Today, we’re going to make vegan Thai fish cakes. You can’t tell these are vegan Thai ‘fish’ cakes because they’re just that good! Thai fish cakes are made with prepackaged red curry paste but not all curry pastes are vegan.
These vegan Thai fish cakes are flavored with lemongrass, lime leaves, galangal and chili. They’re super fluffy on the inside, crispy on the outside, easy to make and unbelievably yummy.
This recipe post will show you how to make you own vegan Thai fish cakes at home, a Thai fish cakes sauce, and some other things:
- 5 Reasons Why You Need This Vegan ‘Fish’ Cake Recipe
- Vegan Take On Thai Fish Cakes
- Notes on Ingredients & Substitutes
- How To Make Vegan Thai Fish Cakes
You can jump the recipe for these easy fish cakes or stick around and have a little read about these amazing bites of goodness.
5 Reasons Why You Need This Vegan ‘Fish’ Cake Recipe
Need another reason to make these Thai style fish cakes? Here’s 5!:
- They’re delicious vegan fish cakes with easy to find ingredients
- A light fluffy fish cakes without potato recipe
- You can make the batter in advance
- Have authentic vegan Thai fish cakes at home
- It’s a soy-free and tofu-free recipe!
Growing up, my mother always made me Thai fish cakes and this dish is my vegan take on one of the most popular Thai street foods.
Vegan Take On Thai Fish Cakes
These vegan Thai ‘fish’ cakes are inspired by a Thai dish called Tod Mun ทอดมัน. Tod mun is a Thai fried fish cake that’s made from fish or shrimp, red curry paste, egg, fish sauce, and flour. You can make these vegan by swapping out the fish for a veggie protein but most curry pastes aren’t vegan because of the added fish sauce.
These vegan Thai ‘fish’ cakes were inspired by my childhood memory of watching my aunt dropping spoonfuls of fish cake batter into a giant wok filled with oil and the smell that filled the kitchen. I wanted to make my own version that was vegan-friendly and soy free.
In Thailand, tod mun is usually served as an appetizer or a snack with a dipping sauce. But I’ve had these vegan fish cakes on top of rice or next to vegan Thai fried rice and was very happy.
Ditch the pre made curry pastes and make your own flavor-bomb spice paste with 3 ingredients. The next part of this post will introduce some ingredients and substitutes for this vegan Thai ‘fish’ cakes recipe.
Notes on Ingredients & Substitutes
This no-fish, soy-free Thai fish cakes are made with eggplant, galangal, chili, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and a few other things. You may not like some of these ingredients or they might not be easy to find depending on where you are in the world. So here are some substitutes you can use instead to make these vegan ‘fish’ cakes.
The eggplant is the fish replacement in this recipe because it can carry lots of flavor and creates an amazing ‘fish’ cake batter that’s similar to authentic Thai fish cakes. But if you don’t like eggplant or don’t want to go through the hassle of cooking it beforehand, try these substitutes:
- Use firm tofu: Add firm tofu into a blender to make tofu Thai fish cakes.
- Try canned chickpeas: Blend the drained canned chickpeas into a paste to make vegan chickpea fish cakes.
- For flakey fish cakes: If you want flakey fish cakes instead of a batter, use chopped banana blossom or young green jackfruit instead.
You can experiment with the filling but let’s talk about the spice paste because there are a few special ingredients in there. First up on our list of aromats is kaffir lime leaves.
Kaffir Lime leaves
This vegan Thai fish cake recipe uses kaffir lime leaves. Kaffir limes and lime leaves are not similar to key limes. They’re different in taste and appearance.
You can substitute the kaffir limes leaves for the zest of a lime but regular lime leaves are a poor substitute for kaffir lime leaves. They’re less aromatic and very bitter in comparison.
Kaffir limes are a type of citrus fruit native to Southeast Asia. It’s got a thick bumpy rind that’s very bitter. But the leaves of the kaffir limes are very aromatic and used a lot in Thai cooking. The trifecta of Thai cooking is kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, and galangal.
Another important ingredient in these vegan fish cakes is galangal. It may look like ginger and come from the same family but that’s where the similarities end. Kind of like comparing lemons and oranges. Same same but different as the Thai say.
Galangal is pink and has floral citrus notes. It’s more fragrant than ginger. If you can’t find it in your Asian grocery store, then feel free to use ginger but I highly recommend getting fresh or frozen galangal if you can get your hands on it.
The next and final aromat is lemongrass.
You can make these easy Thai fish cakes easier with lemongrass paste but you’ll get out of this world vegan Thai fish cakes if you make the effort to use fresh or frozen lemongrass.
Fresh lemongrass requires some prep before you can use it. Remove the fibrous tops and ends of the lemongrass and peel of the first 2-3 layers. Chop everything up and pound or blend the lemongrass to use in the vegan fish cakes batter.
Another key ingredient in Thai fish cakes is fish sauce but that’s an acquired taste and not vegan.
You can use vegan fish sauce if you’re making vegan Thai fish cakes but honestly, you’ll barely notice it. I used my favorite vegan mushroom seasoning instead. You can use vegan oyster sauce, seaweed (nori flakes) to add an umami or ‘fishy’ note to these vegan Thai ‘fish’ cakes.
Chili & Green beans
Adjust the level of spiciness of this recipe to your liking by adding more or less chilis. You can even remove it entirely if you don’t like spicy food. The green beans give the vegan ‘fish’ cakes some bite but you can easily substitute this vegetable with another. Here are some options:
- Bell peppers
- Gai Lan
- Brussel sprouts
Now that we’ve gone through all the ingredients and possible substitutes, let’s get cooking and learn how to make these amazing vegan Thai fish cakes.
How To Make Vegan Thai Fish Cakes
This vegan Thai fish cake recipe can be broken down into 4 steps:
- Prepare the eggplant
- Make the spice past
- Cooking the ‘fish’ cakes
- Make the dipping sauce
We’ve done enough chit chatting, let’s get right into it with the first step.
Prepare The Eggplant
This recipe calls for one large eggplant but I had two small eggplants in my fridge. Preheat the oven to 392f or 200c and wrap the eggplant in aluminum. Place it in the oven for 20-30 minutes or so.
My oven runs a little cold so I had to leave it in for 30 minutes but I’ve made this recipe in another oven and the eggplant only needed 15-20 minutes instead. Set the eggplant aside once it’s soft enough for a fork to go through.
Peel off the skin and mash the eggplant until smooth or put it in a blender and pulse. Aim for the consistency of a chunky batter rather than a runny smooth paste.
Next, move on to making the spice paste for the Thai fish cakes.
Make The Spice Paste
Chop up the chili, galangal, lemongrass, and green beans. Remove the stem running through the middle of the kaffir lime leaves and chop them into bite sized pieces too.
Place the chili, galangal and lemongrass in a blender and mix until you get a rough paste.
Cook this spice paste for 1 minute in a pan with some oil (roughly 2 tablespoons) on medium high heat. Add the spice paste, chopped lime leaves, green beans, mushroom seasoning, lime juice, salt, and sugar into the eggplant and mix everything until combined.
Add the flour and stir everything together until all the flour is mixed through. Adjust the seasoning of the fish cakes to your liking. Finally, we can cook the fish cakes.
Cooking The ‘Fish’ Cakes
Heat enough oil in a large pan on medium heat. Drop a tablespoon of vegan fish cake batter into the hot oil and spread it out. Cook the vegan fish cakes for a minute or 2 on each side.
Remove from the oil when it’s a deep shade of golden brown and set it on a plate lined with kitchen paper to get rid of excess oil. Make the dipping sauce while the fish cakes are cooking or cooling.
Make The Dipping Sauce
What to serve with Thai fish cakes? How about an easy dipping sauce for Thai fish cakes? Combine sweet Thai chili sauce with water, lime juice (or vinegar), and garnish with chopped cilantro or peanuts.
There isn’t really a ‘recipe’ for this dipping sauce, so you can add whatever you want in your version. Thai chili sauces can be a bit thick, which is why I added water to thin it out but you can skip this step. Use a 2:1 ratio of sweet chili sauce to water if you’re making a large amount of sauce.
This recipe makes 20 large vegan Thai fish cakes and is perfect next to this vegan Thai basil fried rice! These vegan fish cakes always take me back to my childhood in Thailand, so I hope you like these vegan fish cakes. And I’d love to hear about your experience making them if you try this recipe.
Need more vegan recipes? Try 14 of our favorite vegan recipes!
Vegan Thai 'Fish' Cakes
You can't tell these are vegan Thai fish cakes because they are just that good! These soy free vegan Thai fish cakes are flavored with lemongrass, lime leaves, galangal and chili. They're super easy to make and are unbelievably yummy.
- Vegan Thai Fish Cakes:
- 1 large eggplant (or 2 small ones) *see notes for substitute
- 1 cup chopped green beans
- 1 tbs ground galangal
- 2 tbs ground lemongrass
- 1 chili (optional. You can leave this out or adjust the level of spiciness to your liking)
- 5 kaffir lime leaves
- 4 tbs flour
- 2 tbs mushroom seasoning (vegan oyster sauce)
- 1 tbs lime juice
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- enough oil to pan fry
- 4 tbs sweet Thai chili sauce (If you're making more, use a 2:1 ratio of sweet Thai chili sauce to water)
- 2 tbs water
- 1 tbs lime juice or vinegar
- chopped cilantro (optional)
- 1 tbs chopped peanuts (optional)
For Vegan Thai 'Fish' Cakes:
Preheat oven to 200c or 392f.
Wrap the eggplant in aluminum and place in the oven for 30 minutes or until soft. Set the eggplant aside while it cools.
Chop the chili, galangal, and lemon grass. Add them to a blender and mix until smooth.
Add some oil in a pan on medium low heat and saute the blended spices for a minute of two.
Chop the lime leaves and green beans into bite sized pieces.
Peel the skins off the cooked eggplant and mash it with a fork or place it in a blender. Aim for the consistency of a chunky batter, not a smooth paste.
Add the cooked spices, lime leaves, chopped green beans, salt, sugar, lime juice, and vegan oyster sauce into the eggplant and mix everything together.
Add in the flour and mix the batter until fully combined.
In a large pan, heat some oil on medium heat. When the oil is hot enough, add a tablespoon of the vegan fish cake batter.
Fry each side for 2 minutes or until golden brown. Flip the fish cakes over and repeat this step.
Place cooked fish cakes on a plate lined with kitchen paper to remove excess oil.
Serve these vegan Thai fish cakes with this easy dipping sauce:
Mix a 2:1 ratio of sweet Thai chili sauce with water, add the lime juice and cilantro or peanuts (optional). Stir until combined.
This is a soy free recipe but you can replace the eggplant with firm tofu or canned chickpeas. Eggplant has more moisture, so reduce the amount of flour to 2-3 tablespoons if you're using tofu or chickpeas. For flakey 'fish' cakes, use banana blossom or young jackfruit.