Kung Pao Tofu

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Kung Pao Tofu is sweet, spicy, and full of flavor. Cooked in less than 15 minutes with red peppers, celery, and peanuts.

266 CAL 14g CARBS 17g FAT 18g PROTEIN
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This vegetarian and vegan friendly Healthy Kung Pao Tofu is easy, good-for-you, and tastes better than take-out plus its ready in less time than it takes for delivery.

When I eat a vegetarian meal, I actually have my preferences. While you might think all plant-based eaters are all about the tofu, they're not. Some people prefer beans and others prefer seitan or other meat alternatives. Some don't like meat alternatives and stick to mostly veggies and legumes. I actually like it all but I AM one of those sometimes-vegetarians who loves tofu.

I think the misconception is that it's always slimy or wet or soggy. That's just not the case if you make it right. And by right I mean patted dry or squeezed of all its water and then crisped up till it's nice and firm on the outside. So good.

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I'm telling you, crispy tofu is where it's at. Actually, I never really thought I liked tofu until a friend made this salt and pepper tofu that was so incredibly crispy and flavorful, I became a tofu lover almost instantly. Since then, I have been experimenting with all kinds of tofu dishes and this Kung Pao Tofu ranks up there as one of my all-time favorites. It's packed with sweet and spicy flavors, tons of crispy tofu, crunchy celery, and sweet bell peppers, and it's a meal you can quickly fall in love with.

Chinese Kung Pao Tofu with peanuts, red peppers, and celery in a bowl with rice.

Ways to Serve Healthy Kung Pao Tofu

I like to eat this Asian tofu dish straight-up. It's filling just as-is. For more ideas:

  • Try serving this dish over an Asian noodle like rice noodles, udon, ramen, soba, or lo mein.
  • You can also use thin pasta like angel hair, spaghetti, or fettuccine.
  • Make some zoodles or other veggie spirals to keep your meal low-carb and full of nutrients.
  • Have you tried your meal in a spaghetti squash boat yet? If not, you're really missing out.
  • This Asian Kung Pao is also great over rice — white, brown, or cauliflower.

Ideas for Customizing Healthy Kung Pao Tofu

  • Adjust the sauce to make it sweeter or spicier, depending on how hot you like it.
  • Add in a meat protein if you want. Chicken, beef, and shrimp would all be delicious in this dish.
  • The more veggies, the merrier. For example, sometimes I steam up some broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, or Brussels sprouts and add them to the sauce mixture as well.
  • You can skip the peanuts or try a different nut, like cashews.
  • For a deeper flavor to your nuts, roast them first before adding them to the dish.
  • Instead of soy sauce, you can also try low sodium teriyaki.
  • If you don't have whole garlic, the minced, jarred garlic will work just as well.

Which Is Spicier Kung Pao or General Tso?

You know I love the spicy, so usually, I go for a General Tso's if I'm dining out or making this dish at home. In general, it is the spicier dish. General Tso's has that chicken that's been battered and deep-fried, then tossed with a hot sauce. Kung Pao is cooked in a wok with the other ingredients. It generally doesn't come spicy unless you request it that way or add spice to it yourself. (Which, of course, I tend to do.)

What Does "Kung Pao" Mean?

"Kung Pao" is a Chinese word that you may have also seen as "Gong Bao" or "Kung Po." It refers to an Asian dish that is typically made with chicken, peanuts, vegetables, and chili peppers.

What Is Kung Pao Sauce Made Of?

Traditionally, Kung Pao sauce is made of soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar, plus other veggies and spices (like the celery and garlic in this recipe). That creates a two-layered flavor that is prominent in a lot of Asian dishes.

Healthy Kung Pao Tofu with white rice, crispy tofu, celery, red pepper, and peanuts in a sweet and spicy sauce.

Is Kung Pao Tofu Healthy?

Generally speaking, no, the original version of Kung Pao Tofu that you'll find at many Chinese restaurants is not good for you. The tofu is often breaded before it's cooked. That, plus the heavy oils is a recipe for a high-fat, -cholesterol, and -sodium dish that's best skipped when ordering takeout for a healthier option you can make at home, like this one.

How is tofu good for you?

Tofu is a cholesterol-free food and is also high in iron and calcium, not to mention protein. It's easy to find at almost any grocery store (or health food store), and it goes great in so many dishes. Just be sure to press the liquid out between two pans or plates or use a tofu press to get it good and dry. However, there is a lot of controversy about soy and tofu and you can learn more about that here.

The Recipe
Kung Pao Tofu with celery, red peppers, and peanuts in a dish with white rice.

Kung Pao Tofu

266 CAL 14g CARBS 17g FAT 18g PROTEIN
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  • 20 oz. extra firm tofu, pressed and cubed
  • 4 tsp sesame oil, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. ginger, minced
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce (or coconut aminos)
  • 1.5 tbsp sriracha (adjust to taste)
  • 1 tbsp honey (adjust to taste, maple syrup or brown sugar for vegan)
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup peanuts, chopped
  • 2 green onions, chopped

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Add half of the sesame oil to the pan. Add the tofu, garlic, and ginger. Cook for 3-4 minutes and flip over. Cooker an additional 4-5 minutes until crispy. Remove and set aside.


Add the remaining sesame oil to the pan. Add the celery and red pepper. Cook for 5-7 minutes until tender crisp.


Meanwhile stir together the soy sauce, Sriracha, honey, and pepper.


Add the tofu back to the pan and add the stir fry sauce and peanuts. Cook for 1-2 minutes so the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and let rest for 2-3 minutes so sauce can further thicken. Top with green onions.

Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 1 cup
Amount Per Serving
Calories 266
Calories from Fat 157
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 17g
Saturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 6g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 388mg
Total Carbohydrate 14g
Dietary Fiber 2g
Sugars 9g
Protein 18g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.

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About the author Meet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
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