Kung Pao Tofu


Kung Pao Tofu

This text and recipe is posted with permission from Spicebox Kitchen by Linda Shiue, MD.

Kung Pao Chicken, a Chinese takeout favorite, originated in Sichuan Province during the Qing Dynasty and is named for the word meaning “palace guardian.”

The original recipe contained only chicken, leeks, and peanuts, seasoned with chiles and Sichuan peppercorn, but the Chinese American version typically has celery and other vegetables as well. In this chickenless vegetarian version, I’ve kept all the spicy, tangy flavor of the original but lightened it up, which actually enhances the flavors.

(A note from Oaktown: With our hearty appetites, this serves 2 as a main dish.)

Serves 4 to 6*



1 (14-ounce) package firm tofu
2 tablespoons canola oil
6 dried red chiles
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
3 scallions, dark green and white parts separated, thinly sliced
1 red serrano chile, sliced
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 cup unsalted, roasted peanuts


2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar or balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Steamed rice, for serving


Drain tofu and wrap in two layers of paper towel. Sandwich wrapped tofu between two cutting boards, place a heavy pot on top, and press for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make Kung Pao sauce: Stir together soy sauce, vinegar, hoisin sauce, and sesame oil in a small bowl and set aside.

Once pressed, slice tofu into bite-size pieces (1/4 x 1 x 2-inch rectangles).

Heat a tablespoon of canola oil in a nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, and swirl to distribute oil evenly on pan. Add sliced tofu and fry, undisturbed, until top and bottom are golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes on each side. Transfer to a plate.

Add dried chiles and peppercorns to pan and cook, tossing, just until fragrant (be careful not to burn), about 30 seconds. Transfer chiles and peppercorns to a plate.

Add remaining tablespoon of oil to pan and increase heat to high. Add white parts of scallions, serrano chile, ginger, and garlic and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Then, add fried tofu and prepared Kung Pao sauce and cook, stirring often, until sauce is fragrant and coats tofu evenly. Add peppercorn mixture and peanuts and stir-fry until well combined, about 1 minute.

Transfer to a serving dish and top with scallion greens. Serve with rice.

*A note from Oaktown: With our hearty appetites, this recipe serves 2 as a main dish.

2 Responses

Lynn J
Lynn J

May 04, 2021

This was a really good dish, and I agree it only fed two of us, with rice and stir fried snow peas

Jonathan Endale
Jonathan Endale

May 04, 2021

This was amazing!! Didn’t have Hoisin sauce so replaced it with half Teriyaki, half vegan Worcester sauce. Really loved the flavor. Be aware that can be pretty spicy but it should be obvious by seeing that it uses serrano chile, dried chiles and the Sichuan peppercorns.
As the note left by Oaktown, this was more for 2 people than for 4-6 like the recipe says if you are intending to use it as a main dish.

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