How Can I Make Vietnamese Cuisine Vegetarian – see here!

An all-veggie Vietnamese cuisine in Toronto is available at TorontoPHO. Although we do appreciate our meats and all the unique flavors that come with that, vegetarian Vietnamese tastes delicious – especially when done right.


We try to keep as close to plant-based as we can. Sometimes that involves using tofu as a substitute, however.


A modern take on the family recipes of traditional Vietnamese fare, you can find a whole vegetarian menu with dishes like stir-fried noodles, tofu pad thai, fried rice, salad rolls, spring rolls, spicy noodle soup, mango salad, and deep-fried vegetarian spring rolls.


The beauty of these foods is that they are just as good as any other kind of Vietnamese food. Regardless of what your lifestyle is, there are vegetarian and vegan dishes anyone can appreciate on the menu here.


Our ultimate goal at TorontoPHO is to make pho and Vietnamese cuisine accessible and approachable for every Canadian. If you’re worried about finding high-quality vegetarian Vietnamese eats at our restaurant, don’t be.


Is Pho Vegetarian?


Pho isn’t vegan or vegetarian. It can be though. It comes full of flavor from the spices, herbs, noodles, and everything else mixed in.


How to make vegetarian Vietnamese pho varies. It takes a careful chef. Traditionally, pho uses strips of beef and a broth flavored with fish sauce. Obviously, when crafting a vegetarian pho, alternatives must be used.


For the protein source, one can either use tofu or if they wish to mushrooms. Both suffice as alternatives. Regarding the broth, avoid any sort of meat influence. Instead, use soy sauce or similar ingredients.


One can also make a pure vegetable pho broth. Unfortunately, what many find with 100% vegetarian pho broth is that it lacks depth of flavor and body. If you want flavor and texture, excluding things in a pho broth isn’t the way to go. You’ve got to add in substitutes and successfully craft an alternative that doesn’t try to mimic.


Crafting a unique vegetarian pho, relying on strong-tasting herbs and spices works. Cinnamon, star anise, clove, and ginger come through clear and charmingly. Adding some salt isn’t a bad idea. Charring some onions will also add a very strong taste.


Why Removing Meats Works in Vietnamese


Sometimes crafting the perfect vegetarian Vietnamese meal is as simple as removing an ingredient like meat from the mix.


The beauty about Vietnamese is that so much of its taste comes from herbs and spices. Any protein is sometimes insignificant to the foundation of certain dishes. Although this varies depending on what’s on your plate, removing meat from a dish is easy.


Some customers don’t like not having protein in their meals though. Especially for newer vegetarians who enjoy a meat substitute, it can feel like something’s lacking.


Why Tofu is A Must-Have in Vietnamese Dishes


The most common Vietnamese meat substitute is tofu. Why it’s a must-have is because it will absorb all of the taste from herbs and spices. It is also a very pure and healthy vegetarian substitute.


There are all sorts of fake meat brands out there. Beyond Meat, Amy’s, Gardein, MorningStar Farms, and Impossible Foods are all incredibly popular.


They are also very new and not always plant-based or whole or natural. The priority in Vietnamese cooking is to present natural, whole foods in a balanced way. By including fake meats, including some that are made in research laboratories, it just doesn’t always work.


Cuisines are in a perpetual state of change albeit slowly. They may seem static but they aren’t. Vietnamese eating in Toronto, for example, has changed in some very positive ways with transportation of key ingredients more active now than they were decades ago. As meat alternatives and plant-based fake meats continue to gain market share, they too can be incorporated into Vietnamese meals.


Is Vietnamese Sticky Rice Vegetarian?


When in doubt, go with sticky rice. A staple in Vietnamese food, sticky rice can be made with anything. It can be blended with all sorts of cooked or raw vegetables, herbs and spices, and other ingredients.


You get a little bit of oil mixed in and just a few of the things that can be mixed in include mushrooms, broccoli, red pepper, red chili, onion, coconut, and chickpeas. As sticky rice is designed to absorb the flavors around it, it is a very diverse vegetarian meal.


It’s almost on par with pho. If you are just starting with your vegetarian Vietnamese journey, selecting a sticky rice or pho is a great way to get started. These are so easy to customize, personalize, and vegetarian-ize with a few simple changes. 


What Are Some Popular Vegetarian Vietnamese Foods?


Beyond vegetarian-style Vietnamese classics, there are also veggie-based foods that are very standard to the vegetarian lifestyle in Vietnam. The creativity of chefs and farm-friendly communities has made it easier to put together plant-based meals.


Although not very popular here in Canada, vegetarian Vietnamese is very popular back home. There are entire Vietnamese restaurant chains that sell vegan and vegetarian only.


Though Vietnam often gets the reputation of being a ‘meat-eater’s cuisine’, there’s a lot to explore in vegetables, spices, and herbs that fall outside of meat-based dishes.


Dau Sot Ca Chua is perhaps the most popular vegetarian Vietnamese dish. In a lot of ways, it imitates the look and feel of meat. Dau sot ca chua brings together yellow tofu with a little bit of tomato, green onion, and a key selection of herbs.


There’s also Rau Muong Xaoi Toi. This dish uses fresh water spinach fried with garlic and herb. It’s then topped with peanut powder. The result is an unforgettable classic vegetarian dish without any meat equivalent. It is uniquely vegetarian through-and-through. 


What Else Do I Need to Know About Eating Vegetarian with Vietnamese?


We hope that by now you know that you can be vegetarian and eat Vietnamese. You can be vegan and eat Vietnamese as well. It’s easy to do as long as you know what you’re ordering, what’s in a dish, and enjoy the taste of herbs and spices.


The term ‘chay’ means vegetarian. If a menu item on a Toronto Vietnamese restaurant is described as ‘chay’, chances are it’s a vegetarian dish. You can ask our server though for clarification if needed.


If you a peanut allergy, ensure you mention this to your server. Nuts are a staple in Vietnamese vegetarian kitchens. They are often used as flourishes or garnishes on dishes. If you are allergic, unfortunately, it will cut down on a lot of the vegetarian foods you’re able to eat. Fortunately, there are still plenty of vegetarian dishes available without nuts involved. Just be sure to ask.


Though Vietnamese usually has a high-nutrient and high-protein culture, some pho restaurants and Vietnamese restaurants, unfortunately, use low-quality ingredients. To keep the food tasting great, they use more salt than needed or pack in more calorie-dense foods than what’s necessary.


When ordering Vietnamese or making it, it is key to do what you can to not overdo it on the sodium, to eat an appropriate size as not to eat too many calories, and to rely on tasty spices, herbs, and alternatives.


Another key tenant of Vietnamese food is most of it is naturally gluten-free. From staples like noodles to meats and veggies, it’s gluten-free all the way. 


All in all, vegetarian Vietnamese is a very healthy, well-balanced diet. It keeps you full, fed, healthy, and alert. It suits every meal of the day and will keep you warm and content even on particularly bad days.


You can get vegan and vegetarian food delivered to your front door any time from us. Order Vietnamese vegetarian-style in Toronto from TorontoPHO today. See over a dozen vegetarian dishes, staples to the menu at our prominent pho restaurant. If you have any additional preferences in how your dish is prepared, let us know.