Before diving into dumplings and spring rolls, it’s important to know the difference between Lunar New Year and Chinese New Year: Lunar New Year is celebrated across several Asian countries. For the vegan recipes below, we’re narrowing down the incredibly vast options and sticking to Chinese heritage foods. The multi-day celebration begins on Friday, February 12, and traditionally kicks off with a fantastic display of fireworks, ending with a gorgeous paper lantern festival. Here, we’ve gathered 11 delicious vegan recipes to fuel your Lunar New Year festivities.
1. Vegan Mushroom Potstickers by The Plant-Based Wok
Dumplings (aka potstickers) are central in any Chinese New Year celebration. Their variety is infinite—sweet, savory, steamed, pan-fried—you can stuff and prepare them any way you like. These shiitake mushroom potstickers are crisp on the outside, juicy on the inside, and bursting with umami. Make a large batch and freeze a few (uncooked) to last you the entire week.
2. Vegetable Spring Rolls by Steamy Kitchen
Break out the deep-fryer or a deep cast-iron skillet—these are not the fresh, rice paper variety you might be thinking of. We’re talking about crispy, flaky, fried egg rolls stuffed with soft veggies. The homemade variety are infinitely better than the ones that have been sitting for hours at your local takeout spot. One bite, and you’ll swoon.
3. Sweet Chinese Rice Dumplings in Ginger Syrup by Mary’s Test Kitchen
These sweet dumplings, or tong yuan, are made with glutinous rice flour. Despite its name, this flour is actually gluten-free, and it’s the same used to make the outer chewy shells of mochi. The result is a lightly sweet, toothsome dessert one can enjoy while viewing the holiday’s concluding event—the lantern festival.
4. Braised Wheat Gluten with Mushrooms by The Woks of Life
You’ll have to swing by your local Asian market to pick up the main ingredient for this cold appetizer, and once you try it, you’ll constantly crave it. Hong shao kao fu is made with dried wheat gluten, wood ear mushrooms, dried lily flower, and peanuts, all soaked in a dark, slightly sweet soy-based sauce. The dried wheat gluten is very similar to tofu in that it acts like a sponge, soaking up whatever flavors you add to it. Bonus to the vegan nay-sayers: this dish has a ton of protein.
5. Sticky Rice Mushroom Shumai by The Woks of Life
One look at this puckered dim sum has us drooling. This recipe layers on the textures and flavors with a mix of sticky rice, shiitake mushrooms, and a complex sauce to coat every single crevice. You could easily make a meal out of these.
6. Taro Root Cakes by Celestial Peach
Lo bak go is a savory, dense cake made with taro root or turnips. Traditional recipes call for dried shrimp and/or Chinese sausage—both are replaced in this recipe with meaty shiitake mushrooms. How you enjoy them is up to you—either leave them steamed or take an extra step to pan-fry for a crispy-edged finish.
7. Vegan Pork Belly by Wicked Healthy
When we say anything can be vegan, we mean it, and this recipe justifies this claim. The sibling duo at Wicked Healthy replicate the tastes and textures of tender pork belly by slow-roasting then pan-frying dry-rubbed tofu. Just try it. You and your omnivore friends will be amazed.
8. Buddha’s Delight by Taste Asian Food
Lo Han Jai—more commonly known as Buddha’s Delight in the States—is often parred-down in Chinese American restaurants. The traditional vegan dish includes 18 ingredients to represent the 18 Arhats, or Chinese saints. We recommend making the original version first, then simplifying the next time you make it, if you’re crunched for time.
9. Vegan Sweet Rice Cake by Radiant Rachaels
Nian Gao is pure and simple. This sweet, dense dessert only requires four ingredients (Chinese cane sugar, chickpea flour, glutinous rice flour, and rice flour), yet the result is nothing short of addictive. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself craving these sweet squares instead of cake in the next coming weeks.
10. Fortune Cake by China Sichuan Food
The ingredients for fa gao are simple, but the result is impressive. This humble cake made from all-purpose flour, water, brown sugar, and baking powder puffs up when steamed into a Chinese fortune-teller-shaped dome. These are served for both breakfast and dessert.
11. Almond Cookies by Samantha Lin
If you can make sugar cookies, you can make these delightfully crispy cookies. They’re just sweet enough, and their crunchy texture makes them perfect for dunking into a strong cup of tea.
Tanya Flink is a Digital Editor at VegNews as well as a writer and fitness enthusiast living in Orange County, CA.
Photo credit: The Plant-Based Wok