Let’s talk ramen. I’m pretty sure the term “veg-friendly” isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of ramen. If you’re a ramen lover, you’re probably most familiar with tonkotsu ramen, where the broth is made of pork bones and comes topped with pork belly… it’s extremely meat focused. But in New York City, meatless ramen is on the rise. Ramen traditionalists can whine all they want, but new age ramen (that’s what I’ve been calling it for years) is here to stay. No ramen eaters should be left behind!
If you’ve followed my blog for some time, you’ve witnessed my journey from ramen loving omnivore to ramen loving vegan. At one point, I devised a big plan of ranking every ramen bowl based on three criteria: broth, noodles, toppings. Then I threw that plan out the window and decided on a full roundup of every vegetarian and vegan ramen I’ve tried in NYC. The good, the mediocre, the bad, they’re all here.
All the ramen featured here is vegetarian. Some are accidentally vegan or can be made vegan by omitting the egg or requesting egg-free noodles. I had some of these bowls before I stopped eating eggs. I recommend that you double check ingredients with the restaurant if it’s important to you that it be strictly vegan. The bowls listed as “confirmed vegan” are the ones that explicitly say “vegan” on the restaurant’s menu.
Here are the standouts! These are the ramen bowls that I won’t shut up about, I’ve recommended to friends, I’ve gone back for additional rounds, or I won’t forget because they are atypical for ramen.
Hozon Ramen, Momofuku Noodle Bar
It’s no secret that this is one of my (or possibly even my favorite) ramen in NYC. This is as close as you get to vegetarian tonkotsu. Rich, silky broth and bouncy, al dente noodles. Chickpeas and kale are unusual for ramen toppings, but it works.
East Village, momofuku.com
XO Miso Ramen, Nakamura
Made of Momofuku’s vegan XO sauce, this broth is packed with serious umami. The noodles and toppings are fine, but this bowl is really all about that fabulous broth. Confirmed vegan.
Lower East Side, nakamuranyc.com
Wasabi Shoyu Ramen, Ippudo East
If you’re not careful, the wasabi infused steam from the piping hot broth may hurt your eyes a little, but it is so worth it. In typical Ippudo fashion, the noodles are perfect. The bean curd makes for a tasty, meaty topping.
East Village, ippudony.com
Shojin Ramen, Ippudo West
Zen Buddhist cuisine meets ramen, and the result is elegant and refined. The flavors are bright and delicate. This isn’t your typical comfort food style ramen, but is definitely worth trying if you’re open to something a little different. Confirmed vegan.
Midtown West, ippudony.com
Vegan Miso Ramen, MokBar
If I’m remembering correctly, this was the very first vegan ramen I had in NYC. Overall, an excellent bowl of ramen with an especially tasty kombu shiitake doenjang broth. MokBar also wins bonus points for having plenty of vegan appetizers! Confirmed vegan.
Mushroom Ramen, Dassara Ramen
This unique mushroom and walnut broth has an almost gravy-like richness. I visited with an omnivore who declared that this meatless ramen stole the show that night.
Carroll Gardens, dassara.com
Veggie Miso Ramen, Chuko Ramen
Apparently, this miso broth is emulsified, then topped with ginger-scallion oil. Whatever they’re doing with the broth, they should keep at it as it’s delicious. I’ve even come across meat eaters who declared this bowl their favorite at Chuko.
Prospect Heights, chukobk.com
Yasai Ramen, Hinata Ramen
The MSG-free Yasai Ramen comes with a light, but still satisfying broth. Very generous with toppings. Pro tip: ask for the egg-free wavy noodles to make it vegan.
Midtown East, hinataramen.com
Vegetarian Ramen, Mr Taka Ramen
One of the better tasting soy milk broths I’ve had, but I would probably get it spicy if I were to go back. The noodles are egg-free, so just pass on the egg topping to make it vegan.
Lower East Side, mrtakaramen.com
Alpha & Omega Ramen, Union Republic
Fine, this is in Jersey City, but you can easily get there on the PATH using your MTA card. A veggie loaded ramen bowl that’s heavy on garlic in a good way.
Journal Square, unionrepublic.com
Miso Butter Mazemen, Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop
Mazemum is ramen’s more saucy sister that for some reason has never managed to win over NYC in the same way as regular ramen. Ivan’s miso mazemen is rich and silky, almost like a carbonara sauce. A very indulgent bowl.
Hell’s Kitchen, ivanramen.com
Vegetable Ramen, Totto Ramen
One of the most colorful veggie ramen bowls in town. Seaweed and shiitake broth topped with a mountain of vegetables, yuzu paste, and a lime wedge. Overall, pretty good ramen even though it looks more like a salad.
Midtown West, Hell’s Kitchen, Midtown East, tottoramen.com
If you’re craving ramen, here are some good options. You probably won’t be dreaming about these bowls for days to come, but you’ll leave the restaurant happy.
Vegetarian Shoyu Ramen, Ivan Ramen
Light and chewy rye noodles in a veggie shoyu broth. Light, but it’s still enjoyable. However, the highlight of the meal was the Tofu Coney Island.
Vegetarian Miso Ramen, Ramen by Mew
Smooth and satisfying miso broth, and you can get real chewy vegan noodles for an extra $2. FYI, Ramen by Mew is now Mew Men so they menu may have changed.
Vegetable Miso Ramen, Kambi Ramen
Gigantic bowl of velvety miso ramen from one of the older ramen-ya in town. I highly recommend sharing it if you’re not in hangry beast mode.
Vegetarian Miso Ramen, Kopi Ramen
Make sure you ask for the vegetable broth when you order the miso ramen at this hidden speakeasy ramen-ya. Pretty tasty, and a welcome addition to the area.
Mini Veggie Ramen, Genji Izakaya
Not bad for a restaurant that’s inside a grocery store. Tasty vegetable based broth. Don’t be fooled by the word “mini” on the menu as the $7 ramen bowls are plenty filling.
Here’s the stuff that isn’t so great. I recommend that you pass on the following:
I’ll give Ramen Takumi credit for being the first to have multiple vegetarian options on the menu, but nowadays, there are much better options in town. They gotta step up their game.
Vegetable Ramen, Jin Ramen
I had the vegetable ramen with a mushroom broth that was very light (read: boring). I loved Jin when I was an omnivore, but the veggie option seems like an afterthought.
Yasai Ramen, Ganso Ramen
The shiitake soy milk broth has an interesting nuttiness to it, but is pretty bland. The thick, juicy slices of tofu were tasty though.
Vegetable Ramen, Hide-Chan Ramen
Similar to the bowl at Totto, which isn’t a surprise as last I checked they were owned by the same owner. On my last visit, some of the toppings were icy cold. Totto does it better.
Vegetable Ramen, Setagaya Ramen
For under $10, the elements in this bowl aren’t all bad, but this one needs an overall flavor boost to make it more exciting.
Vegetable Miso Ramen, Rai Rai Ken
Fairly light for a miso broth. It was fine as a midnight snack after some drinking, but not enough to get me to go back and try it sober.
Yasai Ramen, Ramen-Ya
Noodles were good, and they pack a lot of them into the bowl. The broth wasn’t the best. Very heavy, salty miso.
Yasai Vegetable Ramen, Lucky Cat Ramen
Very mediocre with an oily broth (not in good way). Some of the veggie toppings were cooked to a mush.
Ramen that was on my radar, but I didn’t get to try before leaving NYC:
Mentoku has a matcha ramen, and the broth looks insanely green. I didn’t get a chance to try this one before moving away from NYC, but word on the street is that it’s pretty good.
Apparently Misoya now has a separate menu with vegetarian options. No mention of it on their website. Sounds like it’s worth checking out if you’re a miso fan.
I’ve heard great things about the vegan option at Mu. Unfortunately, it’s not a regular menu item, and even when I called them the morning of, they couldn’t confirm if it would be served that evening.
This place seems to be a hot ramen spot these days. They’ve got a $18 vegetable ramen listed on the menu, but no description to accompany it. Mysterious.
Apparently, vegan Latin restaurant V-Spot offers a vegan ramen once a week during the winter months. I was expecting some kind of Latin fusion ramen, but it doesn’t look like that on Instagram.