If you're new to Los Angeles, you might expect vegan food on nearly every street corner, along with yoga studios and juice stands. But you might still be genuinely surprised by the availability of hearty bowlfuls of vegan ramen that tastes surprisingly like the real thing. Although ramen snobs may not be persuaded over to the green side, vegans and the veg-curious can slurp up a less porky ramen without sacrificing their lust for flavor.
And don’t believe the myth that vegetable-based ramen isn’t enough to satisfy. An ambrosial broth of roasted mushrooms, kombu, even sunflower seeds and sesame paste, creates a plant-based ramen bowl shimmering with promise. If you weren’t entirely convinced, a vegan version of the onsen tamago (soft-boiled egg) might do the trick.
There are local chefs with serious kitchen credentials experimenting with plant-based broths, trying out different toppings beyond the usual, along with other types of noodles. In a bowl of vegan ramen, the classic squiggly wheat noodles can be replaced by springy spinach or molokhia noodles (leafy green noodles loaded with nutrients, with a chewy texture), or rice noodles (like those in pho) and handmade noodles (not dried or packaged). While it’s not authentic ramen soup per se, these vegetable-inspired variations are enough to keep us noodling.
Here are 10 places where you’ll find some of the best vegan ramen that Los Angeles has to offer.
As you wander through the culinary wonderland of Grand Central Market, you will find this ramen stand, as unassuming as any other. There’s one key difference: All ramen bowls are entirely plant-based, including what looks like a soft-boiled egg. The broth has the milky appearance of pork tonkotsu, brimming with noodles, topped with nori, togarashi, bean sprouts, scallions and chili threads. You’ll marvel at the deep flavor from sunflower seeds, miso, shiitake mushrooms and kombu in the broth. Chef Ilan Hall explained how the tonkotsu-like broth happened after he made a batch of sunflower seed risotto: The combination of fat and starch in the seed-based sauce mingled with other ingredients at the bottom of the risotto, tasting similar to tonkotsu. Rounds of “chashu pork” made of fleshy oyster mushrooms are quite meaty, but the most fascinating ingredient in this bowl of ramen is the vegan onsen tamago (soft-boiled egg), which is cut in half and nestled within the noodles. The vegan egg white is crafted from a mixture of seasoned soy milk set with agar (seaweed), while the yolk is made of nutritional yeast, beta carotene, black salt (for that eggy aroma and flavor) and sodium alginate, spherified in calcium chloride, making it a completely plant-based vegan egg.
Just because this place is an edgy little ramen spot hidden away on the second floor of Chinatown’s Far East Plaza doesn’t mean that vegans aren’t invited. You can sidle on up to the bar with the rest of the chashu and shio ramen lovers and dig into your bowl of ramen done vegan style. Topped with a handful of slivered scallions, the vegan ramen broth isn’t overly salty, and it certainly does not skimp on flavor. Green spinach noodles are full of spring and chew, topped with crunchy baby bok choy, and slabs of tofu in place of chashu pork. But it is the spinach noodles that make this bowlful a total vegan champ.
Shojin has several types of vegan ramen on its detailed menu of Japanese vegan offerings. Among the vegan sushi rolls and other veggie delights is the tempting Spicy Ramen Revolution, Spicy Black Ramen, Ramen of the Century and the garlic-free Shoyu Ramen. You’ll find kale, onions, bean sprouts, carrots, green chili and even avocado among the ingredients. The broth has tamari, tahini (sesame paste), soy milk and miso, topped with red chili oil, braised seitan, tempeh, teriyaki tofu, bamboo, mushrooms, scallions and nori. Shojin’s vegan egg claims to be one of the most important accompaniments to any serving of its ramen noodle bowls. With a choice of brown rice noodles or flour noodles, either gluten-free or not, this is vegan ramen at its most wholesome.
Oh Man! Ramen
Every bite of this ramen is intensely concentrated from a broth made of dry roasted mushrooms and kombu, slowly reduced into a palate-pleasing bomb of mushroom essence. Hip-hop cranks up the vibe in the background while the chef and crew pay close attention to their craft. They don’t mess with mock ingredients here. You’ll savor seasonal veggies (like roasted squash) topped with fresh scallions and kale — vegetables aren’t just plopped into your noodle bowl like a consolation prize but expertly coaxed to their highest level of taste and texture, hitting notes of strong umami on the vegetarian scale. The result is an unapologetic vegan ramen that is purely plant-based harmony in a bowl.
You may not even notice that your bowl of ramen here is entirely vegetarian, even if you ordered it that way. The hefty broth is loaded with dense taste, adding fatty slip to the noodles. There’s no question that this is how a bowl of ramen should be. Large slices of baked tofu are so tender, they nearly melt in your mouth. Ramen Room may be new to the ramen scene, but Andre Guerrero knows his stuff. He expertly formulates a porcine character in the broth, and though he isn’t vegetarian, his sons, Fred and Max Guerrero of Chinatown’s Burgerlords, surprisingly, are. Inspired by his sons to add vegetarian ramen options to the menu, Guerrero explained how the broth is crafted: He begins with a mirepoix of shallots, apples, onions and ginger, and reduces that into a caramelized paste. The sturdy broth is composed further with mushrooms and miso until it becomes impossibly close to the real deal. Green Zone
This healthy Asian fusion restaurant uses organic ingredients. You’ll find bright green curly noodles made of molokhia (a spinachlike leafy green) in an aromatic veggie-based broth. While not striving for an authentic sort of ramen soup, this cozy bowlful is made with good Chinese influence: stir-fried veggies are deftly tossed from the wok and served over noodles in a mushroom broth. You’ll crave this bowl so much that driving out to the original San Gabriel location is worth every slurp of the nourishing soup. Their Pasadena spot isn’t too far to go for vegan ramen, either.
118 Degrees serves up its raw vegan and gluten-free menu in Tarzana along the valley’s trendy Ventura Boulevard. Among fresh juices, smoothies and veggies wrapped in flaxseed tortillas, this version of ramen leans far into the raw-vegan spectrum. It begins with a nest of kelp noodles placed within a wide bowl, elegantly served with a tureen of warm coconut curry broth on the side. Once you pour the golden turmeric-infused curry broth over the noodles, everything pops. Delicate enoki mushrooms, shredded carrots, juicy red pepper slivers and sliced celery top the kelp noodles. Even though the watery crunch of kelp noodles and zesty coconut curry doesn’t quite match up with the basic concepts of ramen, its lively qualities are enough to take pleasure in. It’s as if this bowl of ramen took a vacation and traveled to Southern Asia, complete with an orchid flower garnishing the bowl.
Jinya’s vegetarian ramen packs a serious amount of noodles into the bowl. Diners with plant-based preferences can choose either the vegetarian ramen (mushroom, spinach, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, black pepper, served with thin noodles) or the creamy spicy vegan ramen (tofu, onion, green onion, spinach, crispy onion, garlic, garlic chips, chili oil, garlic oil, sesame seeds, served with thick noodles), and spinach noodles also are available. If the heat isn’t enough for you, add more chili paste. (Just don’t be too shy to ask if it’s the one without the fish sauce.) The vegan broth is creamy due to the sesame paste, with just enough kick to keep digging your chopsticks in for more. (The crispy kale lollipops, served as an appetizer, make a tasty do-it-yourself topping addition if you’re feeling adventurous.) Aside from the many Jinya locations offering vegan/vegetarian ramen, there's the newly opened Jinya Ramen Express at the Hollywood & Highland complex, a quick counter-service spot where you can customize your build-your-own ramen bowl with all the veggies you could possibly desire within a vegan miso ramen.
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This beachy South Bay eatery boasts an extensive array of vegan and vegetarian dishes on its menu, along with seafood so fresh you’d swear they went into the nearby ocean to catch it (for your pescatarian dining partner, of course). Among the brown rice sushi rolls and appealing vegetable dishes are three types of vegan ramen to behold: spicy miso ramen, which contains eggplant, tempeh and kale; mellow miso ramen, a humble corn, cabbage, carrot and garlic number; and crunch miso ramen, which has crispy tofu and onion, avocado and nori in a spicy chili miso broth. Gluten-free brown rice noodles are available.
This little gem is a pot of gold at the end of the vegan ramen rainbow. The flavorful broth is abundant with a rich vegetable base, adding combinations such as jalapeño, garlic and fermented black soybeans, or unique toppings like pineapple and kale. The kale and black bean holds its dynamic flavor with a thick, almost currylike miso broth, covered in garlic chips, dainty wood ear mushrooms, and slices of crunchy jicama masquerading as bamboo. The essence of black fermented soybeans add weight to the broth, lending savory nuances as a revelation with every slurp and spoonful.