Bouncy glass noodles. A rainbow of fresh crisp vegetables. And a sweet and savory sauce that marries the entire dish together. Japchae is made of very simple ingredients, but somehow, it creates a beautiful symphony of flavors and textures! Best of all, this vegetarian japchae recipe is healthy and so easy to follow.
What is Japchae?
Japchae literally translates to mixed vegetables. The vibrant colors from all the veggies really pop against the bouncy savory noodles. How can you not feel a spark of joy when looking at this rainbow-colored dish??
Although commonly served as a side dish, Japchae could also be eaten as an entree if you make a large enough batch. Regardless of which way you choose to serve it, it’s guaranteed that everyone will love it!
What are Korean glass noodles made of?
These bouncy chewy noodles are typically made from sweet potato starch! Sometimes, they can also be made from arrowroot or tapioca starch. Most commonly though, you’ll notice the key ingredient is either sweet potato or mung bean starch.
Cooking Methods for This Vegetarian Japchae Recipe
Unlike many Asian rice noodles, these sweet potato starch noodles don’t require any soaking and cook up very quickly. Simply toss in boiling water (in this case, we’ll be using the same water we cook the spinach to save even more time and effort!). It’ll only need 5 - 7 minutes to cook, then drain, and run under cold water to stop the cooking. The noodles should NOT be al dente, but soft yet chewy instead.
Some recipes call for the noodles to be cooked again in the pan with the sauce and cooked veggies. However, I noticed the noodles weren't as bouncy the next day. So instead, mix together all the cooked ingredients with the sauce and serve. It’s much less effort that keeps your noodles chewier for a longer period of time.
Japchae typically requires the vegetables to be cooked separately. I know this may sound cumbersome, but it truly makes a world of difference. Each vegetable has different cooking times and by cooking them separately, a couple of things happen.
First, you eliminate the risk of having any of your vegetables over or undercooking. No one wants soggy bell peppers or raw mushrooms! Hard pass. And secondly, you can really enhance the flavor, texture, and color of each veggie.
The egg is actually one of my favorite parts of making this dish! It takes a simple scrambled egg to a whole new fun level! Scramble and cook the eggs in a pan, as usual, then once the top of the egg is set, roll the egg into a log. Place it onto a cutting board and slice the rolled egg into beautiful golden strips of ribbons. How fun is that!?
The perfect vegetarian Japchae recipe has a variety of textures, flavors, and colors all combined into one dish. It’s chewy from the glass noodles, yet crunchy from the fresh vegetables. It’s savory from the soy sauce and sesame oil yet has a hint of sweetness to round out the flavor. It has mellow earthy tones from the noodles that are contrasted with the vibrant veggies. It’s a delicious rainbow in one scrumptious bite!
What’s your favorite thing about Japchae? Let me know in the comments section below!
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Vegetarian Japchae Recipe
Noodles & Vegetables:
- 2 eggs beaten
- 12 oz sweet potato glass noodles
- ½ red bell pepper sliced
- 2 carrots finely julienned
- ½ onion sliced
- 3 ½ oz shiitake mushrooms sliced
- 3 green onions sliced
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds optional for garnish
- 12 oz baby spinach
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- In a mixing bowl, combine the sauce ingredients. Set aside.
- Heat a medium skillet on medium heat, then add ½ teaspoon of oil. Add the beaten eggs and once they're set, begin to roll the egg into a log. Remove it from the pan, let it cool, then cut the egg log into strips of ribbon.
- In a large pot, bring water to boil. Blanch spinach by cooking spinach until wilted. Remove spinach from the pot, while keeping the water boiling for the noodles. Rinse spinach under cold water, then squeeze any excess water out. Place in a bowl, mix in sesame oil and salt, then set aside.
- In the same pot of boiling water, add noodles and stir to prevent sticking. Cook until noodles are soft, 5 - 7 minutes. Noodles should be soft, yet chewy - not al dente. Drain, run under cold water, then use scissors to cut noodles. Set aside.
- In the large skillet on medium heat, cook each of the vegetables separately with a ½ teaspoon of oil and a pinch of salt. Cooking vegetables separately prevents over or under-cooking the vegetables. Start by adding ½ teaspoon of oil to the pan, then the carrots. Salt and cook until tender with a little crunch still. Set aside. Repeat the process for cooking the remaining vegetables individually. Set them aside.
- Toss together japchae in a large serving bowl or plate. If the noodles get stuck together, run them under cold water to loosen them up before combining them with everything else. Combine the noodles, eggs, green onions, cooked vegetables, and sauce mixture. Sprinkle on sesame seeds, if desired, and enjoy!
- Sweet Potato Glass Noodles: Also called glass noodles, these noodles are super chewy! You can easily find them at local Asian markets or Amazon.
- Mushrooms: Shitake mushrooms are common in japchae, however, you can swap it out for button or oyster mushrooms. For an even meatier texture and flavor, you can also use dried mushrooms. Just rehydrate them in water, slice them, and follow the recipe instructions.
Nutrition information is calculated by software based on the ingredients in each recipe. It is an estimate only and provided for informational purposes. Nutrition may vary based on product availability, methods of preparation, origin, and freshness of ingredients, etc. Please consult with your physician or registered dietitian if precise nutrition calculations are needed for health reasons.