Korean Food, But Make it Vegan!

By Abby Kotar

With the direction our planet is heading in, we’re always looking for ways to reduce our carbon footprint and help keep the Earth healthy! One of the most efficient ways of doing so is reducing or cutting out meat and dairy from our diets, as these are known to be quite unsustainable and wasteful sources of energy. Although many of us may hesitate to commit to giving up some of our favorite foods, have no fear! With some creativity and an open mind, it is surprisingly easy to adapt Korean dishes to be more sustainable. Here are a few recipes and tips and tricks to making your own vegan Korean dishes at home!

Bibimbap

Bibimbap (비빔밥: mixed rice), with its extremely customizable nature, is often one of the first iconic Korean dishes many think of when trying to veganizing the country’s cuisine! The base is a common vegan diet staple: white rice. Traditionally, it is topped with various vegetables, gochujang (고추장: red chili paste) and some type of protein, often beef. For the dolsot (돌솥: stone pot) variation, the ingredients are served in a scorching hot stone bowl and topped with a raw egg. The pot serves to cook the outside rice and egg together to create a crunchy, steaming bowl of goodness. To make the dish vegetarian, simply opt for a plant based protein on top such as tofu or seitan (the above recipe includes crispy gochujang cauliflower, yum!). Although the egg proves a challenge in totally veganizing this dish, it can easily be replaced with extra gochujang (make sure it does not contain honey, if that is something you would like to avoid!) or a vegan egg replacer. Overall, this is a great dish to start with if you are looking to experience some traditional Korean flavors on a vegetarian or vegan diet!

Jajangmyeon

Jajangmyeon (자장면) is a noodle dish comprised of delicious chewy noodles, a rich black bean sauce, meat, vegetables, and sometimes seafood. This is a great dish for anyone who cannot handle a lot of spice, or those who are looking for a cheap, quick meal on the go. Many instant jajangmyeon brands include meat in their recipe, but veganizing this dish is not too difficult! Most black bean sauce recipes are already vegan and combine just a few ingredients for a simple to throw together dinner. If you are following a non-vegan recipe, replace any chicken stock with water, vegetable stock, or vegan “chicken” stock. Make sure to leave out meat and seafood or replace it with a vegan alternative. Check out this recipe for vegan jajangmyeon, it’s one of our favorites and takes less than thirty minutes to make!

Japchae

Oh, japchae...a vegan’s dream...This dish is a savory sweet potato noodle dish often enjoyed on holidays, and we cannot get enough of it! The “glass” noodles are covered in a deliciously sweet and oily sauce and topped with vegetables, meat, sesame seeds, and an egg. For a vegetarian take on japchae, leave out the meat! If you are looking to fully veganize the meal, only a few extra steps are needed. The sweet sauce is usually comprised of honey, soy sauce, browns sugar, sesame oil, and pepper. If you are trying to avoid honey, replace this with maple syrup, agave nectar, or another liquid sweetener of your choice. The egg can be replaced with “scrambled” tofu or an egg replacer, like this one. In the above video, the egg and meat substitutes are left out entirely for a simple, but just as delicious version. There you have it, a 100% vegan take on the addicting sweet-savory japchae! We love the unique flavor of the sweet potato noodles: chewy, thin, and easily covered in whatever toppings we please.

BONUS TIPS:

Take a look at some of these additional resources we compiled, showing just how easy it is to adapt Korean food to the vegan lifestyle!

As you can see, Korean food is one of the many cuisines that can easily be fit into a vegan or vegetarian diet! With a little creativity and a lot of stomach room, eating vegan is an enjoyable way to help out the planet or shed a few extra pounds. We hope this will inspire you to try out some new ways of eating and help you navigate eating in Korea! What are some ways you like to alter Korean food to fit your own lifestyle? Let us know in the comments below!

Written by Abby Kotar

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