This is one of those comfort food dishes that you make when a serious takeout craving hits, but you still want to cook at home to save a few calories and dollars.
My General Tso’s tofu is the perfect balance of spicy, sweet, and savory. It is loaded with protein (20+ grams per serving!) and comes together in just 30 minutes!
This recipe is a reader request – thanks Marshette!
Much like Singapore Noodles, I had never actually tried General Tso’s stir fry before. But from what I hear, it’s traditionally lightly battered and fried chicken tossed with a savory-sweet sauce, and cooked with green onion and dried red chilies for heat.
I think I can get on board with that.
Origins of General Tso’s Stir-Fry
It’s believed that General Tso’s Chicken stir-fry was created around the 1950s by a chef named Pang Chang-kuei. He was born in the Hunan province of China and went to Taiwan after the Chinese civil war.
He says the dish was inspired by flavors of Hunanese cuisine and named after a Hunanese general. Pang later moved to New York and opened his first restaurant. He adapted his recipe to cater to his new audience and the dish quickly spread in popularity.
To keep my version plant-based, I went with tofu. If you’ve followed this blog for long, you’ve probably seen my favorite way to make tofu taste good.
Well, even though I still love that method, I may love this new method even more (one I adapted from The Kitchn)!
Simply marinate the tofu in a bit of soy sauce, maple syrup, and chili garlic sauce before dredging in cornstarch and pan-frying in a little oil. The result is a flavorful tofu that’s crispy on the outside, tender (not mushy) on the inside, and comes together in about 20 minutes!
This dish gets some serious heat from dried red chilies, which you can find in most traditional and Asian grocery stores. However, if you have trouble locating some, either use fresh red chilies or extra chili garlic sauce.
Whatever you do, don’t skip the heat! That’s what makes this dish balanced and delicious.
I think you guys are going to LOVE this fake-out takeout dish. It’s:
Not too sweet
& Dang delicious
This would make the perfect entrée to make when you’re craving takeout but want to stay in and make it a little healthier! Don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t call this “health food.” But it is much lighter than what you’ll find at restaurants. Plus, 20 grams protein per serving!
If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to take a picture and tag it #minimalistbaker on Instagram. We’d love to see what you come up with. Cheers, friends!
NOTE: Recipe modified to include texture improvements November 9, 2020.
General Tso’s Tofu Stir-Fry
FOR SERVING optional
- 4 cups cooked white or brown rice
- Steamed broccoli
- 12 ounces extra-firm tofu
- 3 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce (tamari for gluten-free eaters)
- 1 tsp chili garlic sauce
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 1 Tbsp maple syrup
- 4-5 Tbsp cornstarch
- 2 Tbsp neutral oil (such as grape seed or avocado)
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 2 tsp cornstarch
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced (2 cloves yield ~1 heaping Tbsp)
- 1 Tbsp ginger, minced
- 1 Tbsp rice vinegar (or sub white vinegar)
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 3 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce (or coconut aminos)
- 1 Tbsp water
- 1 Tbsp sesame oil
- 1 bundle green onions (bulbs removed, roughly chopped)
- 4-7 dried Thai red chilies (omit for less heat // or sub 1 Tbsp chili garlic sauce // more or less to taste)
- Sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)
- If serving with rice and broccoli, begin preparing at this time. Otherwise, move onto the next step.
- Wrap tofu in a clean, absorbent towel and set something heavy on top to absorb excess moisture, such as a cast iron skillet (or use a tofu press). Let rest for about 10 minutes.
- Prep/chop green onions, garlic, and ginger at this time. Set aside.
- While tofu is pressing, prepare stir-fry sauce by combining sesame oil, cornstarch, minced garlic, minced ginger, rice vinegar, maple syrup, tamari or soy sauce, and water in a small mixing bowl and whisk thoroughly to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed (I left mine as is).
- Heat a large metal or cast iron skillet (mine is 10”) over medium heat. In the meantime, unwrap tofu and cut into even pieces, about 3/4-inch cubes (see photo).
- Add tofu to a shallow mixing bowl (see photo) and top with tamari or soy sauce, chili garlic sauce, sesame oil, and maple syrup (DO NOT ADD CORNSTARCH AT THIS TIME). Toss to combine. Let rest 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Use a slotted spoon or fork to transfer tofu to a quart-size or large freezer bag (or tupperware container), leaving the remaining marinade behind (can be drizzled over rice and broccoli for serving). Add cornstarch 1 Tbsp at a time and toss to coat. Continue adding more cornstarch and tossing until tofu is coated in a gummy, white layer – about 5 Tbsp (amount as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size).
- To the hot skillet, add 2 Tbsp (amount as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size) neutral oil and let warm for 30 seconds. Then use a slotted spoon or fork to add tofu to the pan (leaving any excess cornstarch behind).
- Cook tofu on all sides for ~1 minute, or until light golden brown. You don’t want it blackened or burned, as you’ll be cooking it again later with the sauce. Aim for a consistent golden brown crust (see photo). Remove tofu from pan as it’s finished browning. Set aside. NOTE: If you prefer firmer / crispier tofu, option at this time to transfer tofu to a 375 degree F (190 C) oven in a cast iron pan or parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes (or more) to dry it out. This will create a firmer, chewier tofu in the final dish. However, it does make it more than a 30 minute recipe.
- Return skillet to burner and increase heat to medium-high. Add 1 Tbsp (amount as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size) sesame oil, chopped green onions, and dried red chilies. Sauté for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the sauce and tofu. Cook, stirring frequently, to coat the tofu and vegetables for 1-2 minutes, or until warmed through and the sauce has slightly thickened (see photo).
- Remove pan from heat and add sesame seeds (optional). Toss to coat.
- Serve with rice and steamed broccoli (optional), or other desired sides. Best when fresh, though leftovers keep for 2-3 days in the refrigerator. Reheat on the stovetop or microwave.