I have a distinct memory of the first time tried a Kung Pao dish with tofu and vegetables. I was a freshman at Loyola Marymount University, and I was resolved to not gain the dreaded freshman 15, so when I saw “vegetarian” as the heading next to “Tofu Vegetable Kung Pao” I thought, “This will be my go-to meal so as to avoid gaining weight”. Well, that may have worked out if the tofu wasn’t deep fried, and if the sauce wasn’t made primarily of sugar and salt. The two-a-day chocolate muffins I was consuming also didn’t help matters. Yes, I gained the freshman 15. I remember going home for Spring Break and saying to my Mom, “Boy am I lucky that I have the kind of face that you can’t really tell if I have gained some weight”. My Mom just smiled and said nothing, and now, the pictures of me from that time are enough to keep me away from chocolate muffins altogether.
Despite my negative associations with Kung Pao dishes- I actually still love the flavors. I love all things spicy so I decided to make a plant based version of this dish, which does include tofu, but this time it is baked, and while the sauce does contain sugar and salt, they are in much more reasonable quantities.
This is a dish that you can easily customize to suit your own level of spice. Traditional Kung Pao recipes call for dried red chilies, but I substituted the chilies for Sriracha sauce. I like the flavor of Sriracha, but if you don’t, you can just stir fry your vegetables with red chilies instead.
Hope you enjoy this healthier version of one of my favorite Chinese dishes!
This healthier version of a Chinese classic is a great weeknight dinner, packed with protein and flavor.
- 1/2 c. Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce
- 2 Tbsp Sriracha Sauce
- 11/4 Tbsp Brown Sugar
- 1 Tsp Fresh Ginger Minced
- 1 Tbsp Corn Starch
- 3 Tbsp Water For Corn Starch Slurry
- 1 14 oz. Block Extra Firm Tofu
- 2 Garlic Cloves Minced
- 3 Carrots Peeled and Sliced
- 2 Celery Stalks Sliced
- 1 Red Bell Pepper Sliced
- 1 c. White Button Mushrooms Sliced
- 1 Head of Broccoli Chopped
- 1/2 c. Mukimame
- 3/4 c. Roasted Peanuts, Unsalted
- 1/4 c. Water Chestnuts Sliced
- 1 Tbsp Scallions Chopped
- 3 Tbsp Reduced Sodium Vegetable Broth
- 2 Tbsp Water
- 2 c. Long Grain Brown Rice
- 4 c. Water
Preheat oven to 400 Degrees.
For the rice, bring 4 c. of water to a boil. Rinse 2 c. of brown rice in strainer until the water runs clear. Once water is boiling, add rice, return to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes. Once all the water is absorbed, remove from heat and let the rice rest for 5-10 minutes.
Remove Tofu from package, and gently squeeze out the excess water. If you do not have a tofu press, place two paper towels on a plate, lay the tofu block on top of the paper towels, then lay a couple of paper towels on top of the tofu. Find a somewhat a somewhat heavy pot or book to place on top of the tofu to expel the water out of the tofu. You don't want something so heavy that it crushes the tofu, just enough that it pushes the water out the sides. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes. If water pools at the bottom of the plate, start the process over with fresh paper towels.
For the sauce, whisk 1 tbsp of corn starch with 3 tbsp of water to create a slurry.
Combine the soy sauce, ginger, Sriracha, brown sugar and corn starch slurry in a medium size bowl. Whisk to combine ingredients.
Once the tofu has been pressed for 10-15 minutes, cut it into 1 inch squares.
Put the cut tofu in a bowl, and pour 1/4 of the sauce of the tofu- reserve the rest of the sauce. Mix well to make sure all of the tofu is coated.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and spread coated tofu out evenly.
Put in the oven to cook for 25-30 minutes or until the edges are brown and the tofu is firm.
For the vegetable stir fry, add 3 Tbsp of vegetable broth to a large dutch oven or wok over high heat.
Add mushrooms, broccoli, red pepper, carrots and celery. Stir fry for 3-5 minutes at high heat.
Add reserved sauce to the vegetables with 2 tbsp of water. Stir to ensure all vegetables are coated with sauce. Reduce heat to med/low, cover and let simmer for 10 minutes.
Once the tofu is brown and firm, remove from the oven, and add to the vegetables and sauce. Stir to combine.
Add mukimame, peanuts, and water chestnuts. Cook about 1-2 minutes or until heated through. (If the
To serve, pour vegetables and tofu over brown rice.
*Optional, top with chopped scallions, and extra peanuts.