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General Tso’s (Not) Chicken Bowls

General Tso's (Not) Chicken Bowls Recipe

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.

This post was originally published on August 6, 2014.

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General Tso’s (Not) Chicken Bowls

General Tso's (Not) Chicken Bowls Recipe

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

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

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

Instructions

Make the sauce

  1. Whisk all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Steam the broccoli

  1. 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.

Make the General Tso’s bowls

  1. Place the cornstarch and seitan in a large plastic bag and toss well to coat.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Divide among bowls. Serve with rice and top with sesame seeds and scallions.

Notes

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.

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46 Comments

  • Reply
    Anele @ Success Along the Weigh
    August 6, 2014 at 8:44 am

    General Tso’s is my favorite! Will definitely make this!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      August 6, 2014 at 3:11 pm

      Me too! Enjoy 🙂

  • Reply
    Abby @ The Frosted Vegan
    August 6, 2014 at 8:59 am

    My guy loves General Tso’s Chicken, so this would be a perfect way to bribe him into trying a non-meat meal! 🙂

    • Reply
      Alissa
      August 6, 2014 at 3:12 pm

      This is the perfect dish for meatless bribery!

  • Reply
    Lori @ RecipeGirl
    August 6, 2014 at 10:53 am

    Adding this to my must-try soon list!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      August 6, 2014 at 3:13 pm

      Excellent! Hope you enjoy it!!

  • Reply
    Kerri
    August 6, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    Gonna make this, but with Tofu instead! 🙂

    • Reply
      Alissa
      August 6, 2014 at 3:15 pm

      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 🙂

  • Reply
    Polly @ Tasty Food Project
    August 6, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    This looks so delicious and flavorful! I must give it a try!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      August 6, 2014 at 3:16 pm

      Thanks Polly! I found it to be quite delicious and flavorful. I hope you agree 🙂

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    August 6, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    Wow love the veggie twist but I have never tried or heard about seitan before? Any thoughts? Thanks!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      August 6, 2014 at 9:42 pm

      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!

  • Reply
    Kristin
    August 6, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    Would I be able to substitute tempeh for the seitan?

    • Reply
      Alissa
      August 6, 2014 at 9:47 pm

      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!

      • Reply
        Blanster
        August 8, 2014 at 8:27 pm

        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!!

        • Reply
          Alissa
          August 8, 2014 at 9:57 pm

          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 🙂

  • Reply
    Thalia @ butter and brioche
    August 6, 2014 at 11:33 pm

    i definitely could devour a bowlful of this right now.. will be recreating this recipe for my vegetarian household. thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      August 7, 2014 at 1:57 pm

      Thanks Thalia! I hope this is enjoyed by you and your entire household 🙂

  • Reply
    Emily
    August 7, 2014 at 12:17 am

    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!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      August 7, 2014 at 1:58 pm

      General Tso’s is the popular favorite for a reason. You’ve definitely gotta try it!

  • Reply
    Deborah @ Confessions of a Mother Runner
    August 7, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    Looks easy and goo!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      August 7, 2014 at 8:55 pm

      Thanks Deborah! It was delicious and really easy to make!

  • Reply
    Sydney
    August 7, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    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.

    • Reply
      Alissa
      August 7, 2014 at 8:56 pm

      Yes! So glad to hear it! Also good to know the recipe works with cayenne as a sub. Thanks so much for sharing!!

  • Reply
    Ana
    August 9, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    This is the mild version? I’m deffo making this, but i might make a baby version!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      August 12, 2014 at 4:36 pm

      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!

  • Reply
    Joanne
    August 9, 2014 at 10:02 pm

    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!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      August 10, 2014 at 2:53 pm

      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 🙂

  • Reply
    M
    August 12, 2014 at 10:43 am

    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.

    • Reply
      Alissa
      August 12, 2014 at 4:38 pm

      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!

  • Reply
    V
    April 10, 2015 at 7:38 pm

    Mmm! I made this for dinner tonight and I loved it! This was the first recipe I’ve made from your site and now I’m really excited to try some more. Sadly I couldn’t find any seitan at my grocery store (I couldn’t even find any tofu), but they had tempeh so I used that instead and it still turned out fantastic. I’ll definitely be making this again, it was really easy to do and really satisfying.

    • Reply
      Alissa
      April 12, 2015 at 8:35 pm

      Awesome! Glad you liked it! I think have to give this a try with tempeh soon, as I’ve heard from quite a few people that it works nicely. 🙂

  • Reply
    amanda
    May 31, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    Another great vegan recipe! Thanks Alissa! One question: what kind of chilies do you use? From the photo it looks like you’re using some kind of dried cayenne peppers? I used Thai bird eye chilies which were great – they are VERY VERY hot, but only if you break them open, and it seemed like all 15 of mine stayed intact. At any rate, thank you again, love this recipe!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      June 1, 2015 at 9:46 pm

      Thanks so much Amanda! You should be able to find the chilies I used in the Asian section of a well stocked supermarket. If not, they’ll certainly be available at an Asian market. They’re usually sold in bags and might be labeled as Chinese or Sichuan chili peppers. Cayenne, Thai chilies and most other types of red chili peppers work just fine as substitutes though. I’ll sometimes just substitute some hot sauce in a pinch.

  • Reply
    Sarah | Well and Full
    September 2, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    I’ve been looking for a vegan recipe for general tso’s! I can’t wait to try this out. Do you think you could sub chickpea flour for cornstarch, as a thickener? 🙂

    • Reply
      Alissa
      September 4, 2015 at 8:45 am

      I’ve seen recipes that use chickpea flour in a similar way, so I think it would work, but can’t say for sure without having tried it myself. Please let me know how it works if you do try it! 🙂

  • Reply
    Refugio Buch
    September 3, 2015 at 11:39 pm

    My meal came out a bit over cooked to make up for having to make sure the chicken was cooked all the way through. The chicken should have been cooked through after the minute simmering.

    • Reply
      Alissa
      September 5, 2015 at 9:33 pm

      If you’re using seitan you don’t need to worry about it being cooked all the way through – seitan is fully cooked as packaged. I hope that helps!

  • Reply
    Kate
    September 5, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    Oh yes, yes, yes!! I am a General Tso’s fanatic, so this sounds amazing!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      September 5, 2015 at 9:34 pm

      If you’re a Tso’s fanatic I think you’ll really dig these! Thanks Kate! 🙂

  • Reply
    Diane
    September 11, 2015 at 4:27 pm

    My daughter can’t decide if this is her favorite recipe or one other thing I make for her. This is really very tasty. I have served it multiple times and everyone loves it. Thanks for posting.

    • Reply
      Alissa
      September 13, 2015 at 8:49 pm

      Awesome! So glad to hear it. Thanks Diane! 🙂

  • Reply
    Will
    January 17, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    :hat tip:
    Just wanted to say thank you. The recipe is amazing.

    • Reply
      Alissa
      January 17, 2016 at 4:58 pm

      Thank you!! Glad you think so. 🙂

  • Reply
    Susannah
    February 3, 2016 at 8:27 pm

    I just made this last night. It was amazing then, and it was amazing today for leftovers too. I didn’t have whole chilies so I used 1tsp crushed red chilies. I also added 1C carrots. It came out great, though I’d love to try it with the whole chilies next time. Thanks for the great recipe!

    • Reply
      Alissa
      February 5, 2016 at 10:14 pm

      Glad you liked it, and carrots sound like a perfect addition! Thanks so much, Susannah!

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