Have you been invited to dine at a Korean BBQ restaurant? Are you wondering what you can eat that’s animal-friendly? We have you covered! While each restaurant will vary in what it offers and how it prepares specific dishes, we’ve found a few common offerings that will point you in the right direction. As always, be sure to check with the restaurant for details about vegan options—some spots have special vegan menus, so don’t be shy.
Here are some vegan options you might find at a Korean BBQ restaurant:
Banchan Is Your Friend (Usually)
Banchan are the small side dishes that arrive at your table. They can vary from bean sprouts in sesame oil to pickled cucumbers to spicy daikon. Just steer clear of items that look creamy—like dressed cabbage shreds and potato salad—and you’ll be off to a great start. It’s also a good idea to ask if any dishes contain fish (particularly the kimchi).
Get Lit … With Veggies
Ditch roasting meat on that sizzling plate, because cows and pigs are individuals who simply want to spend their lives in peace, without having them cut short by a human’s appetite. Depending on the restaurant’s availability, you can request an array of fresh vegetables and mushrooms to grill up instead. Season them with a dipping mixture of soy sauce, vinegar, and Korean chili powder, and you’re good to go.
You Can’t Go Wrong With Tofu
If you’re hungry for more after the veggies, reach for some tofu. Some places carry “tofu steak,” which are slabs of tofu served on a sizzling plate—yum! Other versions include sundubu, a spicy tofu stew. Make it vegan by requesting a water-based broth and ask for no egg in your piping-hot bowl.
Rice Will Fill You Up
Warm steamed rice is a given, but if you’re looking for an all-in-one bowl, go for bibimbap. Dolsot bibimbap is served in a stone pot (be careful—it comes out super-hot!) with a mix of fresh sautéed vegetables. Get yours without beef and ask the server to hold the egg, then stir the ingredients with gochujang (a spicy sauce) and enjoy!
Japchae is a dish of stir-fried glass noodles made from sweet potato, which are tossed with fresh vegetables and a sweet soy- and sesame-based sauce. It’s often made with meat, so be sure to ask for only veggies when you order. It’s also delicious with tofu!
This Korean street food of soft, chewy stewed rice cakes can sometimes be ordered vegan—just ask if the sauce contains any fish, egg, or cheese before you order.
Make It at Home
Korean BBQ is so easy to make at home, and it can be a fun dinner party idea! Make seitan or tofu bulgogi from scratch, or use an accidentally vegan marinade. Grab freshly made banchan from your local Korean market. You can also find ready-made Korean-inspired meals at Trader Joe’s, including beefless bulgogi, tteokbokki, kimchi tofu soup, and japchae.
Don’t sweat it—our dining tips will help you figure out how to find vegan-friendly dishes at all your favorite restaurants. We’ve also got you covered with our comprehensive guide to going vegan and our free vegan starter kit: