Vegan dan dan noodles is a plant based version of our favorite weeknight meal ~ this easy Chinese noodle bowl has got all the flavor without the meat!
vegan dan dan noodles
My regular dan dan noodles recipe which is made with ground pork, is one of my favorites on the site, we make it at least once a month and everybody in the family loves it. Since I’m always looking for delicious plant based meals to help us cut back on meat, vegan dan dan noodles just makes sense. Grant, who loves his meat, raved about this one and has already requested it again. For me, the tofu was every bit as good as the pork, so this meal goes on our regular meal rotation.
what are dan dan noodles?
Dan dan noodles (dandanmian, translation: noodles carried on a pole) are Sichuan Chinese in origin ~ they were actually a street food that vendors would sell hanging from poles balanced across their shoulders. That street food origin speaks to the ease of prep for this meal!
how to veganize dan dan noodles
Dan dan noodles is an ideal candidate for veganizing because there is so much flavor going on in the sauce ~ this goes a long way toward making our dish taste taste just right, even without the meat. We’re keeping everything exactly the same in this recipe, except we’ll substitute extra firm tofu for the ground pork.
The challenge? How to turn a block of tofu into something that comes close to that crispy delicious twice cooked pork in regular dan dan noodles. Here’s how I do it:
1. start with extra firm tofu
We’re not going to press, drain, or deep fry our tofu. This is a weeknight meal, after all, and there’s no time for extra steps. We’ll treat the tofu just like we would ground pork, so to approximate the crumbled texture of ground meat we’re going to very finely mince the tofu.
2. pan fry the tofu
Stir fry the tofu in a little vegetable oil just as you do when browning ground meat. This will remove extra moisture. Break up the bits even smaller with the back of your spatula as you cook.
3. twice cook the tofu, this time with seasonings
This is where the magic happens ~ the crumbled tofu takes on flavor and texture during this second stir fry.
putting it all together
- Whisk together the sauce.
- Cook the noodles ~ they take just minutes.
- Throw the greens in with the noodles for the last few seconds of cooking.
- Serve up the sauce topped with the noodles and veggies.
- Garnish with the tofu and chopped nuts.
are dan dan noodles spicy?
As written, this dish is not particularly hot. That is, there are plenty of warm complex flavors built in, but the level of heat is mild to moderate. This will depend on your choice of chili oil, though, they do vary. You want to use Chinese chili oil, which is made with lots of Sichuan pepper bits in the oil. I love Fly by Jing chili crisp ~ this one is so good you’ll want to put it on everything. I also have a recipe for homemade chili oil which is amazing.
more Chinese inspired recipes to try
- Chinese Scallion Oil Recipe
- Easy Chinese Scallion Pancakes (Congyoubing)
- Quick Chili Oil Noodles
- Spicy Tangerine Chicken with Black Rice
- Easy Vegetable Chow Mein
- Weeknight Egg Roll Bowls
- Weeknight Mapo Tofu
- Baked Orange Tofu
Vegan Dan Dan Noodles
- 1/4 cup Chinese chili oil Note: you want chili oil with the chili flakes in it., I love Fly by Jing, or you can make your own with my recipe, here!
- 3 Tbsp Tamari soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp tahini (sesame paste) or you can use peanut butter.
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp Chinese 5 spice powder
- 1/2 tsp ground sichuan peppercorns, optional.
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
- 1 bunch scallions, trimmed and sliced in 3 inch pieces
- 2-3 baby bok choy, trimmed and sliced lengthwise into quarters
- chopped cashews or peanuts
- sliced scallions
- toasted sesame seeds
- Get a pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil.
- Whisk the sauce ingredients together. Taste to adjust any of the ingredients to your liking and set aside.
- Meanwhile slice your block of tofu into thin slices. Then stack the slices and slice again. The cut crosswise to create a very fine mince.
- Heat the oil in a skillet or wok and stir fry the tofu for several minutes. It's not going to brown, but it will release moisture. If your pieces of tofu are larger, break them down with the back of a spatula as you fry. You want a small crumbly texture.
- Add the Tamari, hoisin, mirin, and 5 spice powder to the pan and continue stir frying for another few minutes. The liquid will evaporate and you'll be left with a crumbly mixture. Remove it to a plate.
- Cook the noodles according to the package instructions, this is usually just a few minutes. At the last minute, add the scallions and bok choy to the boiling water. Reserve about a cup of the cooking water, then drain.
- Add 1/3 cup of the cooking water to the tofu skillet, and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom. Add the sauce and just bring to a simmer.
- Divide the sauce equally between 4 bowls.
- Top the sauce with the noodles and wilted veggies. Then spoon the tofu over top.
- Garnish with chopped cashews, sliced scallions, and sesame seeds. Toss the noodles with the sauce before eating.