How Vegan Chicken Is Made
It is pretty well established that animals are capable of suffering; we’ve come a long way since Descartes famously compared them to nonfeeling machines put on earth to serve man. (Rousseau later countered this, saying that animals shared “some measure” of human nature and should partake of “natural right.”) No matter where you stand on this spectrum, you probably agree that it’s a noble goal to reduce the level of the suffering of animals raised for meat in industrial conditions.
There are four ways to move toward fixing this. One, we can improve the animals’ living conditions; two (this is distasteful but would shock no one), we might see producers reduce or even eliminate animals’ consciousness, say, by removing the cerebral cortex, in effect converting them to a kind of vegetable (see Margaret Atwood’s horrifying description in her prescient “Oryx and Crake”); three, we can consume fewer industrially raised animals, concentrating on those raised more humanely. Or four, we can reduce consumption, period.
Plant-based beef alternatives took the world by storm in 2019.
Burger King launched Impossible Whoppers across the United States, and Beyond Meat’s breakfast sausage debuted in Dunkin’s croissant sandwiches.
But the fervour for meatless “meats” isn't stopping with beef and 2020 is the year of the plant-based “chicken”.
Plant-based “chicken” is nothing new. One of Beyond Meat’s first products was a frozen “chicken” product that crashed and burned. Grocery-focused companies like Quorn and Gardein have had vegetarian “d chicken” products in frozen aisles for a while now. However, it wasn’t until this year that this flavour of protein started stealing the spotlight.
If the word “seitan” conjures images in your mind of devil horns and fire, think again. There are no pitchforks necessary—only real forks—when gobbling up this two-ingredient vegan chicken recipe that’s sure to please both you and the planet.
TikTok user Future Lettuce shared how to make his vegan chicken recipe in a video. Since then, it’s garnered more than millions of views and likes. And it’s safe to say most people are a mix of confused and amazed at how much something made with a base of flour and water gives you a final product that closely resembles the real deal.
While it’s new to thousands of people who watched the video, it’s been used as a meat substitute in Japan and China for centuries, where it was originally created by Buddhist monks. You start with a glutinous dough, but by the time you season it with spices and pan-fry it, you’ll be left with a flavorful, crispy chicken texture.
An increasing number of people in the United States are eating plant-based meats for health, ethical, or environmental reasons. However, brands of plant-based meat vary in their nutrient density and have different nutritional strengths and shortcomings. A person should always be mindful of their nutritional intake and how it may affect their health.
Many people believe that eating more plant-based food will benefit both their health and the environment. Plant-based meat could be a sustainable answer to global environmental concerns. However, some people may have doubts as to whether it provides the same nutrients as meat.
Origin Of Vegan Food
While some may still be skeptical about whether vegan foods are actually as good for you as real food, some have come to realize that real food is no match for all of the things vegan foods do for us—from cholesterol reduction to help prevent cancer.
According to David Zaruk, MS, RD, the co-founder of LUNA Bar, “The power of plant proteins over animal proteins is incredibly compelling when you look at the superior qualities and nutritional benefits they offer,” he says. “The rich nutrient profile of plant-based proteins is what enables us to remain more youthful and fit as we age and what helps us feel satiated.”
While TikTok users are throwing down in the comments to express their newfound appreciation for seitan, many already know it as an alternative to tofu. (Some also say it tastes better, despite what vegan haters might say.) And it’s pretty well-known that several versions of seitan exist around the world—although the original recipe wasn’t made from wheat gluten.
Its name, according to Whole Food, comes from a time when bok choy, a Chinese vegetable that is usually stuffed into noodles, was swapped for seitan. The name stuck, and, with its simplicity, versatility and lack of processed meat, seitan has found its way onto restaurant menus in Japan, China and elsewhere in Asia. It’s now seen as a good source of protein for vegetarians and vegans.
Vegan foods that are 100% plant-based—that is, they’re made without the addition of animal products—are on the rise in the U.S., with a market share expected to hit $11.6 billion by 2020, according to research firm Mintel.
Tomato, another ingredient used in vegan food recipes, may have been plant-based since the 1500s, but only recently has it been seen in foods in the U.S. Like cauliflower, one of the most popular plant-based foods in the U.S., tomatoes were also derived from South America, not Asia.
Where Does Vegan Chicken Come From?
According to the TikTok user, the hardest part of making the vegan chicken dish is making the seitan, which he does by mixing wheat gluten and cornstarch together with water. Once you’re done making it, you can fry the dough in a pan, or bake it in the oven.
Though the video is filled with smiling and surprised faces, not everyone is excited about the new recipe. Some viewers took to the comments section to say that they just can’t imagine it tasting like chicken. “I see why people can’t stand this vegan food,” wrote one commenter.
It’s true: vegan chicken is made with nothing but flour and water. If you’re wondering where the “real” chicken came from, that’s just not how nature intended.
Seitan is actually a type of gluten found in the connective tissue of soybean that’s usually only used as an ingredient in tofu and tempeh. It’s got the texture and taste of meat, and it comes in many varieties, including red, brown, or black.
There’s no meat in that real chicken flavour.
Sure, seitan doesn’t have the meaty texture of meat, but there’s a great difference between the two. Seitan is chewier, so when fried or cooked in a pan, you can break it down a bit. But chicken, on the other hand, has a very slight texture that won’t break down, so you can’t “seitan” it as you can with seitan.
Difference Between Vegan Chicken And Regular Chicken
TikTok user Kaleious grew up in Taiwan, where the dish is made by many of locals. He tells Inverse he first tried it in middle school. “It was really exciting,” he says, especially since it tasted exactly the same as the chicken meat.
Most people think seitan is made out of wheat flour and water, but there are a few variations that would give you a closer resemblance to chicken.
Before you freak out, just know there is no need to fear this vegan chicken recipe. The texture is identical and one you can certainly try if you’re interested. What’s different is how the chicken is raised, which is why its creation is considered “humane” and requires no antibiotics, hormones, or steroids.
Vegan chicken is the result of intentionally manipulating the food-processing ingredients to remove the need for animal-derived ingredients. All of the other parts of the chicken—the meat, the skin, the fat—all remain.
The flour is a food that’s gluten-free, meaning it has fewer gluten proteins than regular flour. That’s important because gluten is responsible for the texture that chicken has when it’s cooked.
The casein protein is an animal-derived protein that gives the chicken its muscle function, structure, and colour. By deactivating it, you can leave the meat portion of the chicken virtually bone-free.
Vegan Chicken Is A Protein Substitute
While many vegans can easily be meat-lovers in some parts of the world, chicken remains a popular protein among vegetarians, vegans, and omnivores alike. According to CNN, 85 percent of Americans surveyed in a 2014 report said they eat chicken at least once a week.
There are currently no vegan chicken alternatives for anyone looking to satisfy their protein cravings, but there are a number of plant-based proteins and ingredients to help you take the vegan option up a notch without getting your hands too dirty in the kitchen.
As Tofurky explains on its website, vegan chicken is a protein substitute that can replace any meat you want. It’s similar to tofu, which is made from soybeans, but with a flakier texture.
If you like chicken, it won’t taste like it. But if you like a product that has a bit more textured protein to it, you’ll probably be hooked. And if you’re a vegan, you can use vegan chicken in place of regular chicken products, whether it’s stir-fried, in a salad, or tucked into a sandwich. The filling will stay true to its meaty qualities, and won’t go limp and soggy like tofu.
The Recipe For Vegan Chicken
- 1 cup gluten-free flour
- 1 cup rice flour
- 1/4 cup tapioca starch
- 1/2 cup water, plus 1/2 cup cold water to mix
- 1 teaspoon olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
Combine the flour, rice flour, tapioca starch, and water in a food processor, and pulse for 10 seconds. Brown on both sides. Season with seasoning. Combine the oil, sesame oil, and seasoning in a small bowl. Whisk to combine. Combine the chicken mixture and the pan juices in a small bowl, then mix with a fork. Pour over a heated, nonstick pan.
Mix all of the ingredients in a small bowl, and pour over the pan in the following order: first a few drops of liquid, then a few drops of vegetable oil, then a few drops of liquid, then a few drops of liquid.
Pour a medium saucepan with 3 inches of vegetable oil and heat to 350°F. You’ll only need a tablespoon of oil for this recipe, and it will cook the seitan in about eight minutes.
Now’s the time to drain the excess water off of the sheet of seitan—it’ll be used later. Leave it to drain for about 15 minutes.
After the seitan is drained, remove the “wings” from the piece, slice each in half, and break up into pieces.
Drizzle a bit of soy sauce and chopped scallions (and more if you’re craving it) over each piece of seitan, then pan-fry in batches in the hot oil. Cook until the seitan has browned and crispy.
Drain on a paper towel to remove excess oil and a little soy sauce.
Serve hot, with more soy sauce, scallions, or a salad.
Where Do You Buy Vegan Chicken?
If you’re vegan, you’re lucky—there are so many options for vegan chicken you can find in the grocery store.
But beware: Baked vegan chicken recipes are notoriously heavy on the sugar and heavy on oil,
Your first step should be finding a vegan chicken recipe. In my opinion, the best vegan chicken is found at the Extra Crispy website, which offers plenty of vegetarian and vegan recipes. Other brands of vegan chicken have made their way into grocery stores, so you can find it in big-box stores and specialty markets.
According to Earth Friendly Products (EFP), the dairy-free creamer that makes Vegenaise, there are currently only two major brands of vegan chicken available in the U.S.: Tofurkey and Earth Balance. Both products come in the form of a block, or a small rectangle, or a tube of chicken in a pouch.
Benefits Of Vegan Chicken
You can make a chicken dish without fear of cross-contamination if you avoid meat.
The non-animal protein content of vegan chicken gives the recipe its distinct, meaty taste, and it’s an even healthier option than typical meat. It has less saturated fat, more vitamin E, more fiber and protein, and doesn’t need preservatives or artificial hormones to stay fresh for the long haul, since it’s created using “agrobiotics,” or foods that are designed for bacteria to grow.
Although vegan chicken can be an affordable replacement for fried chicken, it doesn’t compare to the real thing in terms of flavour and consistency.
Sure, chicken is delicious, but it’s a gas-guzzling beast of food. It contains about 1,200 pounds of carbon dioxide in one ton of carbon dioxide produced, and scientists have estimated that eating one full-sized chicken takes about 35 gallons of gas to produce. That number rises to 51 gallons for each pound of non-vegetarian red meat. By comparison, vegan chicken comes with almost zero emissions at all.
Most notably, it contains no hormones or antibiotics and it doesn’t need to be fed to animals, making it a very clean protein source. It also gives people with digestive disorders more options.
Other Vegan Food Products And Other Vegan Chicken Truths
There are a number of other foods that are created without a primary protein source. You’ve heard of it before, but there are ways to make chicken without animal products, too. You can make it without eggs, too!
Do you cook with apple cider vinegar? If you know it as just another condiment to add to a dish, think again. Its health benefits make it a good way to add richness and nutrition to foods. If you’re unfamiliar with apple cider vinegar, it’s a liquid that’s fermented from apples and will naturally come out as a neutral-tasting liquid when cooked.
While you won’t find many vegans pouring ketchup and mayo over their seitan chicken strips, you can dip them in tahini sauce or olive oil for an extra-satisfying meal. And you can also combine tofu with sautéed veggies or bake it for extra flavour. Just make sure you’re using gluten-free seitan that doesn’t contain wheat, barley, rye, or oats, so it doesn’t have the same breadlike quality.
Vegan chicken products often use fresh ingredients, like fresh veggies and fresh herbs, to make them taste more like real chicken than a packaged frozen or refrigerated product would.
Being Vegan Is A Choice
If you’re new to the vegan lifestyle or want to experiment with a new recipe, this option could be worth the try. Many celebrities, including Beyonce, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen DeGeneres, and Lady Gaga, have all sworn off meat and dairy, giving more weight to the vegan lifestyle.
But the benefits of eating vegan don’t end with slimming down and saving the planet.
Vegans make up roughly 1.9% of the U.S. population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Though the numbers are still fairly small, it’s a steady rise over the past decade. And with recent trends in plant-based foods, like vegetable and meat alternatives, eating less meat isn’t a conscious decision—it’s a matter of necessity.
“There is now overwhelming evidence that animals and their consumption harm the environment and our health,” says Lauren Safranko, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard University, who studies animal and environmental ethics. “The modern industrial agriculture system is also a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, the pollution of the land, water, and air.
According to research by the Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG), meat production is one of the biggest causes of water waste, land use, greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and air and water pollution. And, according to the Worldwatch Institute, animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, which is nearly 30 times the global emissions of cars and trucks.
If you’re wondering why someone would want to go vegan, there’s a good reason for that. Veganism is not an animal rights advocacy statement, though it’s true many people do eat meat and dairy for health or ethical reasons. It’s a complete elimination of the use of animals as commodities for food or any other purpose.
There’s more to it than that, however.
Veganism also tackles animal suffering, environmental impact, and also promotes social justice. It’s a way to promote kindness, tolerance, and understanding.
Vegan doesn’t have to be a trend for the overly sensitive. For some, a plant-based diet is a way of life and to associate it with trends like vegan chicken is completely off the mark. Vegans are just like any other people, only they believe that by choosing this way of eating, they’re trying to do what’s best for their health, the environment and the animals—who are denied their basic rights.
Chicken has no place as a substitute for traditional meat, but vegan chicken substitutes aren’t quite as complex as you may think. You can make an almost exact copy of a chicken breast without having to give up any of the taste and texture. Plus, with a few simple ingredients, you can even recreate the colour and textures of a whole chicken.
And the best part? You can feel good about your choice. That’s because these ingredients are all-natural and pesticide-free, not to mention that they help create a more sustainable food system.
It’s easy to enjoy a vegan meal without the meat that used to be called bird and feels good about it. Even if you still want that taste of chicken, you don’t have to completely give up your old favourites. This recipe is just the ticket for beginners. You can adjust the seasoning to your liking and incorporate a few more ingredients to take your creations to the next level.
Fortunately, meatless nuggets are easier to make than you might think, with just a little bit of preparation. Even if you are a novice, you can make your first nuggets in no time.
Even if your kids are more of a chicken nugget fan, you can still switch them up a bit and serve them vegan nuggets that mimic the taste of meat with a little less fat.
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