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How to make Your Favorite Chicken Dishes ‘Chickenless’

If there are chicken dishes you loved and miss, there’s no reason to not enjoy those same flavors in a healthier and more compassionate way.

When we eat chicken, it’s not the actual animal muscle and flesh we love but the flavor and texture that gets developed through marinades, seasoning and cooking. We can replicate those qualities to make vegan ingredients taste like poultry. Texture is all a matter of choosing the right substitute for the chicken itself, whether that is tofu, seitan, vegetables or jackfruit and prepping and shaping it appropriately for the dish. For instance, these baked Chick’n Style Seitan Cutlets are made with vital wheat gluten and chicken-y seasonings and you can use them in your favorite chicken recipe.

We can get chicken flavor from seasoning blends, vegan chicken-flavored broths and other ingredients that give us that savory, umami taste. Poultry seasoning may be marketed for use on chicken and turkey, but guess what? It’s vegan. There is no actual poultry in poultry seasoning just as there is no steak in steak seasoning. These mixes are just blends of herbs and spices we have come to associate with meat.

To make ¼ cup of your own Poultry Seasoning: 

Combine 1 Tbs. ground sage,

1 Tbs. dried thyme

2 tsp. marjoram

1 tsp. dried rosemary

1 tsp. celery seed

1 tsp. allspice

1 tsp. black pepper 

Add salt to your liking.

We can also use ingredients, sauces, gravies and condiments that are classically associated with chicken to further make a dish that is reminiscent of the original version.

To make fried “chicken,” turn to tofu. When a block of tofu is pressed and drained well, it can be cut into slices, cubes or whatever shape you want. I like to make slices for cutlets or smaller pieces for nuggets. By using the same method of dredging and breading, you can make these incredible “Chicken-Fried” Steaks with White Gravy.

Chinese Food

When you ordered Chinese food, a lot of times it would be chicken. It was just a matter of which type of Chinese chicken dish. Now you can make vegan Chinese food at home. But how to get the “chicken” as crispy as they seem to get it in restaurants. Firstly, if you are using tofu, make sure you press it really well – the less moisture, the better. You can even freeze your tofu overnight and then thaw it out and press it for an even firmer texture.

Secondly, after your tofu, tempeh, seitan or vegan chicken has been in the marinade, make sure to pat it completely dry before you get ready to cook it.

Thirdly, a thin coating of cornstarch or arrowroot powder will give it a crispy coating when you cook it.

Finally, cook it a bit crispier than you would think because once you pour the steaming hot sauce over it, it will lose some of the crunch.

Indian Food

Indian food is fragrant, spicy and delicious. Tempeh fills in for chicken in this Tempeh in Spicy Onion Curry and this Spiced Indian Tempeh with Vegetables and Quinoa. Tofu in a roasted red pepper and coconut sauce is the star in this Tofu Tikka Masala while tofu that has been broiled to perfection makes up this Tandoori Tofu dish. Vindaloo is a dish usually made with chicken or lamb but this Seitan Vindaloo from the Goa region is so much better. Use which ever substitute you like best to make this Vegan Butter “Chicken” and this Spinach “Chicken” Curry.

No matter what ethnic cuisine you choose, they probably have some type of chicken dish. When you learn about ethnic flavor profiles, it’s easy to make global cuisine at home.

It’s been over seven years since I last ate chicken and whenever I’m missing a specific chicken dish, I figure out how to make a vegan version of it. That way, my cravings are satisfied and so is my heart.

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