Kung Pao Tofu

Kung pao sauce is typically made with dark soy sauce and sugar—we lightened it up in calories but still kept the dark color by swapping in a touch of molasses. Cooking the tofu and vegetables over high heat means they get crisp on the outside but stay tender in the center.

a recipe photo of the Kung Pao Tofu
Photo: Laura Kanya
Active Time:
25 mins
Total Time:
25 mins

How we made this diabetes-appropriate

1. The salty-sweet kung pao sauce is typically loaded with dark soy sauce and sugar. Because diabetes is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, we cut the sodium by calling for reduced-sodium soy sauce combined with molasses which performs double-duty here, adding sweetness and the classic dark color. To keep the amount of added sugar in check, we kept the amount of molasses (or plain sugar as an alternative) to a minimum, balancing the flavor with sesame oil, Shaoxing wine and rice vinegar instead.

2. Plenty of health benefits are associated with eating more vegetables, including fighting inflammation and improving blood pressure. With that in mind, we bulked up on bell peppers, celery and onion for a veggie-heavy dish.

Tips from the Test Kitchen

I don't like tofu. Is there another protein I can substitute?

Chicken breast or shrimp work well too. If you are working with an alternative protein, you may have to cook it a little bit longer than stated in the original recipe. Chicken should no longer be pink on the inside or outside and shrimp should be pink and no longer opaque.

What is Shaoxing and where can I find it?

Shaoxing is a Chinese rice wine from the city of Shaoxing in China's Zhejiang province. Its flavor is key to many Chinese dishes. It can be found in well-stocked grocery stores and Asian grocery stores. If you can't find it, dry sherry is a good substitute.

Can I substitute ground ginger or ginger paste for the fresh ginger?

Both ground ginger and ginger paste can be substituted for the fresh ginger. If using ground ginger, cut the amount back to 1/2 teaspoon and whisk it into the sauce instead of stir-frying it with the garlic and scallion.

What do you serve with Kung Pao Tofu?

Kung Pao Tofu is typically served over rice, but lo mein or regular whole-wheat noodles work well too. If you're serving it with rice, brown rice offers more fiber than white.

I don't have a wok or cast-iron skillet; can I use a nonstick skillet?

Yes, a nonstick skillet will work interchangeably with both a wok and a cast-iron skillet.


  • 1 14- to-16-ounce package extra-firm tofu

  • 3 tablespoons reduced-sodium tamari or soy sauce, divided

  • 1 tablespoons cornstarch plus 2 teaspoons, divided

  • 2 tablespoons water

  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine or dry sherry

  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar

  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

  • 1 teaspoon molasses or sugar

  • 3 tablespoons peanut or canola oil, divided

  • 6 small dried red Chinese chile peppers or 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

  • 1 scallion, cut into 1-inch pieces

  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced

  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger

  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped (about 2 cups)

  • 1 large green bell pepper, chopped (about 2 cups)

  • ½ medium yellow onion, chopped (3/4 cup)

  • 2 stalks celery, chopped (3/4 cup)

  • ¼ cup unsalted dry-roasted peanuts


  1. Pat tofu dry and cut into 3/4-inch cubes. Gently pat dry again. Toss the tofu with 1 tablespoon each tamari (or soy sauce) and cornstarch in a medium bowl. Set aside.

  2. Whisk water, the remaining 2 tablespoons tamari (or soy sauce), Shaoxing (or sherry), rice vinegar, sesame oil, molasses (or sugar) and the remaining 2 teaspoons cornstarch in a small bowl. Place next to the stove.

  3. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons peanut (or canola) oil in a large flat-bottom wok or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tofu in a single layer; cook, undisturbed, until golden brown on one side, about 1 minute. Stir and continue cooking until all sides of the tofu are golden brown, about 3 minutes more. Transfer the tofu to a bowl.

  4. Add the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons peanut (or canola) oil to the pan. Add chiles (or crushed red pepper), scallion, garlic and ginger; cook for 10 seconds. Add red bell pepper, green bell pepper, onion, celery and peanuts; cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 4 minutes. Stir the sauce and add it to the pan along with the tofu. Cook, stirring, until the sauce thickens and the tofu and vegetables are coated with sauce, about 1 minute.


Wok or large cast-iron pan

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

326 Calories
23g Fat
17g Carbs
15g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 4
Calories 326
% Daily Value *
Total Carbohydrate 17g 6%
Dietary Fiber 4g 14%
Total Sugars 6g
Added Sugars 1g 2%
Protein 15g 30%
Total Fat 23g 29%
Saturated Fat 3g 15%
Vitamin A 1693IU 34%
Vitamin C 88mg 98%
Vitamin E 3mg 22%
Folate 45mcg 11%
Vitamin K 19mcg 16%
Sodium 551mg 24%
Calcium 110mg 8%
Iron 3mg 17%
Magnesium 35mg 8%
Potassium 341mg 7%
Zinc 1mg 9%

Nutrition information is calculated by a registered dietitian using an ingredient database but should be considered an estimate.

* Daily Values (DVs) are the recommended amounts of nutrients to consume each day. Percent Daily Value (%DV) found on nutrition labels tells you how much a serving of a particular food or recipe contributes to each of those total recommended amounts. Per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the daily value is based on a standard 2,000 calorie diet. Depending on your calorie needs or if you have a health condition, you may need more or less of particular nutrients. (For example, it’s recommended that people following a heart-healthy diet eat less sodium on a daily basis compared to those following a standard diet.)

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a special diet for medical reasons, be sure to consult with your primary care provider or a registered dietitian to better understand your personal nutrition needs.

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