Plate of Vegan Kung Pao Tofu with white rice.
Main Dishes Recipes Vegan Vegetarian

Vegan Kung Pao

What is Vegan Kung Pao?

Kung Pao is a dish often found in asian restaurants with the red chili pepper next to its name on the menu.  It has a savory sweet sauce that is often quite spicy.  While chicken and beef have long been the staple proteins for this dish, vegetarian friendly options are cropping up more and more.  

Our version of Vegan Kung Pao uses tofu as its primary protein.  We use the Instant Pot to make this a super fast dump and go dish and double down on the quick meal approach by cooking the rice at the same time, and in the same pot, as the veggies and tofu.  It is a whole meal in a single pot, already to go in mere minutes.

What are the ingredients needed to make this kung pao dish in the Instant Pot?

  • Red onion, these firm onions give just the right amount of flavor to this dish
  • Red bell pepper, this gives the dish some great color, as well as a light sweetness from the flavor of the pepper
  • Extra firm tofu, you want to make sure you aren’t using tofu that is too soft to make your kung pao or it will fall apart and not give you the bite and texture you will want the final version to have.  Make sure you press the tofu to remove excess moisture before cubing.
  • Lower sodium soy sauce, use your favorite brand
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Brown sugar
  • Grated ground ginger
  • Garlic powder
  • Hot chili sauce– I used sriracha to make the kung pao with tofu.  If you prefer a dish that is sweeter and not as hot, you could substitute sweet chili sauce
  • Crushed red pepper flakes– use the amount you like to match your heat preference and tolerance.
  • Long-grain white rice-you want the type that is used as sushi style rice, not minute-rice style rice.
  • Cornstarch– this is what will ultimately help to thicken the sauce on the dish to its expected consistency.

How to make Vegan Kung Pao?

  • Begin by combining the red onion, red bell pepper, cubed tofu, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, grated ginger, garlic powder, hot chili sauce (or sweet if you prefer) and crushed red pepper flakes and water in the bowl of the Instant Pot.  Gently stir to combine.
  • Set the lower trivet (the shorter one) on top of the tofu mixture.
  • On top of the trivet, set a small pot or pan.  I used the pot that came with my pressure cooker.  If your pot has drain or perforation holes, make sure to line the pot with foil before adding the rice and water.
  • Close the lid of the pressure cooker and set the vent to sealing.  Set to manual high pressure for 4 minutes.  When the cooking time is done, allow a natural pressure release for 10 minutes before quick releasing any remaining pressure.  
  • Remove the pot containing the rice, tongs work great for this.  Fluff the rice gently with a fork and set aside.
  • Combine the cornstarch and water and stir into the tofu mixture.  Continue to gently stir as the mixture thickens, keep an eye on it as it will thicken quickly, until the consistency matches what you would expect from your favorite take out restaurant.
  • Serve the tofu mixture immediately over the rice.

Can I store the leftovers?

Yes, leftover Vegan Kung Pao will keep well in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.

What else to serve with this Vegan Kung Pao Recipe?

  • Keep going with your Instant Pot and add a pasta to pair with your vegan kung pao.  This Instant Pot Pad Thai or Spicy Peanut Noodles would both taste great along with the kung pao and both are also very easy to prepare.
  • Make another takeout favorite.  This Hot & Sour Soup would also be amazing with the kung pao tofu, though note, it does contain eggs, if vegan is your diet.
  • Bring the Hibachi home with some amazing Hibachi Vegetables or Hibachi Fried Rice both made fast and easy in the Instant Pot.
Plate of Vegan Kung Pao Tofu with white rice.

Vegan Kung Pao

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Dinner
Cuisine Asian
Servings 4


  • pressure cooker


For the Kung Pao:

  • ½ medium red onion diced
  • 1 red bell pepper chopped
  • 1 block extra firm tofu pressed and cubed
  • ½ cup lower sodium soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon grated ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon hot chili sauce such as sriracha
  • Large pinch crushed red pepper flats
  • cup water
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch + 1 Tablespoon water

For the rice:

  • 1 cup long-grain white sushi rice
  • 1 ¼ cups water


  • In the pot of the Instant Pot, combine the diced onion, chopped bell pepper, tofu, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, ginger, garlic powder, hot chili sauce, red pepper flakes and water. Gently stir to combine.
  • Place a low trivet atop the tofu mixture. Place the pan that came with your pressure cooker on top of the trivet. If your pan is perforated, line it with foil. Place the rice and water into pan.
  • Close the lid and lock in place. Set the valve to the sealed position and set to manual high pressure for 4 minutes. When the cooking time is done, allow a natural pressure release of 10 minutes before releasing any remaining pressure.
  • When the cooking time is done, remove the pot containing the rice (I used tongs to do this), and set aside.
  • Stir the cornstarch and water rapidly together. Stir into the tofu mixture and gently combine to thicken. Allow to continue to cook until sauce thickens a bit. Turn off heat and serve immediately.
Keyword Instant Pot

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating