General Tso’s Tofu
An alarming portion of my teenage income was funneled directly into Chinese takeout. Three lunches a week, my BFF Katie and I would drive to the fancy grocery store by our high school, which offered a selection of hot, takeout-style meals. Katie always ordered the broccoli beef. I rotated between the shrimp lo mein and whichever sticky-looking chicken entree was on special that day. We split the fried rice. This may not surprise you, but General Tso’s Tofu was not a menu option.
Two things about this scenario.
One: We didn’t actually split the fried rice. I insisted on ordering my own.
Two: Even if General Tso’s Tofu had been on the menu, I don’t think I would have been brave enough to try it.
Like the benefits of shopping for accessories at a store other than Claire’s and the fact that no one remembers what I wore to prom, I’ve been clued into many wonderful revelations since the age of 17.
Tofu is an excellent example. Despite my worst teenage fears, I have learned that, when cooked properly, tofu can be absolutely delicious. It’s become one of my favorite proteins both to order out and to cook at home. It’s inexpensive, versatile, freezes like a dream, and is a lifesaver on busy weeknights too.
If you’ve been holding out on trying tofu (or if you tried it in the past and were disappointed), let today’s recipe for General Tso’s Tofu be your gateway.
With its sticky-sweet sauce, familiar, addictive takeout taste, and delightful texture, you’ll tiptoe right into tofu bliss in the yummiest of ways.
I can’t even remember the last time I ordered a General Tso’s stir fry dish in a restaurant, due partly to a personal change in taste (restaurant and takeout versions now taste too sugary and oily to me) and partly to having a clearer idea of what is in them (it’s not good).
Fortunately, with a few ingredients that you can find in the Asian section of almost any grocery store, it’s a snap to make your own healthy General Tso’s stir fry at home. Last year, I made General Tso’s Chickpeas, and I think I love today’s General Tso’s Tofu even more. (Craving another takeout flavor? Tofu Stir Fry or Instant Pot Teriyaki Chicken are other tasty options!)
The sauces in the two recipes are similar, but today’s General Tso’s Tofu leans a bit more spiced, while the chickpea version is a little fruitier, due to its addition of apricot jam.
Instead in place of jam, for the General Tso’s Tofu, I used honey and hoisin, which I more regularly have on hand. Try both recipes, and let me know which one is your favorite!
One of the biggest keys to General Tso’s Tofu success (or any tofu recipe success for that matter) is the cooking of the tofu itself. To ensure it’s pleasantly firm with golden, crispy edges, be sure to follow this guide for How to Cook Crispy Tofu. I promise it will be worth it!
Tools I used to make this General Tso’s Tofu recipe:
General Tso's Tofu
FOR THE TOFU:
- 14 ounces extra-firm tofu — frozen for at least 3 hours if time allows—see recipe Step 1 for more details
- 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce — gluten free if needed, or substitute tamari
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chili-garlic sauce — (Sambal Oelek)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon honey — swap light agave nectar to make vegan
- 5 tablespoons cornstarch
FOR THE SAUCE:
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 1 to 2 tablespoons chili garlic sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
FOR THE STIR FRY:
- 3 tablespoons canola or grapeseed oil — divided
- 12 ounces broccoli florets, — fresh or frozen (about 1 small head)
- 1 medium red bell pepper — seeded and thinly sliced
- 5 large green onions — ( or 7 small green onions) white parts (bulbs) removed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 bunch)
- Prepared brown rice — for serving
- Toasted sesame seeds — optional for serving
Prepare tofu through Step 3 according to How to Cook Crispy Tofu. Once cubed, lightly pat it dry with a paper towel. (Note: If you do not have time to freeze the tofu, you can skip Step 1.) While the tofu cooks, prepare and chop the other ingredients.
Place the tofu in a separate medium bowl. Top with the 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 1/2 teaspoons chili-garlic sauce, 1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil, and honey. Transfer to a large ziptop bag and sprinkle with 5 tablespoons cornstarch. Tightly seal the bag and shake until the tofu is evenly coated in a gummy white layer.
In a small bowl or large measuring cup, stir together the sauce ingredients: water, soy sauce, hoisin, ginger, chili-garlic sauce, rice vinegar, cornstarch, and sesame oil.
In a large nonstick skillet or wok, heat 2 tablespoons canola oil over medium. Once the oil is shiny and hot, using a slotted spoon, add the tofu to the pan a few pieces at a time, discarding any excess cornstarch. Cook the tofu for 3 to 4 minutes, turning often so that it is golden brown on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Increase the heat to medium high. Add the remaining tablespoon canola oil and let heat 30 seconds, then add the broccoli and bell pepper. Cook until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the chopped green onions and continue for 1 to 2 additional minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the sauce and tofu. Stir to coat the tofu in the sauce and continue cooking, stirring often, for 1 to 2 minutes, until the sauce slightly thickens and the ingredients are warmed through. Taste and add additional chili-garlic sauce if desired. Remove from heat and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve hot with prepared rice.
- Make it ahead: Tofu can be prepared through Step 1 and stored in the refrigerator for 1 day.
- Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Reheat gently in the microwave.
Nutrition InformationAmount per serving (1 (of 4), about 1 1/2 cups, with 1/2 cup prepared brown rice) — Calories: 491, Fat: 20g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Sodium: 806mg, Carbohydrates: 54g, Fiber: 6g, Sugar: 15g, Protein: 17g
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