Lately, I have been on an Asian-fusion dinner spree and my latest obsession is this delicious Vegan Vegetable Lo Mein with Tofu. With a simple umami stir-fry sauce, tons of fresh vegetables, noodles, and crispy tofu, this veggie lo mein is truly a keeper!
What is vegetable lo mein?
If you are not familiar with lo mein, it is a Chinese/ Cantonese dish traditionally prepared with egg noodles, vegetables, and some type of meat. The word itself comes from the Cantonese “lōu mihn” meaning “stirred noodles” and is actually traditionally made from elastic thin flour or egg noodles (source).
Personally, I am most familiar with it as one of my favorite Chinese food dishes to order out. Chewy pan-fried noodles, crisp vegetables, umami sauce, and tons of flavor- what could be better?!
Unfortunately, due to the common use of egg noodles, it's one of those dishes I used to order on the regular that I can no longer enjoy when we go out for Chinese food. Honestly, it ended up being for the best because now I've learned how to make my own lo mein at home!
Tips to make the best tofu lo mein
This lo mein really is so easy that the entire meal can be whipped up in 40 minutes or less! It uses a ton of fresh vegetables and a super simple 6-ingredient sauce for a truly delicious vegan noodle stir fry. Here are a few of my favorite tips & tricks for making this recipe:
#1: Slice vegetables VERY thin
Since we are cooking the vegetables in this recipe for a very short period of time. they need to be sliced REALLY thin. I personally used a mandolin to slice with carrots, cabbage, and pepper and then used a knife to thinly slice the mushrooms. I also left the snow peas whole since they are pretty thin as is!
#2: Do not overcook vegetables
For me, a great vegetable stir fry has veggies that are sautéed, but still crisp, and never soggy. Since the noodles add a nice chewy texture, crisp vegetables lead to a great crunch in this dish.
The mushrooms and snow peas do need a bit more cooking time, which is why we add them first and not at the same time as the thinly sliced peppers, carrots, and cabbage that only need about 2 minutes of cooking time before the sauce is added.
#3: Go light on the sauce
Like I recommend in my Vegan Fried Rice recipe, you really only need a little sauce here to add tons of flavor. Too much sauce will make this dish WAY too salty.
We want to add just enough sauce so the noodles and vegetables soak it up. Unlike stir fry recipes where want leftover sauce to drizzle on rice, we don't want excess sauce with lo mein.
How to make crispy tofu:
To make this vegan lo mein a complete meal, I decided to add some crispy tofu on top. In fact, I followed the same steps I use in my super popular Black Pepper Tofu to make the tofu.
Here are my tips to crispy tofu every time:
- Use extra firm or firm tofu. Soft tofu has way too much moisture and will fall apart and crumble while being pan fried.
- Always press your tofu before cooking with it to draw out extra moisture. Simply cut the tofu in half and press between two towels, paper towels, or between a tofu press.
- Use cornstarch! Coating the tofu in cornstarch leads to a nice crispy exterior that will soak up any sauce.
- Cook in oil when pan frying. Oil helps to draw in enough heat to crisp and brown the cornstarch. If you want crispy tofu without the oil, check out my recipe for Spicy Peanut Tofu where I baked the tofu for similar results.
P.S- Right at the end of stir-frying the tofu add in 1 Tbsp soy sauce to give a boost of umami flavor to this tofu lo mein!
FAQ & Expert Tips:
Since we are not using egg noodles here, we won't be using traditional lo mein noodles. Luckily, practically any noodle works like ramen, rice, udon, soba, or even basic spaghetti noodles.
I've tried them all, and my favorite by far is Hakubaku Organic Udon Noodles. They aren't as thick as the udon noodles that may come to mind and work perfectly in this recipe. I've also tried this recipe with rice noodles (which are gluten-free) and it is my second favorite vegan lo mein noodle option.
ABSOLUTELY! For this lo mein, I added in vegetables that I love. However, please use whatever vegetables work best for you.
Hate mushrooms? Don't add them! Really want to add in some bok choy or broccoli? Go for it! This recipe is adaptable and really works with any vegetable combination.
Yes! Rice noodles are a GREAT option for this recipe to keep it gluten-free. Sure, it may not look like the traditional lo mein you are used to, but I promise it still tastes just as good.
Also, you can easily use tamari or coconut aminos (GF and soy-free) in place of soy sauce for a gluten-free sauce.
Yes! Just replace the brown sugar with coconut sugar or even maple syrup.
Sauce Substitution Suggestions:
For dark soy sauce: Substitute 1:1 with a light soy sauce/tamari, but add in an additional ½ tsp brown sugar for molasses flavor.
For rice vinegar: Try apple cider vinegar or lime/lemon juice instead. Another option is subbing in black vinegar. It won't taste exactly as intended, but it gives the sauce a great tang!
For white pepper: Substitute 1:1 with ground black pepper.
For sriracha: Either omit it or replace it with chili flakes or a chili garlic sauce for some spice.
This healthy Vegan Vegetable Lo Mein with tofu is truly a weeknight dinner staple and SO darn delicious. It can serve as an awesome side dish or be the star of the meal. Plus, this tofu noodle stir fry is really so versatile and can be made with virtually any vegetable combination. Enjoy!
More vegan lunch & dinner ideas you will love:
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Vegan Vegetable Lo Mein with Tofu
Tofu, Noodles, & Veggies:
- 10 ounces udon wheat noodles any noodle works including rice noodles
- 14 ounces firm or extra firm tofu
- 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 Tablespoons oil for stir frying, I used sesame oil
- 1 Tablespoon soy sauce for tofu
- 1 ½ cups thinly sliced mushrooms
- 1 cup shredded/sliced carrot about 1 large carrot,
- 1 cup shredded/sliced red pepper about 1 pepper
- 1 cup thinly sliced purple cabbage
- 1 ½ cups snow peas
Stir fry sauce:
- green onions
- sesame seeds
- To begin, slice the block of tofu in half and press it between two towels or two paper towels. Let the tofu sit for 10 minutes to soak up any excess moisture. At the same time, bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles according to the package instructions.
- While the tofu is being pressed, slice all the veggies and make the stir fry sauce. To make the sauce, simply whisk together the soy sauce, dark soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, brown sugar, white pepper, and optional sriracha in a small bowl.
- Once the ingredients are prepped, cut the pressed tofu into 1 inch cubes and add to a large bowl. Add the cornstarch to the bowl and use your hands to toss the tofu until evenly coated.
- Next, add 1 Tbsp of sesame oil to a wok and turn on the heat. Once the oil is hot, add in the tofu and stir fry for 10-15 minutes until the tofu is browned and crispy on the outside. In the last minute, add in 1 Tbsp of soy sauce to flavor the tofu. Remove the tofu from the wok and set aside in a bowl.
- Add the remaining 1 Tbsp of sesame oil to the wok followed by the mushrooms and snow peas. Stir fry for about 2-3 minutes. Then, add in the rest of the veggies and stir fry together for an additional 2-3 minutes. If needed, add in a little additional oil at this time.
- Add in the noodles, tofu, and stir fry sauce, Mix together and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes until everything is warmed and coated in sauce. The noodles and veggies should soak up all the sauce, but if you'd like more sauce feel free to add in an additional 1-2 Tbsp of soy sauce.
- Remove from the heat and garnish with optional sliced green onions and sesame seeds. Serve & Enjoy!
- Lo mein can be stored in a closed container in the fridge for 3-5 days and in the freezer for up to 1 month.
- To reheat either microwave or reheat in a pan until warmed throughout.
- To make gluten-free, use rice noodles in place of wheat noodles and tamari or coconut aminos in place of soy sauce.
- This recipe was inspired by Feasting at Home who used white pepper in her lo mein sauce and encouraged me to try this ingredient for a delicious sauce!
- Dark soy sauce can be substituted 1:1 with a light soy sauce/tamari, but add in an additional ½ tsp brown sugar for molasses flavor.
- Rice wine vinegar can be substituted with apple cider vinegar or lime/lemon juice instead.