How to make Korean Vegan Bibimbap - A bowl of rice with tons of vegetables with sweet and spicy Gochujang sauce equals a healthy tasty meal! Learn how to make this delicious vegan bibimbap at home!
I feel like Korean bibimbap is the true OG of the Buddha bowl. I just didn't realize I've been eating Buddha bowl all my life before it became all popular and hip!
What is bibimbap 비빔밥?
Bibimbap 비빔밥 (pronounced BEE-BEAM-BOB) is a traditional Korean dish that is very popular among Koreans as well as foreigners. It is a rice dish served with a variety of vegetables, meat, and a fried egg on top with a drizzle of gochujang sauce. This dish is often NOT vegetarian and vegan-friendly but it is extremely easy to make it into one.
Origin of Bibimbap 비빔밥
Bibimbap started to appear in various records in Korean since the 16th century but the exact origin of the dish is unclear. However there are a couple of theories.
The first theory is that Bibimbap was invented to enjoy the leftovers after Korean major holidays (such as Lunar New Year and Korean Thanksgiving) and ancestral memorial ceremonies. Many dishes prepared during these occasions overlap with the main ingredients in Bibimbap.
The second theory is that it was invented during the potluck. Bibimbap often has many different dishes and people speculate that people came up with the idea of bibimbap to enjoy various side dishes at once.
Types of Bibimbap 비빔밥
There are many different types of bibimbap in Korea. The types can depend on its region in Korea, ingredients, and how it is served (serveware).
- Regions in Korea - Depending on different regions of Korea, the toppings vary. Jeon-Ju (a region in Korea)style bibimbap is well known to have one of the toppings as seasoned raw beef.
- Ingredients - Although the bibimbap many people are familiar with in America isn't vegan-friendly, there is actually vegan bibimbap in Korea. It is bibimbap enjoyed by the monks. When you visit Budha temples on the birthday of Budha, the temples serve you vegan bibimbap.
- Serveware - If you go to Korean restaurants often, you are probably familiar with dol-sot-bibimbap 돌솟비빔밥. Dol-sot 돌솟 is a clay pot that Koreans use a lot to serve bibimbap or soup. The rice gets crispy on the bottom of Dol-sot and it keeps the dish warm for a long time.
Typical toppings in Bibimbap
Bulgogi or kalbi (Korean soy sauce marinated beef dish), baby fern, bellflower root, beat sprouts, zucchini, spinach, and fried egg are the most popular toppings for conventional bibimbap.
How to make Korean Vegan Bibimbap
Since I'm making mine vegan-friendly, I'm skipping the beef and fried egg. Instead of beef, I'm cooking my mushroom in traditional bulgogi marinade to mimic the similar flavor.
- Rice (base) - Rice is the base of the dish. I use sushi rice which is what Koreans eat on daily basis. However, any type of rice or even quinoa works great in the recipe.
- Toppings - Many vegetables are great in bibimbap. The most popular toppings are bean sprouts, spinach, zucchini, carrot, mushroom, and cucumber.
- Gochujang sauce - Gochujang 고추장 (Korean fermented pepper paste) is the main ingredient in the sauce. It is spicy and has a mild sweetness to it. There are many gochujang sauce recipes for bibimbap but I like to keep mine simple and easy.
Toppings in Korean Vegan Bibimbap
Although baby fern and bellflower root are typical ingredients in traditional bibimbap, they are not easy to find unless you make a trip to a Korean grocery store. So I made my own (vegan) version of bibimbap with more common ingredients.
- Blenched and seasoned bean sprouts
- Sauteed onion
- Stir-fried zucchini
- Stir-fried carrot
- Bulgogi style mushroom
- Cucumber kimchi
- Baked tofu
Please don't let the long ingredients and instructions scare you. I promise you the cooking instructions are very simple and easy to follow.
Helpful tips on making Korean Vegan Bibimbap
- Prepare the cucumber kimchi first. Due to the salting process of the cucumber, it will take the longest to prepare so you want to start with making cucumber kimchi.
- Stir-fry the vegetable with the least amount of color first. Because I'm using the same pan for stir-frying most of the vegetables, I cook the vegetable with the least amount of color (such as onion) first.
- Serve it in a large bowl at room temperature. Serve the dish in a large enough bowl to mix everything. You can serve this dish at room temperature.
- Serve it in a clay pot. If you want to make this bibimbap dol-sot bibimbap, place the rice on the bottom of the clay pot and add all the toppings as usual. Then heat the pot on medium-low heat until you hear the crackling sound. This crisps up the rice.
- Control the spice level by adjusting the amount of sauce. If you like spicy food, you can always add more gochujang sauce. But if you don't enjoy the heat, add just a little to start with.
- Customize your bibimbap by adding different vegetables and protein to make it your own.
Customization according to diet
- For vegan - If you are not a big fan of mushrooms, you can add teriyaki tofu. You can also add spinach, kale, vegan kimchi, and/or tempeh.
- For vegetarians - A sunny-side-up egg is a traditional topping in bibimbap. The runny yolk will act as a creamy sauce.
- For omnivore - Feel free to add a fried egg and Korean beef bulgogi in addition to other toppings.
Vegan Friendly Korean Bibimbap
How to make Korean Vegan Bibimbap - Rice with tons of veggies topped with sweet and spicy Gochujang sauce equals a healthy tasty meal!
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Total Time: 35 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Category: Main course
- Method: Stir fried
- Cuisine: Korean
- Diet: Vegan
For the Sauce
- 3 tablespoons Gochujang (Korean fermented red pepper paste)
- 1 tablespoon mirin (Japanese cooking wine, different from sake)
- 1 tablespoon agave nectar (or sugar)
- ½ tablespoon sesame oil
- ⅔ of English cucumber (or 2 Persian cucumbers), thinly sliced
- Salt for seasoning
- 6 ounces bean sprouts
- 4 teaspoons vegetable oil
- ½ large onion, thinly sliced
- 1 small zucchini, cut into match stick
- 1 medium-size carrot, cut into match stick
- 1 package of mushroom of choice (I used Bunnapi mushroom but any types of mushrooms works)
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 4 teaspoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons Korean red pepper flakes (Gochugaru)
- 1 green onion, thinly sliced
- 1 cup of baked tofu (optional)
- Sesame seeds (garnish)
- 3 to 4 cup of cooked rice (short grain, sushi rice)
- Make the sauce - In a small bowl, mix all ingredients for the sauce and set it aside.
- Cucumber Kimchi - In a colander, add the cucumber slice and sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of salt on top of them. Toss them together and let the salting process begin.
- Bean sprouts - In a medium pot, boil water for blenching bean sprouts. Once the water comes to a boil, add the bean sprouts and cook for 60-90 seconds. Drain and squeeze out as much water as possible. Transfer the blanched bean sprouts to a bowl and season with salt, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, and thinly sliced green onion. Mix until all the bean sprouts are seasoned. Set them aside.
- Onion - In a medium non-stick skillet, add about 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil and sauté the onion. Cook until the onion is translucent. Season with salt (about a pinch). Take them out of the pan and set them aside.
- Zucchini - In the same pan, add about 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil and add zucchini. Cook until zucchini is cooked yet firm, about 2 minutes. Season with salt (about a pinch). Take them out of the pan and set them aside.
- Carrot - In the same pan, add about 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil and add the carrot. Cook the carrot for about 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and set them aside.
- Bulgogi mushroom - In the same pan, add about 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil and add the mushroom. Cook the mushroom until they release water and add 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 2 teaspoons sugar, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil. Cook with frequent stirring for about 2 minutes and set them aside.
- Cucumber Kimchi - Make cucumber kimchi. Squeeze all the water out of the cucumber and transfer to a small bowl. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of Korean red pepper flakes and 2 teaspoons sugar. Taste to see if it needs more salt. Once it is seasoned, set them aside.
- Assemble bibimbap - In a large bowl, add about ½ cup to 1 cup of cooked rice on the bottom. Add all the cooked vegetables and baked tofu (if using) on top of the rice. Add a small amount of sauce on top. Mix all the veggies and the sauce with the rice. Taste and adjust the amount of the sauce and enjoy.
- Please refer to the "Helpful tips on making Korean Vegan Bibimbap" section above.
- Feel free to add and omit any ingredients that don't appeal to you. This is just an example of how I make my Korean vegan bibimbap.
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