What do spicy food and exercise have in common? You feel the burn with both, but in some bizarre and sadistic way, it’s totally pleasurable.
My love for hot and spicy food is like my love for hot yoga. It oftentimes makes me feel like I want to die, while it simultaneously makes me feel completely alive. Pain and pleasure have their balance in so many areas of human existence, and that duality exists in our five senses not only in regards to touch but also to taste.
I wanted to try something different with kimchi, instead of just eating it right out of the tub as a snack, and I’ve been on a rice kick so I figured it was finally time to try kimchi fried rice! It was truly the perfect balance of flavors and the spicy kick from the gochujang and kimchi gave it that extra pop and zing I was craving!
Similar to sauerkraut, kimchi is made from fermented cabbage. The difference is that kimchi is typically made with napa cabbage and gets glowed up by chilis and other spices. Traditionally, kimchi is made with fish sauce, but luckily there are many grocery retailers that sell vegan versions. However, there’s always the option of making some from scratch!
The kimchi I used was from Wildbrine. This is by far my favorite store-bought kimchi, as it’s full of flavor and spicy. I get mine at my local Whole Foods or Lassens, but it can be found at tons of other retailers.
The traditional chili spice used to make kimchi is from gochugaru peppers. These peppers and dried out, ground up, turned into chili flakes and then tossed in kimchi. Kimchi can also be made from gochujang, which is a chili paste made from the gochugaru chili pepper. Gochujang is what we’re using here, but you could sub gochujang paste for 1/2 a tablespoon of gochugaru peppers, or an equal amount of standard red chili flakes.
How to make Vegan Kimchi Fried Rice
This 20 minute, one-pan dish is undeniably:
Sauté all of the ingredients
Begin by heating the sesame oil in a pan or wok, and once it’s hot, add the garlic, and allow it to cook for two minutes. Make sure to stir often as you don’t want the garlic to burn. At two minutes, the garlic should be fragrant and beginning to turn a golden color.
At this point, add the tofu and give it a gentle toss with a spatula to coat all the tofu pieces. Allow the pieces to fry for about three minutes. If you favor more crispy, textured tofu, feel free to add it before the garlic, or pan fry it separately. I like the softer texture of the tofu in this dish, but do what you enjoy most!
Next, add the kimchi, gochujang, and mixed veggies. The mixed veggies I added were equal parts peas, clamshell mushrooms, and carrots. Get creative with this part or simply just use what you already have. Cook everything for 5 minutes until the veggies begin to soften and the brine starts to concentrate.
The final addition to the pan is the rice and soy sauce. Toss the rice in the pan, followed by the soy sauce. Mix it up and allow it to sauté for 5 more minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent it from burning.
Make sure to use day-old, pre-cooked rice. If you use fresh rice, the final results of this rice dish may become mushy and soft once fried. Day-old rice is best. That also makes this recipe great for when you accidentally make too much rice and need to find a way to eat it – kind of like what I did.
Once the rice has cooked, remove it from the heat. Crush up a sheet of nori seaweed and sprinkle it over the rice. Stir to evenly combine. That’s it!
When this bad boy is ready to rock, sprinkle it with sesame seeds and fresh green onions. If you’re feeling extra spicy, top it with a dollop of fresh, uncooked kimchi.
Storing & Reheating
You can store this rice in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week, or freezer for up to three months. To reheat, place the leftovers in a skillet over medium heat and cook until warm.
If you love rice as much as I do, check out some of these other easy rice dishes!
It’s never a bad time to add a little bit of spice to your life!
Vegan Kimchi Fried Rice
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 bock tofu
- 1 cup kimchi
- 1 tbsp gochujang sauce
- 1 cup mixed veggies (peas, carrots, mushrooms)
- 1½ cups rice
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 nori seaweed sheets, crushed
- green onions
- sesame seeds
- Heat sesame oil in a large pan or wok over medium heat. When it's hot, add the garlic and saute for 2 minutes.
- Add the tofu and gently stir to coat the tofu in the oil. Cook for another 3 minutes.
- Add the kimchi, gochujang, and mixed veggies and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add the rice and soy sauce and sauté for an additional 5 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat and mix in the crushed nori sheets.
- Garnish & enjoy!