Vegan dan dan noodles are an institution of the online world at this point. It's creamy and nutty, features a spicy sauce and takes 20 minutes to make. Plus, it's oh-so more-ish. This vegan dan dan noodles recipe is as authentic as can be whilst still being plant-based and using widely available ingredients.
🌟 Why this recipe works
Famous for a reason - Vegan Dan Dan Noodles have garnered international acclaim as a famous Chinese street food dish often cooked by street vendors. Beyond its roots, the dish has become a sensation on social media platforms, captivating food enthusiasts worldwide. The combination of rich, savory flavors, and the dish's visually appealing presentation has contributed to its popularity. There's also a similar dish - tan tan ramen, that uses similar flavours but is served as a soup, which you may also like to try.
Quick and easy to make - One of the key reasons for the widespread admiration of vegan Dan Dan noodles is its simplicity and speed to make. This dish allows for a delicious, restaurant-quality meal without the need for extensive culinary skills or hours spent in the kitchen, just like this vegan Chinese curry.
Spicy - dan dan noodles are a very spicy dish. There is a fair amount of chili oil used and some people even add red pepper flakes or chili flakes. If you don't want it to be too spicy, it's best to switch out half of the chili oil for water. However, if you want the dish to be even spicier, you could even add extra chilli oil to serve!
📋 Ingredient notes
Tahini - While traditional Chinese sesame paste is the classic ingredient for Dan Dan Noodles, tahini serves as an excellent and accessible substitute. Tahini, a paste made from ground sesame seeds, offers a creamy texture and a slightly nutty taste. For those who may not have tahini on hand, peanut butter can be used as an alternative, maintaining the dish's essence when used in a 1:1 ratio.
Sichuan peppercorns - Also known as szechuan peppercorns, they are an integral part of Szechuan cuisine, and are widely used in the sichuan province of China. Szechuan peppercorns contribute a unique taste and a tingling, numbing sensation to the dish and therefore are a main ingredient. Omitting them may result in losing a key element of the dish. Their citrusy and floral notes, coupled with the numbing effect, elevate the flavor profile of the noodles. Also great in this Szechuan sticky tofu.
Chili oil - The use of good-quality chili oil is paramount, and making your own ensures an authentic taste. Our homemade chili oil recipe incorporates Szechuan peppercorns, enhancing the overall flavor. This aromatic oil can be prepared in advance, and can be used in other recipes, allowing you to elevate various recipes with a touch of Szechuan peppercorn flair.
TVP - Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) serves as a protein-rich base in this recipe, rehydrated in a flavorful vegan beef stock. It's used instead of ground pork. However, for those looking to explore alternatives, options such as crumbled tofu or store-bought vegan mince can be easily substituted. TVP is also great in a classic Shepherd's pie or spaghetti bolognese. The substitutions section provides a comprehensive guide for varying tastes and preferences.
Soy sauce - a classic umami rich ingredient in Chinese cuisine and many other cuisines for that matter! Many types of soy sauce exist, but in this dish, light soy sauce is the one to use.
🔪 Vegan dan dan noodles step-by-step instructions
This is a step-by-step overview with photos for making this vegan dan dan noodles recipe. The full recipe, along with measurements and detailed instructions can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of the page.
1. To make the chili oil, pour all the ingredients apart from the chili flakes into a saucepan. That includes the oil, cinnamon, star anise and Szechuan peppercorns. Heat over a low-medium heat for 6 minutes, this will allow the flavours to infuse.
2. Remove the spices from the oil and then pour the still-hot oil over the chili flakes and set to one side. It should sizzle nicely. Allow to steep in the bowl while the noodles cook.
3. In a bowl, mix together the sauce ingredients until a smooth sauce forms, then set aside. Rehydrate the TVP mince with the vegan beef broth in another bowl, mix well and allow to stand while you make the spicy noodles.
4. In a wok or large saute pan, fry the white of the spring onion and the TVP mince over a medium-high heat for a few minutes until hot.
5. Cook the noodles in a pan of hot water for around 2-3 minutes, or follow packet instructions. Drain the noodles.
6. Place the noodles in serving bowls, split the sauce between them.
7. Mix together the noodles and sauce.
8. Top with the fried TVP mince, the green onions, crushed peanuts and /or toasted sesame seeds. You could even drizzle a little sesame oil on for extra flare and flavor.
👩🍳 Expert tips
Use your favourite noodles - While tradition may dictate a specific type of noodle for vegan dan dan noodles, feel free to use your favorite variety. Straight-to-wok udon noodles are a personal recommendation, but the choice ultimately depends on individual preferences. Dried noodles or pre-cooked noodles work really well.
Make your own chilli oil - Crafting your own chili oil allows you to tailor the heat and flavor to your liking. The aromatic blend of spices used in our recipe ensures a delightful homemade touch, enhancing the overall outcome of your vegan dan dan noodles. Try drizzling it on miso aubergine or vegan pad Thai.
Storage tips - For optimal freshness, store the sauce separately from the noodles. Given the nature of stir-fried dishes, it's recommended to stir-fry fresh noodles when ready to enjoy. The sauce, if stored separately in the refrigerator, in an airtight container, will maintain its quality for future use. We recommend making double and keeping the rest of the sauce for the next day! Freezing is not recommended.
Tahini - For a classic touch, Chinese sesame paste is ideal. However, if unavailable, smooth, oily peanut butter can be substituted in a 1:1 ratio. Opt for high-quality, single-ingredient peanut butter for the best results.
Soy sauce - In the absence of soy sauce, liquid aminos or another suitable alternative can be used. Explore these soy sauce substitutes for more options tailored to your dietary needs.
TVP - If TVP isn't your preference, experiment with alternatives such as homemade tofu mince, store-bought vegan mince, or any suitable plant-based protein source. You could even use extra firm tofu chunks.
Pickled mustard greens - these greens would usually be added in a vegan dan dan noodles recipe, however, they're not widely available so we omitted them. If you can find pickled mustard greens, you should definitely add them! They are used a lot in the Sichuan province as pickled mustard greens add texture and umami.
Szechuan peppercorn - these are actually key to making this dish what it is. However, if you can't find any, you could omit it from the oil and instead add a pinch of white pepper to the spicy sesame sauce. Bear in mind that the result won't be the same.
Vegan Dan Dan Noodles are a flavorful and satisfying dish on their own, but you can enhance the meal by serving it with complementary side dishes. It goes great with steamed bok choy or other leafy greens like stir fried morning glory, air fried broccolini, cucumber salad or spring rolls with hoisin sauce also go well.
Traditionally, Dan Dan Noodles are served with Chinese wheat noodles. The most authentic choice would be thin, round, and elastic noodles. However, personal preferences play a significant role, and you can choose a noodle type that suits your taste. Rice noodles, udon noodles and even soba noodles work well in vegan dan dan noodles.
Yes, you can make Dan Dan Noodles without Sui Mi Ya Cai, which is a type of preserved mustard stem. While Sui Mi Ya Cai adds a distinctive flavor to the dish, it's not a make-or-break ingredient, and we don't actually include it in this recipe as it is not readily available. Other specialist ingredients that can go in traditional dan dan noodles include shaoxing wine, chinkiang vinegar and shiitake mushrooms. We have opted to not use them to keep it simple.
🥡 More vegan Chinese food to try
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Vegan Dan Dan Noodles
For the chilli oil:
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 2 small cinnamon sticks
- 2 star anise
- 2 tablespoon szechuan peppercorns
- ¼ cup chilli flakes
For the sauce:
- 3 tablespoon tahini
- 3 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 0.5 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns - ground, toasted
- 0.25 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
- 3 cloves garlic
- ⅓ cup chilli oil
- 1 cup TVP mince
- 1 cup vegan beef broth
- 4 nests noodles
- 4 spring onions - sliced
- peanuts - crushed, to serve
For the chili oil
- To make the chili oil, pour the oil, cinnamon, star anise and Szechuan peppercorns into a saucepan on low-medium heat for 6 minutes.½ cup vegetable oil, 2 small cinnamon sticks, 2 star anise, 2 tablespoon szechuan peppercorns
- Sieve the spices from the oil and then pour the still-hot oil over the chili flakes and set to one side. It should sizzle nicely. Allow to steep in the bowl while the noodles cook.¼ cup chilli flakes
- In a bowl, mix together the sauce ingredients until a smooth sauce forms, then set aside.3 tablespoon tahini, 3 tablespoon light soy sauce, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 0.5 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns, 0.25 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder, 3 cloves garlic, ⅓ cup chilli oil
- Rehydrate the TVP mince with the vegan beef broth in another bowl.1 cup TVP mince, 1 cup vegan beef broth
- In a wok or large saute pan, fry the white of the spring onion and the TVP mince for a few minutes until hot.4 spring onions
- Cook and drain the noodles.4 nests noodles
- Place the noodles in serving bowls, split the sauce between them and mix well. Top with the fried TVP mince, the remaining green onions, crushed peanuts and /or toasted sesame seeds. You could even drizzle over a little sesame oil for extra flare and flavor.peanuts
- Vegan dan dan noodles do not freeze well and are best eaten once freshly cooked.
- If you'd like to prep in advance, mix the sauce ahead of time and store in the fridge for a couple of days, in an airtight container, until you're ready to eat them.
- This dish is very spicy. If you would like it milder, replace half of the chili oil in the sauce with water.