Answer: Yes. Vegans can eat rice noodles. They are also gluten-free and low-calorie.
Are Rice Noodles Vegan?
Rice noodles are precisely what they sound like: noodles made of rice. They are prominent in many Asian dishes as an alternative way to use rice. While rice noodles themselves are simple, the recipes they are involved in can be complex and nuanced. On their own, rice noodles rarely contain animal products or ingredients derived from animal parts. Rice noodles are gluten-free since they use rice as the main ingredient.
Yes, vegans can eat rice noodles. Rice noodles usually only contain rice and water. Rice noodles are gluten-free. Rice noodles make an excellent substitute for other noodles in Asian cuisine. Rice noodles cook quickly and blend into the flavors around them.
What Are Rice Noodles?
Rice noodles are, simply, noodles made of rice. They can easily be bought at almost any grocery store and come dried and packaged for extended shelf life. They are just one of the many types of noodles that have evolved over hundreds of years.
Something to watch out for is pre-cooked noodles in processed packs of food, often in microwaveable meals. These sometimes contain oils or preservatives to keep cooked noodles from sticking together.
The only ingredient you’re guaranteed to find in rice noodles is rice. Most noodles also contain water, and many have additional binding agents like tapioca starch. They are usually thinner and less calorie-dense than other noodle options. This makes rice noodles a great choice when modifying recipes.
While rice noodles’ origin is ancient China, they have spread throughout the world as a popular carb base for many recipes. Rice noodles can be wide and thick. They can also be thin, like angel hair pasta, known as rice vermicelli. Many countries have their own signature dishes that feature rice noodles or rice vermicelli as the main ingredient.
Popular Dishes With Rice Noodles
With so many dishes using rice noodles available, it can be tricky to choose one to start with. Since they are so versatile, try throwing them into a stir-fry or Asian pasta recipe that you already enjoy.
One of the most well-known and popular Vietnamese dishes is pho. It is a soup dish that contains long, flat rice noodles, a protein like chicken or beef, and vegetables all plopped into a hot, rich beef broth. Fish sauce and oyster sauce are used in a lot of Southeast Asian cuisine to add flavor, so even if a restaurant seems to have vegetarian options, it is good to ask about this one. Many Asian countries see few vegans, though this is slowly changing, and may think that fish sauce is even okay on a vegetarian diet.
Pho is not traditionally vegetarian or vegan, and many argue that authentic pho always has beef broth. That said, vegan options have recently grown in popularity. Using mushrooms to mimic the umami of the meat and aromatic spices to kick up the heartiness, vegan-friendly pho can be a new and exciting way to enjoy rice noodles.
Another dish that often has hidden fish sauce syndrome is the stir-fried pad Thai. This rice noodle dish from Thailand is easier to make vegan if you make it yourself. The sweet and tangy flavor of pad Thai sauce is vital to making the dish work, but you can recreate the fish sauce flavor with soy sauce, mushrooms, or even caramelized onions.
Once you get over the hurdle of fish sauce and leave out the chicken, pad Thai works excellently with a vegan diet. Full of protein from tofu, peanuts, and bean sprouts, pad Thai is a quick and healthy way to use rice noodles.
Bihun is the Filipino name for rice vermicelli. Since bihun is so thin and quick to cook, this makes an excellent base for your vegetables and tofu. Rice vermicelli cooks in about three or four minutes and absorbs flavors well. After pre-cooking, you simply toss bihun in your favorite sauce over the heat.
Where to Get Rice Noodles
Any grocery store worth its salt will carry rice noodles, especially since Asian cuisine is currently the fastest-growing food type in the United States. Going to an Asian supermarket or health food store can ensure you’ll find rice noodles while also making more ingredients available for you to mix and match. Try making one of the famous rice noodle dishes above at home. If you want prepackaged vegan meals with rice noodles, here are some options.
Asian Best Rice Noodles
This is one of the main distribution companies for rice noodles in the United States. These only contain rice flour and water as ingredients and are even available online. Asian Best rice noodles come in various sizes and are the easiest way to get low-cost vegan rice noodles.
Annie Chun’s is another major supplier of Asian cuisine in America, and they are proactive about labeling their vegan options. Annie Chun’s also has ready-made meals available, which are sometimes vegan. Their pad Thai noodles are thick and ready to be spiced up and tossed with the protein and veggies of your choice.
Annie Chun’s also has vegan pho, although it comes with wheat-based Hokkien noodles that are more Chinese. If you don’t have gluten sensitivity, these would still be a great vegan option.
This is Whole Foods’ Asian cuisine store brand. They have a variety of rice noodle options in-store and online. Saffron Market even carries pre-made vegan pad thai meals that serve as easy lunches or lazy dinners.
Health Benefits of Rice Noodles
Overall, rice noodles are a healthier option than many other types of noodles. They contain several trace minerals and vitamins that can contribute to a healthy diet. The main benefit to rice noodles, though, is how you dress them up. They provide a simple slate that adapts well to many other ingredients. Also, switching out egg noodles for rice noodles in many Asian dishes is a great step towards making a recipe vegan-friendly.
It is estimated that up to 6% of the global population is gluten intolerant or has gluten sensitivity to some degree. Even if you can chow down on bread all day without feeling poorly, gluten should be limited in a well-rounded diet. Rice noodles are naturally gluten-free, making them a great way to incorporate various carbs or work around gluten sensitivity in your family.
Nutritional Information for Rice Noodles
At around 100 calories per 100 g of rice noodles, these have slightly fewer calories than many denser noodles on the market. Like any noodles (besides the shirataki noodles with 0g everything), rice noodles function best as the carb that binds all the other ingredients together. Rice noodles also contain a ton of micronutrients and trace minerals that contribute to a healthy diet.
Rice noodles contain manganese, which is an essential nutrient for bone health. Manganese may also help regulate blood sugar, making rice noodles better for people with blood sugar than wheat-based noodles.
Selenium is another nutrient with antioxidant properties that are found in rice and rice noodles. Taking selenium supplements is considered by some to be risky since the body only needs a small amount to function properly. But making sure you have some natural selenium in your diet is important.
Rice noodles also have decent phosphorus levels, which is an excellent mineral for healthy bones and teeth. Phosphorus also impacts how your body uses carbs and sugar. Proper phosphorus levels are necessary for the proper regulation of your kidneys and heartbeat.
What Can Rice Noodles Replace?
Many popular noodles in Asian cuisine contain eggs as the main ingredient. Ramen noodles, flat egg noodles, and chow mein all contain eggs. Switching these out in soups and stir-fries will let you enjoy more variety while remaining vegan.
For various factors, rice noodles and rice vermicelli make an excellent option for many vegan dishes. Vegans can eat rice noodles as long as they watch for stealthy inclusions like the fish sauce in rice noodle dishes. Many prepackaged options provide a wealth of easy vegan meals. The health benefits and gluten-free ingredients are also great reasons to try rice noodles. Try to find your favorite way to prepare this versatile and ancient ingredient.