This vegan kimchi fried rice recipe is a quick and easy weeknight meal. With crispy fried tofu and spicy/sour vegan kimchi, this recipe is super healthy, filling and packed with flavour!
Is kimchi fried rice vegan?
No, kimchi fried rice is not usually vegan.
Although a fermented mix of cabbage and vegetables might seem to be totally plant-based, kimchi usually contains fish or seafood-derived ingredients to give it more umami flavour.
And a big yikes to the other “vegan kimchi fried rice” recipes on the internet that fail to mention this fact and fail to call for vegan kimchi!
But the good news is that some kimchi brands are now making vegan options. Look for Mother in Law’s Vegan Kimchi and Madge’s Vegan Kimchi.
Or you can pick up a bag of Korean red chili flakes (gochugaru) and make it yourself.
The fish sauce / shrimp paste can be substituted for soy sauce, miso paste or kelp flakes. Here’s a vegan kimchi recipe you can try.
Here are the ingredients that you’ll need for this recipe:
- Rice - Any type of white rice will work for this recipe: short grain or long grain. You can use brown rice as well but it will add its own distinct flavour.
- Kimchi - As mentioned above, be sure to use one that is labeled as vegan or your own homemade vegan kimchi.
- Ginger, garlic and onion - I used white onion but you could also use scallions.
- Veggies - The usual fried rice veggies of finely diced carrots and peas.
- Soy sauce - Or you could substitute tamari or coconut aminos.
- Sesame oil - A tiny drizzle of this will take you all the way to flavour town.
- Extra-firm tofu and cornstarch - Cornstarch-coated tofu makes this dish a bit heartier. That said, you can leave it out if you’re pressed for time.
How to make crispy tofu
This hack, if you haven’t tried it, will change the way you see tofu (if you're new to tofu, read Tofu for Beginners).
The secret to super crispy tofu is cornstarch. Simply place the cubed tofu in a container, sprinkle over a couple tablespoons of cornstarch, close the lid and shake it up.
Once fried, the cornstarch coating results in a deliciously crispy crust.
I don’t usually marinate my tofu since I learned that tofu takes on more flavour from the sauce it’s tossed in rather than any marinade.
And since we’re not marinating the tofu, there isn’t any real need to press it either. I just give it a good squeeze between my hands to get out a bit of the extra water.
Vegan kimchi fried rice with tofu is hearty, crispy, and packed with flavour!
How to make vegan kimchi fried rice
Start by cooking your rice. Fried rice works best with rice that is dry and a day old so it’s a great way to use up leftover rice.
If you don’t have leftover rice, try to cook it as far in advance as possible. For example, in the morning before you go to work in order to make fried rice for dinner.
If you haven’t thought ahead, a last option is to spread your freshly cooked rice out on a baking sheet and put it in the freezer until it’s cool and dry.
Failure to use cool, dry rice will result in mushy fried rice so don’t skip this step!
Once you’re ready to make vegan kimchi fried rice, start by coating the tofu in cornstarch and frying it until crispy on all sides.
Remove it to a plate and then fry off the onion, followed by the carrots until tender.
Then make a little space in the centre of your pan to fry the ginger and garlic. I like to do this after the carrots so that I don’t accidentally burn it!
Now you can add your rice and peas. After mixing everything together, let the rice sit for a bit without stirring in order to brown and crisp a bit.
Add back the tofu, season with soy sauce and a drizzle of sesame oil.
Finally, take the pan off the heat and stir in your vegan kimchi. This comes last because cooking kimchi over high heat kills the probiotics.
That’s it, super easy vegan kimchi fried rice and all in one pan!
Vegan Kimchi Fried Rice
- 3 cups (750 grams) day-old short grain white rice or 1 cup (230 grams) dried rice
- 3 tablespoons neutral-flavoured oil divided
- 1 (14-oz / 400 gram) block extra-firm tofu squeeze the water out with your hands and cube
- 2 - 4 tablespoons cornstarch
- ½ medium onion diced
- 2 large carrots peeled and diced
- 4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
- 2 finely chopped tablespoons ginger
- 1 cup (125 grams) frozen peas
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce or to taste
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 ½ cups (300 grams) vegan kimchi and its juice chopeed
- A pinch of salt if necessary
- If you don’t have day-old rice, cook 1 cup dried rice as far in advance as possible and refrigerate until cool and dry. If you’re really pressed for time, spread it on a baking sheet and place it in the freezer until cool.
- Place the cubed tofu in a container and sprinkle over 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Close the lid and shake to coat the tofu in cornstarch. Add more cornstarch as necessary to get an even coat.
- Heat 1 ½ tablespoons of the oil in a wok or large pan over medium-high heat. Fry the tofu, flipping as necessary until each side is golden and crispy. Remove to a plate.
- Add another 1 ½ tablespoons of oil to the pan and fry the onion until translucent. Add the carrots and fry until tender.
- Make a space in the centre of the pan and add the ginger and garlic. Fry until soft and fragrant.
- Add the rice, frozen peas and fried tofu. Mix everything together then let the rice sit of a few minutes to brown and crisp a bit. Toss it and let it sit again. Keep doing this until everything is heated through and the rice has some crispy bits.
- Add the soy sauce and sesame oil and toss. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chopped kimchi and its juice. Taste and add a pinch of salt if necessary to bring all the flavours together.