We all need a quick Friday night vegan dish idea in our back pocket. The kind we’ll pull out when our day has been flipped upside down due to unpleasant surprises (leaky toilet, web site break down, tantrum over lost toy…). The kind of recipe that, once we remember it exists, switches on a light bulb in our mind. “Oh, YES. I can do this quickly and it will be SO GOOD.” For me, that quick Friday night vegan dish is Coco-peanut noodles.
I bet that, if you try it this week, it will go on your “emergency dinner” list – above the phone number of the pizza place with the vegan cheese. You’ll love it because not only it’s tastier, but it’s also way cheaper, more nutritious, and catches all the leftover produce in your fridge so you can avoid waste and start the new week afresh.
Make it a last-minute affair, or prep it ahead
Let’s face it: our kitchen lives are not completely unpredictable. It is practically guaranteed that, a few days a month, if not a few days a week, something will go awry and sap your desire to follow whatever meal plan you had created for yourself. So while it’s a great idea to have a go-to list of quick Friday night vegan dishes, you can also be fully prepared with some basic meal building blocks ready-made in your fridge or freezer.
The coco-peanut sauce that accompanies these noodles is a perfect example of the kind of “emergency food” you can have in the freezer. (If you’d like to learn more about my concept of emergency food, look up my 5,000-Meal Solution course. There’s a module exactly on that topic.)
You can make the sauce ahead of time and freeze it. It would be ideal to transfer it to the fridge 24 hours ahead to thaw, but if necessary you can use your microwave oven to liquefy it much quicker. (The beauty of vegan sauces is that they practically always freeze beautifully. A few twists of the whisk brings them back to their just-cooked state.)
But you can still make this really, really fast, especially if you have a blender because then you won’t even need to mince the garlic and ginger. Simply throw the sauce ingredients into the blender container and wait for the noodles to be ready to drain. At that time, transfer some of the hot cooking water to the blender and vrrrrrrrrrrooom! Process for a minute or two and bam! Your sauce is ready.
Great for using leftover produce and herbs
Another reason this is a Friday night favorite is because it’s a good way to use whatever leftover vegetables are in the fridge. That’s especially important to me because I get groceries on the weekend and I love to put the new produce in fresh, empty drawers.
- Carrots and bits of bell pepper? Check.
- Chunks of red cabbage or broccoli florets? Go for it!
- Last handful of spinach? Yes!
- Abandoned baby bok choy? Throw it in!
- Slightly wilted cilantro? No-one will notice.
You could even add pieces of fruit like chunks of pineapple, or add the flesh of a sad orange (minus the seeds) into the blender (count it as part of the liquid).
Also scour your condiments and seasonings for extra punch. If you bought fermented bean paste, dehydrated tamarind, or fancy hot sauce, now’s the time to use a little bit. Just add to that blender.
For toppings, I suggest sesame seeds (a great source of iron), but chopped almonds, pumpkin seeds, toasted cashews, or sunflower seeds will work just as well.
Other great garnishes and flavor boosters include vegan kimchi, fresh cilantro, and toasted sesame oil. Vegan “fish” sauce is also terrific to light up this quick Friday night vegan dish.
A great, quick Friday night vegan dish… perfect for any night of the week
Coco-peanut noodles: prep ahead and on-the-spot instructions
- 3 cloves garlic roughly chopped (or minced if not using a blender)
- 2-inch piece ginger roughly chopped (or minced if not using a blender)
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar or lime juice
- 1/3 cup nuts and seeds or 3 tablespooon nut/seed butter (if not using a blender)
- 1 or 2 dates or 1 tablespoon sweetener if not using a blender (maple syrup or a smaller amount of molasses or brown sugar)
- 1 1/4 cups liquid cooking water from the noodles is best; if prepping ahead, coconut milk is decadent but delicious; vegetable broth or plain water will work
- 1 teaspoon miso paste or 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon chili peppers or hot sauce, to taste
Noodles, veggies, and more
- 3 bundles soba noodles or any noodle you like, really
- 1 block extra-firm tofu or 1 1/2 cups shelled edamame beans or 1 block tempeh
- 1 red onion diced small
- 1 bunch kale stems sliced thinly, leaves wrung and chopped to thin ribbons
- 1 carrot thin half-moons
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- 2 tablespoons lime juice or whatever you get from 1 lime
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds for garnish (optional)
- fresh cilantro for garnish (optional)
- vegan kimchi for garnish (optional)
- toasted sesame oil for extra yumminess (totally optional)
SAUCE - last-minute method
- Place all ingredients except the liquid in the jar of a blender. Proceed with the rest of the recipe but, before draining the noodles, save 1 1/4 cups of the cooking water and add it to the blender. Process until perfectly smooth.
- If you do NOT have a blender, mince the garlic and ginger, substitute nut/seed butter for whole nuts/seeds, and use a regular sweetener instead of a date (maple syrup works great). Add 1 1/4 cups of the cooking water and whisk until smooth.
SAUCE - prep ahead
- Follow instructions above, except use coconut milk, vegetable broth, or water instead. Refrigerate in a labelled container.
- Follow package directions but cook for 30 seconds less so the noodles are al dente.
- Retain 1 1/4 cup of the cooking water when draining if preparing the sauce at the last minute.
- Rinse drained noodles with cold water to stop the cooking.
STIR-FRYING AND ASSEMBLY
- Preheat a heavy skillet or wok on medium heat.
- If using tofu or tempeh, dice and sauté in the skillet for 5 minutes, until golden on all sides. Remove from the skillet and set aside. (If using shelled edamame beans, pour boiling water over the frozen beans and let rest for 5 minutes, then drain before adding into the dish.)
- Add the red onion and kale stems (save the leaves for step 6) to the skillet. Sauté 2 minutes.
- Add the carrot and red bell pepper pieces. Sauté 3 minutes.
- Add the lime juice and scrape the bottom of the skillet energetically to detach caramelized bits.
- Return the tofu or tempeh to the skillet, along with the prepared sauce and noodles. Stir to coat everything nicely. Add the kale leaves and stir again.
- Give the whole thing 2-3 minutes to get evenly warm.
- Serve in bowls with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and any or all of the optional garnishes: fresh cilantro, vegan kimchi, and/or toasted sesame oil (a little goes a long way).
- Slurp away!
- Whether you use oil or not is up to you. Two teaspoons of peanut oil to start the stir-fry is plenty. Otherwise, make sure to have a little bit of water or broth at hand.
- If you aren't used to sweetening with dates, you may prefer a conventional sweetener. By all means, don't tell yourself you have to go to the grocery store to buy dates in order to make this recipe! The point is to avoid eating out, not to make the world's healthiest meal.