Kung Pao Style Noodles – a cheap and easy weeknight meal

August 19, 2020
kung pao style noodles on a plate.

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Eating cheap doesn't have to be bad for you or bland. Can you believe a healthful meal like this Kung Pao Style Noodles recipe costs less than $2 per serving? Believe it!

As I'm writing this we're in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and many people have lost their jobs or had their hours cut. So I wanted to show that it's possible to eat well on a budget. And I made this the focus of a recent Spoonfed newsletter.

Calculating the Recipe Cost

In order to get a handle on how much recipes cost, I ran the calculations on a few of our staples. I'm pretty good at knowing which of my recipes are cheaper to make but I'd never done the math. It is a pain in the butt to look up each item and calculate the cost but it really does show you where your money is going in a recipe. I recommend you try this with a few of your recipes.

To calculate the recipe cost, I turned to Kroger's online store. Kroger tends to be pretty middle of the road on pricing and Kroger owned stores are in most of the U.S. And the pricing online was about the same as what we've been seeing at the City Market where we are now. 

Which products did I choose? Usually the cheapest one! And the cheapest option is usually the store brand product. That's not always the case, though, so scan the shelves before you make your final decision.


Another reason this Kung Pao Style Noodles recipe is so budget-friendly is because of its flexibility. Similar to fried rice, you can use this dish as a way to use up odds and ends in your refrigerator or freezer. Peas, corn, celery, carrots, bok choy, and cabbage would all be wonderful additions. Do you have some basil or cilantro you need to use up? Chuck it in!

Kung Pao Style Noodles

At just $1.40/serving, this recipe help keep you on budget with a meal as delicious as it is easy!
Prep Time7 minutes
Cook Time2 minutes
Total Time27 minutes
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Chinese
Diet: Vegan, Vegetarian
Servings: 4
Calories: 423kcal
Cost: $5.60


Sauce Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup Bragg Liquid Aminos soy sauce, or tamari
  • 1 Tablespoon miso paste
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon ginger freshly minced
  • 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 ½ teaspoon chili garlic sauce
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch

Other Ingredients:

  • 6 oz. firm or extra-firm tofu about 1/2 a package, pan-fried
  • 8 oz. spaghetti
  • 1 medium red onion cut into long thin strips
  • 1 cup red bell pepper cut into 1/4" wide strips, optional
  • 12 oz. frozen stir-fry vegetables
  • ¼ cup peanuts


  • Prep all the veggies as this recipe comes together fast.
  • Place all the sauce ingredients into a small bowl and whisk well, then set aside.
  • Cube the tofu and pan fry it in a non-stick pan until lightly browned on all sides. Set aside on a plate.
  • Cook the noodles according to package directions, drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside.
  • In a large pot or high-sided frying pan large enough to accommodate all the ingredients, add the bell peppers and red onions, sauté over medium-high heat for approx. 5 to 7 minutes, just to slightly tender stage. Add a splash of water if they start to stick.
  • Then move the veggies to the side of the pan and add the sauce and cook until it starts to caramelize and thicken (about 3 to 4 minutes), then fold in the peanuts, tofu, and cooked noodles. Gently fold until the mixture thickens and evenly coats all the noodles and peanuts.
  • Serve immediately.


I calculated the costs for this recipe in the Summer of 2020 using Kroger's online store. Prices at your local store may vary. 
We normally buy whole grain pasta but I use white pasta in this recipe because it is cheaper. To reduce costs further, use soy sauce instead of the Bragg Liquid Aminos and 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger and 1 teaspoon of garlic powder for the fresh. 

Pasta dishes like these Kung Pao Style Noodles are an easy way to keep to your food budget. What are your favorite ways to help cut costs without cutting flavor or nutrition?

Laura Nunemaker

About the Author

Laura Nunemaker

vegan. full-time traveler. rv dweller. food lover. cow petter.

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