Kung Pao Tofu with Watermelon

Spicy kung pao tofu with sweet, fresh watermelon. Sounds strange but it works! A savory and refreshing recipe with easy to follow instructions.

I know this one sounds a little weird. Spicy kung pao tofu with watermelon, do they really go together? The answer, strangely enough, is yes, and they are delicious! Tofu and fruit seems to be a big secret that food bloggers haven’t discovered yet. Googling fruit and tofu returns a jillion smoothie recipes. Sure, you could beat the bejesus out of it until you can’t even recognize it as tofu, but this recipe will convince you that firm tofu and fruit is an amazing combination. I remember the first time I had this revelation, way back in 2005 at a vegetarian restaurant in Brazil serving tofu and mango salad. I went back to that restaurant at least four times during the week that I spent there, and to this day I still dream about that salad. Hmmm, I guess it’s about time I get around to recreating it.

Spicy kung pao tofu with sweet, fresh watermelon. Sounds strange but it works! A savory and refreshing recipe with easy to follow instructions.

Why does kung pao tofu with watermelon work? It’s about contrast. Spicy and sweet, soft and crunchy, sour and umami – it’s got it all. Furthermore, this recipe works two ways. Served immediately, the sauce coats the tofu nicely and makes a great dish served on its own. Left to rest for a while, the watermelon releases its juices and mixes with the sauce to form a tasty gravy, which is great served with rice or noodles.

Kung Pao Tofu with Watermelon

Kung Pao Tofu with Watermelon

Yield: Serves 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes


  • 450 grams (1 pound) firm tofu
  • 1 watermelon
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 2/3 cup vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine, dry sherry, or dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese black vinegar or balsamic vinegar
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons hot chili sauce such as sambal oelek or red pepper flakes
  • 8 Sichuan peppercorns, crushed (omit if you can’t find)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tablespoon ginger, minced
  • 4 green onions, cut into matchsticks and separated into white and green parts


  1. Drain and press the tofu, then cut into 2 cm cubes. Cut the watermelon into 2 cm cubes. The quantity depends on the size of your watermelon. You want to have an equal proportion of tofu to watermelon.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a wok or large pan over medium-high heat. Fry the tofu, stirring occasionally, until golden brown on all sides.
  3. While the tofu fries, mix together the stock, soy sauce, wine, brown sugar, sesame oil, cornstarch, vinegar, salt and chili sauce in a small bowl and set aside.
  4. When the tofu is ready, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside to drain. Add 1/2 a tablespoon of vegetable oil to the wok or pan and fry the Sichuan peppercorns, garlic, ginger, and the white parts of the green onion, stirring constantly, until fragrant – about 30 seconds.
  5. Add the tofu and green parts of the green onions to the pan and stir in the sauce. Bring to a simmer and then reduce heat to medium, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens – 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add the watermelon, mix well to combine.


Adapted from "The Chinese Vegan Kitchen"

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 265Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 667mgCarbohydrates: 19gFiber: 3gSugar: 10gProtein: 14g

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