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Top 10 Chinese Vegetarian Dishes

Wednesday, May 8, 2013 | By:

If you think you are a vegetarian stranded in China, think again.

Vegetarians in China need not fear Chinese cuisine. Admittedly, the highlights of Chinese cuisine often include meat ingredients like poultry, pork, beef, and (somewhat to the distaste of many foreigners) intestines. The same goes for everyday dishes you are likely to come by on the street, as well as ethnic specials like Shanxi-styled rou jiamo (肉夹馍),  the Dongbei (northeastern) dish guobaorou (锅包肉), and south China’s cured meat (腊味 làwèi). But a vegetarian will not find his or her choices limited in the Middle Kingdom. Vegetarian Chinese dishes are just as delicious and as plentiful as ones with meat.

To get you started, here are China Adventurer‘s top 10 Chinese vegetarian dishes. But if that still doesn’t satisfy your taste buds  try Big Bowl Caulifower (大碗花菜 dàwǎn huācài), Chinese Spinach with Fermented Tofu (腐乳通菜 fǔrǔ tōngcài), Braised Eggplant (红烧茄子hóngshāo qiézi), or Hand-torn Cabbage (手撕包菜 shǒu sī bāocài). Be sure to say “no meat” (不要肉 búyào ròu) “I am a vegetarian” (我吃素, wǒ chīsù) before you order, so that the restaurants don’t throw in small pieces of meat as they usually do.

Beware that like the most Chinese vegetable dishes, many of the following can be laced with pork or shrimp. To see a purely vegan top 10 list click here: Top 10 Chinese Vegan Dishes

Via China Adventurer.


1. Peanuts and Spinach (花生菠菜 huāshēng bōcài)
From: All over China
Ingredients: peanuts, spinach, garlic
Spice Level: 0-3 (Can be spicy if they use wasabi root)


2. Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐 mápó dòufǔ)
From: Sichuan
Ingredients: tofu, ground pork (obviously request this to be left out), peppers, soy sauce, ginger, scallions, garlic
Spice Level: 3


3. Buddhas Delight (罗汉斋 luóhàn zhāi)
From: Shandong
Ingredients: lots of various vegetables, garlic, salt, sometimes egg and shrimp (request no egg or meat), mushrooms, tofu
Spice Level: 0-2

vegetable with mushroom

4. Green Vegetables with Mushroom (香菇青菜 xiānggū qīngcài)
From: Fujian
Ingredients: Bok Choy cabbage, mushroom, garlic, soy sauce, salt
Spice Level: 0


Click for Recipe

5. Potatoes, Green Peppers, and Eggplant (地三鲜 dì sān xiān)
From: Northeastern China
Ingredients: sauteed potato, green peppers, eggplant, ginger, onions, garlic, soy sauce
Spice Level: 1

tomatoes eggs

6. Tomatoes and Eggs (西红柿炒蛋 xīhóngshì chǎo jīdàn)
From: All over China
Ingredients: tomato, egg, salt, green onions
Spice Level: 0


7. Broccoli and Garlic (蒜蓉西兰花 suànróng xīlánhuā)
From: All over China
Ingredients: tofu, ground pork(obviously request no meat), peppers, soy sauce, ginger, scallions, garlic
Spice Level: 3

seaweed and egg soup

8. Seaweed and Egg Soup (紫菜蛋花汤 zǐcài dànhuātāng)
From: All over China
Ingredients: egg, seaweed, dried shrimp (request this to be excluded), water, sesame oil, salt
Spice Level: 0

stir fried potatoes

9. Chilli Stir-Fried Potatoes (辣椒炒土豆 làjiāo chǎo tǔdòu)
From: Sichuan
Ingredients: potato slivers, peppers, salt, chili sauce, Sichuan peppercorns
Spice Level: 2

stir fried green beans

10. Stir Fried Green Beans (干煸四季豆 gānbiān sìjìdòu)
From: Sichuan
Ingredients: green beans, Sichuan peppercorns, peppers, spring onions
Spice Level: 4-5


Read Tasharni Jamieson, a vegan’s response to this article: ‘Top 10’ Chinese Veggie List a Big ‘Missed-Steak’
Also read Kendall Tyson’s additional tips on avoiding meat in Chinese food.
Checkout a tasty recipe for the mother of all Chinese vegetarian dishes – Buddha’s Delight

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28 Responses to Top 10 Chinese Vegetarian Dishes

  1. Liuzhou Laowai says:

    Do you even know what vegetarian means? Several of these dishes are NOT vegetarian. In fact, this is a perfect example of why it is so difficult in China for vegetarians.

    Pork isn’t vegetarian!

    Shrimp isn’t vegetarian!

    Utterly worthless article.

    • Keoni Everington (华武杰) says:

      We mention in the second paragraph of the blog “Be sure to add “no meat” (不要肉 búyào ròu) before you order” because many of these common vegetable dishes often have small amounts of meat with them. We also listed the meat that often comes with the dishes so vegetarians can be aware what meat to look out for.

      • Liuzhou Laowai says:

        You didn’t when you first published it. You edited after I complained. You even emailed me to apologise. How dishonest!

        • Weijing Zhu says:

          I am not sure which comment you were replying to specifically. If it was Keoni’s one about the mentioning of “no meat”, then I am certain that I wrote it in my first draft. I checked the revision history of this post to make sure as well. As the article states, the list is from China Adventurer, not me. I was and am well aware that pork, shrimp, and whatever meat are not vegetarian, which is why in the intro (the only part I could write and edit, because usually in a reblog one shouldn’t disrupt the original -China Adventurer’s – piece) I specifically suggested telling the restaurant that you don’t want meat because restaurants do tend to mix in meat pieces in vegetable dishes. As for choosing China Adventurer’s original list to reblog in the first place, it was because I thought that some of the choices were good, and although different restaurants put meat in some of them, in my experience restaurants can tell you if they could leave the meat out or not if you ask (cooking oil is another issue).

  2. ruby says:

    I’ve never seen meat in 蒜蓉西兰花, but there is definitely pork in 干煸四季豆

  3. Amy says:

    How did 麻婆豆腐 slip into this list? Ground pork.

    (Granted there are ones without pork at some places.)

    • Weijing Zhu says:

      Amy, you are absolutely right. Mapo Tofu usually has minced meat in it, but some places do make it with no meat. The same goes for 麻辣豆腐, a similar tofu dish. In China, no matter a dish should be vegetarian or not, it is always best to ask… since Chinese think of extra meat as added value… a lot of restaurants throw in small pieces no matter what.

  4. China Adventurer says:

    Hey Guys,

    China Adventurer here.
    Sorry about the confusion with some of the dishes. This was a guest post and the writer apparently isn’t a very good vegetarian haha, and also forgot to mention how to ask for no meat in some of the dishes.

    I am updating the article on my own and will have a new and improved list completed very soon that will be set to higher vegetarian standards.

    Apologies for any confusion.

    Yours truly,
    China Adventurer

  5. klara says:

    was in China for 2 years.had no problem getting vegetarian food! just say that you want them to not add meat. the potato, eggplant and paprika dish is amazing! (disanxian)some people say, that this is what farmers eat during winter- it is supposed to have all nutrition you need when its cold and there are little fresh vegetables

    Warning! hotpot is not good. even of you order only vegetables, the soup is on pork. better doing it home with ‘no meat’ base bought in a shop

  6. klara says:

    was in China for 2 years. never hungry! Disanxian (the dish with potato, eggplant and paprika) is great! teacher said that this is what farmers eat in winter- there is all nutrition you need.

    warning! huoguo/hotpot is not ok for vegetarians. even if you order no meat the soup will be on pork.

  7. Mohan Subramaniam says:

    I have lived in China for a few months and realised that there is no such thing as vegetarian dish unless you dine in a Buddhist temple. I have often emphasis to the cook that I am a total vegetarian and they nod as if they understood. Guess what, each time my order comes to my table, some form of meat or seafood are in them. So I am not surprise at the above so call ‘vegetarian dishes’.

    • Keoni Everington (华武杰) says:

      I feel your pain Mohan. A lot of foreigners give up being vegetarians once they move to China. Pork is pretty much in everything.

  8. Gandhi says:

    are you kiddin’ me? how is ground pork & dried shrimp vegetarian??

    • Keoni Everington (华武杰) says:

      Like we said before Gandhi, this was a reblog from China Adventurer and the list reflects the reality on the ground in China. Almost all dishes are bathed in pork and other meats, thus we mention this as a caveat for vegitarians to be sure to ask for them to be removed at the restaurant or to simply not include them when making the dish yourself. Our in-house vegan, Tash, wrote another top 10 list of meat free dishes in response to this blog:

  9. Dragon says:

    I am a “part time vegetarian” and find these recipes amazing.
    Just take out the pork/meat/fish out of them and they are great.

  10. kris says:

    Pork is not vegetarian, Nor is Shrimp or eggs. This article is so useless .This person has no clue what vegetarian or vegan means

    • Keoni Everington (华武杰) says:

      I hate to burst your bubble Kris, but vegetarianism is an alien concept in modern China were eating meat is considered a treat and a luxury after decades starvation during the Great Leap Forward, Cultural Revolution, etc… They understand that Muslim people don’t eat pork, so they’ll exclude that on request. Otherwise, you’re going to have to be very very precise on what you do and do not want in the dish, that includes not frying in animal oil. Fortunately, we have a blog that can help you on that:

  11. krishna says:

    I like this foods

  12. Michael Howell says:

    I don’t know what everyone’s problem is. The author has clearly stated where meat and eggs are present in the dishes, so instead of insulting him, why not go back and read for yourself?

    • Keoni Everington (华武杰) says:

      Amen Michael Howell! Finally a voice of reason!

  13. Yifan says:

    I’m Chinese and I love this dish, Isn’t the dish Tomatoes and Eggs called 番茄炒鸡蛋【fan qie chao ji dan]?

  14. Abner Andrey says:

    You sort of have an awfully twisted idea of what vegetarian stands for.

  15. sandy says:

    I just saw your article and would like to comment many of us are vegetarian that can’t eat root vegetables like onion, garlic. I am sure that it is possible to find those vegetarian dishes in China, but Taiwan is a better bet for vegetarian.. cheers

  16. Josiah says:

    I certainly love the dishes, at least from their look.How can a Nigerian avail himself of these?

  17. SUMI GUPTA says:

    Its really great to hv an idea b4 outing..

  18. rajesh kumar says:

    Amazing blog ! looks for delicious. delicious food, i love chinese food. thankyou for shearing this information with us!Online chinese Food Delivery

  19. Loise says:

    very good

  20. chhaviraj pandey says:

    I am from Nepal & I am oriental chef I like New disease of Chinese food

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