Vegan Vietnamese Braised Pork Belly – Thịt Kho tàu chay

Vegan Braised Pork Belly

Vegan Pork Belly is a vegan take on a Vietnamese classic home food called Thịt Kho Tàu. A taste of my childhood: sweet, savory, full of umami flavors and made so simple!

What is Vietnamese Braised Pork Belly?

Braised Pork Belly (Thịt Kho tàu) is one of my childhood dishes! It is a staple in many Vietnamese households, and is eaten all year round, especially on Lunar New Year. The recipe features pork belly in a sweet, savory caramelized sauce and serves with a bowl of white rice.

There are some differences between the Northern and Southern versions of this dish:

  • In Northern Vietnam: The Northern version has smaller chunks of pork belly, adds eggs and the sauce is more savory.
  • In Southern Vietnam: The Southern version has bigger chunks of pork belly and braises the pork belly in coconut water, which makes the sauce sweeter.

Veganizing this Pork Belly dish

My plant-based take on Vegan Vietnamese Braised Pork Belly is inspired by many Vietnamese food creators. I saw many uses rehydrated TVP and coconut mix with tapioca starch. I have tried this with both tofu and TVP, and the TVP works better in sticking between the layers. This version of vegan pork belly is similar to how I remember it: full of umami flavors and memories of my childhood 🥰🥰🥰

For the full instruction and video on how to make Vegan Pork Belly using tofu, click on this blog post!

Vegan Pork Belly slices
Vegan Pork Belly using fried tofu
Vegan Pork Belly using TVP slices

Ingredients & substitutions

The Vegan Pork Belly composes of three parts: the lean ‘meat’, the ‘pork skin’ and the coconut ‘pork fat’.

To make the lean ‘meat’, you will need:

  • Firm tofu or TVP: the tofu or TVP has a firm, chewy texture that works well as a meat alternative.
  • If you use tofu: press the tofu to remove the excess water, then fry until golden brown.
  • If you use TVP: rehydrate the TVP and squeeze out excess water, then fry until golden brown.

If you use TVP:

Rehydrate the TVP slices
Squeeze out excess water

To make the coconut ‘pork fat’, you will need to mix tapioca starch, flour and coconut milk and simmer on low heat until thickened. This mixture creates a fatty, creamy paste that helps stick the lean meat, pork skin and fat layers of the vegan pork belly.

Make the coconut fat layer

To make the pork skin, you can use either a baguette or tofu skin.

After creating the two parts, we layer the tofu/TVP together with the coconut pork fat and skin. Full the full instructions and details, click here!

Then we braise the vegan pork belly in a sweet, savory sauce made with classic Vietnamese ingredients:

  • Sugar: adds sweetness to the dish
  • Onion, garlic, and chili: for the aromatics
  • Soy sauce: adds a deep, savory flavor
  • Mushroom seasoning
  • Black pepper: a hint of peppery
  • Coconut water (optional): creamy, sweet taste. In the Northern part of Vietnam, we use water whereas Southern part uses coconut water. I do prefer this dish with coconut water as it adds a subtle hint of creamy, nutty flavors but this dish also tastes great without.
Braised Vegan Pork Belly

Northern Vietnamese households often add boiled eggs to this recipe. To replicate that, you can use white mushrooms as a substitute for eggs.

Vegan Braised Pork Belly
Vegan Braised Pork Belly with Vegan ‘Egg’ Mushroom

How to serve Vegan Vietnamese Braised Pork Belly?

Enjoy this Vegan Vietnamese Braised Pork Belly with a side of white rice and other vegetable side dishes or soups. The deep, savory taste of this dish is perfectly complemented by the warm, fluffy white rice and other vegetables.

Enjoy with rice

Another option is that you can serve this with Mung Beans Sticky Rice (Xôi đậu xanh) on the side.

Storage: The recipe keeps well in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.

If you have tried my recipe, please let me know what you think by leaving me a review on this page or tagging me on Instagram @veggieanh. I would love to see your creations!

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Vegan Braised Pork Belly

Vegan Vietnamese Braised Pork Belly – Thịt kho tàu chay

  • Author: Veggie Anh
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 2 people 1x


A plant-based take on a traditional Vietnamese recipe. Vegan ‘pork belly’ with a sweet and savory caramelized sauce is a staple in Vietnamese households.


Units Scale
  • 2 loafs vegan pork belly (see recipe at
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 100 ml water
  • 1/2 onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 chili
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp mushroom seasoning
  • black pepper
  • 200 ml water or coconut water
  • green onion


Make the vegan ‘pork belly’

  1. Cut the tofu into 3 slices, fry in oil until golden brown on both sides. The fried tofu will replicate the lean meat part of the pork belly.
  2. Make the coconut ‘fat’: mix coconut milk, tapioca starch and flour on a pot on low heat, until thickened into a paste.
  3. Put the fried tofu on the bottom, with a layer of coconut fat on top, then another layer of tofu and coconut fat. The coconut fat will help the layers stick together.
  4. Top with a layer of rehydrated tofu skin, which imitates the pork skin.
  5. Wrap the vegan ‘pork belly’ in aluminium foil or parchment paper, steam for 25 minutes so that the layers stick together better.

Prep the aromatics and veggies

  1. Meanwhile, finely chop the onion, garlic and chili pepper. Wash the white mushrooms, removing the stem.
  2. After 25 minutes, remove the foil/paper and cut the vegan pork belly into bite-sized pieces, about 2cm in length.

Braise the ingredients

  1. Add oil to a non-stick pan on medium-high heat, fry the vegan pork belly until both sides are golden, then remove from heat.
  2. On a pot, add some water and the sugar on medium heat, stir vigorously until the sugar melts and you are left with a caramelized sauce. Pour this into a bowl and set it aside.
  3. Back to the pot, add 1 tbsp cooking oil, then the minced onion, garlic and chili and stir for 2 minutes.
  4. Add 2 tbsp soy sauce, black pepper, mushroom seasoning, coconut water (can sub with water) and mix well.
  5. When the mixture starts to come to a boil, add the vegan ‘pork belly’ and the mushroom ‘boiled eggs’. Bring to a low simmer for 10 minutes with the lid closed.
  6. Serve the vegan ‘pork belly’ on a plate, garnish with green onions and extra black pepper. Serve with a bowl of rice and enjoy!


Leftover can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 days.

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Category: Main Course
  • Cuisine: vietnamese

Keywords: comfort food, lunar new year, vegan, vietnamese

If you enjoyed this recipe, also check out some of my other recipes:

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