This kung pao tofu is a lightened-up, vegan take on a classic Chinese take-out dish. It’s spicy, flavorful and paired with roasted cauliflower for extra veggies.
Do you have a staple cuisine that you usually get takeout for? Indian and Chinese are our go-to’s! I just recently started trying to recreate some of our favorite dishes. Of course my versions aren’t super traditional, but they’re still delicious if I do say so myself!
This flavor-packed dish is perfect whether you’re vegetarian, vegan or just want to incorporate more plants in your diet. Add this to your meatless Monday meal rotation!
Kung Pao is a spicy, stir-fried dish traditionally made with chicken, peanuts, veggies and chili peppers. It’s delicious and I personally prefer it over General Tso’s, where the protein is usually breaded and fried.
For this version, we’re using tofu instead of chicken and adding in some roasted cauliflower to amp up the veggies. The texture of the roasted cauliflower with the stir-fried tofu is perfection.
Tips for Cooking with Tofu
I feel like I say this time and time again, but make sure you buy extra firm tofu. Soft or silken tofu doesn’t hold up as well for stir-frying.
Always drain your tofu and then press the excess liquid out before cooking. You can use a tofu press if you have one or simply wrap the tofu block in paper towels or a clean dish towel and set it on a flat surface. Stack a few heavy items on top to press the moisture out. I usually press it for about 15-30 minutes, although longer is great too!
Tofu doesn’t have much flavor on its own and really just takes on the flavor of the dish! For this recipe, we marinate the tofu in the sauce for a bit before cooking to allow it to really absorb the flavor.
Ingredients in Kung Pao Tofu
Here’s what you’ll need to make this dish:
extra firm tofu – this is the main protein source for the recipe and really the star of the show. See my tips for cooking with tofu above.
cauliflower – the roasted cauliflower really takes this dish to the next level. I know roasting feels like another step (and creates more dishes) but it’s worth it! Trust me!
garlic and fresh ginger – fresh garlic and ginger add so much flavor to this dish. Don’t skip these!
kung pao sauce – to make the sauce we’re using a mixture with tomato paste, tamari, rice vinegar, chili sauce, hoisin sauce and sesame oil.
avocado oil – this is a high smoke point oil so it’s great for sautéing and stir-frying.
crushed red pepper – this is what adds some heat to the dish.
salted peanuts – peanuts are a staple in kung pao recipes and I love the crunch they add.
green onions and cilantro – the green onions are cooked into the dish and also added as a garnish on top with cilantro. They add a pop of color and flavor.
cooked rice or cauliflower rice – feel free to use whatever type of rice you have on hand. You could also serve it over quinoa!
sriracha – optional for serving. I personally love drizzling a little sriracha on top for serving.
Substitutions & Notes
Extra-firm tofu – Have I said it enough? Make sure you buy extra-firm tofu for this recipe!
Tamari – Tamari is essentially gluten-free soy sauce. I use this all the time, but feel free to use reduced sodium soy sauce or coconut aminos as a substitute.
Chili sauce – I like using sambal oelek which can be found by other Asian foods and sauces in the grocery store.
How to Make Kung Pao Tofu
Press tofu – Start by pressing your tofu. Use a tofu press or wrap tofu blocks in paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Set it on the countertop and stack a few heavy items on top to press the excess liquid out of the tofu. I usually press it for about 15-30 minutes, although longer is great too!
Prep and cook cauliflower – Cut or break the head of cauliflower into florets. In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower florets with avocado oil and salt. Spread the florets on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes at 400ºF or until cauliflower is golden brown in some spots.
Make the sauce – In a large bowl, whisk together the tomato paste, tamari, rice vinegar, chili sauce, hoisin sauce and sesame oil.
Marinate tofu – Chop the tofu into 1 inch cubes and add to the sauce to begin marinating.
Cook tofu – In a large skillet, sauté the garlic, ginger, green onion (white parts) and crushed red pepper in oil for about a minute. Add the marinated tofu with the sauce and cook for 2-3 minutes or until tofu is warm throughout. Add the roasted cauliflower and chopped peanuts and toss until everything is well coated.
Serve – Remove from the heat, sprinkle with cilantro and scallions and serve over rice of your choice. Top with sriracha for even more heat, if you’d like. Enjoy!
How to Store Leftovers
Store any leftovers in an airtight container. I would store the rice separately from the kung pao tofu. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
To reheat, add the tofu cauliflower mixture to a skillet over medium-low heat and pop the rice in the microwave for a quick heat.
16ouncesextra firm tofu, pressed and chopped into small cubes
1medium head cauliflower, about 4-6 cups
3Tablespoonsavocado oil, divided
1small knob ginger, minced (about 1-2 inches)
½cupchopped green onions, white and greens separated
1/4teaspooncrushed red pepper
3Tablespoonschopped, salted peanuts
1/4cupchopped fresh cilantro
cooked white, brown or cauliflower rice, for serving
sriracha, for serving
3tablespoonslow sodium tamari or soy sauce
3tablespoonschili garlic paste/sauce, I used Sambal Oelek
1 ½Tablespoonshoisin sauce
1teaspoontoasted sesame oil
Preheat oven: Preheat the oven to 400° F and press tofu to remove liquid.
Roast cauliflower: Cut or break the head of cauliflower into florets, discarding the core and stem or saving it for another use. In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower florets with 2 tablespoons avocado oil and ¼ teaspoon salt. Spread the florets on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes or until cauliflower is golden brown in some spots.
Prepare sauce: In a large bowl, whisk together the tamari, rice vinegar, tomato paste, chili sauce, hoisin sauce and sesame oil. Add pressed and chopped tofu into the bowl, toss and marinate in the sauce.
Sauté tofu: When cauliflower has about 5 minutes left, add remaining 1 tablespoon of avocado oil into a large skillet. Once oil is hot, add garlic, ginger, ¼ cup scallions (just the white parts) and crushed red pepper. Sauté until just fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the marinated tofu with its sauce and cook for 2-3 minutes, until tofu is warm throughout.
Add cauliflower: Once cauliflower is done roasting, add roasted cauliflower and chopped peanuts to the pan with the sauce and tofu. Toss until everything is well coated.
Serve: Remove from heat, serve over rice of choice and sprinkle with chopped cilantro and remaining green onions. Top with sriracha for even more heat, if desired.