Rice noodles are very popular in Asian cuisine, and are especially prevalent in Korean, Vietnamese, and Thai food.
Rice noodles have a very different taste compared to your everyday wheat-based noodles or egg noodles. This is due to the fact that they’re made with rice flour instead of wheat, which gives them a totally different flavor profile.
Are rice noodles vegan, though?
Rice noodles, by themselves, are almost always vegan. Rice noodles are typically made with rice flour and water. Occasionally, starch, tapioca, or salt are added to improve the taste and texture. All of these ingredients are 100% plant-based and vegan, though!
Below, I’ll explain everything you ever wanted to know about rice noodles. I’ll show you exactly what they’re made of and answer some of the most commonly asked questions about them.
Do Rice Noodles Have Eggs?
I always tell my readers to exercise caution when they’re eating out, especially when it comes to noodles.
While the majority of Italian-style pasta noodles are vegan, the noodles used in Asian cuisine often contain eggs. That’s because egg noodles are an incredibly popular dish in China and Southeastern Asia.
Egg noodles are just like traditional wheat noodles, except for the fact that the dough contains added whole eggs. The eggs make the noodles thicker and firmer.
This also makes for a more “slippery” noodle. Egg noodles also have more protein and fat than plain noodles, which makes them more filling and savory.
Unfortunately, egg noodles are never vegan due to the fact that eggs simply aren’t vegan.
Thankfully, rice noodles aren’t typically made with eggs. While the occasional homemade or fusion-style recipe may call for egg rice noodles, these are few and far between.
Compared to egg noodles, rice noodles are incredibly light. Since they contain less protein and fat, they’re the perfect choice for a light lunch or dinner meal that won’t leave you too stuffed.
What Are Rice Noodles Made Of? Simple Ingredients
Rice noodles were first consumed under the Qin Dynasty in China around 2,000 years ago. This makes rice noodles one of the older foods in Asia.
The simple, low-cost noodles became popular due to the fact that they were easy to make (given the abundant rice paddies in China) and were affordable.
Since the noodles were first created by rice farmers, the recipe has changed very little. The same white rice flour used by the ancient Chinese is being used today. Here’s a quick rundown of the main ingredients you’ll find in rice noodles.
1) Rice Flour & Water
All noodles are made from thick dough. This dough is then stretched and cut into long, thin strands of raw pasta. Authentic restaurants that make their own noodles will drop these strands straight into boiling water.
However, most of today’s pasta noodles are dried and dehydrated, which gives them a longer shelf life.
To make the dough for rice noodles, a simple recipe consisting mostly of rice flour and water is used. Rice flour is 100% vegan and is very similar to all-purpose wheat flour. The only difference is that rice grains are ground to make flour instead of dried wheat fruit.
When combined with water, the rice flour forms into a thick dough, which is then rolled to strengthen and lengthen it.
Although starch isn’t required it’s often added to the rice noodle dough or used on the preparation surface to prevent the noodles from sticking to the table or pasta-cutting machinery.
Starch is a very simple sugar that’s found within all plants. It’s often used as a drying or thickening agent for candy, snacks, noodles, and many other foods.
The most common type of starch used for rice noodles is rice starch. However, sometimes corn starch is also used, as it’s more readily available and a bit more affordable.
Some companies may use modified food starch, which is a more processed variety of starch from time to time as well.
While starch isn’t healthy in large amounts, most noodle recipes only call for a small amount of starch, so it’s not an ingredient that you should worry about in your noodles too much.
Tapioca is a special type of starch that’s extracted from the roots of the cassava plant. Unlike other forms of starch (which are usually tasteless), tapioca has a unique, herbal, and slightly floral flavor.
For this reason, tapioca is often added to rice noodles as a form of thickening starch and as a flavor additive. When combined with the right plant-based rice noodle dish, tapioca rice noodles are quite amazing!
Many rice noodle recipes call for a bit of salt to be added to the dough. This serves two purposes. The main reason why salt is added to noodle dough is that it strengthens the dough. This makes for firmer noodles that won’t fall apart or become too stringy.
Additionally, a bit of salt in the dough also makes for better-tasting rice noodles. Some restaurants also add more salt to the water they’re boiling the noodles in to give them an even saltier flavor.
If you’re interested in a behind-the-scenes look at a rice factory, check out this cool video below:
Is Rice Vermicelli Vegan?
If you’ve ever walked down the foreign foods aisle at your local grocery store or visited an Asian specialty supermarket, then you’ve likely come across vermicelli noodles.
Vermicelli is a term used to refer to the ultra-thin noodles used in a variety of traditional dishes in various Asian countries. While the majority of vermicelli is made from rice noodle dough, some vermicelli is also made from wheat dough.
Rice vermicelli is typically vegan-safe since it’s made from the same simple ingredients that traditional rice noodles are made from rice flour, water, and starch. All of these ingredients are plant-based and vegan.
The only difference between regular rice noodles and vermicelli is that the latter is a lot thinner, which lends itself to a different texture.
Are Rice Noodles Gluten-Free?
Whether you have an inflammatory disease or just a minor gluten intolerance, rice noodles are a great choice. They’re 100% gluten-free since they’re made with rice flour, which isn’t a gluten-containing grain.
A growing number of people are developing an intolerance to gluten. Some are born with it, while others develop it later in life.
Gluten is the primary form of protein that’s found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley. When gluten-intolerant individual consumes gluten, they’ll typically suffer from some type of allergic reaction that can range from minor to severe.
For example, I have a little cousin who has celiac disease. Her parents have to keep an epi-pen in the house just in case the girl accidentally eats a piece of bread or some gluten-containing chips.
Other gluten-intolerant individuals I know may only suffer from a stomach ache or diarrhea, though.
Are Rice Noodles Healthy?
Rice noodles are perfectly healthy when they’re eaten in measured amounts. At the end of the day, they are mostly just empty carbs. However, carbs are a part of a healthy diet, as long as they’re not over-consumed.
When combined with some fresh steamed veggies or your favorite plant-based protein, vegan rice noodle dishes can be incredibly healthy!
Conclusion – Are Rice Noodles Vegan-Friendly?
If you’re a vegan, then rice noodles are an excellent choice! They’re almost always vegan and art is traditionally made from simple, plant-based ingredients. Whether you’re eating out or you’re making your own Asian-inspired dish at home, rice noodles are a great, vegan-safe option.
If you’re looking for an interesting protein to pair with your rice noodles, I suggest checking out natto. It’s a Japanese superfood that’s made from fermented soybeans, and is definitely worth checking out!