General Tso’s (Not) Chicken Bowls

General Tso's (Not) Chicken Bowls
Photos by Lindsey Johnson

A fellow vegetarian friend introduced me to a fantastic breed of restaurant: vegetarian Chinese. If you live near a major city, there’s probably at least one nearby. Basically, you walk into what appears to be any old Chinese restaurant, and order from a menu that looks just like any ordinary Chinese restaurant menu. The twist is that dishes include no indication of whether or not they are suitable for vegetarians, because everything is vegetarian. It can be a little freaky at first, ordering something you’d never order at a conventional Chinese restaurant, but you get used to it pretty quickly.

One of those staples of American Chinese cuisine not normally suitable for vegetarians is General Tso’s Chicken. This simple dish consists of crunchy stir-fried broccoli alongside battered chicken, doused in a sweet-meets-salty soy-garlic-vinegar sauce. The vegetarian version I had at this restaurant, which is so good it made the friend who suggested it to me cry, is one I always suggest it for vegetarian-Chinese newbies–even omnivorous ones–and they love it every time. It features battered and deep-fried seitan in place of the chicken, and the whole thing is smothered in candy-sweet sauce.

General Tso's (Not) Chicken Bowls
Couldn’t be too tough to create something just as delicious as this veggie Chinese-restaurant favorite, I thought. (Fried + loaded with sugar usually results in some good-tasting food.) I wouldn’t go so far as to call this version healthy, but it’s definitely better for you than most restaurant versions. My General Tso’s Veggie Bowl uses pan-fried seitan and a sweet—but not over-the-top sweet—sauce. You won’t even miss the deep-frying or the extra sugar. This stuff is rich, scrumptious and will win over anyone you serve it to, vegetarian or not. Sorry in advance if it makes you cry.

General Tso’s (Not) Chicken Bowls

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

General Tso’s (Not) Chicken Bowls

This vegetarian take on General Tso's Chicken uses pan-fried seitan and crunchy broccoli, covered in a sweet (but not too sweet) sauce.


    For the General Tso's sauce:
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons honey or agave
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • For the bowls:
  • 1 large broccoli crown, cut into florets
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages seitan, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or any neutral-flavored cooking oil)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
  • 15 dried red chili peppers
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds


    Make the sauce
  1. Whisk all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside.
  2. Steam the broccoli
  3. Pour 1 inch of water into a large saucepan or wok and bring to a boil. Add the broccoli, cover, and steam until it's bright green and tender-crisp, about 2 minutes. Remove the broccoli from the pan, drain and set aside.
  4. Make the General Tso's bowls
  5. Place the cornstarch and seitan in a large plastic bag and toss well to coat.
  6. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the seitan cubes in a single layer. Cook for 3-5 minutes, or until crispy and golden brown on the bottoms. Gently flip and cook another 3-5 minutes on the other side. Remove the seitan from the skillet and transfer to a plate.
  7. Add the garlic, ginger and chili peppers to the skillet. Sauté about 1 minute, until the garlic and ginger become fragrant and the chili peppers start to blacken.
  8. Add the sauce, seitan and broccoli to skillet. Flip a few times to coat seitan pieces. Cook for about a minute, just until the sauce thickens.
  9. Divide among bowls. Serve with rice and top with sesame seeds and scallions.


Believe it or not, this is a mild version of the dish. Increase the heat by doubling or even tripling the number of dried chilies, or adding a bit of Asian chili paste.


About Alissa

Alissa Saenz crafts vegan recipes for her blog Connoisseurus Veg. When she’s not cooking and blogging about it, she’s probably engaging in some form of yoga, arts & crafts, or lawyering.   Read more from Alissa →

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    • AlissaAlissa says

      I’ve had restaurant versions of this with tofu and they’re tasty as well. Please let me know how it works if you give it a try :)

    • AlissaAlissa says

      Seitan is a meat substitute made from seasoned wheat gluten. You can pick it up in places like Whole Foods or you can make your own. I definitely recommend giving it a shot!

    • AlissaAlissa says

      If you substitute tempeh you’ll probably want to skip the cornstarch coating and just pan-fry it plain. I haven’t tried this recipe with tempeh, so I can’t say for sure how it will work out, but I think it would be good. Please let me know what you think if you do give it a shot!

      • Blanster says

        I made this tonight with tempeh. Of course I didn’t see you comment about skipping the cornstarch, so followed your directions to a “t”. It’s good! I’ve been a vegetarian so long, I’ve never had General Tso’s chicken, so have nothing to compare it to. I added carrots and next time, I’ll steam even more veggies to add. It’s a great base with a very flavorful sauce. Thank you!!

        • says

          Awesome! Thanks so much for commenting to let me know how this worked out! We’ve had a few questions on substitutions so this info will come in handy. Great to hear you enjoyed the dish :)

  1. says

    I know this is ridiculous, but I’ve never had any kind of General Tso’s Fill-in-the-Blank. Looks like it’s time for that to change!

  2. says

    Hey I made this last night it was super tasty! thanks for sharing! I didn’t have chili peppers so i just used cayenne powder and it made it plenty hot.

    • says

      Haha! Yeah, the sauce itself is pretty mild. The dried chilies only infuse it with a little bit of heat, so unless you bite right into one it will be very mild. It should still be tasty if you leave them out altogether though. Enjoy!

  3. says

    I’ve been to a vegetarian dim sum place here in NYC many times, but never just a straight up veg Chinese restaurant! Must seek out. And make this general tso’s at home. It is one dish I miss since going veg!

    • AlissaAlissa says

      You should definitely check out some Chinese vegetarian places! Philadelphia has a bunch of them – I’m sure New York does too. I hope you get to try out this dish in the meantime. Enjoy :)

  4. M says

    I’ve never had General Tso’s chicken but my boyfriend orders it every time we get Chinese take out and he confirmed the “tso-yness” of the sauce. It was really, really good even with a bunch of questionable substitutions. I used flax to thicken the sauce because I don’t have cornstarch. I used tempeh instead of seitan and pan fried it without the cornstarch coating. I used regular homemade barbeque sauce instead of hoisin, AND I was out of veg base so the sauce just had water and a dash of onion powder instead of broth. No sesame seeds either (I need to go grocery shopping apparently). So the recipe is pretty flexible. Will definitely make it again.

    • says

      Great to know it was tasty, even with all of those substitutions! For that matter, it’s great to know that the recipe is so flexible. I’m glad to hear you and your boyfriend enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing!

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