For the best plant-based Chinese food, look no further! As you can discover here at PlantX, Chinese food is not only adaptable to suit a vegan diet but is also responsible for the creation of some of your favorite vegan ingredients. So, what are you waiting for? Fire up the wok and get cooking for some of the best vegan Chinese food around!
What is American-Chinese food?
What’s on the menu at the local Chinese restaurant or takeaway may be some people’s sole experience of Chinese food. However, this is American-Chinese food, adapted to suit a Western palate and radically different from traditional Chinese food. American Chinese food is much higher in sugar, sodium, and synthetic flavors, and usually features high-fat, high-calorie dishes.
Don’t get us wrong, sometimes Chinese takeout food is exactly what you fancy - a chow mein, chop suey, or fried rice can really hit the spot every now and again! However, these salty, oily dishes are not representative of authentic Chinese cuisine. And, more troublingly, this distorted iteration of Chinese food has led some to wrongly label the entire cuisine unhealthy. We’re here to help dispel that myth!
What is Authentic Chinese food?
Real Chinese food is immeasurably healthier, far more subtle, and ultimately, a lot more delicious than what we might be used to in the States! While Chinese food encompasses a vast range of cultures and cuisines within China and the Chinese diaspora, there are some unifying features across the variations.
Chinese food is known for its big, bold flavors, colorful fresh veggies, perfectly balanced meals, and use of preserved or fermented foods, rich in essential vitamins and minerals. The typical carbs are rice, noodles, or dumplings made from wheat or rice flour.
Chinese food is often deliciously seasoned with flavors like fresh ginger, garlic, sesame, chili oil, and aromatic dried spices like cinnamon, star anise, and Sichuan peppercorns. To learn more about some of the spices you might use when cooking your own vegan Chinese food, check out our blog on the subject here.
In Chinese culture, food is not just for nutrition, but it is thought that sharing good food can bring joy and harmony to relationships with loved ones. This philosophical approach to cooking and eating is evident in the building blocks of Chinese food.
These include using the freshest local, seasonal ingredients, wasting nothing, and carefully balancing flavors, textures, and colors. Plant-based Chinese food is enriching, nourishing, and satisfying for the body and the soul, perfect for sharing with friends and family.
Can Vegans Eat Chinese Food?
If we’re talking about your local takeaway, you might struggle to find cruelty-free options on the menu. At authentic Chinese restaurants, you might be concerned about hidden animal products like dried shrimp, pork bone broth, or egg noodles. However, if you’re making Chinese food from scratch (with a little help from PlantX), you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to make delicious vegan Chinese food. Most Chinese cuisine is dairy-free anyway, due to high instances of lactose intolerance, and many of the most loved vegan ingredients actually have Chinese origins.
- Tofu, that plant-powered staple, was first created in China around 2000 years ago and has been a staple source of protein in vegan Chinese food ever since. Soy milk also originates in China!
- Seitan, another modern vegan favorite made from vital wheat gluten, dates back to ancient China, thought to be developed by 6th-century Buddhist monks.
- Other vegan favorites that offer richness, flavor, and texture to your meals are also traditional components in plant-based Chinese food. These include soy sauce, pickled vegetables, and mushrooms (learn more about vegan mushrooms here).
So there we go, the best vegan Chinese food is already at your fingertips. You were probably already making vegan meals inspired by Chinese culinary tradition and you didn’t even know it!
Is Chinese Vegetarian Food Healthy?
Chinese food is rooted in ancient Eastern medicine. Many dishes or particular ingredients are thought to have health-giving properties and should be consumed according to each person’s particular constitution. Traditional Chinese teachings about food advise us to listen to our bodies, eat according to the seasons and climate, and always seek balance and moderation.
Traditional vegan Chinese food contains lots of fresh veggies, lean proteins, rice, and noodles. It’s low in fat and packed with essential nutrients. Traditional Chinese cuisine also utilizes healthy cooking methods such as steaming, braising, and stir-frying.
How Can I Make Vegan Chinese Food at Home?
If you’re short on time, you might think it's not worth cooking vegan Chinese food at home. Before you reach for the takeout menu, read these top tips for making delicious, authentic plant-based Chinese food in the comfort of your own kitchen.
- Build up your vegan Chinese food store cupboard.
By stocking up on a few essential ingredients, making vegan Chinese food becomes a whole lot more convenient. Invest in sesame oil, rice vinegar, light and dark soy sauce (or your preferred alternative), dried mushrooms, as well as some good chili oil, Chinese 5-spice, and Shaoxing rice wine.
With these shelf-stable stalwarts up your sleeve, all you need are some fresh veggies, protein, and rice or noodles to make the best vegan Chinese food whenever you fancy. And where can you search for your plant-based Chinese food staple groceries? Here at PlantX of course!
- Acknowledge your time constraints.
There are lots of dishes in vegan Chinese cooking that require culinary know-how and lots of time. Think hand-pulled noodles, homemade dumplings, rich mushroom broths simmered for hours - all these are more of a Sunday project than a quick weeknight supper. If you’re pushed for time, choose quick and easy vegan Chinese food dishes like vegan stir-fries, sauteed veggies, and rice dishes. Stock up on ready-to-wok noodles and premade spice mixes and stock bases so you can enjoy stress-free vegan Chinese cooking on the fly.
- Prepare everything before you start to cook.
The best vegan Chinese food should begin with chopping up fresh veggies, preparing the sauces, and marinating the tofu before you even turn the stove on. This way, you’ll be able to add each ingredient at the appropriate time to create fresh, crunchy, and nutrient-dense dishes that celebrate those punchy flavors and bright colors.
In traditional Chinese dining, knives are not used at the table so remember to make everything bite-sized and get those chopsticks at the ready!
Vegan Chinese Food: Top Products
Here are a few of our top products to help you start making the best vegan Chinese food at home. Once you’ve built up a store cupboard, it will become even easier to make plant-based Chinese food from scratch whenever you fancy.
- Coconut Secret - Soy-Free Seasoning Sauce: This soy-free, gluten-free seasoning sauce is a great allergy-friendly alternative to regular soy sauce.
Bragg - Organic Coconut Liquid Aminos: Soy-free and made from naturally-sourced coconut nectar blossom, this sauce is made for those that prefer a lighter tasting soy but without the soy!
- Dr McDougall's - Hot & Sour Noodle Soup Cup: Fancy an instant dinner infused with delicious Chinese-inspired flavors? This tasty hot & sour noodle soup cup is ready in seconds. Plus its 100% free from GMOs and made with organic ingredients.
- This Little Goat Went to Hong Kong - Everything Sauce: Drawing inspiration from the bold flavors of Hong Kong cuisine, this punchy sauce is bursting with ginger, garlic & chili.
- Annie Chun's - Orange Sauce: Sweet, tangy, and 100% gluten-free, this traditional orange sauce is perfect for marinating tofu, jackfruit, or veggies, or enjoying with your favorite vegan dumplings.
Easy Vegan Chinese Food Recipes
This is a veganized version of that Chinese takeout standby ‘General Tso’s Chicken’. Much lower in fat, sodium, and calories than its takeout twin, this quick and easy plant-based Chinese food is packed with bold flavors and textures. Serve it on a bed of steamed brown rice with some stir-fried broccoli and enjoy!
Ready in under 30 minutes, this tasty Chinese-inspired stir-fry is bursting with colorful veggies, chewy seitan jerky, and rice noodles, all slathered in a spicy peanut butter sauce. Remember to prep all the ingredients for your vegan Chinese food beforehand so you can keep those veggies as fresh and crunchy as possible!
So, pop some vegan Chinese food store cupboard staples in your basket, along with your favorite Chinese meat alternatives, and get experimenting. Toss the takeout menus because nothing is more rewarding than creating richly flavorful, colorful, and nourishing plant-based Chinese food in your own home. Whether you’re a noodle nut, dumpling devotee, or wonton worshiper, we’ve got you covered!
Frequently Asked Questions:
Which vegan Chinese food is gluten-free?
Vegan Chinese food is one of the easiest cuisines to adapt to a gluten-free diet. Choose from our amazing range of gluten-free noodles to make celiac-safe soups and stir-fries, or simply opt for rice instead. One of the sneakiest gluten-containing ingredients in vegan Chinese food is soy sauce. Soybeans are naturally gluten-free but they are added to crushed wheat during the fermentation process in traditional soy sauce.
When eating out, be sure to check whether your food contains soy sauce if you’re following a gluten-free diet! Luckily, for home cooking, we’ve got plenty of delicious, gluten-free soy sauce alternatives like coconut aminos and soy-free sauce made from sustainable kelp.
Is traditional Chinese food Vegan?
It’s true that traditional Chinese food does contain a lot of chicken, pork, and seafood. However, there are plenty of delicious traditional Chinese dishes that are naturally vegan. These are made with classic vegan ingredients like tofu, seitan, eggplant, mushrooms, and other fresh and fermented veggies.
While you might need to double-check what’s vegan at your local Chinese restaurant, it’s easy to make delicious vegan Chinese food in the comfort of your own kitchen. Simply stock up on the essentials for your plant-based Chinese food store cupboard and get cooking!
Can I eat Chinese food while on a Diet?
If you’re in the process of attaining a healthy weight loss goal, taking inspiration from vegan Chinese food is a great option. Unlike American-Chinese takeout food, much of the best vegan Chinese food you can make at home is light, healthy, and packed with nourishment.
Classic Chinese ingredients like brown rice noodles, fresh veggies, tofu, seitan, mushrooms, and more are all low in fat and high in essential nutrients. Chinese fermented foods like bean curd, Sichuan pickles, and fermented cabbage may also help to aid digestion which can help to support healthy weight loss.
Eating with chopsticks may also help you to eat more slowly and mindfully, helping you to avoid continuing to eat past the point of feeling full.
Can I eat Chinese food Every Day?
Go for it! Vegan Chinese food is healthy, flavorful, and full of all the essential nutrients you need for a balanced plant-based diet. Plus, it’s so versatile, that you won’t get bored once you start discovering the wonders of plant-based Chinese cooking.
Just don’t reach for the Chinese takeout menu every day and you’ll be fine!