Vegan Dan Dan Noodles

These vegan dan dan noodles are truly addictive. The tender noodles are served with a rich sauce that is nutty, spicy, and extra fragrant, with a hint of sweetness. It also comes with a vegan recipe for a flavorful “meat” topping that tastes great and clings to the noodles, just like real meat. {Gluten Free adaptable}

Vegan dan dan noodles close up

Back story

Developing a great vegan dan dan noodle recipe has been on my to-do list for a while. Over the years, I’ve had more and more readers request recipes for vegetarian and vegan Chinese food. I can see that eating healthy is not just a fad, but something that should be popular every day and will stick around.

A couple months ago, my husband Thomas started experimenting with a plant-based diet. He liked it so much that he started his own food blog Gastroplant, a recipe sharing site that documents his journey of cooking with wholesome planted-based ingredients.

Growing up eating everything, eating vegan didn’t really cross my mind (my blog literally has the word Omnivore written on it!). In addition, I thought it would be too hard for me to give up fried chicken, runny eggs, and melted cheese. I thought vegan cooking had too many limitations that would affect the taste.

My opinion changed after I had experimented with a vegan diet for a month.

During that time, not only did I feel better and more energetic, lose weight, and maintain my training, I enjoyed the food so much that I thought I could go 100% vegan after all. After the trial, now I eat 70% plant-based food. The morning green smoothie has become a part of my routine. I’m happy that I can now enjoy a vegan Tonkotsu ramen and Chili that tastes as scrumptious as the meat version, without feeling guilty. And I can satisfy my sugar craving with these beautiful miso peanut butter cups after dinner without worrying about gaining weight.

I started to change my perspective. Instead of viewing the plant-based cooking as a limitation, now I think it provides me more tools to create great taste from wholesome ingredients.

Vegan dan dan noodles mixed with sauce

Traditional Dan Dan noodles, veganized

OK, enough story sharing and more about cooking.

I published the traditional Chinese Dan Dan Noodles recipe a while ago, but I received some readers’ requests for a vegan version. Had I not tried out the vegan diet, I would have replaced the minced pork topping with some stir-fried shiitake mushrooms and called it a day.

Last weekend when I was tasting the vegan Chorizo my husband made, I got very inspired and created my version of the “meat” topping.

Ingredients for making vegan dan dan noodles

Mixing vegan dan dan noodles with chopsticks

Vegan meat topping Ingredients

The ingredients used in the vegan meat include tofu, mushrooms, and pecans. Even though tempeh is always a great meat alternative, I decided to stick with tofu, which is used more commonly in traditional Chinese cooking.

Once blended and cooked, this mixture gives you a thick paste that has a meaty texture and clings to the noodles, It’s exactly the texture I was looking for.

Instead of cooking the green onion and garlic separately, like in traditional Chinese recipes, I decided to blend them with the vegan meat. It shortens the prep time and the result was just as great.

Note: I took the picture below to show you the ingredients included in the meat topping mixture. Later on, I found out that blending the ingredients without the tofu first, then adding the tofu, makes the blending easier.

Ingredients for making vegan meat topping

Secret ingredient – Sui Mi Ya Cai

Sui Mi Ya Cai (碎米芽菜) is a must-have ingredient if you want to call a dish dan dan noodles in China. It is not just any type of fermented mustard green, but a type of cardamine bean sprout that is native to Sichuan. It is dried, flavored with sugar and spices, and fermented. The end result is a dark brown pickle that has a crunchy texture and a one-of-a-kind taste — a bit sweet, salty, savory, with an earthy umami.

I used this ingredient to cook the vegan meat, which yields a result just like traditional dan dan Noodles.

I was a bit reluctant to include this ingredient because it is very rare outside of China. Luckily, my friend Taylor carries it and you can purchase it here. I also found one vendor who carries it on Amazon.

If you don’t have this ingredient, no worries. What you can do is to add two to three rehydrated shiitake mushrooms to the vegan meat mixture. Then use 2 tablespoons of fermented black beans to replace the Sui Mi Ya Cai.

Sui Mi Ya Cai - Sichuan Fermented Mustard Greens

Cooking the vegan meat mixture

All you need to do is slowly cook it on the stovetop until the veggie ingredients are cooked through and the moisture has evaporated.

The mixture looks like a pile of mush when you add it to the pan. But once you add the seasonings and cook it down, it will eventually become a thick paste that holds its shape. When mixing the noodles with the sauce, it breaks apart nicely and mimics the texture of minced meat.

The recipe yields a bit more topping, which you can use in a variety of ways. You can use it to top noodle soup, rice bowls, and other veggie dishes as a meat alternative.

Vegan meat topping for vegan dan dan noodles

More cooking notes

1. Homemade chili oil

Chili oil is a staple in every household in Sichuan and the homemade version is a must. It is the main ingredient in dan dan noodles and I highly recommend you make your own. Making chili oil might look daunting at first, but trust me, it only takes 5 minutes. Check out this post to learn how.

A quick note to anyone who prefers to avoid spicy food — you will still benefit from the homemade chili oil. When you’re making the noodle sauce, you can add a small amount of chili oil to infuse some aroma and smokiness; your dish won’t end up very spicy.

2. Chinese sesame paste

Chinese sesame paste (芝麻酱, zhi ma jiang) is a thick paste made from toasted sesame seeds. Although a lot of original Sichuan dan dan noodle recipes do not contain this ingredient, I prefer to use it to make the sauce creamier. It also balances the spiciness to round out the flavor. It adds great umami too, so your sauce will still taste great if you don’t want to add too much chili oil.

You can find Chinese sesame paste in most Asian grocery stores, or purchase it online.

Please note, Chinese sesame paste tastes VERY different from tahini. Do not use tahini as an alternative. If you don’t want to purchase Chinese sesame paste, you can also use unsweetened peanut butter with a few teaspoons of sesame oil mixed in.

3. How to mix the sauce properly

If this is your first time cooking with Chinese sesame paste, you will find that it is quite solid and very difficult to dissolve into the sauce.

The best way to mix the sauce is by adding the sesame paste into a bowl first, then mixing in the liquid ingredients little by little. Whisk the mixture with a spoon until the solid paste is fully blended with the liquid. Then add more liquid and repeat.

Vegan dan dan noodles sauce

More vegan Chinese recipes

Vegan dan dan noodles served in small bowls

If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), take a picture and tag it @omnivorescookbook on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.

Vegan Dan Dan noodles - The tender noodles are served with a rich sauce that is nutty, spicy, and extra fragrant, with a hint of sweetness. It also comes with a vegan recipe for a flavorful “meat” topping that tastes great and clings to the noodles, just like real meat. Be careful, this dish is addictively tasty! {Gluten Free adaptable} #chinese #recipes

Vegan Dan Dan Noodles

These vegan dan dan noodles are truly addictive. The tender noodles are served with a rich sauce that is nutty, spicy, and extra fragrant, with a hint of sweetness. It also comes with a vegan recipe for a flavorful “meat” topping that tastes great and clings to the noodles, just like real meat. {Gluten Free adaptable}You can make the dish gluten-free by replacing the soy sauce with tamari or coconut aminos, replacing the Shaoxing wine with dry sherry, using rice vinegar instead of Chinkiang vinegar, and using rice noodles instead of wheat noodles. Note, rice vinegar is much milder and will give the dish a very different taste.
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Appetizer, Main
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: street food, takeout
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6
Calories: 380kcal
Author: Maggie Zhu

Ingredients

Vegan meat topping

  • 1/2 pound (225 grams) mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup pecans (or walnuts)
  • 3 green onions , coarsely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic , peeled
  • 1/2 block tofu (1/2 pound / 225 grams)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup Sui Mi Ya Cai (*Footnote 1)
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine

Noodle sauce

To assemble

  • 10 ounces (300 grams) dried egg noodles (or 1 pound /450 grams fresh noodles)
  • 1 small bunch leafy green vegetables , roughly chopped (spinach, chard, baby bok choy etc.)
  • 1 cup roasted peanuts, crushed (Optional)

Instructions

Prepare sauce

  • Whisk sesame paste and light soy sauce until fully incorporated. Add Chinkiang vinegar. Continue stirring until mixed. Then mix in garlic, green onion, and agave syrup.
  • Add homemade chili oil, a tablespoon at a time, mix and taste the sauce. Add more chili oil if you want more spiciness.
  • Add toasted and ground Sichuan peppercorns, 1/2 teaspoon at a time. Taste as you mix, until you can taste the numbingness but can still handle it. The more chili oil you add, the more Sichuan peppercorns you will need.
  • The consistency of the sauce can vary, depending on the thickness of the sesame paste (peanut butter). If the sauce is too thick, add some water and mix well.

Prepare toppings

  • Combine the mushrooms, pecans, onion, and garlic in a food processor. Blend until the ingredients are chopped into small bits. Add the tofu. Pulse until the ingredients are evenly chopped into bits, but not into a very smooth paste.
  • Heat oil in a skillet or a wok over medium heat until hot. Add Sui Mi Ya Cai. Stir a few times to release the fragrance.
  • Add the tofu mixture; cook and stir until the bottom of the pan looks dry, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Add the soy sauce and cooking wine. Use a spatula to release any bits that are stuck to the pan. Turn to medium to medium low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the paste thickens enough that you can shape it with your spatula, 10 minutes or so. And some of the mixture will be lightly browned.
  • Transfer everything to a bowl and set aside.

Prepare the noodle bowl

  • Cook noodles according to the instructions.
  • Bring the vegetable stock to a boil.
  • Briefly blanch the green leafy vegetables, drain, and set aside.
  • For each noodle bowl, add the noodles, spoon some sauce onto them, add the vegan meat topping, sprinkle the crushed peanuts (if using), and mix well.
  • Serve hot or cold.

Notes

  1. You can make the dish gluten-free by replacing the soy sauce with tamari or coconut aminos, replacing the Shaoxing wine with dry sherry, using rice vinegar instead of Chinkiang vinegar, and using rice noodles instead of wheat noodles. Note, rice vinegar is much milder and will give the dish a very different taste.
  2. If you cannot find Sui Mi Ya Cai, you can use fermented black beans (around 2 tablespoons) to add umami to the vegan meat. Also, you can rehydrate 2 to 3 shiitake mushrooms and add them to the meat mixture. Dried shiitake mushrooms will add an intense and hearty umami to the mixture.

Nutrition

Serving: 6g | Calories: 380kcal | Carbohydrates: 28.1g | Protein: 8.5g | Fat: 27.6g | Saturated Fat: 3.9g | Cholesterol: 14mg | Sodium: 808mg | Potassium: 286mg | Fiber: 3.5g | Sugar: 3.9g | Calcium: 40mg | Iron: 2.5mg
Vegan Dan Dan noodles - The tender noodles are served with a rich sauce that is nutty, spicy, and extra fragrant, with a hint of sweetness. It also comes with a vegan recipe for a flavorful “meat” topping that tastes great and clings to the noodles, just like real meat. Be careful, this dish is addictively tasty! {Gluten Free adaptable} #chinese #recipes

Disclosure

Omnivore's Cookbook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
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Meet Maggie

Hi I'm Maggie Zhu! Welcome to my site about modern Chinese cooking - including street food, family recipes, and restaurant dishes. I take a less labor-intensive approach while maintaining the taste and look of the dish. I am originally from Beijing, and now cook from my New York kitchen.

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10 thoughts on “Vegan Dan Dan Noodles

  1. beth

    Hi Maggie. I am so glad to hear about your success with your 30-day vegan diet experiment and that you are eating a 70% plant-based diet now — I do hope that with your new food lifestyle that we’ll see more vegetarian recipes on your site. Or at least suggestions on how to make a recipe vegan/vegetarian friendly. I’m vegetarian (used to be vegan but I missed cheese soooo much).

    The vegan meat topping sounds so great but unfortunately I have a peanut + nut allergy so I cannot use pecans or walnuts or any other nut. Do you think the vegan nut topping would come out okay without the nuts? Or do you have an alternate ingredient to suggest?

    Thank you for all that you share on your blog!

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Beth, thanks for your kind words! Yes, I do plan to share more vegan and vegetarian recipes on my blog from now on!
      Re your question, you can skip the nuts. I would use 1/2 block tofu to replace them, so the “meat” won’t come out too salty. I think the texture and flavor will work well. Happy cooking and looking forward to your feedback 🙂

      Reply
  2. beth

    Hi Maggie. I’m a recent follower/subscriber and just wanted to tell you how fantastic your blog is. Thank you so much for your time and effort and making messes in your kitchen all so you can freely share recipes with everyone. Also, congrats on completing your 30-day vegan experiment and that your diet is now 70% plant-based. I’ve been a vegetarian for several years now and I feel I’m a more adventurous eater as a vegetarian than when I was an omnivore. Your “pantry” page has been an amazing resource for me and has helped me navigate the Asian grocery store in my town. I’ve printed out a bunch of recipes from your site and will be sure to report back (on the recipe’s page) to let you know how they turned out.

    P.S. I’m confused about the language in the drop-down box below. If I choose ‘don’t subscribe’ (I assume to comment notifications) will I be unsubscribed from following your blog?

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Bartosz, actually you can find vegan egg noodles in the Asian market since many of them only use water and flour as ingredients. They call it egg noodles only because of the yellow color. Alternatively, you can use udon noodles or ramen noodles to make this dish.

      Reply
  3. Pina

    Hi Maggie,
    I found your blog by chance and I am happy I have done so because you share so many lovely vegetarian and vegan recipes. I already tried the chili oil – amazing. Unfortunately, my husband is allergic to any kind of mushrooms which so far has limited my possibilities. Do you have a good substitute for mushrooms in this recipes and maybe also in general for chinese cooking? Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Pina, I don’t have a great solution to replace the mushroom in general because it does add tons of savory earthy taste to a dish. But I’m happy to look into this and do some experiment so I might find a way to cook without mushrooms in the future.
      For this recipe, you actually could try skipping the mushrooms. I borrowed the idea from my husband’s recipe: https://gastroplant.com/vegan-chorizo/ He didn’t use mushrooms in the meat blend but the “meat” turned out flavorful. If you use Sui Mi Ya Cai, it should add plenty of flavor so you should get away without using mushrooms.

      Reply
  4. Elle

    5 stars
    Made this for my family tonight and they loved it. I left out the chili oil and peppercorns to make it kid-friendly and added the chili oil to my husband and I’s bowls at serving. Delicious! And the kids finished their bowls!

    Reply
  5. Cwood

    Love this recipe! My meatatrian husband lives this too. I always make a double batch of the ‘meat’ and use it to make lasagna ❤️❤️❤️

    Reply