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General Tso’s Paneer

General Tso’s Paneer

American Chinese takeout favourite General Tso’s Chicken gets a vegetarian makeover with this Desi Chinese-inspired fresh stir-fry dish, General Tso’s Paneer. Crisp-coated creamy paneer nuggets tossed in a sticky spicy, sweet and sour sauce.

This fakeaway recipe is…

  • Vegetarian
  • Easily veganized
  • Tastes like it’s restaurant-quality
  • Perfect side for rice, noodles and mixed veggies

Vegetarian General Tso’s Chicken

Generally speaking (pun intended), General Tso’s Chicken is a non-vegetarian affair when it comes from ordering from restaurants and take outs.

Fried cheese nuggets in a spicy, sticky Asian sauce. This is General Tso’s Paneer and it’s a dinner I love to make. A great tip is to use cold sparkling water for the lightest and crispiest coating. Paneer is a type of fresh cheese popular in South Asia. It has a great texture and most importantly, doesn’t melt. If you’re vegan, you can also make this with tofu.

You’re going to need four or more huge cloves of garlic, as well as a lot of dried chillies which bring balance to a sweet and sour sauce like this. Once it’s glossy and smooth, toss in the crispy cheese nuggets and fold to give them their new shiny red coat. Serve with rice and broccoli.

Have a quick browse online and you’ll unearth a gold mine of plant-based recipes for General Tso’s Chicken; These recipes usually put plant-based heroes such as tofu and cauliflower to work.

Some of the most delicious vegan recipes for General Tso’s Chicken include this recipe for General Tso’s Tofu by Plant You and this Baked Vegan General Tso Cauliflower by Vegan Richa. I’m also intrigued by this vegan recipe for General Tso’s Chickpea Stir Fry from Eat with Clarity.

General Tsos Paneer recipe Indo chinese recipe
Crisp-coated paneer in a sticky chilli sauce

While my recipe is free from chicken, it does call for paneer, a mild, non-melting Indian cottage cheese, similar in texture to tofu. It’s a must try if you’re a cheese lover. Hot, crispy-coated cheese is always a winner, isn’t it?

More delicious Indo-Chinese recipes

A note on dried red chillies

Dried red chillies are a crucial part of this recipe for General Tso’s Paneer. They provide the deep heat required to balance the sweet and sour flavours of the sauce. Without a spicy element, this dish would be unnecessarily sweet.

Feel free to add chilli to your taste, remembering that each variety packs its’ own level of heat. I use Sichuan dried round chillies (sometimes called facing heaven chillies). They are a medium-hot, fragrant chilli with a citrusy flavour. If you’d prefer a milder heat, try dried Kashmiri chillies which are widely available in South Asian shops.

If you don’t have any dried chillies, you can add in some red chilli flakes or simply use chilli powder. I like to add a touch of Kashmiri chilli powder to my recipe since it has such a beautiful red colour.

Important ingredients you’ll need to make General Tso’s Paneer

Paneer stir fry recipe General Tso Paneer
Try this flavoursome Indo-Chinese paneer recipe for dinner tonight

Paneer or your favourite plant-based protein

Find paneer in the fridge at your local supermarket or South Asian food shop. It’s sold by the block, or in cubes. If you have a choice, go for the block so you can cut them into larger pieces.

If you don’t want to use paneer, you can also make this recipe with firm tofu, cauliflower, seitan, tempeh, mushrooms or any other protein of your choice.

Dried red chillies

See note above. Go as hot or as mild you like by switching up chilli varieties and quantities.

Aromatics and spices

Ginger, garlic, spring onions, chilli powder, white pepper.

Condiments and other seasonings

Tomato paste, vegetable stock, sugar, Shaoxing wine, chinkiang vinegar (or any rice wine vinegar), vegetarian oyster sauce, dark soy sauce, MSG, mirin, sesame seeds and toasted sesame oil (used as a seasoning, not a cooking fat).

Oils and flours

Cornflour (cornstarch) mixed with cold water to create a slurry. Add this in and mix well to thicken the sauce once it comes to a boil. Cornflour is also required to make a light and crispy batter.

You’ll also need self-raising flour, vegetable oil or any other oil suitable for deep frying. Cold sparkling water will keep the batter lovely and light.

Instructions for making General Tso’s Paneer

Step 1: Fry the paneer

General Tso Paneer recipe crispy paneer
Learn this technique for making crispy paneer (you can also use this method for other proteins and vegetables)

To prepare the paneer, beat together the cornflour, self-raising flour, salt, mirin, soy sauce and sparkling water. The batter should be of a thick, flowing consistency, a bit like a sauce.

Heat the oil in a large wok. Once the oil reaches a temperature of 175°C/350°F, it’s ready to use.

Dip the paneer pieces in the batter and very carefully place them in the hot oil. A pair of chopsticks makes light work of this and saves you from sticky fingers. Do not move the paneer for the first 15-20 seconds so the batter has a chance to firm up a bit, and then carefully swish the pieces around in the oil. Fry until they’re golden brown and crispy all over, about 5-6 minutes.

Drain in a colander or sieve and set aside. Allow the oil to cool a little, then transfer all except 2 tablespoons of it into a separate container.

Step 2: Make the sauce

General Tso Paneer recipe crispy paneer
Making General Tso’s sauce

Place the wok over a high heat and once the oil is smoking hot, add the ginger, garlic and chillies. Stir fry for 10 seconds and then add in the spring onion (white parts) and tomato paste. Stir fry for another 10 seconds and then tip in the Shaoxing wine, chinkiang vinegar, dark soy sauce, vegetarian oyster sauce, vegetable stock, sugar, white pepper, MSG, chilli powder and toasted sesame oil. Mix well and bring to the boil

Pour in the cornflour and water slurry and stir quickly to create a thick, shiny and smooth sauce.

Step 3: Toss the paneer and sauce together

Toss the fried paneer nuggets with the sauce and garnish with spring onion greens and sesame seeds. Serve immediately with steamed Jasmine rice and broccoli.

Recipe Card: General Tso’s Paneer

General Tso Paneer in a bowl with rice and broccoli
Yield: 4

General Tso's Paneer

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

American Chinese takeout favourite General Tso's Chicken gets a vegetarian makeover with this Desi Chinese-inspired paneer (fresh cheese) version. Crisp-coated creamy paneer nuggets tossed in a sticky spicy, sweet and sour sauce.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 6-8 mild dried red chillies
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 4 large cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • 125ml vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
  • 2 tbsp chinkiang vinegar (or any rice wine vinegar)
  • 1/2 tsp MSG
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp vegetarian oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp mild chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
  • 3 spring onions, white parts finely minced and green parts thinly sliced on the bias
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch) mixed with 4 tbsp cold water

For the paneer

  • 450g paneer, roughly broken into 1.5cm x 1.5cm nuggets
  • 125g cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 4 tbsp self-raising flour (or plain flour mixed with 1 tsp baking powder)
  • 1/2 tsp fine salt
  • 2 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp mirin (you could also use any rice wine)
  • 150ml sparkling water, ice cold
  • Oil for deep frying

To garnish and serve

  • Boiled or steamed Jasmine rice, to serve
  • Steamed broccoli or any other veggies of your choice, to serve
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame seeds, to garnish
  • Handful of spring onion greens, to garnish

Instructions

  1. To prepare the paneer, beat together the cornflour, self-raising flour, salt, mirin, soy sauce and sparkling water. The batter should be of a thick, flowing consistency, a bit like a sauce.
  2. Heat the oil in a large wok. Once the oil reaches a temperature of 175°C/350°F, it's ready to use. Dip the paneer pieces in the batter and very carefully, place them in the hot oil. A pair of chopsticks makes light work of this and saves you from sticky fingers.
  3. Do not move the paneer for the first 15-20 seconds so the batter has a chance to firm up a bit, and then carefully swish the pieces around in the oil. Fry until they're golden brown and crispy all over, about 5-6 minutes. Drain in a colander or sieve and set aside.
  4. Allow the oil to cool a little, then transfer all except 2 tablespoons of it into a separate container. Place the wok over a high heat and once the oil is smoking hot, add the ginger, garlic and chillies. Stir fry for 10 seconds and then add in the spring onion (white parts) and tomato paste. Stir fry for another 10 seconds and then tip in the Shaoxing wine, chinkiang vinegar, dark soy sauce, vegetarian oyster sauce, vegetable stock, sugar, white pepper, MSG, chilli powder and toasted sesame oil. Stir well and bring to the boil.
  5. Pour in the cornflour and water slurry and stir quickly to create a thick, shiny and smooth sauce.
  6. Toss the fried paneer nuggets with the sauce and garnish with spring onion greens and sesame seeds. Serve immediately with steamed Jasmine rice and broccoli.

Notes

You can also shallow fry the pieces of paneer, turning until golden on all sides. Don't try to oven bake the battered paneer, the batter will not crisp up properly in the oven or air fryer (it's likely to slide off the paneer).

If making in advance, you can keep the paneer warm in a low oven for up to 40 minutes before serving.

Toss the paneer and sauce together just before serving.

VEGAN OPTION

To make a vegan version of this dish, simply replace the paneer with firm tofu.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 639Total Fat: 41gSaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 20gCholesterol: 80mgSodium: 2044mgCarbohydrates: 42gFiber: 6gSugar: 13gProtein: 27g

Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.

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If you like this, you’ll love my recipe for Crispy Chilli Aubergine

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