A piping hot pot, a sea of tofu and mushrooms dancing in a flavorful broth, and you, yes, YOU, will create the magic without breaking a sweat!! Sundubu Jigae (sometimes spelled soondubu jjigae) is on every Korean Sauna place’s menu, but often it’s not made vegetarian. So to turn up the flavor to 11 without harming any animals, I refined and absolutely NAILED this Korean tofu soup recipe, and you will too!
This soft tofu soup recipe has been honed through countless experiments (including some tragic flops) to bring you the easiest, fastest, and tastiest vegan Korean Tofu Soup you've ever dropped a spoon into.
Need something to keep your vegan bulgogi company? Something hot to serve with your pickled burdock or oi muchim (Korean cucumber salad) with? Accessible ingredients and simple, straightforward steps are gonna have you knock this one out of the park.
If you've been yearning for a vegan Korean food victory that doesn't involve boiling carrots for eternity, you've hit the jackpot! The subtle kick and tanginess of this one-pot Korean Tofu Soup, courtesy of the kimchi's flavorful touch. The sesame oil adds its distinct aroma, while the light, melt-in-your-mouth soft tofu makes it the ultimate comforting soup. Perfectly vegetarian, this soup strikes a balance, offering just the right amount of spice, which you can easily tailor to your preference.
Let’s fire up a pot and get this thing made!
🥰Why you are going to adore the ever-loving heck outta this recipe
✊Vegan AF: Like all of the vegan soup recipes I share, this is made completely without animal products and has no cholesterol. No chicken broth, pork belly, or other such cruelty is found here! It also just happens to be totally gluten-free.
🔥 Tried-and-True Techniques: The secret to the savory success of this Sundubu Jigae lies in the meticulous balance of flavors. The marriage of gochugaru's kick, the salty umami punch from tamari, and the sweet dance of date syrup creates an authentic Korean symphony in your bowl.
🍲 Mushroom Magic: You are about to be tripping your brains out. Just kidding! The thinly sliced fresh shiitakes and delicate enokis transform this soup into a textural wonderland with the medicinal benefits of nourishing mushrooms!
🥸Foolproof Simplicity: Like all the plant-based recipes on my blog, this spicy Korean soft tofu stew has been meticulously perfected through constant repetition and refinement. After I perfected the recipe, I shared it with a massive team of dedicated recipe testers from all over the world who gave it their seal of approval.
🍄Notable ingredients and substitutions
Sesame Oil (참기름)
Made from pressed toasted sesame seeds, this Korean culinary gem adds a rich, nutty depth to the soup. Toasted sesame oil is the same magical substance that lends its powerful aroma to Korean BBQ Sauce and Goma Dressing. If you are out of sesame oil or don’t love its flavor, you can substitute with peanut oil, sunflower oil or even olive oil and still make a great soup.
Korean red chili pepper flakes, or gochugaru, bring perfectly flavorful heat to this soup! If your local Asian market stocks several kinds, choose one without added salt. Adjust the quantity based on your spice tolerance. Substituting with regular red pepper flakes or Aleppo pepper flakes are a good back up option, but keep in mind that crushed red pepper flakes will be hotter and less flavorful than Korean chili powder.
Kelp Granules (다시마부마)
Kelp granules are the unsung hero, giving the soup its classic subtle seafood flavor without harming any fishies. If unavailable, dulse or nori flakes can do the trick, otherwise, just leave them out.
Vegetarian Oyster Sauce (채식오이스터소스)
This vegan version of the classic oyster sauce (just about all Asian grocery stores carry it) imparts a sweet and savory richness to dishes like Tom Yum Fried Rice, Mie Goreng, and to this Korean spicy tofu soup! Hoisin sauce or vegan fish sauce (which I use in making Nam Jim Jaew and Nuoc Cham) can be used as a substitution.
Adding a hint of sweetness, date syrup balances the soup's savory flavors. Brown sugar, coconut sugar, maple syrup, or palm sugar (which is also a great filling for making homemade klepon) are all perfectly fine to substitute with.
The fermented superstar, kimchi, brings a punch of tanginess and probiotics and is a main ingredient in many Korean soups. Finely chopped, it adds complexity to the soup. There are now a ton of great vegan kimchi available on the market, but I am a little biased, thinking my vegan kimchi recipe is the best (and easiest) you will find! If you don't feel like making your own, you should be able to find vegan kimchi at your local healthfood store, but you will be less likely to find it at a Korean grocery store, where most varieties will be made with dried fish.
Soft Tofu (순두부):
Known as sundubu, this velvety tofu variety just melts in the mouth. If you can find Korean soft tofu (often sold in cylinders rather than blocks) at your Asian grocery store, go with that. Otherwise, regular soft tofu (like what you would use in making vegan tofu katsu) will work great. You can even pull this soup off using silken tofu (what you would use to make Filipino tahu), as long as you are careful cutting and handling it so it doesn’t fall apart in the soup. Regular tofu (firm or extra firm) doesn't achieve the texture we are going for in this spicy Korean tofu stew.
*See the recipe card at the bottom of the page for exact quantities, nutritional info, and detailed cooking directions.
Jeju Island Vibes: For a taste of Jeju Island's culinary flair, consider adding a handful of chopped fresh seaweed and sesame leaves to the broth. You should be able to find both at a well-stocked Asian food store.
Spicy Radish Kimchi Kick: Level up the heat by opting for an extra spicy radish kimchi variation. Choose a well-fermented daikon radish based kimchi with an extra kick, and revel in the intensified tanginess and heat that it brings to the soup. I know it’s not gonna make a traditional Korean tofu soup this way, but if this is still not as spicy as you like, consider stirring in a spoonful of nam prik pao or shatta sauce to the broth for even more intensity!
📖 Make perfect vegan Korean Tofu Soup!
Nail this masterfully on your first shot by following these step-by-step instructions with helpful tips. Or you can follow along with the easy-to-print recipe card towards the bottom of this page.
Sweat the Aromatics:
In a pot over medium-high heat, warm the sesame oil. After 90 seconds, when the oil is sizzling, toss in chopped green onion, diced onion, and minced garlic. Sauté until onions are translucent, around 4 minutes.
Pour the gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes), optional kelp granules, tamari or soy sauce, vegetarian oyster sauce, and date syrup into the pot. Allow the sauce to bubble around the onions and garlic for a moment to soften them and turn into a deep brown base.
Simmer and Stir:
After 30 seconds, add unsalted vegetable stock or water. Add finely chopped kimchi, stir well, and let the stew simmer for a few minutes until it reaches a satisfying heat.
Tofu and Mushies:
Gently add the cut soft tofu (don't use silken soft tofu, as it is a bit too soft!), thinly sliced fresh shiitake mushroom, and enoki mushroom to the pot. Allow them to dance in the broth for a few minutes until the mushrooms reach tender perfection.
✅I like to not really stir the pot here, so that when you want to serve the soup, it’s easy to pick out the various mushrooms and tofu to arrange the bowls in a pretty and intentional composition (like enoki mushrooms on one side of the bowl).
Bowl Beauty Parlor:
Divide the hot soup into bowls. Use Korean earthenware bowls if you have them. Garnish with sliced garlic chives or scallions. Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds generously over the top. Your masterpiece is ready to go!
Pair this soul-warming spicy soft tofu soup with an array of Korean delights. It goes great with Kimchi Fried Rice, the spicy tang of fermented cabbage mingling with perfectly fried rice.
Rice Dumplings could be just the right crispy side to dip in your Sundubu Jigae.
Just because you are eating a healthy vegetarian soup doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to smash some dessert! Maybe it actually means you OUGHT TO finish the meal with a classic southeast Asian dessert such as che ba mau, bubur cha cha, or chocolate and roasted peanut stuffed martabak.
- Respect Your Tofu: Handle the Korean soft tofu with care. When adding the small pieces to the pot, do so gently to avoid breaking it apart. The delicate texture of the tofu is key to achieving that velvety, melt-in-the-mouth goodness. It will firm a little from blanching in the hot savory stew.
- Make Composition Easy: Resist the urge to stir the soup when adding tofu and mushrooms. Let them gently float, making it easy to arrange a visually stunning and well-composed bowl presentation.
- Texture Aware with Kimchi: The kimchi's subtle crunch is a game-changer. Finely chop it to ensure it integrates seamlessly with the soup, offering bursts of tangy goodness. Also, don’t hate any of the kimchi juice! Make sure it all ends up in the pot, because you know it’s heavenly good, and you want to marry kimchi juice for real.
🤷♀️ Recipe FAQs
Control the spice by adjusting the quantity of gochugaru; start with less and add more gradually, tasting as you go until it suits your preference. If you like, you can always drizzle the soup with a little chili oil, gochujang, or sriracha at the table, giving everyone who is eating control of their own spice level.
While some people make Sundubu Jigae with firm tofu, or even extra-firm, that is not the traditional way. Korean restaurants typically make this soup with Korean soft tofu, or sometimes even firm silken tofu, and they serve it sizzling hot in an earthenware pot.
After enjoying a bowl of Korean soup, store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It can be refrigerated for two to three days, maintaining its flavors and textures.
I really don’t love freezing this soup, because the texture of the mushrooms and tofu gets a little weird, but I can’t stop you from doing it right? If you decide to freeze it, do so in a freezer-safe container, with a little extra space at the top for expansion. Make sure to label the container so you know what the heck it is in a month when you forgot you ever made it! Freeze for no more than 3 months at the very most.
For optimal results, reheat your Sundubu Jigae on the stovetop. Place the desired portion in a pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reheat over medium-high heat until it reaches a gentle simmer, ensuring all components are thoroughly warmed. Garnish with fresh green onions and sesame seeds to freshen up the reheated soup.
If time is of the essence, the microwave can be a quick solution. Transfer the soup into a microwave-safe bowl, covering it to prevent splatters. Heat in short intervals, stirring until it reaches your desired temperature. Be cautious not to overheat, as this may affect the tofu's texture.
❄️ Thawing from Frozen:
If you've frozen the Sundubu Jigae (shame on you - just kidding!), thaw it overnight in the refrigerator. Once thawed, follow the reheating instructions for either stovetop or microwave. Remember that the tofu's texture may be altered upon thawing, but the flavors will remain delightful.
✌️My faves to serve with this soup:
Say Hi on Social! 👋
Follow me on Instagram & Facebook for more recipes.
❤️Love this recipe? It helps me out greatly if you leave a 5-star 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟rating in the recipe card below and maybe even leave me a lovey-dovey comment too!
Sundubu Jjigae (Vegan korean tofu soup)
Soondubu soup base
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 2 scallions chopped
- ½ cup onion diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon gochugaru korean chili flakes
- 1 ½ teaspoon kelp granules optional
- 4 teaspoons tamari or soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon vegetarian oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon date syrup maple syrup or brown sugar
- 4 cups unsalted vegetable stock or water
- ⅓ cup kimchi finely chopped
Tofu and Mushrooms:
- 14 oz. soft tofu cu into thin, bite size slivers
- 4 Fresh Shiitake Mushroom thinly sliced
- 150 grams Enoki Mushrooms butt end discarded
- 2 scallions or garlic chives chopped
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
- Heat sesame oil in a pot over medium-high heat. After 90 seconds when the oil is hot, add the chopped green onion, diced onion, and minced garlic. Sauté for 4 minutes until the onions are translucent.
- Mix in the gochugaru, kelp granules (optional), tamari or soy sauce, vegetarian oyster sauce, and date syrup.
- After 30 seconds, pour in unsalted vegetable stock or water, and add finely chopped kimchi. Stir and let it simmer for a few minutes, just until hot.
- Gently add Korean soft tofu, thinly sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms and enoki mushrooms to the pot. Allow them to cook for a few minutes until the mushrooms are tender.
- Portion the soup into bowls and garnish with sliced garlic chives, or scallions. Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds over the top.