If you’ve ever struggled with getting food on the table on busy weeknights, these vegan noodles with chili garlic sauce are guaranteed to become a staple in your household.
In this post, you’ll learn my formula for how to make Asian-inspired vegan noodles in less time than it takes to order takeout.
And these bad boys aren’t just fast; they’re flavorful, too. Spicy, garlicky, tangy and with a mix of chewy, saucy, and crunchy textures, be warned: this recipe is addictive.
The best part? The chili garlic oil/sauce makes a double batch, which means the next time make these noodles, it takes even less time and effort.
What you’ll need to make this recipe
These vegan noodles fuse Chinese cooking techniques and ingredients with Japanese udon noodles in the most inauthentic-but-crazy-delicious way. Better yet, a medley of veggies, herbs, nuts and plant-based protein keeps everything pretty wholesome, too.
Here’s what you’ll need to make this recipe:
- Noodles: my first choice for this recipe is fresh (or frozen) udon noodles. They have the perfect bouncy, chewy texture and cook in just two minutes.
- For the sauce: you’ll need soy sauce or tamari, maple syrup or agave, and Chinese black vinegar. Chinese black vinegar is a less commonly known ingredient, so I’ve shared more detail about what it adds below as well as potential substitutions if you can’t get it.
- For the garlic chili oil: we’re using a neutral flavored oil like grapeseed or avocado oil, Sichuan chile flakes or standard crushed red pepper flakes, white sesame seeds, garlic, and peanuts.
- For the veggies: my preference is to use red or orange bell pepper (never green – gross!), cilantro, and scallions.
- For protein: I rely on pre-shelled edamame, which can be found in the frozen section of most grocery stores. It’s super high in protein and of course works well with the East Asian flavors in this recipe.
One of the reasons I love this recipe is that it’s so customizable. Here are a few common substitutions you can try:
- Can’t find fresh or frozen udon noodles? I adore fresh udon noodles because they’re chubby, chewy, and slurpy. If you can’t find them, use shelf-stable udon noodles or ramen noodles. The dish will still be very tasty, it will just have a different texture. Just don’t use a thin noodle variety like rice vermicelli.
- No Chinese black vinegar? You can use rice vinegar in a pinch, but the dish won’t have the same complexity or depth of flavor. I really recommend Chinese black vinegar for this recipe; you can find more in the Tips section below.
- Allergic to peanuts? Cashews also work very well here.
- Other veggies you can add. You can use finely shredded red cabbage or Napa cabbage, shredded carrots, or chopped snap peas/snow peas. If you have extra time, you can add steamed broccoli or sautéed bok choy.
- Swap out the protein. If you don’t like edamame but still want to keep things quick, use store-bought pre-cooked tofu. You can also cook tofu yourself, though of course the recipe will no longer be 15-minute friendly.
How to make Vegan Chili Garlic Noodles
Gather your ingredients!
Prep the vegetables and herbs: slice the bell peppers and scallions, and chop the cilantro.
Mince the garlic, chop the peanuts, and add them to a bowl along with the chile flakes and sesame seeds.
Heat the oil in a small saucepan for several minutes until it reaches 350ºF/175ºC. Pour the hot oil over the garlic-peanut mixture. It should sizzle.
After a minute, stir the soy sauce, Chinese black vinegar, and maple syrup/agave into the chili-garlic oil.
Pour the garlic chili oil/sauce over your cooked udon noodles and toss to coat.
Add the sliced bell pepper and scallions, chopped cilantro, and edamame. Toss to coat well.
Tips and Substitutes
Multitask for maximum efficiency
If you want to maximize time and make this in 15 minutes, you have to multitask.
While the water for the noodles is boiling, chop your garlic and peanuts for the chili oil. And when the oil is heating up on the stove, grab your vegetables and herbs. While the chili oil sauce is resting and the noodles are cooking, slice your vegetables and herbs. You get the point!
Also, fresh or frozen udon noodles cook very quickly—about 2 minutes. If you’re using a different noodle, it might add to the cook time by a few minutes.
Don’t sleep on Chinese Black Vinegar
Chinese black vinegar is one of the most unique and delicious pantry ingredients and really makes this dish shine. Unlike a standard Western vinegar, it’s fermented and has a complex flavor profile: umami-rich, earthy, sour, and a little sweet.
The most common variety sold in the states is Chinkiang black vinegar (affiliate link) from Southern China, which is made from fermented sticky rice (you might also find it sold as Zhenjiang). Bonus: it’s very affordable (at an Asian grocery store like HMart, it costs about $4), and will stay good in your pantry for a very, very long time.
Adjust the spice level to your taste
Since these are garlic chili noodles, they need some heat. That said, I don’t think this recipe is very spicy.
If you want the noodles to be very spicy, add more chile flakes. If you’re sensitive to spicy food, use half the amount.
I love using Sichuan chile flakes for this recipe, as it’s a Chinese inspired recipe and the flavor is wonderful (toasty and nutty), but this recipe also works great with standard red pepper flakes.
Make sure the oil is adequately heated
This is not a traditional chili oil where the aromatics are cooked in oil on the stove. Instead, it’s a quick and streamlined version where you pour hot oil over the aromatics and allow the hot oil to cook them that way. So, it’s important the oil is hot enough.
I use a thermometer like this to ensure the oil is at 350ºF. If you don’t have one, allow your oil to heat for 3 to 5 minutes (the smaller the saucepan, the less time it needs). Then, add a piece of minced garlic to the oil. If it sizzles immediately, the oil should be hot enough.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can find fresh or frozen udon noodles at East Asian grocery stores in the refrigerated or freezer section. They typically come in packets or bundles as shown below.
Add them to a pot of boiling water like this and use a chopstick to loosen them from their bundle. They typically only take 2 minutes to cook. Then drain and rinse under cool water (you can use them hot in other dishes, but this is a cold/room temperature noodle salad).
You can use rice vinegar in a pinch, but the dish won’t have the same complexity or depth of flavor.
Use it in other noodle dishes or in stir-fries (start slowly, as it’s quite strong in flavor), and usually add it towards the end. It’s also commonly used with equal parts soy sauce as a dipping sauce for dumplings. I also love it in a Chinese smashed cucumber salad, like this one from Lisa of Healthy Nibbles.
When cooking Chinese dishes, you can also use a small amount of black vinegar enhance the flavors in a dish or to balance a dish that’s too spicy, too sweet or too bitter.
That means the oil wasn’t hot enough. Don’t worry, you can fix this. Just transfer the entire mixture—oil and aromatics—to a small frying pan over medium-ish heat. Cook the aromatics in the oil until the garlic just starts to turn golden, then take off the heat.
More Asian-Inspired Recipes
Watch! How to Make Vegan Noodles
That’s all I’ve got for these quick and easy vegan chili garlic noodles! If you love this recipe, be sure to rate and review it below :) And if you snap a pic, tag me with your remakes on Instagram!
- 10 ounces (285g) fresh or frozen udon noodles*
- 1 small or medium red/yellow/orange bell pepper, thinly sliced
- ¾ cup (12g) fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, chopped
- 3 scallions, sliced on a bias
- 6 ounces (170g) frozen edamame, defrosted
- ⅛ teaspoon sea salt
Garlic Chili Oil
- 1/3 cup (75 mL) neutral-flavored oil (such as grapeseed oil, avocado oil, canola oil)
- 2 teaspoons Sichuan chile flakes or red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
- 6 garlic cloves, minced or crushed with a garlic press
- 1/2 cup (70g) dry-roasted peanuts, roughly chopped (unsalted or salted, either is fine)
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
- 2 ½ tablespoons Chinese black vinegar**
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup or agave nectar
- Cook the udon noodles. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Once boiling, salt generously (2 to 3 teaspoons kosher salt) and add the bundles of udon noodles. Cook for 1 minute, then use a chopstick or tongs to loosen and separate the noodles. Cook for another 1 minute, for a total of 2 minutes until chewy but tender. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water until cool. Shake the colander well to drain (you can leave the noodles to continue draining if you have other ingredients to prep). Transfer noodles to a large bowl.
- While the water is boiling, mince the garlic, chop the peanuts and cilantro, slice the bell peppers, and scallions. In a bowl, toss the edamame with the sea salt.
- Make the Garlic Chili Oil. Add the chile flakes, sesame seeds, garlic, and peanuts to a small-medium bowl. Heat the oil in your smallest saucepan over medium heat until hot and shimmering, 3 to 5 minutes (depending on your saucepan size and material), or until it registers 350ºF/175ºC. Pour the hot oil over the garlic-peanut mixture (it should sizzle). Stir and let sit for 1 minute. Stir the soy sauce, vinegar, and maple syrup or agave into the garlic-chili oil.NOTE: If you don’t have a thermometer, add a piece of garlic and if it sizzles immediately, it should be ready
- Pour only HALF of the chili oil-soy sauce mixture over the noodles; reserve the rest for another recipe (it stays good in the fridge for at least 5 days). Add the bell peppers, edamame, cilantro and scallions, and toss really well (the dressing pools at the bottom). Serve at room temperature, or chill in the fridge if desired.