Learn how to make Vegan Zongzi with this easy to follow guide! These popular Chinese sticky rice dumplings are wrapped in bamboo leaves and filled with sticky rice, mung beans and vegetarian meat.
Incase you've never heard of zongzi before and you have no idea what you're looking at in these photos, these delectable parcels are basically a Chinese version of tamales. Glutinous rice and a variety of fillings gets wrapped inside a bamboo leaf and it perfumes the entire dish as it boils and cooks. There are so many different variations and it seems that every household or restaurant has their own special recipe.
Since I went vegan, it's been YEARS since I've had zongzi and oh how I've missed them. They were my favourite dish to order at dimsum and I would beg my grandma to make a batch for us... weekly. Typically, they're stuffed with Chinese sausages, some kind of meat, peanuts, beans and eggs. I would always request them without the egg but I know for many people, thats their favourite part.
Sooo, my dad was eating zongzi the other day and I just started craving them SO BAD. I thought I'd use this time in quarantine to experiment with a vegan version since I didn't have much luck finding one online.
Oh my gosh you GUYS. I am in love with this recipe and I'm so dang excited to share it with you. Unlike most of my recipes I share here, this one is a bit more labour intensive but I promise you, the result is worth it. Plus, you can make a huge batch and freeze them so you don't have to keep going through the process. Annnd, its kind of a fun project to start now while we're all at home anyways.
First, let's go over the things you'll need. Surprisingly, when coming up with this recipe I already had everything in my pantry! The only thing I needed to pick up was the bamboo leaves which were easily found at my local asian grocery store. Make sure that the package comes with twine or cooking string to tie them.
As for the actual ingredients, all you need is glutinous rice, dried shiitake mushrooms, dried peeled mung beans and some mock meat. I also added in peanuts, chickpeas and kabocha but these are optional. You can completely omit the peanuts, replace the chickpeas with more mung beans and use carrots instead of kabocha. I love the sweetness and texture that the kabocha gives to these and it kinda reminds me of the egg typically used in zongzi.
How to Make Vegan Zongzi
It starts the night before (or at least a couple hours in advance) by soaking the bamboo leaves, glutinous rice an dried shiitake mushrooms. I buy these vegan meat alternatives that are already marinated but if you're using soy curls, rehydrate them and them marinate them in the sauce written down in the recipe card.
The next day, soak the peanuts and mung beans in separate bowls. In the meantime, wash and rinse each leaf and keep them in water so they don't dry out. Then trim the pointy ends so that they don't pierce though the leaves when we're wrapping.
Next, strain the water from the rice and season with soy sauce and salt. Strain the water from the shiitake mushrooms and cut them into bite sized pieces. Measure out some chickpeas, chop up the kabocha and cut the mock meat into bite sized pieces if they're larger pieces. Then strain the mung beans and peanuts.
This is probably the most intimidating part but I promise you it's really not that bad! Just take your time with it and as you go, you'll naturally get better. There are actually many ways to wrap zongzi but I grew up knowing the two cone variations which I've demonstrate in the video and photos below.
Start by placing one bamboo leaf ⅓ of the way over the other. Then fold upwards to form a cone shape. Add in some rice, the fillings and then layer more rice on top and flatten it with the back of a spoon until level with the edges. Fold the two sides of the leaf over the rice. Then fold the leaves down from the top, covering the rice. Wrap the remaining leaf around the bundle and then tightly wrap and tie it with the string.
And that’s it! Now repeat until all the leaves and ingredients are used up. Your wrapping will get faster and cleaner as you go but it really doesn't have to be pretty or anything as long as everything is tightly secured.
Get a medium-large, or a pot big enough to hold all of your zongzi inside without having too much space. Fill the pot with cold water until every zongzi is submerged. Put a plate large enough to hold the zongzi down. Then place the pot over the stove and bring the temperature up to medium high heat. Once the water begins to boil, turn the heat down to medium love and let it simmer for 2.5 hours.
Once they're soft to the touch, carefully remove them from the pot with tongs and you can eat them right away. Just cut the strings and unwrap the bamboo leaves and drizzle a bit more soy sauce if you like things a bit more salty. Probably not traditional, but I also like to top it off with a bit of green onions as well.
And thats is you guys! Homemade vegan zongzi-- not too bad right?
Some Helpful Tips
- Prepare Extra Bamboo Leaves: Each zongzi needs about 2-3 leaves so thats 27 to make 9. I like to prepare an extra 5 just incase some of the leaves rip or are too small. Remember to trim the end where there is a stem so it doesn't pierce the leaves when wrapping.
- Buy PEELED Mung Beans: These are yellow in colour and are pre-peeled so that you don't have to do it yourself. If you buy the green mung beans, you must peel them before using.
- Boiling Water: When cooking them in the pot, the water should be moving but not boiling. Check on them every 30 minutes, they should always be submerged underwater or else you'll end up with unevenly cooked dumplings. If you need to add more water, be sure to add in boiling water so you don't disrupt the cooking process.
- Make it Gluten Free: Use tamari instead of soy sauce and replace the mock meat (usually made with vital wheat gluten) with a soy based meat alternative.
- Double or Triple the Recipe: If you can't be bothered to make them often, just make a huge batch of them at once! They last for a long time so you can enjoy them in a pinch.
- Storing & Re-heating: They keep well in the fridge for up to 4 days and can be frozen for up to 3 months. To reheat, just let them thaw overnight and then steam them over a bamboo basket or microwave them for about 1 minute.
I hope you guys try and love this vegan zongzi recipe as much as I do!! The sticky rice is so aromatic and delicious, it's seriously such a major comfort food full of textures and flavour.
More Chinese Inspired Vegan Dishes to Try!
- Vegan Kung Pao Tofu
- Vegan Sweet n' Sour Tofu (coming soon)
- Asian Tofu Beef Bowls
- Egg Roll in a Bowl
- Vegan Hot & Sour Soup
If you recreate this Vegan Zongzi 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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Vegan Zongzi (Sticky Rice Dumplings)
- Total Time: 3 hours
- Yield: 9 servings 1x
Vegan Zongzi made with glutinous rice, mung beans and vegetarian meat are so delicious and packed with mega flavour thanks to the bamboo leaves.
- 27-30 bamboo leaves (2-3 leaves per dumping)
- 10 pieces of string, 40 inches long (100 cm)
- 2 cups glutinous rice (360g)
- 4 dried shiitake mushrooms (16g)
- ¼ tbsp raw peanuts (30g)
- ⅓ cup dried peeled mung beans (68g)
- ¼ cup cooked chickpeas (50g)
- 1 cup kabocha squash, chopped in ¾ inch pieces (85g)
- ⅔ cup vegan mock meat, sliced into ¾-1 inch pieces (80g)*
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp salt
- Soak the bamboo leaves overnight.
- Rinse the glutinous rice and dried shiitake mushrooms and soak in separate bowls overnight.
The Next Day: Preparation
- Soak the string, mung beans and peanuts in separate bowls.
- Measure out the cooked chickpeas, chop the kabocha and slice mock meat.
- Rinse and wash the bamboo leaves. Trim the bottom stems so that the ends are flat (refer to photo) and keep them in water so they don't dry out.
- Drain the rice and mix with soy sauce and salt.
- Drain the shiitake mushrooms and slice them into small bite sized pieces.
- Drain the peanuts and mung beans.
Wrapping & Filling
- Follow the video and/or photos to make the cone out of the bamboo leaves. Add 2 tablespoon of the rice, 1 tablespoon of the mung beans, 1-2 pieces of mock meat, 1 cube of kabocha, 2 pieces of shiitake mushrooms, 1 tablespoon of chickpeas and ½ tablespoon of peanuts. Top it off with another 2 tablespoon of rice (it was about 55-60g of rice per rice dumpling). How much you can add in will depend on the size of your bamboo leaf but this was the perfect amount for the ones I was using. Then finish wrapping the dumpling and securely wrap and tie it with string. If at any time the bamboo leaves rip, you must start over. This is why I recommend soaking a couple extra because I find 4-5 leaves rip.
- Once everything is wrapped up, prepare a medium to large pot (large enough to fit all the zongzi). Fill the pot with cold water and place a plate that covers majority of the pot on top. Add more water if needed-- everything should be submerged in water. Turn the heat up to medium high. Once the water is at a boil reduce the heat to medium/medium low and let it simmer for 2.5 hours.
- Ensure the water is not boiling but simmer with light bubbles rising. Check every 30 minutes to ensure the zongzi are still submerged in water. If you need to add water, be sure to use HOT water.
- Once 2.5 hours passes, turn off the heat. Remove the plate and zongzi carefully out of the pot using tongs.
- Cut the strings, unwrap them and serve with sauce and green onions or let them cool completely before storing them in the refrigerator or freezer.
- If using soy curls: rehydrate 40g of soy curls or soy chunks overnight. In a bowl combine 1 teaspoon mushroom sauce, ½ teaspoon soy sauce, ½ teaspoon sugar, ½ teaspoon chinese five spice, ¼ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Squeeze out any excess liquid from the soy chunks and then marinate in the sauce for 10 minutes.
- For Gluten Free: use tamari instead of soy sauce and remove mock meat and increase chickpeas to ½ cup.
- Storing: Once completely cooled, store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. When ready, thaw at room temperature until soft. Then reheat over a steamer basket on the stove or microwave for 1 minute.
- Helpful Equipment: string, kitchen shears, bamboo steamer basket, tongs,
- Nutritional Information Disclaimer: Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated on an online tool (Cronometer).
- Note: Soaking time overnight is not counted in total prep time.
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 2.5 hours
- Category: entree
- Method: stove top
- Cuisine: vegan, gluten free, chinese
- Serving Size: 1 zongzi
- Calories: 233
- Sugar: 0.9g
- Sodium: 260mg
- Fat: 4.3g
- Saturated Fat: 0.9g
- Unsaturated Fat: 2.4g
- Trans Fat: 0
- Carbohydrates: 41g
- Fiber: 3.1g
- Protein: 7.2g
- Cholesterol: 0
Keywords: vegan zongzi, vegetarian zongzi, chinese sticky rice dumpling, bamboo wrapped rice dumpling
SAVE IT FOR LATER! ↓
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Omg I love these so much! I need to get some bamboo leaves at my Vietnamese grocery store, but I can’t wait to try it! I have all the other ingredients too, thank goodness. Thank you so much for this amazing recipe!
Lisa Kitahara says
I hope you enjoy!!
"I thought I’d use this time in quarantine to experiment with a vegan version." Same, Lisa. Same. 🙏 I'm trying to veganize traditional Asian recipes (Chinese, Korean, Japanese, etc) because I'm Chinese and miss them all so much! Plus, I love learning traditional ways of cooking. So excited to try these!
Lisa Kitahara says
It's so much fun! I hope you enjoy Angela 🙂
Hey Lisa! I was wondering if I do not have bamboo leaves, can I just put all the ingredients into a rice cooker? Would it come out the same? I have most of the ingredients except for the bamboo leaves which was sold out in most asian stores in my area!
Lisa Kitahara says
Hi Tiffany! You could, but you defiantly will miss out of the flavour the bamboo leaves give. It will just be sticky rice with add-ins but I think it'll still taste delicious!
Hi Lisa! I can't wait to try making these! All of your recipes look wonderful 🙂 I'm having a hard time finding bamboo leaves but I've found banana leaves at a local grocer. Do you think those would work? Thank you
Lisa Kitahara says
You could try using banana leaves but the flavour will be different! I've actually never tried banana leaves so I'm not sure how much it will change but let me know how it goes if you try! 🙂
Hi, thanks so much for this vegan version. I've been hoping to make these but it's difficult to find bamboo leaves in the U.K. Will lotus leaves work? I know these need to be submerged in water so was not sure if they would be ok?
Lisa Kitahara says
Hi Leticia! I think Lotus leaves can work, I've seen them used before! The aroma might just be different but should be still delicious 🙂 Let me know how it goes!
These look great! Thank you for the recipe. I've seen the traditional zongzi with meat require 7 or more hours of cooking. Do these take less time to cook just because there's no meat?
Lisa Kitahara says
First time making these and this recipe was so easy to follow. Definitely worth the effort. I doubled the batch and saved some in the freezer for later🐸
What kind of vegan mock meat do you use? Is there a brand you use