I believe, in theory, that guilty pleasures should be a judgment-free zone—unless you are married to me, in which case, could you pretty please rethink the General Tso’s chicken and give these General Tso’s Chickpeas a try?

General Tso's Chickpeas - All of the flavor of everyone's favorite takeout dish, but easier to make with HALF the calories.

I realize that I could be convicted for the decibels at which I sing Mariah Carey alone in my car, and I have been known to shoot Reddi-wip directly from the can into my mouth, but Ben’s penchant for bad (and I mean bad) Chinese food has serious consequences.

One, our car smells like old fry oil and stale fortune cookies for 48 hours after he brings it home.

Two, the moment we move to a new place and order Chinese take out, it triggers a silent-but-deadly alert that prompts the 15 other competing area Chinese restaurants to flood our mailbox with flyers.

Three, approximately four minutes after finishing his last bite of General Tso’s chicken, Ben sprawls onto the living floor and issues the following sound: “noooooowhyyyyyyyuggggggggg.”

While light on the fork (or between the chopsticks if you are fancy and coordinated), General Tso’s chicken is heavy on regret. Breaded, deep fried, and coated in a goupy, sugary sauce, it is notorious for being one of the least healthy dishes on a Chinese restaurant menu—at least according to every Self magazine I ever leafed through at the dentist’s office. It’s also delicious.

The BEST General Tso's Recipe - General Tso's Chickpeas. Ready in 20 minutes and half the calories of the original!

About This General Tso’s Chickpeas Recipe

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 Crockpot Sweet and Soup Chicken). Even the homemade versions of that I read were still fairly heavy, and most called for more ingredients than I’m in the mood to measure on a weeknight.

I found my answer in the America’s Test Kitchen Comfort Food Makeovers cookbook. The fine folks at ATK created a lighter version that had a considerably shorter ingredient list, thanks to secret ingredient apricot jam. Brilliant! The best part about General Tso’s is that sweet, sticky sauce, an effect the jam achieves instantly. Forget waiting for the sauce to simmer and the gobs of brown sugar. This sauce is sweet, sassy, a little spicy, and obsessively tasty, just as it should be.

General Tso's chickpeas - a healthy vegetarian twist on the classic Chinese dish. WAY better than takeout!

Now, that I’ve tempted you with an easy-to-make, hopelessly addictive General Tso’s sauce, let’s address the key ingredient (or lack their of) that makes this particular General Tso’s recipe unique: there’s no chicken.

Chickpeas – The Perfect Easy Healthy Swap

Instead of fussing over cutting the chicken (dirty cutting board + knife), breading it (which requires three separate bowls), and then finally baking or deep frying it (more dishes), I opted to sauté canned chickpeas instead. This easy swap was one of the best recipe decisions I’ve made.

Because chickpeas have a sturdy texture, they hold up well in the sauce, and they are also mild enough to allow the General Tso’s flavors to shine. Even Ben, the General Tso’s chicken connoisseur gave this vegetarian twist full marks, and he even requested it be a regular on our meal rotation.

It’s General Tso’s with all of the pleasure and none of the guilt. I’m so happy about it, I could burst into a rousing rendition of “Always Be My Baby,” but maybe you’d prefer I shoot my mouth full of Reddi-wip instead?

One pan General Tso's Chickpeas - a vegetarian twist on classic General Tso's Chicken that's easier to make with HALF the calories. WAY better than take out!

Tools Used to Make This Recipe

General Tso's Chickpeas - All of the flavor of everyone's favorite takeout dish, but easier to make with HALF the calories.

General Tso's Chickpeas

5 from 1 vote
Easy recipe for General Tso's Chickpeas—all the addictive flavor of General Tso's Chicken but ready in less time and half the calories!

Total: 25 mins

Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients
  

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
  • 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

For the General Tso's Sauce:

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4  cup  hoisin sauce
  • 3 tablespoons  apricot jam
  • tablespoons rice vinegar
  • tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1-2 tablespoons  chili garlic sauce

Instructions
 

  • 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. Cook 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.

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 4), stir-fry without riceCalories: 286kcalCarbohydrates: 48gProtein: 12gFat: 5gSodium: 1445mgFiber: 9gSugar: 15g

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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20 Comments

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  1. Ben sounds like my boyfriend when it comes to Chinese food..I absolutely cannot wait to try this..esp with chickpeas, heck yea. 

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! My wife is vegan, but I always crave Chinese food like General Tso’s chicken. I’ll have to make this so both of us can enjoy it. Incidentally, have you seen the documentary “The Search for General Tso?” It’s pretty interesting. 

  3. Interesting. Not sure I would have ever thought of something like this but I love general tso’s chicken (no shame) but I also love eating healthy. Not sure what my steak and potatoes, white rice eating husband will think….. But I want to find out????

  4. i’ve seen so many general tso’s chickpea recipes out there…my husband loves general tso’s chicken and he tolerates chickpeas… ha! i will have to try this!

  5. Hi Erin, A quick question, I am on a low sodium diet die to high blood pressure. If I used Braggs amino acid would that work? I’m not sure but I think it’s lower in sodium than soy sauce. I use it a lot in stir fry’s and can’t tell the difference.

    1. Hi Marcia! This is a great question. I’m not familiar with Braggs and have never tried it, so I can’t say from direct experience. The purpose of the soy sauce in this recipe is to add a salty flavor that balances the sweetness (the reason it’s in most stir fry sauces). If you’ve had success with swapping Braggs in past similar stir fries, I think it’s likely to work here too. If you experiment, I’d love to hear how it turns out for you!

  6. I’m eating the leftovers of this for lunch at work, and everyone keeps stopping by my desk to ask what I’m eating! And the best part is that it tastes even better than it smells, haha! Thanks for such a wonderful recipe, well definitely be having this again. 

  7. Is the nutrition 501 calories for the entire stir fry? Seems like there wouldn’t be 501 calories per serving given the ingredient list. Looks yummy, excited to try it!

    1. Hi Katie, great observation! I use My Fitness Pal to calculate the estimated nutrition info, and while I try to be very careful when calculating, sometimes it chooses a certain ingredient that can throw off the estimates. In this case, you’re right! It’s more like 286 calories per serving, and I’ll update it now. So sorry about that! Thanks for mentioning it! I hope you love the recipe.

  8. This was really tasty! I’m not sure the sauce ever thickened, I waited for several minutes, but I also missed the note about turning the heat down. Maybe that was the issue? It was pretty easy and quick even with that mishap, though, so full stars!5 stars

    1. Jessi, I’m glad you enjoyed it! If the sauce doesn’t thicken again next time, you could try adding a little bit more cornstarch mixed with a tablespoon or so of water.