Crispy Baked Orange Tofu is a deliciously sweet and spicy, healthy substitution for your favorite Chinese takeout meal. I don’t even notice the reduction in calories, saturated fat, or sodium and you won’t either!
The Every Kitchen’s Food Stories series continues with fellow dietitian and flexitarian, Katie Pfeffer. Katie’s is a story I think many of us can relate to. She grew up as sous chef in her childhood home, creating meat-based meals with her mother. As she got older, both her palate and her knowledge widened and Katie is now the head chef of her flexitarian home kitchen. If you’re not sure what “flexitarian” means, read her food story to find out!
A carnivore on Lipitor. That was an inside joke growing up in my family of cardiologists. There was never a day without meat (or fish) on the table. A favorite dish at our house was from Martin Yan’s Yan Can Cook: Mango beef sizzling atop a bed of jasmine rice. I guess you can say, “Beef: it’s what’s for dinner,” of my childhood kitchen. When I think of our kitchen, I also remember the stunning copper pots hanging from the ceiling, which could even be seen through the bay window from the road.
These memories stick with me to this day, not just because of the beautiful interior (and delicious food), but most importantly, because of the times I shared with my mother. It has been 17 years since her passing and my memories of her come to life when I am in the kitchen. Even though I was only a young teenager as her sous chef, those vivid memories of my eyes watering with every onion and of my sticky fingers with scrumptious cookie dough still stick with me (no pun intended).
As I entered college, exploring cooking became new to me again since I was no longer the sous chef of years prior. The cafeteria’s stir fry and sushi started to broaden my palette. Tofu and veggie burgers were up there with my routine chicken and shrimp. More and more I experimented with soy proteins and vegetarian options.
It wasn’t until my public health rotation during my dietetic internship several years later that I explored the effects of factory farming on climate change and the lives of animals. Readingcompletely changed me. I became much more hesitant when ordering chicken at a restaurant and even cut down on cooking with meat at home.
I owe my now mostly vegetarian kitchen to my husband. On our first date almost eight years ago, I learned that my then boyfriend was a lifelong vegetarian. This wasn’t a huge culture shock for me since I was familiar with the plant-based diet and its amazing, nutritious benefits. Instead of chicken in my soup, I started using tofu or beans. Turkey meatballs from Trader Joe’s became homemade vegetarian meatballs or tempeh. This shift in cooking became a new journey and last year I decided to finally share it with friends and family in my blog, One Hungry Bunny.
Today, I consider myself a flexitarian – I still eat fish and little meat, but most of the time it is vegetarian in my household.
This recipe is a vegetarian makeover for Orange Chicken (or beef), a favorite Chinese takeout dish growing up in my household. For this version, I replaced it with heart healthy tofu and used a baking method to cut out the heavy frying!
Kathryn Pfeffer-Scanlan, MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian with over five years of experience in the clinical field. Katie and her husband moved to Boulder, CO, on a whim last summer where she has taken up road racing and trail running. She is passionate about cooking and food photography, sharing her culinary adventures on her food blog, One Hungry Bunny, and as a lifelong Bostonian, exploring her new Rocky Mountain surroundings. Follow Katie on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
As I scanned Katie’s blog, One Hungry Bunny, I thought to myself, “I know you… I’ve definitely been here before.” It turns out that I had “pinned” several of Katie’s recipes before ever working with her before! Some of my favorites: Peanut Butter Strawberry Chia Pudding, Tofu & Shrimp Skewers with Hummus Marinade, BBQ Jackfruit Naan Pizzas
In my opinion, Katie’s recipe for Crispy Baked Orange Tofu is like a triple-header champion. If you’ve ever ordered Crispy Orange Beef (or sesame chicken or general Tso’s chicken or any number of Chinese takeout dishes), you get a deep-fried, sauce-swimming, meat-based meal. (Read: lots of saturated fat, lots of salt, albeit tasty.) Even if you swap in tofu, it too arrives saturated with that frying oil.
Here’s how Crispy Baked Orange Tofu knocks it out of the park:
- The tofu is baked and low in saturated fat.
- The dish is tossed in a juicy sweet + spicy flavor combination that’s reduced in sodium (reduced by more than 75 percent!).
- Tofu is plant-based, vegetarian- and flexitarian-friendly, of course.
- Oh, and did I mention… It’s delicious and I ate the entire recipe myself? I ate about half of it hot, but I ate the leftovers straight out of the fridge.
With the Crispy Baked Orange Tofu recipe in hand and just 10 minutes of prep time, you can find out for yourself just how delicious a plant-based and baked Chinese dish can be!
Crispy Baked Orange Tofu
Crispy Baked Orange Tofu is a deliciously sweet and spicy, healthy substitution for your favorite Chinese takeout meal. I don't even notice the reduction in calories, saturated fat, or sodium and you won't either! Recipe by Katie Pfeffer at One Hungry Bunny.
For the tofu:
- 1 14-ounce package extra firm tofu cubed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon fennel seed
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon corn starch (or more to coat)
- Salt and garlic powder to taste
For the orange glaze:
- Juice and zest of one orange (about 1/3 cup juice)
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce (use tamari for gluten free option)
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 2 tablespoons vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon corn starch
- Chopped scallions and sesame seeds
- Brown rice
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In a medium bowl, mix all of the ingredients for the coating and toss the tofu to coat. Spread the coated tofu on a greased or non-stick baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes or until crispy.
Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a small bowl, combine the orange juice, zest, vinegar, soy sauce, honey, and broth. Set aside.
Heat sesame oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes and sauté 1 minute or until fragrant.
Add the orange juice mixture to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer for 5-7 minutes. To thicken the sauce, mix the cornstarch with small amount of water to make a paste and whisk it into the orange sauce. Once the sauce reaches the desired Toss the baked tofu with the orange sauce until completely coated. Serve over brown rice. Sprinkle with scallions and sesame seeds.