This recipe for vegan bibimbap is simple to put together and has a great combination of textures and flavours. It starts with a base of crispy pan-fried rice (no special equipment needed) and is topped with a rainbow of fresh and sautéed vegetables. Best of all is the crispy gochujang fried tofu and fresh kimchi on the side for a real taste of Korea!
In case you’re not familiar, bibimbap is a Korean dish whose name literally translates to “eat the rainbow”. Just kidding, it actually means “mixed rice” but considering that the goal of any self-respecting bibimbap is to be aesthetically pleasing as well as tasty, it might as well be called “eat the rainbow”!
The various components of any vegan bibimbap and how they are prepared is totally up to you, but you always want to try to have a variety of colours.
As my goal was to make an easy vegan bibimbap recipe, I kept my veggies simple with some fresh julienned carrot and cucumber, garlic-sauteed spinach and sliced garden radish and green onion. But you can, of course, use whatever you’ve got in your fridge.
For a “meaty” element to this vegan bibimbap, I pan fried some tofu in a deliciously sweet-savoury-spicy gochujang glaze. Gochujang is a Korean chili paste that you can find in Asian supermarkets or order online. It’s also used to make the sauce that’s served alongside bibimbap for dolloping on top.
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If you don’t already have a container of gochujang in your pantry, you might be sceptical about adding another condiment that will just sit in the back of your fridge, untouched, until it goes bad.
But believe me when I say that once you try the gochujang sauce in this vegan bibimbap recipe, you’ll want to put it on everything! I especially love it in place of ketchup on veggie burgers, but it’s great on everything from fried rice to roasted vegetables.
The kimchi. I’ve been weirdly obsessed with fermenting for the past couple months, alternating between weekly batches of kimchi and sauerkraut. Not only are the health benefits of fermented foods well established, they’re also slap yo’ mama good!
You can buy kimchi at a well-stocked supermarket (or Asian market) but it may not be vegan. Making vegan kimchi at home is really easy and allows you to adjust the spice level and replace the fishy element with soy sauce or miso paste.
While Korean bibimbap is usually made in a special stone bowl which adds a delicious crispy layer to the bottom, a similar effect can be achieved by simply pan frying the rice before serving it into bowls.
If you’re going to do this step, then it’s better to use day-old rice so that it’s dry enough to crisp up nicely. Just like with vegan fried rice, vegan bibimbap is a tasty way to use up that leftover rice and veggies you’ve got languishing in your fridge!
15 minPrep Time
15 minCook Time
30 minTotal Time
- 200 grams (7 oz) extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons gochujang
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons neutral oil, divided
- 4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
- ½ tablespoon grated ginger
- 150 grams (5.3 oz) fresh spinach
- A pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 5 cups (725 grams) day-old white rice
- 1 carrot, julienned
- Half a cucumber, julienned
- 2 radishes, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup (50 grams) vegan kimchi
- 1 green onion, thinly sliced
- A sprinkling of sesame seeds (optional)
- 4 tablespoons gochujang
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon water
- Cut the tofu into cubes and place it in a plastic bag along with the cornstarch. Shake to coat the tofu in the cornstarch.
- In a bowl combine the brown sugar, soy sauce, rice vinegar and gochujang. Mix well.
- Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of neutral oil. Fry the tofu cubes until crispy on all sides then pour over the sauce. Continue frying, while stirring, a few seconds more until you have a thick glaze on the tofu. Remove to a plate.
- Carefully wash out the pan and return it to the heat. Once the water has evaporated, add 2 teaspoons of neutral oil, the garlic and ginger. Fry for a few seconds until soft then add the spinach. Sautee, while stirring, until the spinach is wilted. Remove to a plate.
- Add the remaining tablespoon of neutral oil and the sesame oil to the pan. Add the rice, packing it down into a thick pancake. Fry without stirring for 4 – 5 minutes or until the bottom is nicely crispy. Remove from the heat.
- Combine all the ingredients for the gochujang sauce.
- Divide the rice between your bowls and top with the tofu, spinach, carrot, cucumber, radish, kimchi, green onion and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. Serve with the gogchujang sauce.
Note: Bibimbap is usually a huge bowl of food. While I’ve said that this recipe serves 2, if you’re not such a big eater you may be able to stretch it into 3 or 4 servings.