Learn how to make the vegan bibimbap with this easy bibimbap recipe guide! A bed of rice with the bottom crisped up and nestled in a dolsot stone bowl, topped with various seasoned vegetables, tofu and a mega flavourful spicy gochujang bibimbap sauce– this Korean mixed rice dish will have you craving it every night of the week!
When it comes to Korean food, bibimbap is my number one, go-to dish next to japchae. I have a healthy obsession for it and totally not mad about it– for so many reasons. For one, it’s easily vegan-ized no matter what Korean restaurant I go to. Especially when there is a vegetarian bibimbap option, I’ll just ask for no egg and replace it with tofu! Two, it’s such a meal prep friendly and versatile dish so when I make it at home, it tastes slightly different every time depending on what ingredients I have on hand.
What is Korean Bibimbap?
Bibimbap (비빔밥) is a hot bowl of rice topped with various individually prepared seasoned vegetables, a protein of choice like meat, eggs or tofu and served with a gochujang based sauce. In Korean, the word bibim means “mixed” and bap means “rice”, so bibimbap literally translates to “mixed rice”.
There are so many variations of bibimbap which is what makes this iconic dish so unique, delicious and fun to eat. The recipe I’m sharing today is my take on a vegan bibimbap with classic toppings you would most likely find at a restaurant without the meat or eggs. A big thank you to my close family friend that has helped me perfect this vegan bibimbap to ensure authentic preparation and flavours.
How to Make Vegan Bibimbap Bowls
To make bibimbap, each ingredient is cooked and seasoned individually to maximally bring out their own unique flavours and textures. It really does make a difference in the end result because if you were to cook them all together, some of their flavours may mash and blend. I broke it down into 4 components to make is easy to follow!
Lets get crackin’ shall we?
Component 1: Bibimbap vegetables
Perhaps the lengthiest and more tedious component but it’s easy and repetitive. Once you figure out a smooth workflow, this process can be pulled together quite quickly.
There are so many variations of this dish and thats the beauty of bibimbap! A wide assortment of vegetables can be used to make various toppings– in fact, my family friends shared with me that it’s one of the ways Korean people use up any left overs and side dishes that were prepped ahead of time. In this recipe, I’m sharing some of the more classic bibimbap toppings you’d probably find at most Korean restaurants:
- Cucumber: Slice, salt and rest. Then squeeze out excess water and season with garlic, sesame seeds and sesame oil.
- Daikon: Slice and toss in sugar, rice vinegar and gochugaru.
- Zucchini: Slice, salt and rest. Then squeeze out the excess water and sauté with garlic and sesame oil.
- Soy bean sprouts: Blanch and then toss with scallions, garlic, sesame oil, sesame seeds and salt.
- Spinach: Blanch, shock in water and then season with garlic, sesame seeds, sesame oil and salt.
- Shiitake mushrooms: Soak and sauté with salt and pepper.
- Carrots: Sliced thinly and sauté with salt and pepper.
Easy right? There really are no strict rules when it comes to toppings, use whatever you got on hand! Here are some more options:
- Bell peppers: sauté and season with salt and pepper.
- Various mushrooms: sauté and season with salt and pepper.
- Mung bean sprouts: blanch and season (same as soy bean sprouts).
- Bellflower root: Soak, sauté and then season with garlic, sesame oil, salt and pepper.
- Eggplant: sauté with garlic and green onions, and then season with sesame oil, salt and pepper (a touch of gochugaru for extra spice!).
- Watercress: blanch and season (similar to spinach).
TIP: for a ‘simple bibimbap’ I suggest preparing soy bean sprouts, spinach, carrots and shiitake mushrooms because they’re all different colours and have different textures.
Component 2: Vegan Bibimbap Sauce Recipe
I think what differentiates a good bibimbap vs. a REALLY delicious bibimbap is all in the sauce. After many bowls of bibimbap, I’ve perfected this sauce and holy moly you guys, I am so excited for you to try it! It’s so flavourful, perfectly spicy balanced with a touch of sweetness from the apple. Here’s whats in my secret bibimbap sauce:
- gochujang, garlic, apple (or pear), sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar, rice vinegar
Plus, it’s so easy to make and it keeps in the fridge for up to one week. Simple blend all the ingredients together and thats it!
Is Bibimbap Spicy?
Korean bibimbap is commonly served with gochujang, which is actually not too spicy. What can increase the heat of bibimbap is side dishes that contain gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes) such as the radishes or kimchi. However, if you don’t like spicy at all or looking for a kid-friendly sauce try my soy-sesame based sauce version! The sweetness can be adjusted according to your preference– start with a lesser amount of sweetener:
- soy sauce, oligo syrup (or sugar), sesame oil, garlic, scallion, sesame seeds.
These two sauces are so delicious… you’ll want to put it on EVERYTHING!
Component 3: Protein
The protein component is versatile and customizable as well. Beef and eggs are the most standard choice (or just a fried egg for vegetarian), but there are many vegan options too! Here are some delicious plant based options:
- Fresh chilled soft or traditional tofu: Simple, quick and my go-to source of protein. When mixed into the rice, it almost reminds me of eggs since it gets lightly mashed.
- No cook spicy marinated tofu: Using firm tofu (14 oz) cut into about 1/2 inch cubes, I marinate it in 1 1/2 tbsp gochujang, 1/2 tbsp miso paste, 1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil, 1 tsp gochugaru, scallions, ginger and a bit of garlic.
- Crispy tofu: If you like a more crispy texture to your tofu, air fried, baked, panfried or fried tofu is a great option.
- Tempeh: Similar to tofu, go with simple and plain, marinated, baked or whatever you fancy!
- Natto: I’ve never seen natto added to bibimbap so this is my own take, but I love adding natto to bibimbap.
- Seitan & mock meats: There are so many meat alternatives on the market now the options are truly endless!
Component 4: Rice & Garnishes
The last and perhaps the most important component for bibimbap is the rice, which is the foundation of bibimbap. Generally, bibimbap is served with short grain white rice. However, you can opt to use short grain brown rice, mixed grain rice or a combination of the two.
For a final touch and to pull everything together, add some vegan kimchi and garnish with seasoned seaweed and a generous sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds.
Serving bowls: Bibimbap vs. Dolsot Bibimbap
Bibimbap can be served in a simple large bowl or a stone bowl, known as a dolsot. The dolsot is what differentiates bibimbap versus dolsot bibimbap. I highly recommend investing in a dolsot for the ultimate bibimbap experience because this unique sizzling hot stone bowl is what crisps up the bottom layer of the rice and keeps the food warm from beginning to end.
How to use a Korean dolsot (stone bowl)
Brush some sesame oil on the inside of the dolsot. Add a heaping cup of rice, enough to cover the entire bottom layer. Then add on all the seasoned vegetables, tofu (or any protein you are using) and the sauce. Set the bowl on a gas stove over medium high heat until you hear sizzling and crackling from the rice. Use oven mitts or a kitchen towel to remove the stone bowl off the burner and onto the serving plate (comes as a set). The bowl is HOT so please be careful! An important note about dolsot is that they only work on gas stoves.
How to make dosot bibimbap without a stone bowl
Don’t have a stone bowl or gas stove but still want that crispy rice? We got you. My friend shared with me this genius hack of using an individual sized cast iron skillet instead. When making bibimbap, I’ll actually use this method because I only have one portable gas burner and I must say, it really replicates that same dolsot bibimbap experience.
Cast Iron Skillet Bibimbap
Place a cast iron skillet (I use one that is 8 and 10 inches) on the stove over medium-high heat. Brush the skillet with sesame oil and add a layer of cooked rice. Then add the topping, tofu and sauce. Cook for about 8 minutes or until you hear the rice crackling. You can check the rice by lifting the sides for your desired doneness. Note that the centre will be more crispy.
I think that covers just about everything to make the ultimate vegan bibimbap. Once everything is set, brought to the table and you mix everything together… enjoy each harmonious bite of all the ingredients with different flavours and textures.
More Vegan Korean Dinner Ideas
- Crunchy Fire Sauce Tofu
- Bibim Guksu (Korean Spicy Cold Noodles)
- Korean BBQ Tempeh ‘Beef’ Bowls
- Gamja Jorim (Korean Braised Potatoes)
If you recreate this Vegan Bibimbap recipe let me know how you liked it by leaving a comment and rating below or by tagging me on Instagram @Okonomikitchen, I love seeing all of your tasty recreations!
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