This vegan tonkotsu ramen broth is as rich as any soup you’ve ever tasted. It’s intensely creamy, savory, and nutty. It clings closely to noodles, making your slurps most satisfying. A steaming hot pot of this goodness can be yours in just 30 minutes.
The origin of this vegan ramen broth
One chilly fall evening I was whipping up a pot of a staple of ours – kimchi stew. I’ve cooked it so many times that it’s basically second nature. For some reason though, I was curious how it would turn out with an added layer of creaminess. I pulled out the blender and made a savory cashew cream to add in. I poured in some toasted sesame oil because of the great flavor affinity between kimchi and sesame.
The stew turned out great – the nuttiness of the cream layered well with the sour spiciness of the kimchi. But there was something about it – it reminded us of something familiar. What could it be? Oh, right! Tonkotsu ramen! The notoriously laborious, rich, creamy, and complex pork bone ramen broth. The kimchi stew I made that night was pretty haphazard – it included whatever veggies happened to be in the fridge. Tasty, but not exactly an elegant dish.
From there, I worked to develop this into a simplified, yet still flavorful and complex plant-based tonkotsu broth. After a few days of tweaking, I settled on this recipe. It includes a vegetable broth boosted with caramelized onions, garlic, ginger, and kombu and the nutty sesame cream. Combining a clear broth with the thick cream creates a soup that is thin enough to drink, yet rich enough to coat noodles and other ingredients.
Why make this Vegan Tonkotsu Ramen Broth recipe?
For one, it’s just delicious. My wife Maggie, who lived in Japan a couple years and has eaten her share of ramen, couldn’t get enough of it. She’s been nudging me to write this post since I cooked the dish a month ago. We ate variations of this ramen 10 times in a week and didn’t get bored with it.
Two, it’s pretty healthy compared to the alternatives. Ramen at restaurants, plant-based or not, is almost always extremely salty. This one is pretty light on the salt. And while cashew are calorie-dense as far as plants go, this broth will be infinitely kinder to your body than a bowl of the original broth would be.
Three, it’s not that hard to make. Restaurants that specialize in ramen may take multiple days to create a batch of broth. This is not one of those recipes. It takes 10 minutes of prep and 30 minutes of cooking. Boil some noodles on the side and add some toppings, and you’re good to go.
You can make this broth spicy by adding gochujang.
You can always thin the broth out with more vegetable stock if the consistency is too thick for your liking.
Other delicious plant-based Japanese recipes
- Yaki Udon – thick and toothy noodles, stir-fried with veggies, mushrooms, and tofu in a savory sauce. It’s as much about texture as flavor and is just fun to eat.
- Hijiki Salad – a salad of hijiki seaweed, carrot, tofu, edamame, and avocado. It is loaded with nutrition and can be served warm or cold.
- Curry Rice – a satisfying and comforting staple dish, this curry is mild and well-rounded and goes well with practically any savory food.
- Japanese Buddha Bowl Meal Prep – a diverse and nourishing array of foods you can prepare in advance. Includes roasted sweet potatoes, mixed rice, seaweed salad, and a tangy sesame dressing.
If you try this recipe out, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @gastroplant on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.
Vegan Tonkotsu Ramen Broth
- 240 g onion diced (about 1/2 pound or half a medium onion)
- 25 g garlic minced (about half a bulb or 8 cloves)
- 10 g fresh ginger peeled and minced (about 2 Tbsp)
- 3 Tbsp peanut oil or other cooking oil
- 8 g dried kombu (about a 5-inch / 12-cm square)
- 2 liters vegetable stock (2 quarts)
- 1 cup raw cashews
- 1 dried shiitake mushroom
- 1 cup almond milk or other plant milk, unflavored and unsweetened
- 3 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 3 Tbsp Japanese soy sauce
- 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
- Place shiitake mushroom in a cup of hot (though not boiling) water to rehydrate.
- Place cashews in a cup of hot (though not boiling) water to rehydrate.
- Heat peanut oil in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add onion. Cook until onions are medium brown, though not burned, 3-5 minutes, stirring very occasionally.
- Add garlic and ginger. Cook and stir for 2 minutes.
- Add vegetable stock and kombu. When broth begins to boil, reduce to medium-low heat.
- Simmer for 20 minutes.
- While the broth simmers, prepare the cashew cream mixture.
- Remove shiitake mushroom and cashews from the water, reserving the soaking liquid for use later.
- Combine nutritional yeast, sesame oil, soy sauce, soaked and drained mushroom, soaked and drained cashews, and almond milk in a high-speed blender. Blend for 20 seconds on low. Add some of the soaking liquid from the mushroom or cashews if the consistency is too thick to blend. The mixture should be quite thick, but mostly uniform at this point.
- Blend 20 seconds on medium, then 20 seconds on high.
- When the broth is finished simmering, strain out the onions, garlic, ginger, and kombu.
- Remove pot from heat. Stir in blended cashew cream mixture. Add water if consistency is too thick. Soup should be just thick enough to coat a spoon.
- Taste some soup. Add salt as needed.