This simple vegan ramen is so hearty and satisfying! It’s one of my favorite Asian dishes which I cook quite often these days.
Making ramen at home is not that complicated as you might think. It’s clearly not a “3 ingredient” thing and preparation might take some time (if you want to do it right), but it’s definitely doable. And if you’re new into Asian cooking, this might seem a bit overwhelming. Just give yourself some time to understand what ingredients you need, what they do and the steps to follow to get to the tastes and flavors that you like.
What is ramen?
In Japanese, ramen literally means “pulled noodles” and it’s basically a soup made with wheat noodles, meat, vegetables and soft boiled egg. We can say there are three ingredient categories in ramen: noodles, broth and toppings.
The ramen noodles are typically made of wheat and they come in different shapes or sizes. They’re special due to the kansui (or lye water) used in the process of dough making. Kansui is an alkaline solution (potassium carbonate solution) that gives the noodles a bouncy texture and a nice yellow color.
The ramen broth is, in my opinion, the key to the umami flavor we’re all craving for. Umami, the fifth taste (natural glutamate taste actually), is “the essence of deliciousness” in Japanese. Although many people believe that just meat and seafood can create the umami flavor, in fact, things are not quite like this. There are enough plant-based ingredients like miso, soy sauce, mushrooms, seaweed that make a great umami rich vegan ramen.
As for the ramen toppings, this is the most versatile ingredients category. You can use any vegetables you like, or whatever’s left in your fridge ?.
Vegan ramen ingredients
Fresh noodles are always best for a ramen soup, but dry noodles will make a good job too.
As mentioned, it plays a key role in creating the umami flavor; so, the broth ingredients are essential here:
- white miso paste – the secret weapon in this broth; miso is a high-protein seasoning made of fermented soybeans, salt, water, grains (rice or barley) and Aspergillus oriyzae culture; there are more miso types and for this dish I chose white miso (shiro miso), which tends to be a bit sweeter; there’s no appropriate substitute for miso so, if you don’t have it, add more tahini;
- tahini (sesame paste) – this is actually a shortcut I used because the traditional Japanese recipe is made with roasted sesame seeds ground in a mortar with pestle;
- kombu – dried kelp which is used extensively in Japanese, Korean and Chinese cooking; kombu is used to make dashi, the soup stock, which is an essential ingredient in many Japanese dishes as it creates an authentic flavor;
- sesame oil – used for frying and to enhance the sesame flavor;
- ground white pepper – if you don’t have it, skip it; don’t replace it with another type of pepper as it has a special flavor specific to Japanese and Chinese soups;
- green onions – use just the whites for the soup;
- garlic & ginger
- soy sauce
- rice vinegar
- vegetables – I used Champignon mushrooms (but frankly, shiitake or dried wood ear mushrooms would be a better choice), broccoli, spinach and green onions; feel free to use any other vegetables you like: bok choy, carrots, corn, cabbage, bean sprouts, etc.
- tofu – use firm tofu; I chose to fry it, but it’s not mandatory
- sesame seeds
How to make vegan ramen
First you need to prepare the dashi. Put kombu in a small bowl, pour 3 cups of hot water and set aside for 30 minutes to allow kombu bring out the flavor.
In a small bowl combine well the white miso paste and tahini then set aside.
Grate the ginger knob and mince the garlic. Dice the green onions and separate the greens from the whites; keep the greens for garnishing.
Heat a pan and add sesame oil when it’s hot. Add onion whites, garlic and ginger and sauté over medium heat until fragrances are released.
Strain dashi and add it into the pot. Bring in soy sauce, rice vinegar, salt, and white pepper. Cover with a lid let it simmer for 20 minutes over low heat.
The next step is optional. If you want the ramen broth to have a smooth texture, then you can either strain it or blend it using an immersion blender.
Then thin the miso and tahini mixture before adding it to the broth. Add 5-6 tablespoons of broth to the mixture bowl and stir until you get a smooth sauce like texture. Add the mixture to the broth and combine well.
It’s best to prepare the toppings ahead so that, when the broth and the noodles are cooked, you only add them to the ramen bowl.
You can either prepare the toppings separately (like I did) or you can add some of them to the soup while it’s boiling (and save some cooking time and have less pots to clean ?).
I fried mushrooms and tofu in a pan and I blanched broccoli and spinach. If you’re using shiitake or dried mushrooms, don’t cook them separately. Add them to the soup and allow them to simmer together. You can also add broccoli and spinach in the pot where the broth is cooking, just consider they have different cooking times. And also, take them out before blending the soup (if you’re aiming for the smooth texture).
If you don’t want to fry tofu, that’s fine, you can add it directly to the ramen bowl at the end with the other toppings.
Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the package (boil or just leave them in hot water for a few minutes). When they’re al dente, pick them up with a mesh sieve, drain well the water and put them into the serving bowls.
Add the toppings over the noodles. Then pour over the hot broth, garnish with green onion and sesame seeds and enjoy!
Tips for making vegan ramen
To be more efficient, prepare the toppings while the broth is cooking. And cook the noodles last.
Don’t try to speed up the dashi making process by boiling kombu. It will turn bitter, that’s why you only need to leave it in hot water to release the flavor. The more kombu you use, the more flavorful your dish will be.
You can also prepare the dashi the day before. Place kombu in a jar filled with room temperature water, close with the lid and put in the fridge overnight.
For a smooth broth texture, I recommend straining or blending it.
Avoid boiling miso paste. Besides loosing its nutritional value and flavor, it separates while boiling and your broth won’t look pretty anymore ?. That’s why it’s better to add miso to the broth a few minutes after you turned off the heat.
Thin the miso and tahini mixture before adding it to the broth. They don’t dissolve quickly and you’ll end up with a lumpy broth if you skip this step.
Do not fully cook the noodles. Put them into the ramen bowl when they’re al dente. Otherwise, when you pour the hot broth over, the cooking process will continue, and they’ll become too soggy.
If you liked this recipe, please rate it below and leave a comment. And if you make this vegan ramen, take a photo and share it on Instagram; don’t forget to tag #choosetasty ?.
Simple Vegan Ramen with White Miso Broth
- 150 g ramen noodles or any wheat noodles
- 5 g kombu
- 3 cups hot water 750 ml
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 2 diced green onions just the whites
- 4 minced garlic cloves
- 1 minced ginger knob 2 cm piece
- 1 tsp salt or to taste
- 2 tbsp white miso paste
- 2 tbsp tahini
- ½ tsp ground white pepper
- 1 tbsp light soy sauce or all purpose soy sauce
- 1 tsp rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil if you fry tofu and mushrooms
- 150 g sliced firm tofu
- 3 medium Champignon brown mushrooms shiitake or dry wood ear work better
- 100 g broccoli florets
- 50 g fresh spinach leaves or bok choy
- 1 tsp sesame seeds for garnishing
- green onions
- Put kombu in a bowl and pour over the hot water; set aside for 30 minutes; strain before adding it to the saucepan;
- Put tahini and white miso paste in a bowl and combine them well with a spoon; set aside;
- Heat the sesame oil in a saucepan and, when it's hot, add onion whites, minced garlic and ginger; sauté over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, until fragrances are released;
- Pour in dashi (kombu soup) into the saucepan; add the rice vinegar, soy sauce, salt and ground pepper; if you're using shiitake or dry wood ear mushrooms, add them now into the pot; cover with a lid and let it simmer for 20 minutes;
- In the meantime, blanch spinach and broccoli florets then set aside;
- Heat the vegetable oil in a pan and shortly fry tofu slices and mushrooms (if you're using Champignon) then set aside;
- When the broth is cooked, turn off the heat and blend with an immersion blender if you want to get a smooth texture;
- Add 5-6 tbsp of broth to the miso and tahini paste and combine well to thin the mixture;
- Pour the paste into the broth and combine well;
- Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the package; strain (without rinsing) and put them into the serving bowls;
- Add the toppings over the noodles then pour in the hot broth;
- Garnish with green onions and sesame seeds and enjoy!
- Don’t add the miso and tahini mixture to the boiling broth; they’ll lose all nutrients and the broth will separate.
- Don’t boil kombu or the soup will become bitter.
- Put the noodles into bowls while they are al dente; pouring hot soup on top will cook them fully.