I first made this deliciously spicy, sweet, savory Kung Pao Tofu last year when I decided to get on board with the Meatless Monday movement and cut out meat once a week.
Did you know that cutting out meat just one day a week can reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease while saving precious resources like fresh water and fossil fuel? Think about it: by reducing your meat consumption by 15%. you not only improve your personal health, but the health of the planet as well AND, it will challenge you to venture into the vegetarian or vegan realm and get creative.
Go to MeatlessMonday.com for more information, recipes, and to find out what health institutions, the media, chefs like Mario Batali, celebs like Oprah, and movers and shakers such as Michael Pollan and Wendy Murdoch (Rupert’s better half) have to say.
How to Make Kung Pao Tofu
Start with Oven-Crisped Tofu
But first, are you ready to put the POW on some tofu? Check out my vegetarian take on a classic Chinese favorite: Kung Pao Tofu! This dish takes a bit more preparation because it calls for crisping the tofu first, but it’s totally worth it. It’s also important to have all your ingredients in place because, as with any stir fry, once you heat the wok or skillet the cooking part goes lightning fast!
Kung Pao Tofu Recipe
- 1 Tbsp vegetable oil, preferably peanut oil
- red pepper flakes
- 2 Tbsp ginger, finely chopped or zested*
- 2 tsp garlic, minced
- 1/2 pound green beans
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 bunch scallions
- 1/3 cup peanuts*
- 2/3 cup low sodium vegetable stock
- 3 Tbsp tamari or low sodium sauce*
- 2 Tbsp mirin (Japanese rice wine) or dry sherry
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 1 Tbsp corn starch
- Oven-baked Tofu (see below)
- 12 ounces firm tofu
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 Tbsp mirin (Japanese rice wine) or dry sherry
- 1 Tbsp corn starch
- dash of salt and several grinds of pepper
As the tofu bakes, combine the stock, soy sauce, mirin, honey, and cornstarch and whisk to break up lumps.
Prepare all the ingredients and place next to the stove.
Place the vegetable oil in the seasoned wok or skillet over high heat. Let it get very, very hot - it will be fragrant with a glazed, swirly look on top. Add the red pepper flakes and stir-fry for one minute.
Add the ginger and garlic, and stir-fry for 10-20 seconds. Add the green beans or asparagus, stir-fry for 10 seconds, then add the water and immediately put the lid on. Let steam over very high heat until veggies are crisp-tender and the water has almost evaporated - 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the lid, allow any remaining water to boil off. Toss in the green onions, stir-fry for 2o seconds.
Stir the sauce mixture to re-blend and pour into the hot pan. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce becomes a clear, thick glaze - about 30 seconds. Add the oven-baked tofu and honey roasted peanuts. Serve immediately, over rice (preferably brown rice)
Stir the sauce mixture to re-blend and pour into the hot pan. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce becomes a clear, thick glaze - about 30 seconds. Add the oven-baked tofu and honey roasted peanuts. Serve immediately, over rice (preferably brown rice).
The tofu can be prepared the day before, but at least one hour before you plan to bake the tofu, combine the ingredients in a bowl, stirring well. Slice the tofu cake into quarters, cut into ½ inch wide strips, then cut those in half. Place in bowl with sauce and toss to coat. Let stand for at least 40 minutes at room temperature.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Spray baking sheet with cooking spray.
Lay the marinated tofu on the baking sheet in a single layer. Bake until browned and lightly crisped on the bottom, 10-15 minutes. Turn pieces and bake another 5-10 minutes. While the tofu is baking, prepare the ingredients for Kung Pao Tofu below.
*Notes: For even less sodium, I use Coconut Aminos which can be found at Whole Foods or other natural food stores. I use a microplane to zest ginger - it's quick and leaves you the fresh ginger minus the fibrous texture. I made my own honey-roasted peanuts by tossing them with a tablespoon of organic honey and roasting in the oven after removing the tofu. Turn the oven off and roast in the remaining heat, check after about 5 minutes, turn the nuts and roast for 5-10 more minutes.
Great to snack on too! Add a little sriracha or hot sauce to the honey for sweet & spicy.
For best results when stir-frying – have everything cut and ready to go! Mise en place is both a French term and a method. It means “put to place” and is the arrangement of all the prepared ingredients in bowls on the counter or on a tray so that they are ready to go.
Published in 2002, the Passionate Vegetarian, by Crescent Dragonwagon, is one of my go-to cookbooks and a sentimental favorite as Crescent was an exciting restauranteur and person of influence in my hometown during the 80’s and 90’s. The Passionate Vegetarian is a bountiful cookbook whose 1000+ pages will captivate you with engaging storytelling and healthy, exciting, imaginative, and deeply satisfying vegetarian cuisine.
Tanantha @ I Just Love My Apron
i like meatless day! this is a new way of cooking tofu to me and i’m so tempting to try this method soon. just quick question, why does it have to be at room temperature? i usually leave it marinades in the fridge..
Good question, Tanantha. I think it just allows the tofu to come to room temperature before baking. The original recipe said you could refrigerate overnight, which I did, but I thought the cornstarch hardened too much and made it too chewy. When you marinate meats you should refrigerate.
This looks so good Priscilla, I know that I would enjoy this dish. I love honey roasted peanuts. Your pictures look great! I like the meatless Monday idea and have cut back on meat in my diet but with a little tofu I would be very satisfied to skip meat for dinner.
Hope you’re having a good week;-)
This looks quite simple and a scrumptious meal in itself! Love the flavors you have used in the recipe.
5 Star Foodie
Kung paw chicken is one of our favorites and I love the idea of the healthy kung pao tofu, a must try for sure!
Sandra's Easy Cooking
Oh this is delightful! Love how you made this, and it looks so beautiful and tasty!!!
Delicious as always, it looks so gorgeous too! I just wanna reach inside my screen and take a bite..yum! I am never sure if the reply comments get sent to you, but I will be staying in Pasadena when I go to California! I cannot wait 😀
My Man's Belly
Who would miss the meat in a dish with this beautiful tofu? And I like that the tofu is baked instead of fried.
Kate @ Diethood.com
I’m going to dream about the oven-crisped tofu until I make it! It sounds ammmazing!
Cheers to enjoying a day without meat. I really enjoy tofu but, it never seems to taste as good, as when someone else makes it. I think I will take the leap, and try again your way.
As always, great post.
I love tofu! And I love the idea of using oven-crisped tofu in the Kung Pao.
this looks amazing! thank you for sharing this recipe:) i cannot wait to try it out. i really love the flavors in this dish.
Okay, I instantly saved this one. We’ve been having tofu pretty regularly these days and I usually just put it in a veggie stir fry, but I love the look of this and love that it’s spicy!
I am not a tofu kind of gal, but this looks pretty darn tasty. I would have thought it was chicken. Maybe all of the great flavors will make me forget it’s tofu!
Magic of Spice
I love it! Not only does it look delicious, with these ingredients I know it tastes beyond delicious 🙂 And if you are going to do meatless Monday’s I know when to drop by uninvited 🙂
Your take on the dish is incredibly appetizing.
I’m so glad you tried this with tofu…especially since I’m always open to tasty ways to adapt this meatless protein.
I’ve never been too into tofu because of a horrid tofu incident when I was a child, but I now have vegetarian friends and I love having menu options so that I can cook for all of us when they visit. 🙂 This looks great.
I love all of the bold flavors!
Pudding Pie Lane
I’m Chinese and I LOVE LOVE LOVE tofu, but I’ve only ever made kung pao chicken. I shall definitely try this too, though I’ve never put tofu in the oven before, this should be yummy!
Sherry @ JustAPinch.com
I can just taste this with sticky rice and dried seaweed. Yum!
Definitely trying it tomorrow!
Is it really 1T of Mirin plus 1T of Starch for coating 12OZ?
You won’t be disappointed 🙂 And, yes, I cut the tofu into strips and the mixture was enough to coat them lightly – enough to crisp them. Certainly if you don’t feel it’s enough, you can double it.
Thanks, Priscilla! I will follow your recipe)
I made Crescent’s version of this from Bean By Bean tonight, and it looked just like this. It was delicious!
This is adapted from Crescent’s recipe in Passionate Vegetarian – still, my go-go vegetarian cookbook. Glad you enjoyed and thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment 🙂
Thank you for the recipe!
According to the comment section, I am one of the few that have actually made this recipe.
I followed the directions to the the T but doubled the tofu marinade to insure an extra crispy crust which I love.
This was an easy and flavorful dish!
I cook tofu several times per month (using extra firm tofu).
Unfortunately, this was the least successful tofu experience I have had.
Even at 500F the tofu never browned… and alas, it turned into rubber.
Instead, I might recommend cutting the tofu cube into 8-10 slices, marinating them as directed, and sauté & brown them in a hot skillet with the same amount of peanut/coconut oil to retain the delicious,moist center & crunchy exterior.
It seems that baking the tofu in smaller pieces @ 15-25min was not effective.
(I did use coconut oil, which has a high flash point, instead of peanut oil) which may have changed the game on this.
Please advise if I have done something wrong.
I will make it again but will pan fry the tofu instead.
I hope this is helpful for other readers, especially those new to cooking with tofu!
Hi Deb – Sorry it didn’t work out for you – maybe it is the coconut oil, because I’ve never had a problem with it crisping up. Or possibly, the rack in your oven should be moved closer to the heat source like you are broiling it. Either way, if pan frying works, then do that by all means 🙂