Baked Orange Tofu ~ who can resist crispy, golden cubes of tofu coated in a glossy, sweet-savory orange sauce? This is the gluten-free, vegan, and EASY weeknight dinner you need right now. It’s a hit with everyone (even tofu haters and the kids ) because…that orange sauce!
Baked orange tofu is the plant based version of one of my favorite take out dishes, orange chicken.
Deep frying is the de rigueur treatment for tofu in lots of restaurant recipes, but for this meal, tofu cubes are baked to crispy perfection in the oven, and then coated in a sticky sauce that gets its fantastic flavor from fresh orange juice and peel, garlic, and ginger, along with a little heat from some red pepper. I kept the ingredient list on the minimal side, too, so it’s super weeknight friendly.
What you’ll need:
- tofu ~ extra firm for a ‘meaty’ texture
- fresh orange juice and zest
- cornstarch ~ coats the tofu and creates a wonderful crunch after baking
- vegetable oil
- soy sauce
- rice vinegar
- sesame oil ~ a flavor bomb if there ever was one
- brown sugar
- red pepper flakes ~ this recipe is supposed to be spicy, but leave out if you’re cooking for kids
Tofu is an ideal plant based meat alternative
Tofu makes an ideal substitute for meat in so many dishes, but it’s especially at home in Asian inspired recipes.
- Tofu is made from condensed soy milk that is pressed to form it into blocks, so it’s almost like soy cheese.
- It’s high in protein, just like animal products, so it can anchor a meal.
- Tofu (like mushrooms) has a unique chewy texture that actually mimics the mouthfeel of meats, so it can appeal to meat lovers who are trying to lighten up their diet.
- Tofu doesn’t really taste like anything on its own, so it can take on whatever flavor profile you’re working with. (And it’s perfect for picky eaters!)
Tofu comes in four basic types
- silken ~ this tofu is delicate and silky, it’s so moist it basically falls apart if you handle it, so it’s perfect for desserts like cheesecake, or making fillings for lasagna, etc. Think of it as a plant based version of cream cheese or ricotta.
- soft ~ this tofu is soft but holds together better than silken. It soaks up flavors well.
- firm ~ is the most common type and is pretty universal, use it is soups, stir fries, etc. It can be sautéed or deep fried. I use firm tofu in my classic miso soup recipe.
- extra-firm ~ this, like its name suggests, is super firm, and holds together well for dishes like stir fries, etc. If you’re looking to replicate the experience of meat, go for the extra firm.
How to bake tofu (it’s so much healthier than frying)
This is my favorite way to prepare tofu because it’s easy, mostly hands-off, and results in great texture. It’s very adaptable too – try pairing it with different sauces or adding spices to the coating.
- Preheat oven to 425F. Drain your tofu (extra firm tofu works best here), and dry it with a clean kitchen towel or paper towels, gently squeezing out some of the excess moisture.
- Cut the tofu into bite sized cubes, and toss it with some cornstarch and a drizzle of vegetable oil. I use about 2-3 Tbsp of cornstarch per block of tofu, and a tablespoon or two of oil. Don’t worry if some of the cubes break up a little bit.
- Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper (I find tofu has a tendency to stick to my baking pans, so the parchment paper is really helpful here), and spread the tofu out in a single layer on the pan.
- Bake for about 35-45 minutes, tossing once or twice during baking. The tofu should be lightly golden brown and crispy on the outside.
Tofu makes many classic dishes cheaper to make, and healthier
When coated and fried your tofu can stand in for meats, poultry, and seafood in so many of your favorite Asian dishes. My kung pao tofu is a good example of how tofu works with strong flavors. Try it in my firecracker chicken, too ~ with all that flavor and colorful veggies going on, you won’t miss the chicken one bit.
I almost forgot to call out the super fresh orange flavor!
Fresh orange juice and the zest from those oranges gives lots of flavor to the sauce. You might try substituting lemon for the orange, if you want to change it up.
More savory recipes with seasonal citrus
- Roasted Chicken with Allspice and Citrus
- Spicy Mandarin Orange Soba Noodles
- Creamy Lemon Dill Salmon
- Poached Halibut Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
- Meyer Lemon Roast Chicken
Baked Orange Tofu
For the baked tofu
- 28 ounces (2 packages) extra firm tofu
- 6 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1 pinch salt
- 2-3 Tbsp vegetable oil
For the sauce
- 4 Tbsp soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 3 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1 cup orange juice (about 3-4 medium oranges)
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated or finely minced
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
- peel of 1 medium orange, sliced into thin strips
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch, dissolved in 2 Tbsp water
- Preheat oven to 425F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Drain the tofu and pat it try with a clean kitchen towel or paper towels, gently squeezing some of the excess moisture out.
- Slice the tofu into bite sized cubes, and gently toss together with the cornstarch, salt, and oil.
- Spread the tofu cubes out into a single layer on your prepared baking sheet, and bake for about 35-45 minutes, tossing once or twice during cooking.
- While the tofu is baking, whisk together all of the sauce ingredients, except the cornstarch mixture. Set aside.
- Remove the tofu from the oven when it is done cooking, it should be lightly golden brown and crispy on the outside, and set aside.
- Add the sauce ingredients, along with the cornstarch mixture, to a large saute pan, mixing to combine. Heat over medium heat until the sauce is just starting to simmer, then add the tofu cubes and toss everything together.
- Continue to heat everything together until the sauce is thickened and glossy.
- Serve along with white rice, and top with sliced green onion and sesame seeds, if desired.