Even with all the spices and bold flavors, kimchi soup somehow qualifies as comfort food! It’s a classic in Korean cuisine, easy to make in a plant-based version. This vegan kimchi soup recipe is ready to eat quickly.
Vegan kimchi soup can be varied in a number of ways, and it seems that no two recipes are alike! The ingredient list might look a little long, but there’s surprisingly little prep. The ingredients cook up fast, and best just cooked, not overcooked.
Brimming with Korean seasonings and briny kimchi, the broth becomes flavorful in no time. Optional ingredients include rice, rice noodles, or sweet potato, which all act as foils to the other vigorous and spicy flavors.
About the key ingredients in vegan kimchi soup
Kimchi is, predictably the #1 key ingredient in Kimchi soup. In brief, kimchi is a fermented condiment based most often on cabbage (and which can include other vegetables). Think of kimchi as a spicier, chunkier, and more complex form of sauerkraut.
Note! Not all kimchi is vegan (some have fish ingredients), so check labels carefully to keep this soup plant-based. Find out more ways to use it in our roundup of vegan recipes using kimchi.
Gochugaru (dried hot red chili flakes) is one of the most widely used of Korean spices. Like the domestic type of dried hot red pepper flakes, it has a pleasant kick. As one who isn’t that keen on super spicy foods, I find gochugaru quite tolerable, so do try it! I’ve replaced the usual kind dried hot red pepper flakes with gochugaru in my kitchen for all purposes, not just in Asian specialties. Find out more about gochugaru.
Gochujang (hot pepper paste), is one of the foundational ingredients in Korean cuisine. Thick and a bit sticky, it’s spicy all right, but surprisingly not overwhelmingly so. Commonly used as an ingredient in marinades, it’s also give soups and stews a pleasant kick. It comes in tubs or bottles.
I was surprised to find it at my local supermarket (in the Asian foods section). If you can’t find it near you, it’s easy to purchase online. Here’s more about gochujang. You can swap in sriracha; it isn’t as complex in flavor as gochujang, but will do in a pinch.
Photos by Hannah Kaminsky, BittersweetBlog.com.
- 14-ounce tub extra-firm tofu (see Note)
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil or neutral vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 cups green cabbage, preferably napa, sliced
- 6 to 8 ounces mushrooms, any variety, stemmed and sliced
- 2 teaspoons grated fresh or squeeze-bottle ginger, or more, to taste
- 1 teaspoon gochugaru, or more, to taste
- 6 cups water, plus more as needed
- 2 vegetable bouillon cubes
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes (fire-roasted, if available)
- 4 stalks bok choy or 1 medium baby bok choy, sliced
- 1 tablespoon gochujang paste, more or less to taste
- 1 cup kimchi, mild or medium, or more if desired
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced plus more (green parts) for topping
- 1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves, plus more for topping
Optional additions (choose one)
- Cooked rice (about 1 1/2 cups)
- Bean-thread noodles (about 4 ounces), cooked and cut into shorter lengths
- 1 medium sweet potato, peeled, diced and cooked
- Cut the tofu into 6 slabs crosswise and blot well between layers of clean tea towel or paper towel (or, if you have a tofu press, use it ahead of time). Cut the slabs into dice.
- Heat the oil in a soup pot. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and continue to sauté until the onion is golden.
- Add the cabbage, mushrooms, ginger, gochugaru, water, bouillon cubes, soy sauce, and tomatoes. Bring to a slow boil, then turn down the heat and simmer gently until the cabbage and mushrooms are wilted, about 5 minutes.
- Add the reserved tofu, bok choy, gochujang paste, kimchi, and scallions. The broth will likely be a bit crowded, so add 1 to 2 cups of water, or more as needed. Continue to cook over low heat for 5 minutes, or just until everything is piping hot.
- Remove from the heat. Season with salt and stir in the cilantro. Serve at once, topping each serving with a little extra scallion and cilantro.
- For the optional ingredients: If using rice, place a little in each bowl before ladling in the soup. If using bean-thread noodles or sweet potato, arrange them in small mounds on top of the soup after ladling into each bowl, before adding the garnishes. Or, you can simply stir them into the soup. Honestly, if you do any of it in a different order, it doesn’t matter; it will all taste good no matter how you arrange it!
If you’d like the tofu to be a bit firmer or even crisp in the soup, you can stir-fry it in a skillet with a little oil, stirring often until golden on most sides; or cook in an air fryer. Or you can leave it uncooked. Either way, set the tofu aside.
If you like quick Asian soups, you may also enjoy …
See lots more delicious vegan soups & stews.