These creamy vegan tteokbokki (Korean rice cakes) in curried coconut milk sauce are the easy one-pot comfort food you didn’t know you needed.
Sometimes, incorporating just one new ingredient into your kitchen life can open an entire world of possibilities. Such was the case for me and Korean rice cakes (“tteok”).
I first tasted the magical chewy cylinders in a homey Korean restaurant we used to go to in Syracuse. Their tteokbokki (stir-fried rice cakes – traditionally a late-night snack) were coated in a bright red chili sauce, laced with scallions and cabbage, and sprinkled with sesame seeds. The spicy sauce would prickle the inside of your mouth, prompting you to alternate bites of chewy rice cake with gulps of cold beer in a delicious self-perpetuating cycle.
Frozen rice cakes are readily available in Korean markets, but luckily for those of us without one nearby, they’re now sold at Trader Joe’s. I’ve been using TJ’s version to make this creamy vegan tteokbokki with coconut milk and am obsessed with it. It’s a comforting one-pan meal that’s ready in around 30 minutes.
What’s In This Creamy Vegan Tteokbokki
My non-spicy take on vegan tteokbokki is made possible by coconut milk, which envelops the rice cakes in a thick, rich sauce. They’re savory thanks to shiitake mushrooms, sweet thanks to corn, and there’s a hint of citrusy brightness from lemon juice to balance everything out.
Buying Korean Rice Cakes
The most common style of rice cakes you’ll find in Korean stores are cylinder-shaped; they’re ultra chewy and gelatinous. Trader Joe’s sells the sliced, oval-shaped ones, which are thinner, less chewy, and cook more quickly. Look for them in the freezer section.
Key Ingredients + Substitutions
- Korean Rice Cakes: Look for the frozen oval-shaped version at Korean markets or Trader Joe’s. You can use the cylinder version, too – they’ll just take longer to cook.
- Shiitake Mushrooms: Lend umami to this creamy dish. You can sub with oyster or even enoki mushrooms.
- Napa Cabbage: Adds lightness and a bit of crunch.
- Frozen Corn: Adds pops of sweetness. You can sub with kernels cut fresh off the cob.
- Coconut Milk: Creates a rich, creamy sauce reminiscent of mac-and-cheese.
- Soy Sauce: Flavors the dish with salty umami.
- Thai Red Curry Paste: Adds a spicy, floral, tangy note.
- Lemon or Lime Juice: Balances the richness of the sauce.
Creamy Vegan Tteokbokki Step-by-Step
- Brown the Mushrooms. Begin by cooking the mushrooms in a large high-sided pan until nicely browned, about 8 minutes.
- Add the Aromatics. Stir in the garlic, ginger, and curry paste, and cook for 1 minute more.
- Create the Sauce. Add the coconut milk, soy sauce, lemon juice, and sesame oil, and bring to a simmer.
- Add the Rice Cakes. Add the rice cakes and corn to the bubbling sauce, reduce the heat to low, and cover the pan tightly with a lid. Simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally to make sure the cakes aren’t sticking together, until they’re soft and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. In the last few minutes of cooking, add the cabbage and cook just until it wilts. Serve immediately.
A lot of preparations suggest soaking rice cakes first, but I’ve found this step can be skipped with Trader Joe’s sliced cakes. If you’re working with the cylindrical version, though, I suggest soaking them in a bowl of warm water for 10 minutes before adding to the pan for quicker, more even cooking.
Korean rice cakes have a gelatinous texture, which means that once they cool, they become stiff (unlike, say, pasta). Therefore, if you just pop them in the microwave, they will not re-soften right away. To reheat tteokbokki properly – whether in the microwave or on the stove – add a splash of water and warm gradually, stirring every now and then until they’re soft and chewy again.
The Full RecipePrint
Creamy vegan tteokbokki in curried coconut milk sauce are an easy one-pot comfort food you didn’t know you needed.
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
- 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1-inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- 2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
- One 13-ounce can full-fat coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- One 16-ounce package sliced frozen Korean rice cakes* (see note below)
- 1 cup frozen corn kernels
- 4 cups napa cabbage cut into 3/4-inch strips (about 1/4 of a standard head)
- Sliced scallions and sesame seeds, for serving
- Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms with a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, about 8 minutes.
- Add the garlic, ginger, and curry paste, and cook for 1 minute more.
- Add the coconut milk, soy sauce, lemon juice, and sesame oil. Bring to a simmer.
- Add the rice cakes and corn, and stir to coat (they should be mostly submerged). Cover the skillet tightly with a lid and bring the liquid back to a simmer. Then reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice cakes are soft all the way through, 8 to 10 minutes. In the last 2 minutes of cooking, stir in the cabbage.
- Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed. Scatter the scallions and sesame seeds on top, and serve immediately.
Look for frozen rice cakes at Korean markets or Trader Joe’s. You can use the cylinder version, too – they’ll just take longer to cook.
- Serving Size: 1/6 of the recipe
- Calories: 415