Every once in a while I get a huge craving for General Tso’s chicken but want a slightly lighter option. Recently I’ve also gotten a few emails from readers who were curious about how to make vegetarian versions of their favorite takeout dishes. So I got inspired to do a vegetarian General Tso’s using tofu.
One of the benefits of using tofu is that it’s quicker and a bit easier than preparing the chicken. Instead of shallow-frying the chicken, you just pan-fry the tofu cubes in a large skillet with a couple tablespoons of oil to get it nice and crispy on the outside. And you don’t even have to worry about searing all the sides. Just use a spatula to get about 1/2 or 3/4 of the sides to a nice golden color; this way, the tofu is crisp on the outside but still soft on the inside.
For this recipe, I adjusted the quantity of the sauce that I usually use for General Tso’s chicken, and a couple of ingredients in it, to compensate for the protein not being marinated. A few readers have noted in the comments of General Tso’s chicken that they used ketchup instead of tomato paste with great results, so I added it as a substitute; it’s great if you prefer a sweeter sauce in your General Tso’s.
Finally, you can either mix the broccoli in or serve it on the side (just like takeout!) Of course, this is also much better for you than takeout, so you don’t have to feel guilty about having seconds…or thirds…
General Tso’s Tofu
Serves 4 as part of a multi-course meal
- 1 pound extra-firm tofu
- 2 cups broccoli florets
- 1 tablespoon peanut of vegetable oil
- 8 dried whole red chilis, or substitute 1/4 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon minced ginger,
- 1 scallion, white and green parts separated and thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon white sesame seeds, for garnish
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste (or substitute ketchup for a slightly sweeter sauce)
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons hoisin sauce
- 2 teaspoons chili sauce
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Rinse and drain the tofu, then cut into 1-inch cubes. Blot the tofu all around with paper towels (drying the tofu helps it pan-fry better.)
- Bring a medium pot of salted water to boil. Add the broccoli and cook for about 2 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water, and drain again. Set aside.
- Prepare the sauce: In a small bowl, stir together the tomato paste, soy sauce, rice vinegar, hoisin sauce, chili sauce, sesame oil, and sugar.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the peanut oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Swirl to coat the bottom. Add the tofu in one layer (you may have to do this in batches) and allow it to sear on the first side undisturbed for about 1 minute. Then use a spatula to move the tofu cubes around until they are golden on half or most of the sides, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
- In the same pan, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of peanut oil. Add the dried chilis, garlic, ginger, and scallions and stir-fry until just fragrant, about 30 or 40 seconds. Pour in the sauce and stir until thickened, about 1 minute. Add the tofu and carefully toss to coat with the sauce. You can either toss the broccoli in with the sauce or serve it on the side. Transfer everything to a large serving dish. Sprinkle the sesame seeds and scallions greens on top and serve with rice on the side.