Each bite of these Korean-inspired tofu noodles packs a punch. Saucy gochujang ramen lays the foundation for a pile of crispy tofu and quick-pickled cucumbers. A bold noodle dish for gochujang lover.
Why This Recipe Works
This dish is composed of four different components—tofu, noodles, sauce and pickled cucumbers—that seamlessly come together to create a dish that’s spicy, cozy, savory and full of texture.
Look for varieties of ramen noodles sold by themselves—just noodles with no seasoning packet. In the test kitchen we like the brand Hakubaku. You can find ramen noodles at your local Asian market, Whole Foods or online at Amazon.
Gochujang is a Korean chili paste. It can be found in any Asian market or near the Asian sauces in most grocery stores. You can also find it online at Amazon. Look for gochujang sold in red rectangular plastic containers—our favorite brands are O’Food or Chung Jung One.
Also known as peking sauce, hoisin is a thick reddish-brown sauce that’s both sweet and savory. It’s largely used in Chinese cooking, so it’s not a traditional Korean ingredient. However, the combination of soybean, garlic, chiles, and spices make it a great addition to our gochujang-based sauce. Look for Hoisin in any Asian market or the Asian section of your local grocery store. You can also purchase it online on Amazon.
We adore Persian cucumbers in the test kitchen. Sometimes labeled as mini cucumbers or snacking cucumbers, these tiny cukes are similar in texture to English cucumbers but far shorter—about 6 inches in length. They’re often sold in packages of a half dozen. If you can’t find them, an English cucumber is a great substitute.
Extra-firm tofu is what you want for this recipe. The firm texture is ideal for frying as it’s denser and contains less water than other varieties of tofu. In the test kitchen we like to press tofu very well before cooking to get even more of a meaty texture.
Test kitchen tips
- The test kitchen found 3 tablespoons of gochujang to be deliciously spicy—if you don’t love a ton of heat, pull back on the amount a bit and use just 2 tablespoons.
- There are two important steps to getting a gorgeous crisp sear on the tofu. First, pressing and drying the tofu before frying and second, pressing on the tofu as it cooks in the hot oil.
Variations on This Recipe
- For a more vegetable-heavy dish, add steamed or sautéed carrots, broccoli, snap peas, bell peppers, shredded cabbage, bell peppers or mushrooms.
- In addition to the cilantro (or instead of) top each bowl with some sliced scallions (green onions).
- If you like the flavors and textures of this dish but want to try it with a different type of protein, try out crispy chicken cutlets.
- For a more flavorful pickled cucumber, use rice wine vinegar instead of regular white vinegar. You could also add a dash of soy sauce and/or honey or maple syrup.
- To make this recipe gluten-free use rice noodles.
Our test kitchen hasn’t tested this recipe using the coily noodles we all love and adore of packaged ramen noodle meals. However, if you ditch the seasoning packet (save it for a future batch of homemade ramen) and cook the noodles according to the package. You’ll need four 3-ounce packages of ramen noodles.
Yes, you can make it up to 3 days ahead of time. The recipe calls for using ½ cup of hot noodle cooking water for blending the sauce. You can substitute with hot water. Store the blended sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
We’ve got tons of recipes on ZK that use gochujang! One of our most popular recipes, Gochujang Noodles, is a delicious way to sneak in some veggies. We’ve also got two great Gochujang meatball recipes—one for Gochujang Turkey Meatballs and another for Korean Beef Meatballs. And if you love a sheetpan dinner, check out our Gochujang Chicken with Crispy Rice.
Crispy Vegan Tofu Noodles with Pickled Cucumbers
- 1 (16-ounce) package extra-firm tofu, cut widthwise into ¼-inch thick slabs
- ⅓ cup cornstarch
- Morton kosher salt
- ¼ cup avocado oil
- 5 Persian cucumbers, or 1 english cucumber, thinly sliced into rounds
- ⅓ cup white vinegar or rice wine vinegar
- 1 (9.5–10 ounce) package dry ramen noodles (Japanese wheat noodles), such as Hakubaku
- 1 small onion or ½ large onion, cut into chunks (about 1 cup)
- 2–3 tablespoons gochujang, depending on spice preference
- 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 large clove garlic
- 1 2-inch knob ginger
- Cilantro for serving
- Line a baking sheet with three layers of paper towels. Arrange tofu on paper towels then top with three more layers of paper towels. Set a second baking sheet on top and weigh down with something heavy, such as a Dutch oven or a few cans; let press for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, for the pickled cucumbers, combine cucumbers, vinegar, ⅓ cup water, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt in a medium bowl. Let sit, scrunching with your hands every few minutes, until cucumbers are softened and lightly pickled, about 10 minutes or until ready to serve.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season water with salt then add noodles and cook 1 minute less than specified by package instructions. Reserve ½ cup noodle cooking water; drain noodles and add back to pot.
- Add onion, gochujang, hoisin, lime juice, toasted sesame oil, garlic, ginger and reserved ½ cup noodle water to a blender. Blend on high until completely smooth, about 1 minute.
- Pour sauce into pot with noodles and toss gently to coat. Keep warm over low heat, stirring occasionally, until tofu is ready.
- Whisk together cornstarch and ½ teaspoon kosher salt in a shallow dish. Cut tofu into ¼-inch thick strips. Dredge tofu in cornstarch to coat.
- Heat ¼ cup oil in a 12-inch stainless steel skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add tofu in an even layer and cook, without moving, until browned and crisp and naturally releases from skillet, about 5 minutes. Using tongs, flip pieces and continue cooking until golden brown, on bottom side, about 5 minutes more. Flip again and cook 5 more minutes until lightly golden browned all over.
- Transfer tofu pieces to a paper-towel-lined plate and sprinkle lightly with kosher salt.
- Adjust consistency of pasta with addition pasta cooking water as needed; season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide noodles and tofu strips between 4 bowls, top each serving with a handful of pickled cucumbers and fresh cilantro.