Hot and sour soup is a popular side dish in several Asian culinary traditions. As the name implies, it contains ingredients to make it both sour and hot (in the spicy sense).1 Anyway, I’d imagine that most vegans grew up eating the soup when dining at buffets or ordering Chinese takeout and want to know if they have to give it up after switching to a 100% plant-based diet.
Is it vegan? Like with many food products, hot and sour soup can be vegan, but can also contain a number of animal products—most of which being poultry-based.
To know for sure, you’ll need to vet the ingredients (on a restaurant’s website, for example) if eating out, or scan the ingredients label when purchasing hot and sour soup at stores.
What we’ll do here is go over the various non-vegan ingredients that tend to be present in hot and sour soup—so you’ll know what to look out for. Then, we’ll go over any commercial vegan hot and sour soups currently on the market.
Non-Vegan Ingredients Often Present in Hot and Sour Soup
A Lot of Hot and Sour Soup Contains Broth
If you read the article on chicken broth*, then you know that not all broth is considered non-vegan.
Vegetable broth, specifically, manages to capture the savory umami flavor of chicken and beef-based broths without the cruelty.
While a lot of hot and sour soup makes use of pork and chicken broths, many hot and sour soups are both meat-free and broth free. You’ll have to research the specific soup.
Egg Is a Common Ingredient in Hot and Sour Soup
Hot and sour soup can contain any number of ingredients. Most are plant-based but there are a few that are off-limits to vegans.
For example, a few common ingredients in the American Chinese version of the soup include bamboo shoots, wood ear mushrooms, toasted sesame oil, cloud ear fungus, vinegar, white pepper, corn starch, day lily buds, and egg.2
Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between egg and other vegan-friendly ingredients. For example, diced/cubed button mushrooms, tofu chunks and tofu skins can all resemble the taste and texture of highly processed egg.
Again, you’ll need to scan ingredients labels and check restaurant websites to know for sure.
Interestingly, there are a lot of hot and sour “egg flower soup” mixes on the market. It turns out that a lot of these soups don’t contain egg in the mixture, but simply call for a whole egg to be mixed in when preparing the soup.
So, if you see a hot and sour “egg flower soup” it may not be off-limits.
For example, Kikkoman Chinese Style Egg Flour Hot & Sour Soup Mix contains:3
- Potato starch
- Glucose, sugar, and dextrin
- Dehydrated soy sauce (soybeans, salt, wheat, and dextrin)
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Dried cloud ear mushroom, citric acid, and powdered mushroom extract (dextrin with black forest mushroom extract)
- A seasoning base (hydrolyzed soybean, wheat, corn, and yeast proteins)
- Potassium chloride, calcium lactate, disodium inosinate, sodium succinate, and disodium guanylate
- Dehydrated leek, ginger powder, and onion extract powder (dextrin with onion extract)
- Hot bean paste (salt, red pepper, and miso)
- Sesame and palm oil
- Caramel color
- White pepper and spices
The most prudent of vegans would want to avoid the sodium lactate. Sodium lactate is actually made from lactic acid—not lactose—so it’s mostly considered vegan. But that’s neither here nor there. The point is that this egg flower hot and sour soup is actually eggless.
Some Hot and Sour Soups Contain Meat and Poultry
Even if a soup doesn’t use broth as a base, it can still contain beef, pork, or poultry. So, you’ll need to check the ingredients.
In Pakistan, hot and sour soup is commonly made of chicken along with plant-based ingredients like carrots, cornflour, cabbage, vinegar, soya sauce, chili, bean sprouts, salt and capsicum.4,5
Egg is also common in this regional variant of the dish.
Seafood is also common. For example, in Cambodia, there’s a version of the soup called “Samlar machu yuan” or “Vietnam sour soup”.
It’s made with fish, including tilapia, mudfish, and walking catfish that’s broiled or fried before being added to the broth. Chicken is commonly used in place of seafood.
What About Cream?
I’m not aware of any common forms of hot and sour soup that call for cream. In Chinese cuisine, corn starch is a fairly common ingredient in hot and sour soup. Corn starch is used as a thickener, so it can give soups a thick and creamy texture that could be mistaken for cream.
The corn starch version of the soup is actually considered quite healthy aside from the high sodium content.6
Commercial Vegan Hot and Sour Soup
After searching high and low, I found most commercial hot and sour soup to contain chicken in one form or another—usually, chicken base or chicken fat.
But, there are some versions on the market that are suitable for vegans. For example, Dr. McDougall’s Vegan Hot & Sour Noodle Soup is a great option.
- Organic noodles (organic wheat flour, brine, salt)
- Vegetables (white and green onions, shiitake mushrooms, garlic, mild chilies)
- Yeast extract
- Organic evaporated cane juice
- Potato starch
- Organic vinegar
- Soy sauce (soybeans, wheat)
- Vegan natural flavors (sesame)
- Organic compliant citric acid
- Xanthan gum*
*It’s true that xanthan gum can be derived using non-vegan precursors—namely, the lactose content of whey protein. Xanthan gum can, and usually is, derived from bacterial cultures cultivated on simple sugars other than lactose. Since this particular product is marketed towards vegans, it’s safe to assume the xanthan gum is 100% vegan-friendly.
Well, that’s it for the vegan status of hot and sour soup. Thanks for reading.
You may also want to check out the following related articles:
- Hot and Sour Soup. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hot_and_sour_soup
- Chinese Hot and Sour Soup With Shredded Pork and Tofu. Rhonda Parkinson – http://chinesefood.about.com/od/chinesesouprecipes/r/hotsoursoup.htm
- Kikkoman Chinese Style Egg Flour Mix Hot & Sour Soup, .88 Oz Teresa L – https://www.walmart.com/ip/Kikkoman-Chinese-Style-Egg-Flour-Mix-Hot-Sour-Soup-88-oz/10451759
- Hot & Sour Soup. http://www.cookwithfaiza.net/hot-sour-soup-recipe/
- Hot and Sour Soup. KhanaPakana.Com – http://www.khanapakana.com/recipe/db709933-9a09-4609-aa20-1d1877424397/hot-and-sour-soup
- “Archived copy”. Archived from the original on 2015-04-25. https://web.archive.org/web/20150425152932/http://www.thechineserecipe.com/recipe/hot-and-sour-soup/#
- Dr. Mcdougall’s Right Foods Vegan Hot & Sour Noodle Soup, 1.9 Oz, (pack Of 6). Parrucia – https://www.walmart.com/ip/Dr-McDougall-s-Right-Foods-Vegan-Hot-Sour-Noodle-Soup-1-9-oz-Pack-of-6/47313635