Vegan Mongolian Beef (Tofu or Seitan!)
Sometimes during the week, after a busy or stressful day, I crave foods that aren’t exactly the healthiest. There’s an insanely good Chinese takeout around the corner from us, and the temptation is real!
That’s when easy recipes like this vegan Mongolian beef come in handy. I can throw this together in a flash, using ingredients that I generally already have in the house. Beating the cravings in the time it would take me to wait for a takeout. Better yet, this recipe is significantly healthier than its takeaway counterpart. It contains far less sugar, and tastes just as good!
What is mongolian beef?
Despite its name, Mongolian beef isn’t actually at all Mongolian. It originated in Taiwan in the 1950’s. Mongolian cuisine was thought to be luxurious and therefore ‘Mongolian’ was added to the names of many dishes! A simple stir fried dish, Mogolian beef usually contains thinly sliced flank steak, in a soy, brown sugar, ginger and garlic sauce, with green onions. The sauce is thick, mild, and sweet. Whilst our sauce will mostly be true to its origins, we won’t be using beef!
The best meat alternative for Mongolian beef
In this recipe, I’ve opted for tofu coated in the sticky Mongolian sauce. I love tofu here. Once it’s been coated in starch and fried, it goes beautifully crispy and carries the sauce like a dream. However, if you’re not a fan of tofu or need to avoid soy products, meat alternatives like seitan also work great. I actually tried this recipe with homemade seitan beef strips, and it was a close call. Alternatively, if you’re not a fan of tofu or meat alternatives, you can choose your favourite veggies. Coat them in cornflour and fry, or throw them in the sauce just the same. Take your pick!
How to make the tofu crispy!
I start this recipe by pressing the tofu. I have a tofu press, but you can also wrap the tofu in a clean tea towel, and pop a heavy pan and some books on top. Leave it for a couple of hours to squeeze the water out. If you don’t have time to press your tofu, you can skip this step. Just make sure to be very delicate when coating the tofu, as it will be prone to falling apart. Cut the tofu up into small cubes. Slice lengthways into two thinner rectangles, before chopping each rectangle into 20 small cubes.
Mix together the 1tbsp cornflour with the water, soy sauce and oil. Stir through the tofu so that it’s coated. Start adding the remaining cornflour a bit at a time, stirring as you go until all of the tofu is coated (you may not need the whole quarter cup). Then, heat 1tbsp oil at a medium high heat in a wok or small pan, and add the tofu. Stir well, then fry for 5 minutes until crispy, stirring occasionally to make sure all of the sides are done. The tofu can be put to one side whilst you make the sauce.
How to make the sauce
Making the sauce is really simple! In the same pan, heat another 1tbsp oil and reduce the heat to low. Add the garlic and ginger, stir for a minute until fragrant, then add the five spice and chilli flakes. Stir for a minute more, then add in the soy sauce, water, orange zest and sugar.
Stir well and turn the heat up to medium-high. Simmer for 4 minutes until the sugar is dissolved and it starts to thicken, then slowly pour in the cornflour mixture. Keep stirring over a low heat until it is thick and glossy, then add in the pre-cooked tofu and the spring onion. Stir well and it’s done!
Serving suggestions and substitutions
I served this with rice, but it would also be great with noodles. I also added some steamed broccoli on the side, which I threw in with the rice for the last few minutes to cook it nice and quick.
If you need a really quick weeknight option, pouches of pre-cooked rice are an option to have on hand. If you have some time at the weekend, you can also cook a big batch of rice and freeze it in portions for easy weeknight sides.
I use corn starch in this recipe, so swap out for arrowroot or tapioca starch if you need it to be gluten free. An easy swap for the soy sauce is gluten free tamari.
If you need to avoid soy, and are using a soy-free meat substitute or vegetables, you can use coconut aminos instead of soy sauce. It will work in the recipe, but the flavour won’t quite be the same. If you find it doesn’t taste quite right, try adding a little extra salt to the sauce.
How does vegan mongolian beef keep?
This vegan mongolian beef will store in the fridge for up to 4 days. The tofu may soak up some of the sauce. If you can, throw it in a pan with a little bit of soy sauce to loosen it up again before eating.
Need another easy weeknight recipe?
Try my easy creamy beetroot curry, vegan peanut noodles, or prep ahead with a big batch of super versatile mushroom and lentil ragu. For a real ‘pop it in the oven and forget about it’ recipe, I’m loving this butternut squash tray bake at the moment as well!
Vegan Mongolian Beef
For the tofu
- 1 block firm tofu pressed
- 1 tsp, plus 1 tbsp rapeseed oil (or oil of choice)
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp water
- 1 tbsp, plus ¼ cup cornflour
For the Mongolian sauce
- 1 tbsp rapeseed oil (or oil of choice)
- ½ tsp minced ginger
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- ¼ tsp chinese five spice
- ¼ tsp chilli flakes
- 1 tsp orange zest (optional)
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp water
- 2 tbsp brown/coconut sugar
- 2 tsp cornstarch (mixed with 1 tbsp water)
- 2 spring onions chopped
To make the tofu
- Slice the tofu once along the length, then cut each rectangle into 20 cubes.
- Mix 1 tsp oil, soy sauce, water, and 1 tbsp cornflour, then toss with the tofu to coat. Mix through the remaining cornflour a bit at a time, until the tofu is coated with cornflour.
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in a wok or frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the tofu and fry, stirring occasionally until a golden crusty coating forms (about 5 minutes). Place the tofu to one side.
To make the sauce
- Heat the oil in the pan over a low-medium heat. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for a minute or two until fragrant. Add the five spice and chilli flakes, and cook for another minute.
- Add the orange zest, soy sauce, water and sugar. Turn the heat up to medium-high and bring to a simmer for around 4 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture starts to thicken.
- Turn the heat down to low, then slowly start adding in the cornflour and water mixture, stirring as you go. After a couple of minutes it will turn very thick and glossy.
- Throw in the tofu and spring onion, and mix well.
- Serve immediately with brown rice and broccoli for a healthier side!
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