Crispy tofu chunks are drenched in sweet and spicy gingery sauce and served up with broccoli and rice to make this flavor-packed General Tso's tofu. Better than takeout, and almost as easy!
One of my very first tofu experiences involved General Tso's tofu, and I'm sorry to say that it wasn't very good. Most restaurants that put tofu on the menu know what they're doing, but sometimes they don't.
Anyway, it was probably one of the few vegetarian things on the menu at this particular place, so I gave it a try, and it was too sweet, kind of soggy, a bit bland. All the things a good tofu dish should not be. I remembered hearing a tofu-hater once describe the flavor and texture of tofu as similar to wet bread, and that's came to mind.
I nicknamed the dish General Tso's French toast, and that name persisted. Forever. Years and years later, when I'd had so many excellent plates of General Tso's tofu (it's now a Chinese vegetarian restaurant favorite), I had to bite my tongue when ordering in order to not request a plate of the General's French toast.
So I have quite a history with this dish. It's about time I cooked some up in my own kitchen!
How to Make Tofu Taste Good
There are a handful of great ways to cook tofu. It's awesome marinated and baked. It's also delicious pan-fried. But for dishes like General Tso's tofu, where we're replacing fried chicken, I my go-to method is to dredge the tofu in cornstarch and shallow fry it in some oil.
What you end up with is tofu bits that are soft and tender on the inside, with a crispy and delicious exterior coating that stands up to sauce.
Ingredients You'll Need
- Soy sauce. Gluten-free tamari or liquid aminos can also be used.
- Hoisin sauce. Look for this in the international section of your supermarket.
- Rice vinegar. You can also find this in the international foods section.
- Maple syrup. Feel free to substitute another liquid sweetener like agave or coconut nectar.
- Toasted sesame oil. Once again, we're looking for this in the international foods section of the store.
- Tofu. Use extra-firm or super-firm tofu. If using extra-firm, be sure to press it first.
- Canola oil. Feel free to substitute another high-heat oil, such as peanut oil or corn oil.
- Dried chiles. Leave these out for a milder version of this dish. You can find them in (you guessed it!) the international section of the supermarket.
- Scallions. Also known as green onions!
- Fresh broccoli.
- Toasted sesame seeds.
- Cooked rice. Use your favorite kind of rice. I like a starchy, sticky variety such as jasmine rice for pairing with this dish.
Tip: Feel free to switch things up by substituting your favorite veggie for the broccoli. Keep in mind that harder veggies will take a bit longer to cook, while softer ones will cook faster.
How to Make General Tso's Tofu
The following is a detailed photo tutorial on how to make this dish. Scroll all the way down if you'd like to skip right to the recipe!
- As with any stir-fry, you'll want to prep all of your ingredients before you start cooking. Chop your veggies and, press and dice your tofu.
- Next, make your General Tso's sauce so it's ready to go when you need it. Do this by whisking together the water, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, maple syrup, sesame oil minced garlic, grated ginger, and cornstarch.
- Fill a small bowl with some cornstarch and heat up some oil in a nonstick skillet (I recommend using a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet). We're going to start by cooking the tofu. Place a few of your tofu cubes into the bowl and dredge them in the cornstarch.
- Now transfer those tofu cubes to the hot oil. Add as many as you can fit with a bit of space between them. Be careful not to crowd the skillet too much — the cornstarch will make your tofu pieces stick together if they come into contact with each other.
- Cook the tofu pieces until they're browned and crispy on the bottoms, then flip them and cook the other sides. Take them out of the skillet when they're done, then cook the rest of the tofu in a second (or second and third) batch.
- Now it's time to stir-fry! There should be a thin coating of oil in your skillet. If there's more than that, wipe it out. If there's less, add a dash.
- Crank up the heat and add some scallions and dried chile peppers to the skillet. Just cook them for a minute or so, until the scallions become fragrant and the chiles start to darken.
- Now add the broccoli and stir-fry it just until it becomes bright green in color.
- Finally, return the cooked tofu to the skillet and pour in the sauce. Be super careful when adding sauce to a hot pan, as it can easily sputter! Flip everything around with a spatula to get an even coating. The sauce should thicken up quickly. Once it does, take the skillet off of the burner.
- Top your General Tso's tofu with sesame seeds and scallions.
- Serve it on a bed of rice.
Leftovers & Storage
I recommend serving your General Tso's tofu immediately after it's finished cooking. The coating can become soggy as it sits in the sauce.
If you do have leftovers they'll still taste good. Store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yup! Just substitute gluten-free tamari for the soy sauce and make sure your hoisin sauce is gluten-free.
The dried chile peppers add some heat. For a milder version, remove the seeds from the chiles before cooking them. If you want complete control over the heat level, skip the dried chiles and instead season the sauce with hot sauce (such as sriracha or sambal oelek), chili oil, or red pepper flakes to taste. For a heat-free version, skip the chiles and hot sauce.
Instead of frying your tofu in cornstarch, try pan-frying it. This method will require significantly less oil.
More Chinese-Inspired Tofu Recipes
General Tso’s Tofu
Crispy tofu chunks are drenched in sweet and spicy gingery sauce and served up with broccoli and rice to make this flavor-packed General Tso's tofu.
For the Sauce
- ¼ cup chilled water
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
For the General Tso's Tofu
- 1 (14 ounce or 400 gram) package extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
- ⅓ cup cornstarch (plus more as needed)
- ¼ cup canola oil (or high heat oil of choice, plus more as needed)
- 5-10 dried red chile peppers cut in half*
- 2 medium scallions, chopped, white and green parts separated (about ¼ cup total)
- 1 medium broccoli crown, broken into florets (about 3 cups)
- Toasted sesame seeds
- Cooked rice, for serving
Whisk all of the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl. Set it aside.
Cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes (or triangles, or your favorite shape!).
Place the cornstarch into a shallow bowl.
Generously coat the bottom of a large skillet with oil and place it over medium heat. You'll need the oil to be about ¼ inch thick.
Give the oil a minute to heat up, then dredge a few tofu cubes in the cornstarch, and transfer them to the hot skillet. Add just as many tofu cubes as you can fit without crowding.
Cook the tofu for about 5 minutes, until lightly browned and crisp on the bottom. Flip the tofu pieces and cook for about 5 minutes more, until the pieces are crispy on the opposite sides.
Remove the tofu from the skillet and transfer it to a paper towel-lined plate.
Cook any remaining tofu using the same method, adding oil to the skillet between batches if needed.
If the skillet is dry at this point, add a dash more oil. Raise the heat to high.
Add the chile peppers and white parts of scallions. Stir-fry for about a minute, until the scallions become fragrant and the chiles darken a bit.
Add the broccoli to the skillet and continue stir-frying until the broccoli is tender-crisp and bright green, about 4 minutes.
Return the tofu to the skillet and add the sauce. Flip everything a few times to coat the broccoli and tofu with the sauce.
Cook everything just until the sauce thickens, about 1 minute.
Remove the skillet from heat and sprinkle with green parts of scallions, and sesame seeds.
Divide the General Tso's tofu onto plates and serve it with rice.
*For a milder version of the dish, remove the seeds from the dried chiles before adding them to the skillet. You can also skip the chiles altogether, or substitute sriracha or sambal oelek to taste.
Nutrition information includes 1 teaspoon of sesame seeds per serving and does not include rice.