Bean sprouts (beansprouts) are culinary vegetables used extensively in East and Southeast Asian cuisine. Grown from sprouting mung beans these versatile and delicate vegetables provide a gentle flavor which makes them popular in stir-fries and other recipes.
The bean sprout is popular in pho, pad thai, and spring rolls. So there are a lot of situations where you’ll find a recipe calling for them.
Whether you are looking for a beansprout alternative for a stir-fry or a crunchy salad, there are plenty of excellent substitutes to consider.
1. Soybean Sprouts
Soybean sprouts should be your go-to choice as an alternative to beansprouts for dishes like stir-fries and similar dishes. Look for younger sprouts with shorter tails to avoid adding bitterness to your dish. Soybean sprouts should be avoided in salads and other non-cooked meals as even the younger and milder sprouts can add an unwelcome bitterness to a dish. Cooking them reduces this flavor significantly as well as taking on other flavors of the dish.
Enoki is a micro mushroom with long tails that originate in Japan. The size is similar to beansprouts, but the texture isn’t similar as they do not have that crisp crunch. Cooking Enoki mushrooms can also result in molecular decomposition which leads them to become gooey or mushy so it is not recommended that you use them in cooked dishes. Enoki mushrooms are delicious and have a mild flavor that makes them a good bean sprout substitute in salads.
3. Sunflower Sprouts
Sunflower sprouts taste similar to sunflower seeds and are a good alternative to beansprouts when used as a side dish or garnish. For fried dishes or salads you should attempt to use the above options first.
Sunflower sprouts also make a good alternative if you are looking to upgrade the health factor over beansprouts or soybean sprouts. With high amounts of over five different vitamins and minerals such as Iron, Calcium, and Zinc they offer a powerhouse of health benefits.
4. Shredded Carrot
Shredded carrot is not similar in taste to a bean sprout, however, it does offer a similar texture which can be important to add that little bit of crunch to dishes like stir-fries.
It is also worth mentioning that shredded carrot is also delicious and does go well in many stir fry dishes so it would not be considered a bad option for your stir fry regardless.
5. Bamboo Shoots
Another good option to substitute in place of beansprouts would be bamboo shoots. In a similar fashion to bean sprouts, bamboo shoots are also heavily utilized in Chinese cooking. Both classic ingredients are used in the same dishes at times and so including one and not the other is never the end of the world. Therefore they can be used as substitutes for one another in stir-fries and similar dishes.
6. Alfalfa Sprouts
Alfalfa sprouts are a fresh, sweet, slightly nutty microgreen that has a slightly crunchy bite. These delicate greens are a fantastic substitute for bean sprouts in salads or as a side garnish. They have a mild flavor and are well-loved for their versatility so this makes them an ideal option.
Make sure to always thoroughly wash shop-bought alfalfa seeds due to E. coli and other potential risks can be more of an issue with microgreens. If they look slimy or wilted then go by the mantra “if in doubt throw it out”. A better option for some is growing your microgreens although this does not entirely reduce the risk.