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 1/3 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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