Real-Deal Kung Pao Tofu (宫爆豆腐)

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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.

Real-Deal Kung Pao Tofu (宫爆豆腐)
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
10 mins
Total Time
30 mins
The real-deal recipe that will help you create better-than-takeout kung pao tofu in your own kitchen.
Course: Main
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: takeout
Servings: 2 to 3 servings
Calories: 369 kcal
Author: Maggie Zhu
  • 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
  1. 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.
  2. Mix all the sauce ingredients with 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Add the chili pepper, garlic, ginger, and doubanjiang. Stir for 20 to 30 seconds to release the fragrance.
  7. Add the bell pepper and green onion. Stir for 20 seconds.
  8. Stir the sauce again to dissolve the cornstarch completely. Pour into the pan. Stir a few times until the sauce thickens.
  9. 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.
  10. Serve hot as main with steamed rice.
Recipe Notes
  1. If you do not use doubanjiang, taste the tofu at the end and add a pinch of salt, if needed.
Nutrition Facts
Real-Deal Kung Pao Tofu (宫爆豆腐)
Amount Per Serving (3 g)
Calories 369 Calories from Fat 194
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 21.6g 33%
Saturated Fat 3.8g 19%
Sodium 652mg 27%
Potassium 433mg 12%
Total Carbohydrates 30.9g 10%
Dietary Fiber 3.2g 13%
Sugars 11.8g
Protein 14.9g 30%
Calcium 26%
Iron 20%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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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8 thoughts on “Real-Deal Kung Pao Tofu (宫爆豆腐)

  1. Kerry Milis Parker

    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.

    1. Maggie

      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 🙂

  2. Ruth Theobold

    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?

    1. Maggie

      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 🙂

  3. Drew Peacock

    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!

  4. Susan

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