This vegan hot and sour soup recipe has the classic flavors of Chinese takeout but simplified with easy-to-find ingredients.
- Easy hot and sour soup recipe
- What is hot and sour soup?
- Is hot and sour soup vegetarian?
- What does hot and sour soup taste like?
- Is hot and sour soup healthy?
- How to make vegan hot and sour soup
- Substitutions and variations
- Storing and reheating tips
- What to serve with vegan hot and sour soup
- Vegan Hot and Sour Soup
Easy hot and sour soup recipe
This warming and hearty soup is super easy to make and takes just 20 minutes.
This is by no means meant to be an authentic Chinese hot and sour soup recipe!
First of all, it’s vegan.
Second of all, it’s not easy to find certain typical hot and sour soup ingredients such as dried lily buds and wood ear mushrooms.
I’ve made this recipe with common ingredients that I was able to pick up at my nearest grocery store.
So it may not be as “exotic” or complexly flavored as your local Chinese restaurant’s version, but it delivers on being hot and sour and the perfect warm bowl for a chilly evening!
What is hot and sour soup?
Hot and sour soup is a soup of Chinese origin and a popular menu item in Chinese-American restaurants.
Hot and sour soup has many variations throughout China and the rest of the world.
Hot and sour soup is typically made with a meat-based broth, a combination of vegetables, tofu, egg, and sometimes pieces of meat.
Its distinctive “hot” flavor typically comes from white pepper or dried chili peppers and its “sour” from vinegar.
Is hot and sour soup vegetarian?
No, hot and sour soup is not usually vegetarian.
What makes hot and sour soup not vegetarian or vegan is the stock, which is typically pork or chicken, and the egg.
Some restaurants also add shredded or minced pork or chicken to their hot and sour soup.
You can find vegan hot and sour soup at Buddhist Chinese restaurants, if you’re lucky enough to have one in your city, or you can make it at home.
What does hot and sour soup taste like?
Hot and sour soup is savoury, spicy and sour all at the same time.
Hot and sour soup is packed with vegetables, making it a hearty dish that can stand alone as a main dish or be served as an appetizer.
Firm vegetables and chewy mushrooms combine with soft tofu to give the soup a delectable range of textures.
The broth is rich, thick and silky thanks to the addition of cornstarch as a thickener.
Making vegan hot and sour soup at home allows you to tweak the flavor profile to your taste.
Personally, I add enough white pepper to clear my sinuses and make my nose run, otherwise the soup isn’t doing its job!
I also like it to have a pretty strong sour element so I tend to be heavy-handed with the vinegar.
But hot and sour soup is very adaptable and you can adjust it to exactly how you like it!
Is hot and sour soup healthy?
While the ingredients of hot and sour soup can vary, it’s always packed with a variety of vegetables that are high in fibre and vitamins while being low in calories.
Tofu is an amazing plant-based source of protein that has an extensive range of health benefits.
Vegan hot and sour soup does not contain any dietary cholesterol and is low in saturated fat thanks to the exclusion of pork products and eggs.
This hot and sour soup recipe is oil-free. Although, you can add a dash of sesame oil if you like the flavor.
The one downside to hot and sour soup is that it has a lot of sodium from the soy sauce. Vegetable stock can also contain a lot of salt so be sure to choose a low-sodium brand or make it from scratch.
If you would like to make this recipe gluten free, just substitute the soy sauce for tamari.
This is not a typical hot and sour soup recipe that calls for some specialized Chinese ingredients.
I don’t have easy access to wood ear fungus, dried lily buds, ShaoXing wine, or even bamboo shoots so I made this recipe with easy-to-find ingredients from my supermarket.
Green onion, ginger, garlic: To help give more flavor to the stock, these aromatics are added in small quantities so that they are not overpowering.
Carrots: Every hot and sour soup I’ve ever had has carrot in it. Carrots add a bit to sweetness to the soup. I like to thinly julienne them.
Baby corn: For crunch I add baby corn. Typically bamboo shoots would serve this purpose in hot and sour soup. Our supermarkets don’t carry them so baby corn is a good substitute.
Mushrooms: I use regular white button mushrooms because they’re cheaper and easier to find than shiitake mushrooms. You can substitute either dried (and rehydrated) or fresh shiitake mushrooms if you prefer.
Tofu: I like the creaminess of soft tofu in this soup to contrast with the crunch of the baby corn. If you’re not a fan of soft tofu, any firmness of tofu will be good.
Vegetable stock: Because this recipe has a lot of soy sauce, a low sodium vegetable stock is a good choice so that the soup is not too high in sodium.
White pepper and chili flakes: This is the hot component of the soup. Lots of Chinese recipes use dried chili peppers to flavor some oil as a base for the soup. I’ve used dried chili flakes which I have on hand in my pantry.
White pepper is more of a subtle heat than black pepper, but it has a distinctive flavor that’s typical of Chinese cuisine. I think it’s worth seeking it out for this recipe but you can substitute black pepper if you can’t find it.
Since black pepper is spicier, you should start by adding a bit less than what’s called for in this recipe and then adjust it up to your spice preference.
Soy sauce: I use a Chinese-style soy sauce; Pearl River Bridge brand (not Kikkoman, which is Japanese). Whereas many recipes call for both light and dark soy sauce, I only use light since I don’t keep a bajillion kinds of soy sauce in my cupboard.
Rice vinegar: This is the sour element of hot and sour soup. I like my soup quite sour so I tend to add a lot. Typically, Chinese hot and sour soup would be made with black vinegar, which I don’t have, so rice vinegar is a substitute.
Cornstarch: Cornstarch slightly thickens the soup and makes it silky. I add just enough to suspend the ingredients in the broth but not enough to make the soup goopy (a mistake a lot of other vegan hot and sour soup recipes make!).
Optional: sugar and salt: Lot of Chinese recipes add sugar for extra depth of flavor. I personally don’t like the extra sweetness but feel free to add half a teaspoon if you like.
I do add a bit of salt to help round out the flavors. You might wonder why since there’s so much soy sauce in this recipe. Soy sauce and salt are two different flavors that compliment each other. Be sure to taste the soup before adding salt to see if it needs it.
How to make vegan hot and sour soup
Vegan hot and sour soup is super easy to make. It also only takes about 20 minutes so it’s great for a weeknight dinner!
Prep: Start by gathering your ingredients. Peel and julienne the carrots, clean and quarter the mushrooms, mince the garlic and ginger, and slice the green onion.
Reserve ¼ cup of the vegetable stock in a bowl and add the cornstarch. Stir well to dissolve. Set it aside for now.
Simmer: Add those ingredients (just the white parts of the green onion) to a pot along with the crushed red chili flakes and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer.
Simmer until the carrots are tender - about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, slice the baby corn and dice the tofu.
Season: Once the carrot and mushrooms are tender, add the baby corn, tofu, soy sauce and white pepper.
Bring the pot back to a simmer and drizzle in the stock-cornstarch mixture. Stir the pot for a couple of minutes until the soup thickens.
Turn off the heat and stir in the rice vinegar and the dark green tops of the green onions.
Now you can taste the soup and adjust the flavors if you think it’s necessary.
Add salt or more soy sauce if you want it saltier, more vinegar if you want it more sour, or more white pepper if you want it spicier. If you think it’s too sour, add a pinch of sugar.
Substitutions and variations
Veggies: As I’ve mentioned, this is a simplified easier version of hot and sour soup. If you want a more traditional version, you can add dried lily buds, bamboo shoots, (dried or fresh) shiitake mushrooms and wood ear mushrooms.
You can also add in extra vegetables like cabbage, bok choy, lotus root, water chestnuts, etc.
Seasoning: If you can’t find white pepper, you can use black pepper but since it’s a bit hotter, I recommend starting with less and adding to taste. You can also use a combination of white and black pepper.
If you have access to Chinese ingredients, you can sub rice vinegar for Chinese black vinegar, and use a combination of light and dark soy sauce.
Toasted sesame oil is also a popular addition to hot and sour soup.
Egg: Hot and sour soup usually has ribbons of egg in it. I have not tried this recipe with a vegan egg substitute like Just Egg but this recipe for egg drop soup does it by cooking the Just Egg in a pan and then adding it to the soup.
Noodles: I’ve seen some recipes add ramen noodles to hot and sour soup. Why not?
Tofu: I like soft tofu in this recipe but you can use firm or extra firm tofu if you prefer.
Yes, hot and sour soup is usually high in sodium because of the soy sauce. You can lower the sodium by choosing low-sodium vegetable broth and tamari instead of soy sauce.
One serving of hot and sour soup has 132 calories.
You can use any type of tofu in hot and sour soup. I like soft tofu but medium or firm tofu are fine too.
White pepper is made from the berries of the pepper plant. The berries are picked at full ripeness and then fermented to remove the dark outer layer. White pepper is less spicy than black pepper but has a distinctive, earthy aroma. White pepper is often used in Chinese recipes such as hot and sour soup.
To make hot and sour soup in the Instant Pot, add all the ingredients except for the tofu, cornstarch-stock mixture, and vinegar to the Instant Pot. Cook on high for 5 minutes. Once the pressure is released, hit sauté and adjust to high. Once the soup is simmering, add the tofu and cornstarch mixture. Stir until it thickens. Finally, adjust the pot to keep warm, stir in the vinegar, taste and adjust the flavors as necessary.
To make hot and sour soup in a slow cooker, add all the ingredients except tofu, cornstarch-stock mixture and vinegar to a slow cooker. Cook on low for 6 - 8 hours or high for 3 - 4 hours. 30 minutes before finishing, stir in the tofu and cornstarch mixture. Once done, add in the vinegar, taste and adjust the flavors as necessary.
Storing and reheating tips
Hot and sour soup can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
To freeze hot and sour soup, first let it cool completely in the fridge. Transfer it to a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 6 months.
If you are making this soup specifically for freezing, it’s better to leave out the tofu. You can add fresh tofu when reheating.
Hot and sour soup can be reheated in the microwave or in a pot over the stove.
What to serve with vegan hot and sour soup
Hot and sour soup is a hearty and filling meal on it’s own, but it can also be served as an appetizer or as part of a Chinese-inspired meal.
- Vegan dumplings
- Vegetable spring rolls
- Vegan scallion pancakes
- Vegetable Singapore noodles
- Vegan potstickers
- Ramen stir fry
- Fried rice
- Vegan beef and broccoli
- Vegetable stir fry
Vegan Hot and Sour Soup
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon minced ginger
- 3 green onions sliced and white parts separated from dark green parts
- ½ teaspoon chili flakes
- 2 medium carrots peeled and thinly julienned
- 12 white button mushrooms cleaned and quartered
- 8 oz (225 grams) soft tofu drained and cubed
- 10 baby corn sliced in half lengthwise and in half crosswise
- 4 cups (1 litre) vegetable stock
- 3 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
- 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
- Optional: ½ teaspoon salt
- Pour about ¼ cup (60 ml) of the vegetable stock into a small bowl and set aside.
- In a medium pot, combine the garlic, ginger, white and light green parts of the green onion, chili flakes, carrots, mushrooms and remaining vegetable stock.
- Bring to a boil then reduce to medium heat. Simmer until the carrots and mushrooms are tender - about 5 minutes.
- Add the baby corn, tofu, soy sauce and white pepper. Bring back to a simmer.
- Add the cornstarch to the bowl with the reserved vegetable stock. Stir well to dissolve the cornstarch.
- Slowly pour the cornstarch mixture into the simmering soup. Stir until the soup thickens - about 2 minutes.
- Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the vinegar. Taste and add salt if necessary (salt helps to bring all the flavors together). You can also adjust the amount of soy sauce, vinegar or white pepper to your liking.
- Garnish with the dark green tops of the green onions and serve.