce to make this vegan), and cornstarch.
6. Return the pan to high heat and add the red peppers. Quickly fry until just slightly softened, about 1 minute. Add the garlic, ginger, and green onions and fry until just fragrant, about 30 seconds.
7. Add the cashews to that pan and cook, stirring, another 30 seconds.
8. Add the sauce mixture to the pan and let it simmer until slightly thickened, another 30 seconds or so.
9. Add the tofu back to the pan and stir to coat.
I love to serve this over white rice, sprinkled with some additional sliced green onions.
How do I Make it vegan?
The only non-vegan ingredient in this dish is the oyster sauce, Just substitute the oyster sauce for more hoisin sauce!
Easy Kung Pao Tofu
- 1 lb firm tofu cut into ½ inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- ⅓ cup cornstarch
Sauce and vegetables
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 2 tablespoon hoisin sauce
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 3 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil
- 1 large red pepper cut into ½ inch pieces
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 teaspoons fresh ginger minced
- 4 medium scallions (green onions) cut into 1 inch pieces
- ½ cup roasted cashews or peanuts
- red pepper flakes to taste
- Preheat the oven to 300 F. In a medium bowl, combine the tofu cubes and soy sauce and marinate for about 10 minutes. Drain and toss the tofu with the cornstarch until evenly coated.
- In a bowl or measuring cup, combine the broth, rice vinegar, sesame oil, oyster sauce, hoisin, and cornstarch.
- Heat the vegetable or peanut oil in a large non stick pan over medium heat. Add the tofu and cook until golden on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove to a sheet pan and transfer to the oven to keep warm and crispy.
- Increase the heat to medium high. Add the red pepper and cook, stirring, until slightly softened, about 1 minute.
- Add the garlic, ginger, and scallions, and cook until fragrant, a few seconds. Add the cashews and red pepper flakes and cook about 30 seconds more.
- Add the broth mixture to the pan and stir until it starts to thicken, about 20 seconds. Add the tofu back to the pan and stir to coat.
- Serve over white rice.