Find out below...
Is General Tso Sauce Vegan?
General Tso's (also called General Gao's) is a classic Chinese restaurant dish. Among the popular protein choices for this dish is tofu, which is vegan. But is the sauce vegan, too?
If you're eating at a restaurant, the usual answer is yes, though Peta suggests you inquire about fish sauce. However, most restaurants make General Tso sauce without animal products so they can accommodate vegans and vegetarians. If they have a veg-friendly section on the menu that's a good sign!
If you're making General Tso's as home, however, you'll have to make sure that you've found a vegan sauce recipe.
It's true that many recipes, like this Genius Kitchen recipe that calls for soy sauce, sugar, rice wine, rice wine vinegar, chili paste and cornstarch, are already vegan.
But non-veg recipes are out there. The ones you're likely to come across contain chicken broth, which is definitively not vegan. But even chicken broth General Tso's recipes can easily be veganfied if you use a vegan chicken broth or a veggie broth.
As for store-bought General Tso sauce, you should be in the clear, as you'll see below...
General Tso Sauce Ingredients
We'll look at the ingredients for House of Tsang General Tso Stir-Fry Sauce (linked above):
Ingredients: Sugar, Soy Sauce (Water, Wheat, Soybeans, Salt, Vinegar), Water, Tomato Paste, Balsamic Vinegar (Wine Vinegar, Grape Must), Distilled Vinegar, Contains 2% or less of Cornstarch, Olive Oil, Dehydrated Onion, Dehydrated Garlic, Spices, Yeast Extract, Xanthan Gum.
This is a pretty typical ingredients list for General Tso sauce you can buy in the store. Unless you're buying a specialty or homemade type, you can rest assured that the General Tso sauce at the store is vegan.
Another commonly asked question about General Tso's is...
This partly depends on your definition of "healthy."
If you're wary of sugar, you might want to skip the store-bought sauce and cook up some General Tso's at home using less sugar. You can also substitute regular sugar with stevia or coconut sugar or even some whole dates to sweeten it.
If deep-frying is a no-no for you, try baking or sautéeing the tofu in a little olive, grape seed or canola oil instead. Ask for steamed tofu when eating out.
While there's no reason to assume that the General Tso's Tofu at your favorite Chinese place isn't healthy (if you ask for steamed tofu), the sauce might contain a fair amount of sugar. MSG is sometimes added to General Tso sauces, too, but unless you're one of the few people who have short-term reactions to MSG-containing foods, research has shown it to be perfectly safe. If MSG is a concern for you, be sure to ask your server.
Use your best judgment when it comes to making healthy choices, but the few tweaks we've covered can help you indulge and avoid the guilt.
The fact is, if health is your goal you need to be eating mostly whole-plant foods, but it's okay to splurge a little bit here and there.