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General Tso's Tofu Recipe: Spicy, Sweet, and Meat-free

One of our favorite Chinese tofu recipes is this vegan version of General Tso's chicken - sweet, spicy, and much lighter than the original. Rich tamari and brown sugar warm and sweeten this dish, while red chili peppers add some bite. 

If you've ever eaten at a Chinese-American restaurant or buffet, you're likely already familiar with General Tso's chicken. It's the most popular Chinese food item ordered in America and the fourth most popular dish ordered overall on GrubHub. 

With those huge numbers, there is no question that General Tso's is a crowd-pleaser, but what about the vegetarians and vegans? 

We came up with our vegan take on General Tso's, often interchangeably translated as General Gau's tofu so that everyone can enjoy it! 

We twisted this classic recipe and made it completely free of any animal products. By replacing deep-fried chicken with tofu, pan-fried in a bit of oil, we've kept it high in protein and significantly lowered the saturated fat content. 

It's lightly sweetened with coconut sugar, which sits lower on the glycemic index and contains healthy fats. 

To make this simple recipe even more straightforward, leave your tofu to marinate an hour or so before dinner so the tofu can fully absorb the rich tamari flavors.

How to make General Tso tofu

Ingredients

For the tofu

  • 10 oz firm or extra firm tofu
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 6 Tbsp cornstarch
  • Cooking oil of your choice (we used extra virgin olive oil)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

For the General Tso sauce recipe

  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari
  • 3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp vegetable stock or water
  • 3 Tbsp coconut sugar
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • ⅛ tsp red chili pepper flakes, or to taste

Cooking directions

Making the tofu

  1. Drain your firm tofu in a tofu press for 15 minutes. Cut the tofu block into 1-inch cubes, and place the tofu cubes in a shallow dish or bowl.
  2. Add the soy sauce/tamari and apple cider vinegar. Stir the mixture, and let it rest for at least 20 minutes, preferably overnight.
  3. Once the tofu is marinated to your liking, drain your tofu and discard the marinade.
  4. Transfer ⅓ of the marinated tofu cubes to a freezer bag and add in 2 tbsp of cornstarch. Seal the bag, and firmly shake until the tofu is fully coated in cornstarch.
  5. Repeat this process in 2 more batches with the remaining tofu cubes and cornstarch. Add more cornstarch as needed.
  6. Once all of the tofu cubes are coated with the cornstarch, heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. 
  7. Add the tofu cubes into the skillet, and cook them thoroughly until all sides look golden brown. 
  8. Remove the fried tofu from the skillet and set aside. Keep the skillet on the heat as we make the sauce next.

Making the sauce

  1. Add the minced garlic to the skillet with a little more oil, and cook over medium-high heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir frequently until the garlic looks golden brown, then remove the skillet from the heat for a few minutes. Keep the garlic in the skillet and set aside.
  2. Add all your sauce ingredients to a medium mixing bowl and set it aside.
  3. Add the sauce mixture to the skillet and cook over medium-high heat until your sauce thickens, stirring frequently. 
  4. Finally, add in your tofu cubes, stir and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. Serve and enjoy this General Tso tofu!

General Tso's tofu calories + nutrition information

Serving Size: ¼ of the recipe

Calories: 237; Sugar: 7.4 g; Protein: 8.1 g; Fat: 13.6 g; Saturated Fat: 2.1 g; Carbohydrates: 22.3 g; Fiber: 1 g

Recipe tips + FAQ

What is General Tso's sauce?

This classic sauce is always sweet and spicy, with some umami flavor coming from the tamari. It usually contains sugar, spicy chilies, vegetable broth, tamari, and vinegar. 

We've made our version a little healthier with coconut sugar instead of white. To cut down the sodium, you can choose to use low-sodium soy sauce or tamari - I haven't tried it, but I'm sure it'd still be delicious! 

Is General Tso's tofu vegan?

Generally, General Tso is made with chicken, but our recipe is entirely vegan. 

What type of tofu can I use?

Most vegetarian tofu recipes require firm or extra firm tofu if you want the result to be crispy. Tofu naturally has a high water content, which can lead to soggy stir fry rather quickly. 

Firm and extra-firm have much lower water levels than soft, silken, and regular tofu and will give you the best results!

Is tofu healthy?

So, is tofu healthy? Tofu is an incredibly healthy soy-based food that many vegans and vegetarians eat regularly to up their protein intake.

It contains vital minerals like calcium, iron, and magnesium. Tofu is low in saturated fats and includes some heart-healthy unsaturated fats. It doesn't have much fiber, so it's essential to enjoy tofu along with high-fiber vegetables and grains for your best results. 

How should I serve this General Tso recipe?

Our favorite way to eat General Tso tofu is on a bed of jasmine rice, topped with sesame seeds and finely chopped chives. 

Rice noodles would be tasty too. If you want a low-carb option, serve your tofu over steamed broccoli, beans, or other vegetables.

Can I bake the tofu instead?

We like the tofu's texture we get from pan-frying, but if you'd like to bake your tofu instead, that's always an option.

You can omit the oil entirely and bake the tofu at 350°F until the pieces look golden brown. 

Storage Tips

You can keep your tofu leftovers in an airtight container in your fridge for up to 5 days. We don't recommend freezing this recipe, as the high-water content makes the texture soft and soggy after the freezing/thawing process. 

Final notes: Vegan General Tso tofu

We love it when a healthy, vegan version tastes better than the original - and that's precisely how we feel about this General Tso tofu. 

It maintains its richness without the need for deep-fried saturated fats or MSG that come along with the popular takeout versions.

We hope you enjoy cooking food you know is healthy for your family, your friends, and of course, yourself!

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