40+ Vegan Chinese Food Options (How To Order At Restaurants)

I’ve always loved and appreciated Chinese food. What better way to spend a relaxing evening than binge eating a crap load of Chinese take-out while doing a movie marathon on the computer?

So after I started eating vegan, I was glad to know that not much had to be different, because there are lots of vegan Chinese food options at restaurants.

In my early vegan journey, there was this one Chinese restaurant that I practically lived off of for years, eating there a bunch of times every month. Even though that restaurant wasn’t vegan, there were still plenty of things on the menu that were vegan, or could be made vegan.

But still you have to be careful when eating at non-vegan restaurants, very often non-vegan ingredients are used and added to dishes that may otherwise be vegan.

Be Aware of Hidden Non-Vegan Ingredients

If you’re going to a non-vegan restaurant, then you gotta assume a high possibility that whatever stock they use to cook their sauces and soups are either beef, chicken or fish based. You can call in to ask if they can replace them with vegetable stock. Fish sauce is also popular in many asian restaurants and is commonly added to the sauce of many dishes.

Look out for noodles like chow-mein or lo-mein which may have eggs in them, so ask the restaurant first or just order rice-based noodles if you can. Spring rolls, dumpling and wonton wrappers can also contain eggs or dairy, and they also could be fried in the same oil used to fry meats.

Even for restaurants that say are vegan friendly, you still can’t let your guard down. I used to eat vegetable spring rolls at this “vegan friendly” joint, only to find out many spring rolls later via Yelp reviews that their wrappers contain eggs!

Meat substitutes or “fake meats” are very popular nowadays, especially in vegetarian restaurants. But a lot of times eggs or dairy can be found in the ingredients. For a long time I assumed “meat-free” meant vegan, boy I was in for a surprise when I found out it wasn’t.

That’s why I tend to support vegan certified brands such as Gardein Meatless Products, their meat substitute products are 100% guaranteed to be vegan, saving me the worry and stress of having to check everything.

Checking with The Restaurant

cartoon woman calling chinese restaurant

Some people may not take vegans’ requests seriously and that’s a problem. But if you ever need to substitute eggs or dairy in any kind of restaurant, you can just say that you’re allergic, the restaurant will see that as a liability risk and so will take it more seriously.

So just to recap, here are the main things you gotta be aware of:

  • Check the stock they use. Is it chicken, beef or fish based? If it is, ask if they can substitute it with vegetable stock.
  • Does the sauce of the dish contain any fish sauce?
  • Make sure their noodles, wonton wrappers, and spring rolls are free of any eggs or dairy. Find out if they’re fried in the same oil used for fried meat items.
  • If eating “fake meats” ask them to list out the ingredients, or to show you the packaging if possible.

When I first started vegan, I didn’t really know/care about little things like what stock they used or eggs in the noodles, but I do now. Which is why I tend to support vegan restaurants by going there instead whenever I can, and luckily for me I live near a lot of vegan places (well, within 20-30 minutes to the nearest one).

But I understand a lot of people probably don’t live in a big city and may not have access to even one vegan joint, so we gotta do what we gotta do.

Dishes You Can Look For on The Menu

spring rolls stir fry vegetables

While every Chinese restaurants’ menus may vary, you can usually find a few similar items from place to place. Here is an example of the things I often ordered off the menu of a non-vegan Chinese restaurant that I frequently ate from.

Appetizers
  • Deep fried vegetable spring rolls
  • Vegetable tofu lettuce wrap
  • Spicy chili vegetable dumplings
  • Vegetable pakora with chutney sauce
Soup
  • Vegetable hot and sour soup
  • Tofu hot and sour soup
  • Imperial vegetable soup
Side Orders
  • Steamed white or brown rice
  • vegetable samosas with chutney sauce
Vegetables
  • Kung pao vegetables with peanut sauce
  • Eggplant with stir-fried green beans
  • Broccoli sauteed with garlic
  • Stir-fried mushrooms, green beans, bamboo shoots, and snow peas
  • Deep fried crispy cauliflower
  • Eggplant and okra curry
  • Bean curd with bell peppers and black bean sauce
  • Fresh shiitake mushrooms
  • Shanghai style stir-fried vegetables
Tofu
  • Steamed tofu in a lotus leaf
  • Tofu and eggplant
  • Tofu in black bean sauce
  • Crispy deep fried spicy tofu
  • Sweet & sour tofu (this can substitute sweet & sour pork)
  • Chili garlic tofu with gai-lan and baby corn
  • Deep fried enoki mushroom on soft tofu
Noodles and Rice
  • Shanghai chow mein with vegetables
  • Vegetarian vermicelli (rice noodles)
  • Manchurian vegetable chow mein
  • Crispy noodles with vegetables and a black bean sauce
  • Singapore style curry rice noodles
  • Pan fried spinach noodles
  • Fried Udon noodles with vegetables
  • Vegetable fried rice (no egg)
  • Pan fried sticky rice
  • Assorted vegetables and tofu on rice
  • Pine nut and cashews fried rice
Deep Fried Items
  • Deep fried taro rolls
  • Chili and pepper deep fried spicy tofu
  • Crispy sweet and sour wonton
  • Deep fried bean curd with seaweed
Dessert
  • Mango pudding (usually comes with cream separately to pour over, but you can tell them you don’t want any)
  • Red bean paste pancake
  • Sweet red bean soup

Final Thoughts…

As you can see, the vegan option run pretty deep. Just be mindful of a few things, and it’s basically very simple.

So I hope this article helped those living in smaller cities or towns where vegan specific restaurants are non-existent. Eating out for a vegan can definitely come with some challenges, but it becomes easier once you know how to get the things you want. 

Instead of eating out, you may also consider making your own Chinese food at home. I have a vegan beef and broccoli recipe that you can see by clicking HERE to get you started, and please leave any comments and questions down below in the box.

16 thoughts on “40+ Vegan Chinese Food Options (How To Order At Restaurants)

  1. Ann says:

    Me too, I have always loved Chinese food. And reading through all the options you presented here have made me hungry. I would really enjoy a Shanghai chow mein with vegetables and Chili and pepper deep fried spicy tofu. And what I like the most is that they can still be vegan. I’m loving this!

    • Kent L says:

      Chinese food is my favourite, especially Cantonese food. Nothing better than some stir-fried vegetables, tofu in black bean sauce, spring rolls, and serve it with a big bowl of white Jasmine rice

  2. Burt Silver says:

    I really like how you talk about and point out the vegan options at a Chinese restaurant. This is something that is really important to me because I am vegan. Thank you for pointing these things out, so now I can go to a Chinese restaurant and know what I can get next time.

  3. Taylor Bishop says:

    Thanks for going over some vegan options you can try at Chinese restaurants. I’m glad you mentioned that you should ask if the noddles or spring rolls are free of eggs or dairy. This sounds like a great way to really understand their menu as well as the options you have.

  4. Neil says:

    Love tofu with green peppers and black bean sauce, and a big fan of stir-fried veggies, and steamed rice…

    I also love hot and sour soup, and often I will have some vegetable dim sum or similar too…

    I am not vegetarian or vegan, but I do try to eat 2-3 days a week meat-free, I have mainly tofu, beans (which I love too), rice (another favourite of mine), various vegetables and a selection of nuts.

    I think I need to make some Chinese food now…

    Regards

    Neil

      • Neil says:

        Hi Kent, I am not really sure I can do Vegan, I was a vegetarian for many years but decided I wanted more variety and diversity in my diet, I eat chicken 1-2 times a week, other meats I eat very occasionally, fish/seafood 1-3 times a week, and the rest of the week I tend not to eat any meat or fish.

        I have only small amounts of dairy such as milk, cheese 2-3 times a month, butter 2-3 times a week, and eggs I eat 5-6 a month at most.

        I bake my own bread, use dried grains and pulses where possible instead of canned or frozen, use cold pressed oils where I can, and generally use fresh ingredients where I can most days, I make almost all of my food from scratch so I have more control over the fats, sugars and salts and the flavours overall.

        What I do want to do this year, get more fruits into my diet, as I tend not to eat enough of these.

        Last night was meat-free, I had rice with adzuki beans, red kidney beans, black beans and corn kernels, with Cuban style sauce (like you get with Cuban style chicken but without the chicken) I just filled out the sauce with some extra red capsicum peppers, red chilli, garlic, onions, lots of spring onions and some fresh coriander and chives for extra flavour, and had a ton of Jalapenos on it.

        Very tasty it was.

        • Kent says:

          Are you a fan of fake meats, Neil? Some people don’t like them and that’s okay. But for people who do like them, it opens up a lot of variety. I mean, it’s cool to make Cuban style chicken without the chicken but with beans instead, but this is one of those things I would have substituted with vegan chicken. And there are many types of “fake” meats out there and some are just bland and awful but some are really good. But either way I think it’s a lot of fun thinking up ways to create meatless versions of your favorite foods. For example I replaced eggs with apple sauce in a banana cake recipe and it turned out to be just as good.

          • Neil says:

            Hi Kent, yes I do quite like some of them, I do use them, often in stir fry and when I go to my local Chinese or Thai diner, I do sometimes get mock meat dishes, just for variety!

            As it turns out I have eaten very little meat for about a week now, nor any eggs or cheeses and have only had olive oil and sunflower spreads for my bread and vegetables if I needed them. So little dairy too.

            Though I have not done the challenge, I have made more effort to eat less of all of these things and eat more rice, couscous, bulgar wheat and quinoa and more beans of course! along with lots of vegetables.

            Plus I have been eating more oats, which is nice too.

            I also love Indian food so enjoy cooking and eating it, and there are lots and lots of vegetarian dishes to choose from. Though I do not know if Ghee is classed as vegan or not, though I expect they could use an alternative if I asked them, possibly…

            Thanks again Kent, great site.

            Best wishes

  5. Marcus Coons says:

    Thank you for mentioning how you need to take the time to ask what ingredients are present in the food you eat at a Chinese restaurant when eating vegan. It makes sense to think that doing some research can help you find the best food for your belly. We are planning on moving to a new town and want to find the best Chinese restaurant that can provide the type of food we eat, soI’m glad I found your post.

  6. Kam says:

    I have never tried being vegan or the lifestyle for an extended period of time. however, chinese food is my favorite but it is fattening and unhealthy. Eating vegan at chinese restaurants is genius and thank you for showing me this. The next time me and the family head over to Chinese, I will keep this in mind

    • Kent says:

      yeah the great thing about chinese restaurants is that they all have the staple of white rice, which is heavy in calories and fills you up nicely when you’re hungry. Chinese food also tend to include a lot of vegetables as part of their dishes.. for example in the western society the focus tend to be on the meat with a small amount of vegetables on the side, whereas in chinese food vegetables are included more as part of the dish itself. So because of this it’s much easier to make a chinese dish vegan.

  7. Penelope says:

    Wow, thanks for the rundown of vegan options at Chinese restaurants! I guess I just assumed most Chinese places used beef or chicken or fish stock or flavoring. I’m impressed with how many things you can actually order, and most of them are pretty delicious (I think most people would agree – even the non vegans). great resource!

    • Kent says:

      Hey penelope,

      almost every chinese restaurant have some kind of tofu that they serve, and the good thing about tofu is it’s very versatile. For example for beef and broccoli, you can have tofu and broccoli instead. You can ask the restaurant if they’re willing to do that swap for you. That goes with any dish, sweet and sour pork? sweet and sour tofu. But some people don’t like tofu and so that wouldn’t work, or maybe they just haven’t tasted tofu in the right way. Tofu can have a hard or soft texture, and just absorb whatever flavor you put to it. There’s also fried tofu which is a whole other experience. But if you don’t like tofu, then vegetables in a curry sauce is great to try too.

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