General Tso’s chicken is always a good idea until it’s not. For a lighter, vegetarian (and vegan), easier on the stomach version, try these General Tso’s Chickpeas instead.
While light on the fork (or between the chopsticks if you are fancy and coordinated), General Tso’s chicken can be heavy on regret.
Breaded, deep-fried, and coated in a goopy, sugary sauce, it is notorious for being one of the least healthy dishes on a Chinese restaurant menu. With that being said, it’s also delicious (as is this Honey Lime Tofu Stir Fry).
I decided to see if I could replicate the same addictive flavor of classic General Tso’s, but in a way that would be both reasonably healthy and attainable for a weeknight meal (like with this Homemade Fried Rice and Egg Roll in a Bowl).
The answer came in the form of sticky, sweet apricot jam and an everyday can of chickpeas. Skeptical? You’re going to have to trust me on this one.
5 Star Review
“This is fantastic!! My son said it’s a restaurant-quality meal.”— Christina —
How to Make General Tso’s Chickpeas
With all the BEST flavors of traditional General Tso’s chicken, this vegetarian chickpea version is coated in a sweet, sticky sauce (made without gobs of brown sugar) and married with tender red peppers and broccoli.
(Try this General Tso’s Tofu for another lightened-up vegetarian version of this dish.)
- Chickpeas. Instead of fussing over deep frying chicken, I opted to sauté canned chickpeas instead. This swap not only makes this dish MUCH easier, but it also makes it healthier too! (They’re also the base to my favorite Chickpea Curry.)
- Broccoli. Contrasts the sweetness of the sauce and packs in a daily dose of fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, and potassium.
- Red Bell Peppers. A classic addition to General Tso in most takeout recipes. I love the color, crunch, and flavor the red peppers lend my vegetarian version.
- Garlic + Green Onion. For a little zip and bite.
- Soy Sauce. Gives the sauce that iconic Asian umami flavor (also found in this Tofu Stir Fry). The saltiness of the soy sauce balances against the sweetness of the jam and hoisin.
- Hoisin Sauce. A little sweet, a little savory. This thick, fragrant sauce is made from fermented soybeans.
- Apricot Jam. My secret to creating a thick, sticky takeout-style sauce in minutes.
- Rice Vinegar. Adds some necessary acidity to balance out all the flavors of this easy General Tso’s sauce.
- Cornstarch. Thickens the sauce.
- Ginger. An essential ingredient that gives this dish some classic General Tso’s flavor, spice, and heat.
- Chili Garlic Sauce. Gives the sauce a little (or a big) kick. Adjust the amount in the recipe to suit your personal tolerance for spice.
- Prepare the rice or quinoa according to the package directions. Set aside to keep warm.
- Whisk together the sauce ingredients. Set aside.
- Saute the broccoli and red peppers in a wok over medium-high heat for two minutes.
- Add the garlic, green onions, and chickpeas and cook until crisp-tender.
- Pour in the sauce, bring to a simmer, and cook until thickened.
- Garnish with green onion and sesame seeds. Serve with prepared rice or quinoa. ENJOY!
Tools Used to Make This Recipe
- Non-stick wok. If you like to prepare stir fries regularly, investing in a simple wok is a must.
- Mini whisk. For whisking together the yummy General Tso’s sauce.
- Measuring Cup. Makes measuring the sauce ingredients a breeze.
Chickpeas instead of chicken—I think General Tso would approve.
Frequently Asked Questions
I have not prepared this dish with amino acids so it would be an experiment. However, if you have made this swap with success in similar stir fry recipes, then it would likely work in this recipe too.
Make sure you allow the sauce to thicken—don’t rush the process. If your sauce still seems thin, prepare a little extra cornstarch slurry (try a few teaspoons of water mixed with a tablespoon of cornstarch) and add it to the pan to thicken the sauce further.
General Tso (aka Zuo Zongtang) was a Chinese military leader during the Taiping Rebellion, a Chinese civil war that occurred during the mid-1800s. He is not the creator of this dish, simply its namesake.
General Tso’s Chickpeas
For the Chickpeas and Vegetables:
- 1 can chickpeas (15 ounces)
- 1 tablespoon canola oil or grapeseed oil, or other neutral cooking oil good for high heat
- 1 large crown broccoli cut into florets
- 2 small red bell peppers cored and sliced
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 2 green onions thinly sliced, white and green parts divided
- Toasted sesame seeds optional for serving
- Prepared brown rice quinoa, sorghum, or other whole grain, for serving
- If serving the stir fry with rice, quinoa, or other grain, prepare as needed. Drain and rinse the chickpeas, then spread on a paper or dishtowel and lightly pat dry. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk all of the sauce ingredients together: water, soy sauce, hoisin, jam, rice vinegar, ginger, cornstarch, and 1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce. Taste and add additional garlic chili sauce if you prefer more heat.
- Heat oil in a large, non-stick skillet or wok over medium-high. Add the broccoli and bell peppers. Saute for 2 minutes, then stir in the garlic, white parts of the green onions, and chickpeas.
- Cook for 3 additional minutes, until the vegetables are crisp-tender, then pour in the sauce.
- Bring to a simmer and cook until the sauce thickens; about 2 additional minutes.
- Sprinkle with the green portion of the green onions and sesame seeds. Serve hot with prepared rice or quinoa.
- TO STORE: Leftover General Tso’s chickpeas may be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days in a covered container.
- TO FREEZE: Store in an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge before warming.
- TO REHEAT: Warm in a skillet or in the microwave until heated through. Serve with freshly made steamed rice or quinoa.
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