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Ease, simplicity, and big flavour are all the name of the game with these vegan Thai basil noodles with crunchy kale. We make a basic noodle stir fry with lots of chilies and garlic, add a bunch of nicely cut vegetables, and then we shower the bowls with crunchy, garlicky, sesame-flecked kale. So much flavour and texture. All ready in 30 minutes, guaranteed.

I’ve been keeping our meals really simple lately. Part of that is just the laid back nature of the season. The other part is me focusing on my physical and mental health with more intention. Developing recipes and photographing food for a living is amazing. I’m so, so grateful that I get to do it! But at times it can lead to cooking ruts and a total lack of motivation to get back in the kitchen at dinnertime.

My friend teaches an amazing boxing class that I’ve been going to as religiously as possible this summer, and my love for that class has led to a recognition of needing better self care in general. Once I started feeling stronger and more focused, I remembered that my body and mind should feel this way all the time.

This online entity is all me. Other than a management team for negotiating brand partnerships, I don’t hire anyone to handle anything. This is great in a lot of ways, but it can be harmful to every other aspect of my life on the worst days (friends, my relationship, family, and the aforementioned self-care). It’s easy to slip into the mindset that your work and success IS who you are. Once that starts happening, I know that it’s time to pump the brakes on a few things.

So I’m spending less time on social media and streamlining my cooking in a big way. Some of these changes will definitely be reflected here for at least a little while (bye for now weekend drink/links posts). I’m a person first, and I always maintain that you have to make space to FEEL the light inside of yourself before you can pass it on to others. Time to cultivate that light with a bit more focus.

Love you all. Go make some vegan Thai basil noodles :)

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Print the recipe here!
NOTES: My crispy tofu would be an excellent addition here! I just wanted to keep this simple with veggies and crisped up kale, but there’s a lot of ways to go deluxe with this recipe.
-You can also use regular basil if you don’t have Thai basil.

2 cups chopped kale, packed
1 ½ tablespoons avocado oil, divided
2 teaspoons sesame seeds, plus extra
½ teaspoon garlic powder
sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
6 ounces (170 grams) brown rice noodles (I love these ones by Lotus Foods)
¼ cup gluten-free tamari soy sauce
2 tablespoons filtered water
1 teaspoon pure maple syrup or agave nectar
1 red hot chili, finely minced (use more or less to taste–this had some heat)
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 medium carrot, julienned
1 bell pepper, cut into strips
1 ½ cups chopped green beans
¾ cup Thai basil leaves
chili-infused oil (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, massage the kale with ½ tablespoon of the avocado oil, sesame seeds, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Once the kale is thoroughly coated and slightly softened, spread it out on the baking sheet in a single layer.

Bake the kale until crisp and dry, about 15 minutes. Set aside to crisp even further.

Cook the brown rice noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

In a liquid measuring cup, stir together the tamari, water, and maple syrup. Set aside.

Heat a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the remaining oil and swirl it around. Add the chili and garlic and stir until quite fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the carrot, bell pepper, and green beans and keep stirring until the edges of the vegetables have softened a bit, about 3 minutes. Season them with salt and pepper. Pour the tamari mixture into the skillet. Keep stirring and tossing the vegetables until they are crisp-tender, about 3 more minutes. Add the cooked brown rice noodles to the skillet and stir to heat through and combine.

Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the Thai basil leaves. Divide the servings of vegan Thai basil noodles into serving bowls. Drizzle the top of the noodles with chili oil, if desired. Finish the noodles by crushing up the crispy kale on top and sprinkling with sesame seeds. Serve immediately.

  • Agnes07/08/2019 - 6:28 am

    You are so right in wanting to prioritize your own well being! I only recently (and admittedly at a great cost) realized that the work, work, work mindset was not only getting me nowhere because I was so focused on working all the time that I wasn’t making logical and consistent long term efforts or decisions for my career (if that makes any sense!). Plus my health (both physical and mental) was declining from neglect for years before I finally reached a breaking point… I don’t wish that on anyone, for real! My point is: take immensely good care of yourself, always! Much love :)ReplyCancel

    • Eva07/08/2019 - 6:33 pm

      I completely agree! I have a wonderful teacher who says “Don’t be the job! Don’t Work, meditate! Work is for donkeys!” (He means that instead of working to work, becoming the job, one should use the job as a kind of “play”; a way to observe oneself and meditate. ) If the job becomes overwhelming, it’s time to stop and go opposite, focus as you say on “growing the light inside” so you can pass it on to others.

      It’s so easy to “become the job”; to say “I AM a _________ (insert job title)” – to let the work we do consume the life. It’s so much suffering all the time when we do this – we always have to be anxious that it is going well, afraid lest it should not go well, disturbed every time somebody criticises it, (I am the job, therefore they are criticizing ME.) If I know I’m not the job, it’s just something I do, then I suffer a lot less.

      I think it doesn’t really matter what you do, the important thing is to do it with grace and joy.ReplyCancel

  • Allie07/08/2019 - 10:23 am

    This looks amazing! I’ve actually never purchased Thai Basil leaves. Do you get them at a special market?ReplyCancel

    • Laura07/08/2019 - 11:43 am

      Hi Allie! You’ll find Thai basil in Asian grocery stores or in supermarkets that carry a more robust selection of asian vegetables. Thai basil typically has dark purple stems and the leaf is more elongated than typical basil. I always grow some in my garden in the summertime because I have a hard time finding it where I live. If you can’t find it, you can substitute regular basil!

  • Lynda07/08/2019 - 10:49 am

    I love it when a recipe comes to my inbox on a morning when I have no clue what is for dinner, but I have all the ingredients available in my fridge/garden to create the recipe. Dinner dilemma solved :)ReplyCancel

  • Diane08/08/2019 - 11:04 am

    A great recipe and post. Here’s to more woman taking time to cultivate the light!ReplyCancel

  • Carrie08/08/2019 - 7:27 pm

    I was trying to find a dish where I could use my garden green beans and purple basil and this happened to pop up on my Instagram feed. Kinda fate, right? Anything I’ve ever made from The First Mess has been delicious, and this one, yet again, did not disappoint. Perfect amount of spice and flavor, full of yummy veggies too! We added broccoli and the crispy tofu to make it a full, one bowl full meal. Definitely recommend!ReplyCancel

  • Erin09/08/2019 - 8:32 am

    Can’t wait to try this! Do you think it could be made ahead of time and served cold?ReplyCancel

  • Michelle09/08/2019 - 9:54 am

    A fabulous meal. Simple to prepare and all the flavours blended together so well. The sesame kale chips gave the dish an extra flavour boost.ReplyCancel

  • Sue14/08/2019 - 8:39 pm

    OMG Laura! This was fantastic!!!! It tasted phenomenal and the great flavors wafted throughout the house. I was out of kale so I went heavy on the veggies and doubled the sauce. Thank you so much .ReplyCancel

  • […] want this for […]ReplyCancel

  • Rui16/08/2019 - 2:08 pm

    Just made this today and it was delicious! Thank you so much ❤️ReplyCancel

  • Scarlet20/08/2019 - 10:18 am

    I love thai noodles. I can’t wait to try this recipe because it looks like something my whole family will enjoy- even those who aren’t vegan. Pinning to try soon.ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer01/09/2019 - 11:24 pm

    This dish is amazing! I’ve made it at least four times since discovering it a few weeks ago and we’re always disappointed when the leftovers are gone. At least I’ve learned to make extra crispy kale–which is so incredible in so many dishes. Thanks for your wonderful recipes, your wise words and your beautiful photography–it is truly artful. Than you!ReplyCancel

  • Lieselotte03/11/2019 - 3:13 pm

    Laura, Do you think it could be made ahead and warm it up the next day?ReplyCancel

    • Laura04/11/2019 - 9:03 am

      Hi there!
      I would not recommend making this one ahead of time and reheating. I find that the rice noodles go a bit mushy and the basil loses its flavour entirely.

  • Amy16/01/2020 - 4:22 am

    This was delish! I had to cook the veggies a little longer until the green beans were done. I also hate when recipes call for 6oz of noodles and the package is 8oz. Next time, I would cook only half of the package so the veggie to noddle ratio is higher. The crispy kale and the thai basil make all the difference!ReplyCancel

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