Having vegan guests over, or simply deciding to eat more plant-based foods and less meat, can be challenging if you're used to cooking with animal produce, so here are some delicious & easy vegan Asian recipes to make your dinner party planning easier!
I'm not vegan. I'm probably going to get a lot of hate mail after saying this, but rather than being strictly vegan, I believe in a flexitarian diet and reducing my consumption of animal products, as well as buying meat that is sustainably and ethically raised. Even Jonathan Safran Foer who wrote a book championing veganism has confessed to eating a little animal produce in the evenings.
Note I'm not saying don't be vegan, I'm saying I find it challenging to be 100% vegan. Of course, some foods may simply not be suitable for ethical mass production- without intensive farming (which often treats cows quite inhumanely), can cows produce enough milk to meet the world's demand?
Nonetheless, I find it hard to cook meat free, which is why I often browse vegan recipes for inspiration. I totally believe that it is possible to cook vegan food that's as tasty as non-vegan food, but it's a skill I haven't quite achieved, so I've collated this list of vegan Asian recipes to inspire myself, and hopefully you.
Fun fact: I once spoke to a farmer who said that the best meat to eat is lamb, if you are concerned about animal welfare, as it's not possible to intensively farm sheep. Does anyone know more about this?
Good plant-based meat substitutes
Tofu, tempeh, aubergines, mushrooms and young jackfruit are some ideal meat substitutes. To reduce our consumption of beef, I actually make tempeh and jackfruit rendang instead of the usual beef rendang- we have it almost every week! (The texture of young jackfruit is quite similar to that of pulled pork.)
Tofu and aubergine, on the other hand, absorb flavour and sauces deliciously whilst mushroom helps provide umami.
If you're specifically looking for South Indian vegan recipes, click here.
You can also make a vegan version of this Japanese soup by using a kelp & shiitake broth instead of a seafood dashi.
Tofu main dishes
Sweet & sour tofu
Tofu Skin Salad
Black pepper tofu
General Tsos "chicken"
Do you prefer Kung bao chicken or General Tsos chicken?
Black bean tofu
Note: hoisin sauce is naturally vegan as it doesn't actually contain seafood despite its name! (Hoisin is cantonese for seafood) It's actually made from soybeans and spices.
Fun fact: Some people feel that hoisin sauce is a good substitute for dark soy sauce, although I'm not sure I agree!
My vegan and vegetarian friends sometimes complain about how they're tired of tofu, so here are some non-tofu vegan Asian dishes!
For more gluten-free recipes, click the link,
Veggies in a sweet ginger sauce
Eggplant & miso salad
Stir-fried napa cabbage
Broccoli and mushrooms
San Choy Bow
Lentil in lettuce cups
Curry is 1 of the easiest vegan dishes to make as all the spices and herbs give it a ton of flavour!
Jackfruits are a particularly sustainable meat substitute as the fruit is massive. We used to have a tree by our pool, and whenever it fruited, we would have to beg people to take some jackfruit off our hands as we couldn't finish everything.
If you're tired of rice, why not make these vegan baos instead? They're great for dipping into curry and soak up all the flavours instantly. Not a fan of pandan or matcha? Leave them out, or just substitute with something else that you like!
Best of all, these mantou bao recipes are 1-rise, unlike the traditional version, making them much quicker to make!
Fluffy Matcha steamed buns
Mantou with pretty patterns
Bao with filling
Noodles & Rice
If you're gonna catch up on Squid Game, Hometown Cha Cha Cha or Crash Landing on You, why not make some jajangmyeon to go with it? And, since you're doing Korean food, you might want to make some hotteok, Korean barley tea, Korean plum tea or makgeolli to go with it!
Noodles in creamy peanut sauce
Spicy garlic noodles
Fried rice is best made with leftover rice, but if you're tired of this dish, here are ways you can use leftover rice.
Easy healthy popcorn
This snack can be made in a gazillion ways- simply vary the seasoning:
- 1. toss it in 5-spice powder and salt
- dip it in vegan coconut caramel
- sprinkle with sugar (bone-char free) and chili powder etc
Dessert doesn't always need to have butter and sugar to taste good. You can even make vegan ice cream by swapping out dairy with coconut cream or cashew cream!
Black sesame soup
Red Bean Dessert
This glutinous rice dumpling- which can be eaten fried or in soup- is perfect for gatherings as it symbolises reunion. It's a must-have for Chinese New Year and the Winter Solstice!
Sour plum jellies
This easy Chinese dessert is a solid version of suanmeitang and great for aiding digestion!
Lychee champagne jellies
Osmanthus cake jelly
The name of this traditional Chinese dessert 桂花糕 (Gui Hua Gao)· literally translates into Osmanthus cake in English, but it's not really the same as a Western cake!
No sugar agar agar
If you're going all the way in being healthy, and not only cutting out animal products but also sugar, try this no sugar added agar agar jelly. Agar agar is packed with fibre, and helps keep you full, so it's a great diet food (assuming no sugar is added of course) and you won't have to worry about gaining the pounds.
No sugar fruit salad with jelly
Yuzu konnyaku jelly
For more vegan desserts, check out my vegan Christmas food gifts round-up!
Chinese walnut cookies (Hup Toh Soh)
These Cantonese cookies use eggs, but you can omit them for a vegan version.
Chinese almond cookies
Fun fact: almond cookies are actually 1 of the most popular Asian cookies in the USA! It's not really that popular in Asia (peanut cookies & walnut cookies are more common) so I found it surprising!
Chinese peanut cookies
This recipe was developed after baking over 2000 cookies- some one has even ordered 22 jars at a go, so I guess they must taste not too bad!
Do you have a favourite to add to this list of the best easy vegan Asian recipes? If you've found this collection of recipes useful, I'd be super grateful if you share it on your social media!