Chinese lemon tofu – From my bowl

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Chinese lemon tofu features crispy, golden tofu nuggets dipped in a bright, sticky, tangy lemon sauce. Serve with rice and lemon slices for an irresistible takeout meal! Ready in 30 minutes. Vegan, gluten-free and oil-free option.

This Lemon Sticky Tofu Recipe is inspired by Chinese Americans’ favorite lemon chicken, but has a plant-based twist. A hassle-free 30-minute meal that coats crispy baked tofu in a zesty and bright vegan lemon glaze for a bite full of flavor, in every bite!

  1. A tangy takeout classic with a vegan twist
  2. Ingredients for lemon tofu
  3. How to make Chinese lemon tofu
  4. Presentation suggestions
  5. How to store Chinese tofu
  6. Substitutions and variations
  7. Chinese lemon tofu recipe

A tangy takeout classic with a vegan twist

I love orange tofu, but I’m going to risk a negative reaction here and say maybe lemon tofu is better? It still has a similar sweet, salty, and fragrant sauce, but the added acidity from lemon juice adds a perfect touch of tangy flavor. So it’s as orange tofu, but slightly improved 😉

Whether you need a foolproof weeknight dinner or are more budget-conscious, this Baked Lemon Tofu has you covered. Just like my Teriyaki Tofu and Sesame Tofu, this is a takeout-inspired recipe that’s easy to make in the comfort of your home. All you need is a few healthy plant-based ingredients and lots of lemon!

What I really like is the way this weeknight meal is truly foolproof. Put the tofu bites in the oven so they can do their job, then move on to the gooey lemon sauce. It’s flavorful, tangy, aromatic, and best of all, easy to prepare while the tofu cooks. Toss the crispy tofu nuggets into the sauce until they shine or just eat the lemon sauce straight from the pan, I won’t judge!

Ingredients for lemon tofu

You need a mix of delicious yet simple staples for this recipe to take home:

ingredients for Chinese lemon tofu arranged on a marble kitchen counter
  • Crispy tofu: Imagine a tofu that is crispy on the outside and meaty on the inside without frying! I’ve perfected crispy tofu with just 4 basic ingredients: extra firm tofu, neutral-tasting oil, tamari (or soy sauce), and cornstarch.
  • Aromatics: Sauteed green onions, garlic, and fresh ginger give the lemon sauce a perfect blend of savory and subtly sweet flavors.
  • Black pepper: Hear me out… black pepper is technically optional in this recipe, but I personally think you shouldn’t skip it! The lemon is nice and tangy, but the subtly spicy ground black pepper gives the sauce a pop of flavor that’s too good to miss.
  • Broth: Use a vegan imitation “chicken” broth to enhance the savory flavors. If you don’t have vegan “chicken” broth, use vegetable broth instead.
  • Lemon juice and lemon zest: Two essential ingredients, of course! Pick up a few lemons, grate the zest with a microplane and squeeze them yourself to make the lemon sauce shine. Store-bought lemon juice is excellent in a pinch.

How to make Chinese lemon tofu

a collage of six images showing the cooking process described below of Chinese lemon tofu
  1. Tear tofu in bite-sized pieces.
  2. Throw tofu pieces with oil and tamari until coated. Sprinkle cornstarch on top and mix again.
  3. Cook tofu until the pieces are crispy and golden.
  4. In the meantime, whip broth, lemon juice, tamari, sugar and cornstarch together.
  5. Hot oil in a large skillet. Once hot, blow the white parts of the green onion, garlic, ginger and black pepper. Pour in the lemon sauce and simmer for a few minutes before stirring in lemon zest.
  6. Finally, add the pieces of tofu cooked in the pan and throw – them in the lemon-pepper sauce. Stir in sesame seeds.
  7. Serve over rice and garnish with green onions and lemon slices.

a close-up image of Chinese lemon tofu with a large spoon scooping up a portion to highlight the texture of the lemon sauce

Caitlin’s Cooking Tips

  • Tear the tofu by hand. Tearing the brick of tofu by hand gives the bites a meat-like texture and helps the sauce adhere to each piece. You can always cut the tofu into small cubes if you prefer.
  • Cook the tofu on the upper rack. I always recommend cooking tofu on the top rack of the oven, as direct heat produces crispier, golden results.
  • Consider freezing tofu. Freezing and thawing tofu is the secret to ridiculously squishy and chewy tofu bites! According to this Bon Appetit article, thawed tofu contains large pockets of air from melted ice crystals, which lock in delicious flavors to make each bite pleasantly airy and chewy.

Presentation suggestions

Ditch the takeout menu and make Chinese lemon tofu for a quick weeknight dinner. Sticky, bright-tasting tofu is best served with steamed vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower or asparagus, over a bed of fluffy white or brown rice. Garnish with lemon slices to bring a little sunshine to the meal, then enjoy.

If you’re looking for more easy Chinese takeout recipes, you’ll also love this General Tso’s Tofu, Vegan Fried Rice, and Garlic Green Bean Stir-Fry!

Chinese lemon tofu served over rice with steamed broccoli in a white bowl, with chopsticks placed on the plate

How to store Chinese tofu

Store leftover lemon tofu in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

I don’t recommend freezing leftover tofu. Once defrosted, the tofu will lose its crispy crunch and become a little watery, which will dilute the dish.

You can reheat leftovers in the microwave for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes or in a skillet on the stove over medium heat until heated through. Reheated tofu won’t be as crispy as fresh, but the dish will still be delicious!

Substitutions and variations

  • Gluten-free option: The recipe is naturally gluten-free if you use tamari or gluten-free soy sauce.
  • Oil-free option: Instead, prepare my Crispy Tofu without oil and brown the aromatics in 2 tablespoons of water or vegetable broth instead of oil.
Chinese lemon tofu served over rice with steamed broccoli in a white bowl, chopsticks showing the internal texture of the tofu

Recipe FAQs

What is the difference between orange tofu and lemon tofu?

Orange tofu and lemon tofu are Chinese-American dishes that coat crispy tofu in sweet and tangy citrus glazes. The only difference is that in orange tofu, the sauce is made with orange juice, while in lemon tofu, lemon juice is used!

What type of tofu should I use?

I would recommend sticking to extra firm tofu, unless you can find super firm tofu. Both varieties are not very watery and have a nice meaty texture. Firm tofu will also work well, but take the time to remove all the excess water so it crisps up in the oven.

Appreciate! If you make this recipe and decide to share it on Facebook Or Instagramdon’t forget to tag me @FromMyBowl + #FromMyBowl! I would also love for you to leave a comment below with a recipe rating! Thanks for the support 😊

For the tofu:

  • 1 14- ounce block extra firm pressed tofu
  • 1 soup spoons avocado oil
  • 1 soup spoons low sodium tamari or soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch

For the lemon sauce:

  • 2 coffee spoons avocado oil
  • 2 Green onions divided into white/green portions and sliced
  • 3-5 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 1 ” button ginger peeled and finely chopped or grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper optional, for the lemon-pepper tofu
  • 2 soup spoons tamari or reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup cane sugar
  • 2 coffee spoons cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup imitation “chicken” broth (or sub-vegetable broth)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (about 1-2 lemons)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest about 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon Sesame seeds

Serving suggestions: Lemon slices, cooked rice, steamed vegetables, etc.

  • Preparation: Preheat the oven to 425F and line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Tear the tofu into small pieces for a more meat-like texture, or cut it into small cubes.

  • Tofu: Add the tofu to a medium bowl and add the oil and tamari. Toss with a spatula until evenly coated, then sprinkle with cornstarch and toss again. Transfer to a baking sheet and spread the tofu pieces so that they are not touching. Bake for 30 minutes on the upper rack, turning the tofu halfway through cooking.

  • Prepare the sauce: Meanwhile, zest the lemon and set aside. In a medium bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk together the vegetable broth, lemon juice, tamari, sugar, and cornstarch until the sugar dissolves. Put aside.

  • Aromatic Stir Fry: Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the white parts of the green onion, garlic, ginger and optional pepper. Saute for 60 seconds, then add the lemon sauce. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the lemon zest to the sauce and fry for another minute.

  • Final touches: Remove the tofu from the oven and add it to the pan, coating all sides of the tofu with the bright lemon sauce. Add the sesame seeds and mix well.

  • Serve and store: Serve hot over rice and garnished with green onions and lemon slices, or as desired. Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

  • Gluten Free: This recipe is gluten free as written as long as you use gluten free soy sauce or tamari.
  • Without oil: instead prepare my crispy tofu and brown the aromatics in step 4 in 2 tablespoons of additional water or vegetable broth instead of oil.

Calories: 219kilocaloriesCarbohydrates: 27gProtein: tengFat: 9gSaturated fat: 1gPolyunsaturated fats: 2gMonounsaturated fat: 5gSodium: 824mgPotassium: 248mgFiber: 1gSugar: 14gVitamin A: 65UIVitamin C: tenmgCalcium: 51mgIron: 2mg

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