Orange Tofu is the vegan version of the signature Panda Express dish, Orange Chicken. Featuring crispy tofu tossed in sticky-sweet orange chili sauce with veggies and rice. Enjoy this 30 minute Orange Tofu recipe for make-ahead lunches or easy weeknight dinners.
Why You'll Love this Orange Tofu Recipe
Orange Chicken is an Americanized Chinese dish consisting of battered and fried chicken tossed in a sticky-sweet orange chili sauce. The original Chinese-American orange chicken recipe was created for the popular fast-casual chain, Panda Express.
This recipe keeps the spirit of the dish with its sticky-sweet sauce, but delivers it in a more wholesome way. The sauce is made of fresh orange juice and zest with minimal added sugar to keep it fresh and light. Trust me, you won't regret ditching the delivery and making this homemade version instead.
And while you certainly can use chicken in this recipe, I love it with crispy cubes of tofu. The key, however, is to toss them in cornstarch so they get extra-crispy in the pan vs. the frier.
And in the unlikely event of leftovers, this orange tofu holds up deliciously the next day.
Recipe Ingredients and Substitutions
- Tofu: It’s important to use extra-firm (or “super-firm”) tofu for this recipe. The firmer the tofu, the less moisture you need to press out of it. (Less moisture = “meatier”, crispier cubes.) I purchase the super-firm, vacuum-sealed packs of tofu from either Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods.
- Orange Zest + Juice: The key to fresh, bright orange flavor, is using the zest of juice of a whole orange. You need ½ cup of orange juice, which amounts to roughly 2 large, juicy oranges.
- Soy Sauce: Soy sauce brings a savory, salty complement to the sweetness of the orange juice and sugar. I suggest using a lower sodium version, if possible. This way, you have better control over the saltiness of the sauce.
- Rice Vinegar: For quintessential sweet-and-sour flavor profile, a little rice vinegar adds assertiveness to the sauce.
- Aromatics: A classic combo of garlic and ginger creates the aromatic backbone of the sauce. The recipe calls for ground ginger for convenience, however feel free to use fresh!
- Cornstarch: Cornstarch does double duty here by creating a crispy outer layer on the tofu, as well as a slurry to help thicken the sauce.
- Brown Sugar: Classic orange chicken sauce typically calls for white sugar, however brown sugar adds more depth of flavor.
- Veggies: I love a mix of red bell pepper, red onion, and broccoli in this dish. You can also use snap peas, carrots, mushrooms, and/or any other bell pepper color.
Step 1: Prepare the Orange Sauce
In a large glass measuring cup or medium-sized bowl, combine fresh orange juice and zest, soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, ginger, and chili flakes. Stir ingredients with a whisk until smooth; set aside.
Step 2: Cook the Tofu
Place tofu in a large bowl and sprinkle with cornstarch. Toss well to make sure all cubes are thoroughly coated.
Next, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add tofu and cook until crisp and golden on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer tofu to a plate.
Step 3: Sauté the Vegetables
Heat another glug of oil in the same skillet, and add vegetables. Cook vegetables for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring often, until soft. Next, add garlic; cook 1 more minute, until aromatic. Transfer vegetables to a bowl.
Step 4: Toss Tofu with Orange Sauce
Pour orange sauce in skillet and bring to a boil (sauce will thicken quickly). Add tofu and toss to thoroughly coat in sauce. Remove skillet from heat.
Step 5: Serve over Rice
Add a serving of rice to each of four bowls, and top with sautéed veggies and orange tofu. Garnish each bowl with sesame seeds and green onion, and serve immediately.
What to Serve with Orange Tofu:
- Rice. I love serving this tofu over a bed of fluffy white rice. I prefer a long-grain white rice, such as Jasmine or Basmati, however you can also use brown rice for extra fiber. If you're looking for a lower carb alternative, cauliflower rice would also be delicious here.
- Vegetables. You can switch up the veggies in this recipe based on your preferences and what's in season. For example, any color of bell pepper works, as does mushrooms, snap peas, or thinly sliced carrot coins.
- Salad: To complement the flavors of this dish, try my speedy Sesame-Cucumber Salad or 20 Minute Chopped Asian Salad.
Make-Ahead and Storage Tips:
- To Make Ahead. Cut the tofu into cubes, and chop all vegetables up to 1 day in advance. Store each in a separate container in the refrigerator. You can also cook the rice up to 2 days ahead.
- To Store. Place leftover orange tofu in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- To Reheat. To help the tofu re-crisp, rewarm this recipe in a skillet over medium heat. You can also crisp up the tofu in a toaster oven.
More Tofu Recipes to Try:
Black Pepper Tofu -- reader favorite!
If you give this vegan orange chicken a try, I’d love for you to leave a rating and review. Also, be sure snap a pic and tag #dishingouthealth so I can see your beautiful creations.
- Large Nonstick Skillet
- Mixing bowls
- 1 (14-oz.) pkg. extra-firm (or super-firm) tofu, drained
- ¼ cup plus 1 Tbsp. cornstarch, divided
- 4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
- ½ tsp. kosher salt, divided
- ½ cup fresh orange juice (from 2 to 3 oranges)
- 1 tsp. orange zest
- ¼ cup lower-sodium soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
- 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
- ½ tsp. ground ginger
- ¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- 4 cups small broccoli florets
- 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 cup thinly sliced red onion
- 2 minced garlic cloves
- Thinly sliced green onion and toasted sesame seeds for garnish
- White rice for serving
- *Note: You will use the same skillet for every step of the recipe. Make sure all ingredients are prepped at the start because it comes together quickly. Wrap tofu in a clean kitchen towel and press on all sides to remove as much moisture as possible. Alternatively, you can set something heavy on top (such as a cast iron skillet), and let it press for about 15 to 20 minutes, or even longer for firmer tofu. Slice tofu into cubes, and place in a large bowl. Add ¼ cup cornstarch and toss to coat. Heat 2 Tbsp. of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add tofu and cook until golden-brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Season with ¼ tsp. salt, and transfer to a clean plate. Return skillet back to burner over medium-high.While tofu cooks, prepare orange sauce by combining orange juice and zest, soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, remaining 1 Tbsp. cornstarch, ginger, and chili flakes in a large glass measuring cup or bowl. Stir with a whisk until smooth; set aside.
- Heat remaining 2 Tbsp. oil in the same skillet you cooked tofu in. Once hot, add broccoli, red bell pepper, and red onion; cook 5 to 6 minutes, stirring often, until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 more minute, until aromatic. Season vegetables with remaining ¼ tsp. salt, and transfer to a bowl.Pour orange sauce in skillet and bring to a boil (the sauce will thicken quickly). Add tofu and toss to thoroughly coat in sauce. Remove skillet from heat.
- Add a serving of rice to each of four bowls, and top with sautéed veggies and orange tofu. Garnish each bowl with sesame seeds and green onion, and serve immediately.