Real-Deal Kung Pao Tofu (宫爆豆腐)

4.88 from 8 votes
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The real-deal recipe that helps you create better-than-takeout kung pao tofu in your own kitchen. {vegetarian}

Real-Deal Kung Pao Tofu (宫爆豆腐) - The real-deal recipe that helps you create better-than-takeout kung pao tofu in your own kitchen. {vegetarian}

Did you know that March is National Sauce Month? To kickstart the celebration, I’m sharing my favorite Chinese takeout recipe with you today – the real-deal Kung Pao Tofu that tastes even better than the restaurant version!

There are so many reasons to love Kung Pao Tofu. The crispy and flavorful tofu, the scrumptious sticky sauce that is sweet, sour, and slightly spicy, and the crunchy vegetables and peanuts. Oh my, my mouth is starting to water just thinking about it!

Real-Deal Kung Pao Tofu (宫爆豆腐) - The real-deal recipe that helps you create better-than-takeout kung pao tofu in your own kitchen. {vegetarian}

Cooking notes

There are a few keys to creating a killer kung pao tofu:

(1) What type of tofu to choose

The best tofu for stir frying is the extra firm kind. If you cannot find this type, medium-firm tofu also works. I personally love using the tofu from House-Foods. It is tasty, inexpensive, and made with high-quality Non-GMO US soybeans. It is also gluten-free and kosher certified. You can find it in most grocery stores and Asian markets.

(2) Flavorful and crispy tofu (without deep frying)

This is my favorite way to prepare tofu for stir frying – marinate it in soy sauce and syrup in a big bag. Then drain the marinating liquid and coat the tofu with cornstarch. This way the tofu will turn out crispy with very little cooking oil. The tofu cubes will be tasty enough to eat by themselves.

Kung Pao Tofu (宫爆豆腐) Cooking Process

(3) A bold sauce

Chinkiang vinegar (also called black vinegar) is the key. Different from the light-colored rice vinegar, this black vinegar has a more tangy and complex taste. It will give your dish has that true restaurant flavor.

(4) Plenty of aromatics

Do not skimp on the fresh ginger, garlic, and green onion – together, the Holy Trinity of Chinese Cooking. They will give the sauce a kick and add tons of umami to the dish.

(5) A note on special ingredients

The Sichuan peppercorns and doubanjiang (spicy fermented bean paste) might require a visit to an Asian grocery store or an order from The Mala Market (highly recommend). These two ingredients will elevate your dish from a normal takeout item to a real-deal stir fry that tastes like China. If you like authentic Chinese food, I highly recommend you cook the kung pao tofu with these two ingredients. However, I did list them as optional, just in case you’re looking for a quick dish for dinner. The tofu will taste amazing even if you don’t use them.

Kung Pao Tofu (宫爆豆腐) Cooking Process

(5) A quick way to make kung pao tofu

If you like this dish as much as I do, you can also make the stir fry sauce in bulk and save it for later. In my previous post, I documented how to make a kung pao sauce in advance, so you can finish a stir fry in 10 minutes.

Real-Deal Kung Pao Tofu (宫爆豆腐) - The real-deal recipe that helps you create better-than-takeout kung pao tofu in your own kitchen. {vegetarian}

More delicious tofu recipes

Real-Deal Kung Pao Tofu (宫爆豆腐) - The real-deal recipe that helps you create better-than-takeout kung pao tofu in your own kitchen. {vegetarian}

If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @omnivorescookbook on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.

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Real-Deal Kung Pao Tofu (宫爆豆腐) - The real-deal recipe that helps you create better-than-takeout kung pao tofu in your own kitchen. {vegetarian}

Real-Deal Kung Pao Tofu (宫爆豆腐)

4.88 from 8 votes
The real-deal recipe that will help you create better-than-takeout kung pao tofu in your own kitchen.
Author: Maggie Zhu
Course: Main
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: takeout
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 2 to 3 servings



  • 1 block (16 oz / 450 g) House Foods extra firm tofu (or medium firm tofu)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (or agave nectar)
  • 5 to 6 tablespoons cornstarch


Stir fry

  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil (or vegetable oil)
  • 2 teaspoons whole Sichuan peppercorns (Optional)
  • 4 to 5 dried chili peppers
  • 1 tablespoon garlic , minced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger , minced
  • 2 teaspoons doubanjiang (spicy fermented bean paste) (Footnote 1) (Optional)
  • 4 green onions , roughly chopped
  • 1 bell pepper , chopped
  • 1/3 cup fried peanuts


  • Cut tofu into 1-inch pieces and transfer to a large ziploc bag. Add soy sauce and maple syrup. Gently flip the bag a few times to coat tofu with the liquid. Marinate for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Mix all the sauce ingredients with 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl.
  • When tofu is marinated, open the bag just a little bit without letting the tofu fall out. Drain the liquid and discard it. Add cornstarch, a tablespoon at a time, and gently toss the bag to coat the tofu. It is OK if the tofu isn’t coated evenly.
  • Heat a large skillet with 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat until hot. Add the tofu with your hand (or a pair of tongs), shaking off any extra cornstarch. Let cook without moving for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the bottom turns golden. Flip to brown the other side. If the pan gets too hot, turn to medium or medium low heat. Transfer cooked tofu to a plate. Set aside.
  • Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and the Sichuan peppercorns. Cook and stir until the peppercorns turn dark (but not black). Remove the Sichuan peppercorns and discard them.
  • Add the chili pepper, garlic, ginger, and doubanjiang. Stir for 20 to 30 seconds to release the fragrance.
  • Add the bell pepper and green onion. Stir for 20 seconds.
  • Stir the sauce again to dissolve the cornstarch completely. Pour into the pan. Stir a few times until the sauce thickens.
  • Add back the cooked tofu. Gently toss to coat with sauce. Add the peanuts and give it a quick stir. Immediately transfer everything to a big plate.
  • Serve hot as main with steamed rice.


  1. If you do not use doubanjiang, taste the tofu at the end and add a pinch of salt, if needed.


Serving: 3g, Calories: 369kcal, Carbohydrates: 30.9g, Protein: 14.9g, Fat: 21.6g, Saturated Fat: 3.8g, Sodium: 652mg, Potassium: 433mg, Fiber: 3.2g, Sugar: 11.8g, Calcium: 260mg, Iron: 3.6mg
Did You Make This Recipe?Don't forget the last step! Leave a comment below, and tag me @OmnivoresCookbook and #OmnivoresCookbook on Instagram!
Real-Deal Kung Pao Tofu (宫爆豆腐) - The real-deal recipe that helps you create better-than-takeout kung pao tofu in your own kitchen. {vegetarian}

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Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Fred Rickson says:

    Chinkiang vinegar also makes a great hot and sour soup.

    • Maggie says:

      Yes indeed!

  2. Kerry Milis Parker says:

    You mention syrup in your recipe. What is this and since I am living in Beijing at the moment, what would be a local ingredient? I am really looking forward to making this!
    I will be sure to rate it once I have made it.

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Kerry, you can use honey to replace the syrup. If you don’t like the taste of the honey, sugar will work just as well!
      Happy cooking and hope your dish turns out great 🙂

  3. Ruth Theobold says:

    Hi Maggie, I have made this a couple of times & really enjoyed it although I found it REALLY hot & I enjoy very hot food. I put less of the spicy broad bean paste in than stated in the recipie send time around in an attempt to try & reduce the heat. It was still really hot. I wonder if I have the right ingredients?

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Ruth, I think the result might be caused by the chili pepper you used (step 6) when you use it to infuse the oil. I use the Chinese dried chili pepper, which is quite mild and won’t make the oil very spicy. If you used spicy peppers (like those very small red ones), the dish will turn out very spicy. Try to use only one pepper the next time and make sure not to break the pepper apart (the seeds are the most spicy part). I hope the dish will turn out well the next time 🙂

  4. Drew Peacock says:

    4 stars
    Made this last night, and it came out really good, very interesting flavors nothing like american restaurant version.
    One thing I had a question about was the “Broad Bean Paste”, I found this brand “Ming Teh”, and I noticed that they had another product with the same chinese characters as you use above 豆瓣酱 but the product I bought is called Broad Bean Paste With Chili and the characters: 辣豆瓣酱 instead, is this the same thing but with chili added?? I Just want to make sure I am using all the right ingredients,
    thanks and we are going to make the mapo tofu w/ TVP in place of pork next I think!

  5. Susan says:

    Great sounding recipe! One question is how do I substitute the homemade Kung Pao sauce (from your recipe) for the sauce ingredients here?

  6. Thom says:

    5 stars
    This looks amazing! Thank you so very much for all your great recipes!

  7. Sam says:

    5 stars
    This recipe is fantastic! It’s my favourite way to have firm tofu, and it turns out perfectly every time. I actually prefer this to kung pao chicken now!

  8. Karly says:

    5 stars
    LOVED this! I am new to tofu so trying to ease myself in, but I actually really enjoyed it with the crispy coating. I followed the recipe with some minor adjustments — couldn’t find the special peppercorns so I skipped those, and I also added some diced zucchini and eggplant for some more veg in supper.

  9. Connie Kaldor says:

    5 stars
    My whole family is all at home in Montreal quarantined like everyone in my province these days,, along with my neice who is a vegetarian, This Recipe in particular is a big favourite with the whole gang. I love many of your recipes. Thank you for broadening my culinary horizons and for all the delicious meals we have had following your page. Keep those great recipes and lessons coming.

  10. Andrew says:

    5 stars
    I made this tonight and I just keep thinking about how much I loved it. Thank you so much for this recipe. It is definitely one I will keep and continue to make.

    Do you expect the Sichuan peppercorns to give much numbing effect in this recipe? I didn’t notice much of it, though the peppercorns I’m using have been in the pantry for a few years.

  11. T Bare says:

    Can’t wait to try this. I’ve made it before from other recipes, but struggled with the Szechuan peppercorns. Most recipes say to grind the husks and add to the recipes, but I’ve always found it tricky to get them fine enough even in a spice grinder, not to mention the time consuming process of removing all the little black seeds first. Your method of releasing the aromas sounds much better!

  12. Sam says:

    5 stars
    I absolutely love this recipe, we make it at least once a month. I up the veggie content with extra capsicum, onion and green beans etc, and reduce the spicyness a little bit also.
    Thanks for a wonderful recipe!

  13. Ironfox says:

    5 stars
    Yeah this is pretty great, thanks!

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