Chinese Lemon Tofu

GFGluten FreeNFNut FreeVVegan
5 from 7 votes
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Chinese Lemon Tofu features crispy, golden tofu nuggets drenched in a bright, sticky, and tart lemon sauce. Serve with rice and lemon slices for an irresistible takeout-style meal! Ready in 30 minutes. Vegan, Gluten-Free, Oil-Free Option.


This Sticky Lemon Tofu Recipe is inspired by the Chinese-American takeout favorite Lemon Chicken, but has a plant-based twist. A 30-minute fuss-free meal that coats crispy baked tofu in a tangy and bright vegan lemon glaze for a flavor-packed bite, in every bite!

Table of Contents
  1. A Tangy Takeout Classic with a Vegan Twist
  2. Ingredients for Lemon Tofu
  3. How to Make Chinese Lemon Tofu
  4. Serving Suggestions
  5. How to Store Chinese Tofu
  6. Substitutions and Variations
  7. Chinese Lemon Tofu Recipe
chinese tofu served over rice and steamed broccoli and topped with three slices of lemon and green onions in a white bowl

A Tangy Takeout Classic with a Vegan Twist

I love Orange Tofu, but I’m going to risk potential backlash here and say that Lemon Tofu is, perhaps, better? It still has a similar sweet, savory, and fragrant sauce, but the added acidity of lemon juice adds the perfect pop of tart flavor. So it’s like orange tofu, but slightly improved 😉

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

What I really love is how this weeknight meal is truly foolproof. Pop the tofu bites in the oven so they can do their thing, then move on to the sticky lemon sauce. It’s savory, tangy, aromatic, and, best of all, easy to put together while the tofu bakes. Toss the crispy tofu nuggets in the sauce until they glisten or just eat the lemon sauce right out of the pan—I won’t judge!

Ingredients for Lemon Tofu

You need a blend of delicious yet simple pantry staples for this takeout-at-home recipe:

ingredients for chinese lemon tofu laid out on a marble kitchen countertop
  • Crispy tofu: Picture crispy-on-the-outside and meaty-on-the-inside tofu without deep frying! I’ve perfected crispy tofu with just 4 basic ingredients: extra firm tofu, neutral-tasting oil, tamari (or soy sauce), and cornstarch.
  • Aromatics: Sautéed green onions, garlic, and fresh ginger give the lemon sauce a perfect blend of savory and subtly sweet flavor.
  • Black pepper: Hear me out… the black pepper is technically optional in this recipe, but I personally feel that it should not be skipped! The lemon is nice and tangy, but the subtly spicy ground black pepper gives the sauce a punch of flavor that’s too good to miss.
  • Broth: Use a vegan imitation “chicken” broth to upgrade the savory flavors. If you don’t have vegan “chicken” broth, use vegetable broth instead.
  • Lemon juice & lemon zest: Two essential ingredients, of course! Pick up a couple of lemons, grate the zest with a microplane, and juice them yourself to help the lemon sauce shine. Store-bought lemon juice is great in a pinch.

How to Make Chinese Lemon Tofu

a collage of six images showing the below-described cooking process of chinese lemon tofu
  1. Tear the tofu into bite-sized chunks.
  2. Toss the tofu chunks with the oil and tamari until coated. Sprinkle the cornstarch on top and toss again.
  3. Bake the tofu until the pieces are crispy and golden.
  4. Meanwhile, whisk the broth, lemon juice, tamari, sugar, and cornstarch together.
  5. Warm the oil in a large pan. Once warm, sauté 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 the lemon zest.
  6. Finally, add the baked tofu pieces to the pan and toss them in the lemon pepper sauce. Stir in the sesame seeds.
  7. Serve over rice and top with green onions and lemon slices.
a zoomed in image of chinese lemon tofu with a large spoon scooping up a serving to showcase the texture of the lemon sauce

Caitlin’s Cooking Tips

  • Tear the tofu by hand. Ripping the brick of tofu by hand gives the bite-sized chunks a more satisfying meat-like texture and helps the sauce cling to every piece. You can always slice the tofu into small cubes if you prefer.
  • Bake the tofu on the top rack. I always recommend baking tofu on the top rack in the oven because the direct heat yields crispier, golden-brown results.
  • Consider freezing the tofu. Freezing and thawing tofu is the secret to ridiculously spongy and chewy tofu bites! According to this article from Bon Appetit, the thawed tofu has large air pockets from the melted ice crystals, which hold onto delicious flavors to make every bite satisfyingly airy and chewy.

Serving Suggestions

Ditch the takeout menu and make Chinese lemon tofu for a quick weeknight dinner. The sticky and bright-tasting tofu is best served with steamed veggies, like broccoli, cauliflower, or asparagus, on top of a bed of fluffy white or brown rice. Garnish with lemon slices to bring some sunshine to the meal, then dig in.

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

chinese lemon tofu served over rice with steamed broccoli in a white bowl, which chopsticks placed on top of the plate

How to Store Chinese Tofu

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

I don’t recommend freezing the leftover tofu. Once it thaws, the tofu will lose its crispy crunch and get a little watery, which will water down 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 warmed through. The reheated tofu won’t be as crispy as the fresh stuff, 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: Make my oil-free Crispy Tofu instead and sauté 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, which chopsticks showing off the inner texture of tofu

Recipe FAQs

What’s the difference between orange tofu and lemon tofu?

Both 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, whereas in lemon tofu, we use lemon juice!

What kind of tofu should I use?

I’d recommend sticking with extra firm tofu unless you can find super firm tofu. Both varieties aren’t very watery and have a nice, meaty texture. Firm tofu will also work well, but take the time to press out all of the excess water to help it crisp in the oven.

Do I have to press the tofu?

Yes, please take the time to press the tofu! Pressing out all of the water inside the tofu block will yield the crispiest results. To press the tofu, either use a Tofu Press or wrap the block in a clean kitchen towel and place a heavy object on top.

Enjoy! If you make this recipe and decide to share it on Facebook or Instagram, don’t forget to tag me @FromMyBowl + #FromMyBowl! I would also love it if you could leave a comment below with a recipe rating! Thank you for the support 😊

Chinese Lemon Tofu

5 from 7 votes
Prep Time 8 minutes
Cook Time 32 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Chinese Lemon Tofu features crispy, golden tofu nuggets drenched in a bright, sticky, and tart lemon sauce. Serve with rice and lemon slices for an irresistible takeout-style meal! Ready in 30 minutes. Vegan, Gluten-Free, Oil-Free Option.

Ingredients
 
 

For the Tofu:

For the Lemon Sauce:

Serving Suggestions: Lemon slices, cooked rice, steamed veggies, etc.

    Instructions

    • Prep: Preheat the oven to 425F and line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Tear the tofu into bite-sized chunks for a more meat-like texture, or cut into small cubes.
    • Tofu: Add the tofu to a medium bowl and add in the oil and tamari. Toss with a spatula until evenly coated, then sprinkle the cornstarch on top and toss again. Transfer to a baking sheet and spread out the tofu pieces so they aren’t touching. Bake on the top rack of the oven for 30 minutes, flipping the tofu halfway through.
    • Make the Sauce: In the meantime, zest the lemon and set aside. In a medium bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk the vegetable broth, lemon juice, tamari, sugar, and cornstarch together until the sugar dissolves. Set aside.
    • Sauté Aromatics: Warm the oil in a medium pan over medium heat. Once warm, add the white parts of the green onion, garlic, ginger, and optional pepper. Sauté for 60 seconds, then add in the lemon sauce. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the lemon zest to the sauce and sauté for one more minute.
    • Final Touches: Remove the tofu from the oven and add it to the pan, coating all sides of the tofu in the glossy lemon sauce. Stir in the sesame seeds and mix well.
    • Serve & Store: Serve warm over rice and topped with green onions and lemon slices, or as desired. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.

    Recipe Notes

    • Gluten-Free: This recipe is gluten-free as written as long as you use gluten-free soy sauce or tamari.
    • Oil-Free: Make my Crispy Tofu instead and sauté the aromatics in step 4 in 2 tablespoons of additional water or vegetable broth instead of oil.

    Nutrition

    Calories: 219kcalCarbohydrates: 27gProtein: 10gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gSodium: 824mgPotassium: 248mgFiber: 1gSugar: 14gVitamin A: 65IUVitamin C: 10mgCalcium: 51mgIron: 2mg
    Keyword: cajun tofu recipes, chinese lemon tofu, chinese recipes, vegan chinese lemon tofu, vegan chinese takeout, vegan takeout recipes
    Course: Main
    Method: Oven, Stovetop
    Cuisine: Chinese
    Diet: Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian

    About the Author

    Hey there, I’m Caitlin! I make easy-to-follow, wholesome, and budget-friendly vegan recipes that are mostly gluten-free and refined sugar-free. I’m also an avid yogi, love the great outdoors, am chocolate-obsessed, and enjoy eating almond butter straight off of the spoon.

    Learn More

    FREE GUIDE: 5 Tips for Quick & Easy Vegan Dinners

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    Comments

    1. 5 stars
      Made this for my brother who’s not vegan and he not only loved it, but requested the recipe! thank you Caitlin 🙏🏼

    2. 5 stars
      This will be on repeat especially this summer. Easy and absolutely delicious! Sharing to many friends

      1. 5 stars
        Caitlin strikes again with a fantastic recipe! The lemon tofu was delicious and the texture from tearing it was a wonderful change-up from regular cubes. Where has that technique been all my life?! I threw some broccoli, onions, and peppers into the wok while the tofu baked and then combined it all with the yummy lemon sauce. Served over rice as suggested. Couldn’t ask for an easier weeknight meal. Thank you!

    3. Hello! Looking to cook this soon. It sounds great! I am new to tofu, do you press the tofu for this recipe??

    4. 5 stars
      This is delicious. So much so I made it twice in two days! (I made it less spicy the second time for my husband.) I used less garlic and sugar than called for but included the pepper which I think added much to the flavors. It’s easy to make and I’ll definitely make this again.

    5. 5 stars
      I got this recipe recommendation in my inbox about an hour ago. I realized I had all the ingredients and ran to the kitchen to make it. I made it and finished it within the hour! This was sooo delicious and so simple to make! Absolutely love this recipe and will be making it often!