Bringing Korean Vegan Food to the Thanksgiving Table

Joanne Lee Molinaro remembers her parents being reluctant to bring American dishes to the table, except during the holidays. After turning to a plant-based diet several years ago, she learned to navigate Thanksgiving by incorporating Korean dishes from her childhood into the menu but with a vegan bent. Japonchae, a labor-intensive glass noodle, is usually reserved for holidays. She remembers her elementary school teachers asking for her mother’s spring rolls, which she learned to vegetate and which are devoured at each gathering. A favorite ingredient, Molinaro uses red bean paste in its version of a pie stuffed with challah and pecans. Molinaro’s TikTok tracking resulted in “The Korean Vegan Cookbook: Thoughts and Recipe from Omma’s Cooking. “

JAPCHAE (?? • Korean glass noodles)
For 4 people

I’m not ashamed to admit that I ask for this dish on every birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Why? Because it’s so delicious. It’s basically a hot Korean pasta salad, with naturally gluten-free pasta (sweet potato vermicelli) and a ton of veggies. Because the vegetables need to be julienned and sautéed separately, it can be time consuming and labor intensive, which is why I reserve my requests only for the most special occasions.


  • 5 ounces (140 g) sweet potato vermicelli
  • 4 cups of adult raw spinach (do not use baby spinach)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, more as needed
  • 1 carrot, cut into julienne
  • ¼ cup julienned green pepper
  • ¼ cup julienned red pepper
  • ¼ cup julienned yellow pepper
  • ½ cup julienned red cabbage
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup julienned onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 4 to 5 mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon of sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds


  1. Soak the sweet potato vermicelli in water for about 15 minutes.
  2. In a pot of boiling water, cook the spinach until it turns bright green, about 2 minutes. Drain the spinach and run it under cold water to stop cooking. Wring out as much of the excess liquid as possible and set it aside.
  3. In a very large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add carrots and sauté until starting to soften, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the carrots and place them in a large bowl. Repeat with the red pepper, then the yellow and green bell peppers, followed by the red cabbage, seasoning each to taste with S&P and adding to the bowl with the carrots. If necessary, add more oil to the pan as you go. The reason the vegetables are sautéed separately is to make sure the flavors don’t mix.
  4. In the same pan, heat 1 tablespoon of remaining olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, mushrooms, salt and pepper to taste and sauté until mushrooms are golden, about 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of maple syrup to deglaze the pan. Transfer the onions, mushrooms and garlic to the large bowl of vegetables.
  5. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the soaked vermicelli and cook for 3 minutes. Add ½ cup of cold water to the pot and when the water starts to boil again, add another ½ cup of cold water. When the water comes to a boil, check the noodles to see if they are cooked (they should be tender and springy). Otherwise, repeat.
  6. Drain the cooked noodles and rinse them in very cold water. Shake off excess water and add the noodles to the bowl of vegetables.
  7. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and the remaining 1 tablespoon of maple syrup along with the sesame oil, a pinch of black pepper and the sesame seeds.
  8. Mix using chopsticks or your hands. Taste and add soy sauce, maple syrup (I love mine sweet!) Or black pepper, if you like.

PAHT BBANG (?? • Red bean paste bread)
Makes 2 loaves of bread

This is a delicious braided challah made with a little sweet red bean paste, or paht. Because kidney beans aren’t too sweet, they pair well with the firm, tight crumb of challah. I like to sprinkle the top with a little sea salt and sesame seeds to really bring out the nutty sweetness of the beans.

Similar to a braided challah bread, this bbang paht contains stuffed sweet red bean paste. Photo by Joanne Lee Molinaro.


  • 1 cup (240 g) lukewarm water (between 100 ° and 110 ° F)
  • ½ cup (120 g) plant-based milk, warmed
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 4 teaspoons of active dry yeast
  • 4 cups (560g) bread flour
  • ½ tablespoon of salt
  • ⅓ cup (43 g) extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups (927g) way (sweet red bean paste)
  • 3 tablespoons of vegetable milk (I use nut milk)
  • 1 tablespoon of maple syrup
  • Course of sea salt, for sprinkling
  • 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds


  1. In a small bowl, combine the water, vegetable milk, sugar and yeast. Let stand until mixture begins to foam, about 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and olive oil. Add the yeast mixture and start stirring with a wooden spoon until a dough begins to form.
  3. Remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a floured surface. Knead the dough with your hands for about 5 minutes. Shape dough into a ball and place in medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a lid and set aside in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 400 ° F. Line two baking sheets (or a very large baking sheet) with parchment paper.
  5. Press down on the dough to release the gas. Knead the dough for 2 minutes then shape it into a ball. Divide the dough into two equal portions. Return a portion of the dough to the covered bowl.
  6. Divide the remaining dough into 3 equal pieces. On a floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll a piece of dough into a 10 × 7 inch rectangle. Position the dough so that it is horizontal (i.e. one long side is facing you).

PECAN PAHT (?? • Sweet red bean PIE)
For 8 to 10 people

One Thanksgiving I decided I wanted to make a pecan pie that my family would actually eat. We’re not fans of overly sweet desserts, but my dad loves pecans. The answer to creating a less cloying topping was simple: paht! Not only was the red bean paste much less sweet than the typical custard filling of a traditional pecan pie, but I knew my family would instantly appreciate the familiar flavor. I presented my little pie on Thanksgiving, and since then, I’ve been asked to bake it every year.

Incorporating red bean paste, Joanne Lee Molinaro marries Korean flavors to her vegan palate for a spin on a beloved Thanksgiving dessert. Photo by Joanne Lee Molinaro.


  • 1½ cup (210 g) all-purpose flour (see note)
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • ⅔ cup (152 g) cold vegan butter, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons of ice water
  • ¾ cup (300g) brown rice syrup
  • 6 tablespoons of soy or oat milk
  • 1 cup (320g) paht
  • ¼ cup (50 g) light brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp (57g) vegan butter, melted and cooled
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 cups (220 g) chopped pecans
  • 3½ tablespoons (35g) potato starch
  • 1 cup (110 g) pecan halves


  1. Make the pie crust: In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar and salt and mix, adding the butter, a few pieces at a time. Add ice water, 1 tbsp at a time, until a paste begins to form.
  2. Shape the dough into a ball. Do not handle more than necessary. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 ° F.
  4. Prepare the pie filling and pie filling: in a medium bowl, combine the brown rice syrup, soy milk, paht, brown sugar, melted butter, salt, vanilla, chopped pecans and apple starch earthen.
  5. Place the pie crust between two sheets of parchment paper. Using a rolling pin, gently roll out the pie crust until it is large enough to line a 9-inch pie plate. Slide the crust into the pan and cut off any excess dough around the edges with kitchen scissors or a sharp paring knife. Pour the garnish. Garnish with pecan halves.
  6. Transfer the pie to the oven and bake until the pie filling has hardened (that is, it does not shake too much), 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. Cool the pie on a wire rack for 2 hours before serving.

In “The Korean Vegan Cookbook,” Joanne Lee Molinaro explores her family’s legacy while modernizing the recipes for a plant-based diet. Photo courtesy of Avery.