What is it about meat? I won’t lie – I missed meat when I first went vegetarian, and when I transitioned to full veganism. I didn’t crave flesh or the taste of animals, but I did crave the satisfying heartiness and flavour that went with it. Luckily, vegan food has a way of satisfying your cravings in ways you could never imagine, and have probably never heard of. The meat substitutes I’m going to share with you may frighten you, but I invite you to put on a brave face and give them a try – they are as warm and comforting as chicken noodle soup, without the chicken (or the guilt in my opinion). Get ready for this week’s challenge – vegan meats! (and a little surprise at the end).
First up: Seitan
Pronounced like satan, but definitely not satanic. In my opinion it is an understated angel as it can be used to emulate so many different meat dishes: fried chicken, roasts, ribs, steaks, sausages, meatballs – the list goes on. It’s used most commonly in Asian restaurants, going by the name of mock meat. It’s also very low in calories yet very dense, and per 85 grams has 21 grams of protein, 0-2 grams of fat, and 1-2 grams of fibre!
Seitan is also fascinating because of its production. It dates back to Japan to around 1000 years ago, where the name translates to ‘made of proteins’, however was also used in China. Basically seitan is pure gluten, which is why it is so high in protein. Gluten develops in wheat flour when it is kneaded with water – the dough becomes elastic and forms strands that hold the dough together. Flavours like spices, soy sauce and stocks are also added in to the dough to make it taste like particular meats – for example sage, thyme and garlic powder for chicken. Traditionally, after kneading, the dough is soaked and then rinsed to wash away the sugary wheat starch, leaving the pure protein behind. At this point it starts to look really freaky and organ-like. The seitan is then boiled in a broth for a few hours where it expands and becomes more tender with the added water.
These days, you can buy gluten flour or vital wheat gluten which eliminates the whole rinsing process and only requires kneading for around 3 minutes rather than 20 – 30 minutes. This is the process I used to make these chicken cutlets (recipe by One Green Planet):
- 1 1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
- 2 tbsp chick’n seasoning
- 1 tbsp garlic salt
- 1 tbsp onion powder
- 3/4 cup veggie broth
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients together and set aside.
In a measuring cup, mix together the broth and soy sauce. Add the wet to the dry and mix until moistened.
Knead the dough for 3 minutes or so until the gluten strands start to form.
Separate the dough into 6 pieces and shape each of them into an oblong cutlets.
Place each cutlet onto a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes.
Turn them over and bake another 20 minutes, or until the cutlets are golden brown on each side.
Let cool and serve!
Next up: Jackfruit
If you’re looking for a very sneaky way to get your 5+ a day, look no further than jackfruit – done barbeque style. Yes, you can make fruit taste and feel like meat!
Jackfruit is a giant in the fruit world, growing up to a massive 36 kilograms! It grows on trees and is thought to have originated in India, but is now cultivated in the world’s tropical regions. Usually it’s the young green jackfruit that is used as a meat replacement as it isn’t as sweet and has the same texture as meat – stringy and tender like pulled pork. Mature jackfruit however has a lot more sugar in it and is therefore sweeter, which attracts the animals that will eat it and spread the tree’s seeds. It is also has a more similar texture to banana than meat. Young jackfruit isn’t as high in protein as meat, but is has a little, and is low in calories and a great source of fibre (20% of your daily intake!). And, I’ve discussed in a previous post humans don’t need excessive protein.
Here’s how I used jackfruit to make these awesome BBQ pulled jackfruit buns (recipe by More Vegan Recipe Blog):
- 3-20 oz. cans jackfruit in water or brine
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- ½ onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. brown sugar
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp. chili powder
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 1½ tsp. liquid smoke
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- ½ cup vegan BBQ sauce (your favorite store bought or homemade kind)
- Buns for pulled pork sandwiches or corn tortillas for gluten-free pulled jackfruit tacos
Preheat the over to 400 degrees.
Drain and rinse the jackfruit, remove the core and cut each piece in half. As you do this, remove the seeds.
Saute the onion in olive oil over medium heat for about 7 minutes or until translucent, then add the garlic and saute a minute or so longer.
Add the jackfruit, sugar, spices, and liquid smoke. Stir until the jackfruit is evenly covered.
Add the vegetable broth, cover, and simmer for 10-15 minutes until all liquid is absorbed.
Use a spatula to mash and divide the jackfruit until it looks similar in appearance to pulled pork.
Spread the jackfruit out on a baking sheet and cook for 20 minutes.
Remove from oven and cover with bbq sauce.
Return the jackfruit to the oven and cook for another 10-15 minutes or until the jackfruit is lightly browned.
Serve and enjoy!
And now the surprise: Aquafaba
I’m playing my trump card. It’s crazy versatile. It’s weird and oh so wonderful. It’s…
Yes people, that cat-food smelling, waste of space pool at the bottom of your chickpea can is a miracle waiting for you to discover. It’s a very recent discovery from only 2014 and is now used as a replacement for egg-whites in both sweet and savoury recipes like mayonnaise, cheeses, meringue, macaroons and chocolate mousse. The brine contains starches and proteins from the chickpeas. When heated, the starches in the beans gelatinize and allow the proteins and other nutrients to seep out into the cooking water, creating the brine. Aquafaba has a lower protein content than egg whites and can’t be used to replace eggs in some recipes that rely on protein to give them structure however the combination of starches and proteins means aquafaba can bind, emulsify, foam, gelatinize and thicken in recipes.
As a chocolate mousse fanatic, this was the clear recipe choice for me (recipe by Vanilla Crunnch):
- 1 can of chickpeas (you will need only the liquid which is about 1 cup)
- 1 Cup (120gr) roughly chopped dark chocolate
- 2 tbsp coconut nectar (substitute with maple syrup or agave syrup)
- optional: ½ tsp vanilla extract
So there you have it, three classic recipes made vegan! Let me know if you try any of these recipes and I’ll see you later in the week for the weekly weigh up!
Peace and science,
Header image under Creative Commons licence.
Other images by Summer Gleeson.