23 Vegetarian Recipes that Celebrate Bold Asian Flavors

Vegetables are at the heart of weeknight dinners across Asian cuisines. Our favorite recipes are loaded with big, bright, bold flavors. We know you'll love them too.

Recipes - Bold Asian Flavors

Walk into any Korean restaurant and you'd think our national food was BBQ, meat cooked on the table family-style. (It's popular because it's delicious. Order it!) But that's not how I eat at home, where vegetables, tofu, and rice are on heavy rotation.

Traditional Korean home cooked meals lean vegetarian and are simple yet bold: easy to find vegetables like broccoli, bok choy, spinach, and squash are transformed into delicious meals using soy sauce, sesame oil, gochujang (Korean chili paste), or gochugaru (Korean chili flakes). Take this spinach banchan.

Similarly, most Asian cuisines put vegetables at the center of weeknight dinners. Below we gathered our favorite vegetarian recipes inspired and beloved by the vastly diverse cultures of Asia. We have traditional dishes like Chana Masala and Kimchi Fried Rice to inspired versions like Eggplant Green Curry and Kimchi Deviled Eggs.

One thing these recipes have in common: They rely on bright, bold, and daring seasonings, which are pantry staples found in each cultures' home kitchens.

To stock your own pantry, read how to stock an Asian pantry by Hetty McKinnon, author of four cookbooks (her latest is called "To Asia with Love").

  • Slow Cooker Chickpea Curry With Sweet Potatoes and Red Peppers

    Slow Cooker Chickpea Curry
    Sabrina Modelle

    Most curry powders found in the grocery store have turmeric, coriander, cinnamon, cumin, garlic, ginger, black pepper, and cloves. That's a lot of flavor packed into a small spice jar! And it seeps into the chickpeas slowly over six to eight hours.

  • Easy Vegetable Fried Rice

    How to Make Vegetable Fried Rice
    Cheyenne Cohen

    Speed and riffability are the name of the game. Fresh veggies trump frozen ones, except when you need to get dinner on the table stat. I've used an 11-ounce bag of frozen mixed vegetables (my favorite combo: broccoli, carrots, snap peas, and water chestnuts), adding them straight into the hot wok frozen.

  • Eggplant Green Curry

    Green Curry Eggplant
    Elise Bauer

    Thai green curry paste is a combination of chilis, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, basil, and sometimes fish sauce. If you're strictly vegetarian, check the label. Also, this recipe calls for fish sauce. You can use soy sauce, coconut aminos, or a vegan fish sauce instead.

  • Potato and Broccoli Curry

    Potato Broccoli Curry
    Sheryl Julian

    Instead of using cream, almonds are blended into the sauce to make it thick and creamy. It's a smart technique traditionally used in India to make masalas (curries), typically with cashews.

    Continue to 5 of 23 below.
  • Gochujang Green Beans

    Green Beans with Gochujang in a skillet.
    Sally Vargas

    Katie Morford, RD is brilliant at coaxing bold and interesting flavors into bright healthy foods like these green beans. Here she uses gochujang, a Korean chili paste that's sweet, salty, tangy, and a little funky, to get a 15-minute side dish you'll make over and over again.

  • Curried Potato and Vegetable Soup

    Curried Potato Vegetable Soup
    Elise Bauer

    Elise Bauer, founder of Simply Recipes, picked out all the yellow ingredients from her pantry and fridge to create this vegetarian soup. And it works! I love my soups chunky, so I think it would be okay not to blend the soup, right?

  • Chana Masala

    Best Chana Masala bowl of chana masala with rice, and lemon wedge
    Prerna Singh

    You'll want to put the ginger-garlic paste, recommended by Prerna Singh, the recipe developer, in everything including this quick and easy Indian dish. Canned chickpeas make it as simple as can be.

  • Asian Zucchini Noodle Salad

    Asian Zucchini Noodle Salad
    Elise Bauer

    A drizzle of dark sesame oil can make anything taste delicious, including these zoodles (i.e. zucchini noodles). It has a deep, rich, nutty, a little sweet and funky flavor that's hard to mimic with any other ingredient.

    Continue to 9 of 23 below.
  • Sigeumchi Namul (Spinach Banchan)

    Toasted sesame and garlic spinach in a white bowl.
    Vivian Jao

    Remember the Korean BBQ I mentioned in the introduction? I would bet that Sigeumchi Namul is served as a side dish (called banchan in Korean). It's fresh, nutty, and the best way to enjoy a lot of spinach, Popeye-style.

  • Hetty McKinnon’s Seaweed Lettuce Salad

    Overhead view of To Asia, With Love Seaweed Lettuce Salad in a bowl.

    Lori Rice

    Gochugaru comes in many different levels of heat, so try it first. Here it goes into the dressing, which is a perfect balance of spicy, sweet, savory, and nutty. (Hi there sesame!)

  • Grilled Cabbage with Peanut Sauce

    Grilled cabbage with peanut satay sauce on a plate with toppings in small bowls around it.

    Lori Rice

    What a lot of Asian cuisines excel at is balancing sweet and savory, just like in the peanut sauce here. There's garlic, shallots, peanuts, sugar, and kecap manis, an Indonesian sweet and savory soy sauce. Using purple cabbage? It will turn a funky blue when cooked, but it's totally fine to eat.

  • Sesame Ginger Noodle Salad

    Asian Noodle Salad with Sesame Ginger Dressing
    Elise Bauer

    The world of Asian noodles is vast (and delicious). This recipe calls for chow mein. Any thin round noodles like somen, rice sticks, soba, or rice vermicelli works.

    Continue to 13 of 23 below.
  • Korean Spicy Cold Noodles

    Korean Spicy Cold Noodles
    Elise Bauer

    These are the cold noodles I grew up making without a recipe. That's your permission to use whatever fresh vegetables or noodles you have available, A non-negotiable? The gochujang in the sauce adds a depth a flavor that's unique to this dish. Here is a brand I love.

  • Stir Fried Japanese Eggplant With Ginger and Miso

    Japanese Eggplant with Ginger and Miso
    Elise Bauer

    Of the many types of eggplants out there, Japanese eggplants can stand up to the assertive flavors of ginger, miso, and chili, all while staying intact (i.e. it won't become mush when cooked). No need to peel the skin—it's tender and not bitter.

  • Chinese Hot and Sour Soup

    A bowl of hot sour soup.
    Elise Bauer

    Use vegetable broth (or better yet, a mushroom broth) to make this spicy, sour, and earthy soup. The key to feathery ribbons of egg is to keep stirring the soup as you drizzle it in. Resist the urge to stop stirring to check whether it's working. It'll work, as long as you keep stirring.

  • Hoisin Glazed Brussel Sprouts

    Hoisin Glazed Brussels Sprouts
    Elise Bauer

    We love Brussels sprouts and this version stands out for its use of hoisin, a fragrant, salty, sweet fermented soybean sauce used in Cantonese cooking. The sauce is vegan even though hoisin means seafood in Chinese.

    Continue to 17 of 23 below.
  • Kimchi Deviled Eggs

    How to Make Deviled Eggs with Kimchi
    Sabrina Modelle

    Kimchi is a staple Korean side dish that practically shows up in every meal, including breakfast. That's how good it is—it's crunchy, sour, spicy, and umami. No wonder it works on deviled eggs. The kimchi balances out the creamy yolks and give it a little kick.

  • Soba Noodle Salad

    Soba Noodle Salad
    Elise Bauer

    Soba noodles are magical because they soak up the sauce without becoming mushy. I've tried a dozen brands of soba noodles. They all cook much faster than the instructions call for. If the package says to cook it to five minutes, start checking at the three-minute mark. Six to eight minutes? Check at the five-minute mark. It should be a little chewy, but not hard.

  • Kimchi Bokkeumbap (Kimchi Fried Rice)

    Kimchi fried rice with a fried egg served on a white plate.
    Vivian Jao

    Have you heard? Fried rice is best with day-old rice. That's true here. What's also true: Kimchi Fried Rice is best with old kimchi. It means the kimchi was fermented for longer, it's funkier, more sour, and perfect for fried rice.

  • Cold Rice Noodle Salad

    Overhead view of an easy rice noodle salad in a serving bowl along with wooden claws.
    Alison Bickel

    Cold Rice Noodle Salad is filling but not heavy. They are full of vegetables and wholesome without being virtuous. It's a little spicy, very crunchy, and the noodles are chewy. Basically, the perfect meal.

    Continue to 21 of 23 below.
  • Vegetarian Pad Thai with Tofu

    Vegetarian Pad Thai recipe
    Alison Conklin

    This popular takeout noodle dish isn't fussy to make at home. In fact, if you prep all the ingredients and have them ready to go when you heat up the wok, dinner will be ready in less than 15 minutes.

  • Noodles With Mushrooms and Lemon Ginger Dressing

    Mushrooms Noodles Lemon Ginger Dressing
    Jaden Hair

    Adaptable recipes like this are meant to become back pocket recipes. Use any noodle! Use any type of mushrooms! We welcome all fresh herbs! Plus, the flavor combination of ginger, the zest and juice of a lemon, and sesame oil is one you'll crave again and again.

  • Easy Vegetable Lo Mein

    Side view of a white plate and fork with homemade vegetable lo mein. A fork is on the plate and a second plate is partially visible in the upper right hand corner.
    Nick Evans | Art Banner Credit: Andy Christensen

    You can have a steaming plate of lo mein in about 30 minutes using whatever vegetables you have and like—not a takeout box in sight! It's okay if you don't own a wok. Use the biggest skillet you have.