General Tso’s Tofu (Better Than Takeout)

4.91 from 10 votes
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General Tso’s Tofu features crispy caramelized tofu bites with tender broccoli rabe in a tangy savory sweet sticky sauce. Learn how to make extra crispy tofu with the minimum oil and time without deep frying, plus the best General Tso sauce! {vegan, gluten-free}

Homemade General Tso Tofu

In Chinese cooking, there are so many delicious ways to make rich tasting plant-based dishes using tofu, such as this General Tso’s Tofu. With just an extra marinating step, you can make delicious tofu bites that are extra crunchy and crispy with a caramelized texture. The sauce is tangy, savory and sweet, and works extremely well with the crispy tofu and the slightly bitter tasting broccoli rabe.

Crispy Tofu with Broccoli Rabe in a sticky sauce

How to cook crispy tofu without deep frying

The secret to making the best general tso’s tofu is the marinating process.

  1. Cut tofu into 1/2” (1 cm) pieces and transfer them to a gallon-size ziploc bag.
  2. Marinate the tofu with soy sauce and maple syrup. The combo helps to char the tofu and give it a beautiful caramelized taste.
  3. Drain all the liquid. Add cornstarch into the bag and shake to coat. The cornstarch is the key to an extra crispy crust. 
  4. Shallow fry the tofu in a large pan.

That’s it!

Marinate tofu in a ziplock bag

You don’t need to worry about the tofu breaking apart as long as you’re using extra firm tofu and handle the bag gently. Even if the tofu breaks up a little during cooking, you will still get super flavorful and crispy pieces.

Don’t have a ziplock bag?

General Tso’s Tofu

Ingredients

How to cut the broccoli rabe for stir fry

If your broccoli rabe is quite large and long: take off 3” to 4” (8 to 10 cm) of florets (the stems that have flowers on top). Take off the bigger leaves from the stem, then chop the stems into small pieces. 

For small broccoli rabe batches: you can simply take off 3” to 4” (8 to 10 cm) of florets (the stems that have flowers on top). And keep the rest intact, or halve the stems.

Prep work

When doing your prep work, always group the ingredients according to the cooking steps to minimize the number of plates on your table. Plus, you can add the ingredients more easily and avoid missing any ingredients.

Ingredients for making General Tso Tofu

Other vegetable alternatives

You can always use regular broccoli instead of broccoli rabe.

Though there are other options as well:

  • Swiss chard: chop the stems into small pieces and the leaves into bite-size pieces
  • Kale: take off the leaves and chop them into small bite-sized pieces. If using the stem, slice it as thinly as possible.
  • Spinach: use baby spinach directly, or halve the larger spinach leaves.
  • Brococlini: take off the top florets and chop the stems into small pieces.

Because the general tso’s sauce is quite rich and sweet, it pairs very well with a slightly bitter vegetable.

Note:

You will have to par-cook the broccoli and broccolini before making the general tso’s tofu stir fry (I’ve included the method in the recipe below). But if you’re using other vegetables listed above, you can add them directly into the pan.

Crispy Tofu with Broccoli Rabe in a sticky sauce over rice

What pan to use

If you’re not very experienced in cooking with tofu, I highly recommend using a large nonstick skillet. Because (1) you can easily fry the tofu with less oil (2) the tofu will not stick to the pan and then fall apart when you stir it.

When I made the dish, I used my 12” Debuyer carbon steel pan since it’s my go-to pan for making any stir fry. However the tofu stuck easily and fell apart a little. Plus, since the sauce has vinegar in it, it slightly erodes the seasoning of the pan. 

I do NOT recommend using a stainless steel pan. The tofu has a lot of starch and syrup and will get stuck too easily.

How to cook General Tso’s Tofu

  1. Spread the marinated tofu in a big pan
  2. Cook without moving until both sides turn golden brown, then transfer to a plate
  3. Saute the aromatics
  4. Add the broccoli rabe and cook until wilted
  5. Add back the cooked tofu and add the sauce
  6. Stir until the sauce is thickened and evenly coat the ingredients
General Tso Tofu cooking step-by-step

How to serve General Tso’s Tofu

I highly recommend serving general tso’s tofu with steamed rice. The crispy crunchy tofu bites and saucy vegetables pair so well with a hot bowl of rice. Start your rice before making the stir fry, and you will have a colorful and delicious meal in no time!

General Tso’s Tofu over rice
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General Tso’s Tofu features crispy caramelized tofu bites with tender broccoli rabe in a tangy savory sweet sticky sauce. Learn how to make extra crispy tofu with the minimum oil and time without deep frying, plus the best General Tso sauce! {vegan, gluten-free}

General Tso’s Tofu (Better Than Takeout)

4.91 from 10 votes
General Tso’s Tofu features crispy caramelized tofu bites with tender broccoli rabe in a tangy savory sweet sticky sauce. Learn how to make extra crispy tofu with the minimum oil and time without deep frying, plus the best General Tso sauce! {vegan, gluten-free}
Author: Maggie Zhu
Course: Main
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: takeout
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients

Tofu

  • 1 block (16 ounces / 450 g) extra firm tofu
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (or other syrup, or sugar)

Sauce (or premade general tso’s sauce)

Stir fry

  • 6 tablespoons cornstarch (or enough to coat the tofu)
  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil (or vegetable oil)
  • 1 batch broccoli rabe or 1 big head broccoli , cut into bite size pieces (yields about 4 cups once cut)
  • 1 tablespoon ginger , minced
  • 4 cloves garlic , minced
  • 4 green onions , roughly chopped
  • 2 dried Chinese chili peppers (Optional)

Instructions

For the tofu

  • Pat tofu dry with paper towels. Cut into 1/2” (1 cm) pieces and transfer into a large ziploc bag. Add soy sauce and maple syrup. Gently flip the bag a few times to coat tofu with the liquid. Marinate for 10 to 15 minutes while preparing other ingredients.

For the sauce

  • Mix all the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. If you’re using pre-made General Tso’s Sauce, shake the sauce to make the cornstarch dissolve completely, then pour 1/3 cup of the sauce into a bowl, add 1/3 cup of stock, and mix well.

To cook the stir fry

  • Once the tofu is marinated, open the bag just a little bit without letting the tofu fall out. Drain and discard all the liquid. Add the cornstarch, a tablespoon at a time, then gently toss the bag to coat the tofu. It is OK if the tofu doesn’t get coated evenly.
  • If using broccoli, add 1/4 cup water to a large pan and heat over medium-high heat until simmering. Add the broccoli. Cook covered for 1 minute, or until al dente. Transfer the broccoli to a plate. Wipe the pan clean with paper towels.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of oil into the pan. Add the tofu with your hand: shake off the extra cornstarch and lay it into the pan without overlapping. Let cook without moving for 2 minutes, or until the bottom turns golden. Flip to brown the other side, 2 minutes or so. If the pan gets too hot, turn to medium or medium-low heat. You can keep browning the other sides of the tofu if you prefer. Transfer the cooked tofu to a plate and set it aside.
  • Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, ginger, garlic, green onion, and dried red chilies (if using). Stir a few times to release the fragrance.
  • If using broccoli rabe, add it to the pan. Cook and stir until wilted. If using broccoli, add the cooked broccoli back into the pan.
  • Stir the sauce again to dissolve the cornstarch completely. Pour it into the pan. Cook and stir until the sauce thickens and coats all the ingredients.
  • Add the tofu back into the pan. Gently toss it to coat it with the sauce. Transfer everything to a large serving plate.
  • Serve hot as a main dish.

Notes

  1. To make the dish gluten-free, use tamari to replace the soy sauce, dry sherry instead of Shaoxing wine, and balsamic vinegar to replace Chinkiang vinegar.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving, Calories: 344kcal, Carbohydrates: 42.4g, Protein: 13.3g, Fat: 15.3g, Saturated Fat: 2.7g, Sodium: 903mg, Potassium: 569mg, Fiber: 4.2g, Sugar: 20.4g, Calcium: 295mg, Iron: 3mg
Did You Make This Recipe?Don’t forget the last step! Leave a comment below, and tag me @OmnivoresCookbook and #OmnivoresCookbook on Instagram!

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Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Stuart says:

    5 stars
    Happy New Year to all,

    Had this,General Tao’s sauce on tofu & broccoli, as a side with Cantonese Pork Roast for our New Year’s dinner: excellent all the way around. It is comforting to know that these offered recipes are tested and found to be successful. As Maggie states, by making a bulk amount the cook has pre-made (fresh & healthy) sauce ready in the fridge for whatever veg is on hand.

    Please keep these great sauces coming and thanks.

    Happy cooking in the new year.

    • Stuart says:

      5 stars
      … PS did I spell the General’s name wrong? No disrespect intended.

      how I do go on: without preservatives these sauces won’t keep for years … like the store bought. I’m sure Ms. Zhu can advise on shelf life.

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Stuart, Happy New Year! I’m glad to hear you cooked the dish and enjoyed it!
      As for the sauce storage time, if you mix all the ingredients without adding herbs and simmering them, it can be kept in fridge for rather a long time (2 to 3 months). If you cooked a large quantity of sauce with herbs, it can be stored in fridge for 1 to 2 weeks.
      I hope you have a delicious new year 🙂

  2. Lisa says:

    Wonderful recipe! Can’t wait to try it.
    Just a quick note though – my gluten-free friends tell me that Soy Sauce tends to have gluten as well. They usually opt for something else like Tamari or specially marked gluten-free soy sauce :).

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Lisa, thanks for pointing it out. You’re totally right. You need to replace soy sauce with tamari (or other gluten free brand) for if you’re cooking for people who’s gluten intolerant. Wheat is one of the ingredients for making soy sauce, so most soy sauce contains gluten.
      Happy cooking and let me know how the dish turns out! 🙂

  3. Julia says:

    5 stars
    Dear Maggie,
    I enjoyed this wonderful dish today, it’s so easy yet delicious. I used cime di rapa instead of broccoli and it also went very well.
    Thanks for sharing!
    Julia

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Julia, I’m glad to hear you tried this dish and liked it! It’s so easy isn’t it?
      Have a great week ahead 🙂

  4. Barbara says:

    I just made this tonight, and it is fantastic! Thank you so much – I’ve tried many recipes for this, and this is by far the best.

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Barbara, thanks for taking time to leave a comment and I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed the dish! Have an awesome week ahead 🙂

  5. Sue says:

    5 stars
    Hi Maggie –
    I made this for dinner last night, and I have to say it was one of the most divine eating experiences ever! Thank you for sharing!!
    –Sue

  6. Bisnis Makanan Ringan says:

    I have done to try this recipe. Very delicious. You should try it

  7. Daniel says:

    Thank you, it was delicious!

  8. Cheryl Mae says:

    Can the tofu be cooked without oil? Perhaps baked on s silpat? Looks amazing but I do not use added oil in my cooking. Thanks.

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Cheryl, you could try out this tofu recipe: https://omnivorescookbook.com/crispy-tofu-with-garlic-sauce/
      It is a baked tofu without using oil. The result is a chewy-crispy texture that works well with a sauce (not as crispy as the method using oil though). Happy cooking and I hope this method is helpful.

  9. Jo says:

    I just made this tonight for dinner. It’s good, the sauce is good, but I had trouble frying the tofu. When I was frying it, the cornstarch was goopy and stuck to the pan and came off of the tofu for the most part. In the end, the tofu was still sure, as if I didn’t fry it at all.

    This happens every time I try to fry tofu, I don’t know what the problem is. Is it that I’m adding too much or too little cornstarch? Or is my tofu too wet? Almost all of the marinating liquid absorbed into the tofu, so I didn’t even have to drain it.

    Do you have any idea what could be wrong?

  10. Alexis says:

    4 stars
    All I can say is this was super tasty, delicious and easy to make! My tofu didn’t crisp up as well as your’s, but no worries, it worked out in the end. This was my first time trying a recipe from your site; after the success I had with tofu, I quickly made your Thai Sweet Chili Chicken (also delicious – sent photos to my friends and everyone thought I’d ordered from a restaurant!) lol). Also, thank you for the tip regarding flash steaming veggies. My broccoli tasted exactly like the local takeout restaurant.

  11. Alison says:

    I absolutely adore crispy tofu! I am bookmarking your website because there are so many tasty recipes here. Thank you Maggie!

  12. Sashi Sehgal says:

    5 stars
    Hi Maggie,
    Really enjoying your recipes. Generally we do Chinese cooking with meat but today we ventured into the land of tofu!
    We thought this was a great set of ingredients to try it with because the coated what apppears to be a relatively bland base with flavour. Would certainly try it again because the tofu is so light.
    Thanks again for this site, I share it with many because the food is so quality!

  13. Edith says:

    5 stars
    Hi Maggie. I was surfing the net & came across your website. It looked good & was easy to navigate.
    I made the General Tso dish tonight & my whole family LOVED it. Thank you very much for sharing this delicious combination. Can’t wait to try out your other recipes!
    Great websites btw!

  14. Ed says:

    Tofu troubles? Get you over to H Mart on Lakeline Blvd., if you haven’t discovered it yet. I was at one of my two stores yesterday for components to make nishime for the family; H Mart is the only place that I can find gobo root. Actually, there are more Chinese grocery stores than you can ever visit in a lifetime in Houston, but I like H Mart (as do many other guests) for their extensive selection, and store cleanliness. This trip I discovered a slew of vegetables (leafy greens) that I have never seen before.

    Best wishes!

    https://austin.eater.com/2017/1/10/14227246/h-mart-asian-supermarket-austin-lakeline

  15. Shelby says:

    5 stars
    This was amazing!

  16. Megan says:

    5 stars
    One of my housemates is allergic to onions, and is sensitive to garlic, so I eliminated the scallions and reduced the garlic to one clove. Still really tasty! The other housemate begged me to make a second batch right away–it was a hit.

    I nearly burned the tofu not realizing how quickly it would cook. I loved how the marinated, corn-starch-coated fry turned out. I feel empowered knowing I can make that at home now.

    I like to nibble on the dried chile peppers in this dish; to me it doesn’t taste right without that spiciness. Is that why you recommend fresh birds-eye chiles–so that the whole dish is spicy?

  17. Alene says:

    I haven’t made this yet, but I definitely will. I had no idea that there could be gluten in shaoxing wine and black vinegar! That is so discouraging. I do not have celiac disease but I have a worsening reaction to gluten. I have both of those in my pantry, and I will now be very careful to notice what happens when I eat something with them. I seem to be getting more and more sensitive to gluten, and it’s not fun. Thank you for mentioning that.

  18. Pey-Lih says:

    5 stars
    This recipe looks so delicious! I think I will make it tonight in fact. Perfect timing. Thank you for this recipe

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      Can’t wait to hear your feedback. Happy cooking! 🙂

  19. Lisa Colby says:

    I believe step 4 forgets to say to add the ginger. Was that an accidental omission?

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      Nope! Thanks for letting me know. Just updated the step 4 with ginger. Happy cooking!

  20. ebean says:

    ??? Is there a maple syrup substitute you can suggest? no one in my house likes maple. But this is something I’d love to make

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      You can simply use sugar or other type of syrup. Happy cooking!

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