Vegan Crispy Chicken-less Burgers
Happy New Year, everyone! To all my longtime readers, thanks a million for all the support over the year. It’s been a wonderful journey. Can you believe this little blog will be 10 years old this year? To all my new readers — welcome! I have absolutely no new year’s resolutions. Same old me, taking each day as it comes and enjoying every moment. See, nothing new.
Wanna see something that is new?
Behold! The vegan burger dreams are made of. This giant panko-crusted vegan “chicken” fillet (or should I say chicken-less fillet) is the star of the show. Nestled between the folds of a squishy sesame bun, it’s joined by fresh avocado, lettuce, red onions, tomatoes and a spicy vegan mayo. Limp fast food veggie burgers can step aside, for there’s a new wave of vegan burgers hitting our plates, shops and restaurants. Soy, gluten, pea and bean-based burgers and other meat substitutes are all on the rise and non-meat eaters have more choice than ever. For me, a grilled mushroom between two buns has never hit the spot but thankfully, there’s so much more out there now. I’m not even sure why grilled ‘shrooms are classed as a burger patty.
Now let’s get straight to business. It’s full disclosure time. This is by no means a quick and easy recipe. It’s a labour of love and like with all good things, you must have patience and be prepared to wait. I think a burger this spectacularly juicy, fresh and nutritious is worth said wait. Although, I’ve found that if you break the steps down and tackle one bit at a time, it’s much easier. Making the vegan “chicken” is what takes the most time.
I’m a huge fan of chickwheat which is a high-protein wheat meat made with vital wheat gluten, tofu and white beans. Once a “dough” is made, it’s wrapped in foil, pressure cooked and left to rest. The result is a slab of textured, shreddy chickenless chicken that’s so flavoursome and versatile. I make big batches and freeze it so it’s always on hand for dishes like Vegan Seitan Butter “Chicken”, stir fries, tacos and Vegan Hariyali “Chicken” Drumsticks. I first heard about Chickwheat via The Seitan Appreciation Group on Facebook and Lacey Siomos of the Avocados and Ales blog. With vegan diets on the rise, seitan and other meat substitutes like this chickwheat are becoming widely recognised these days and vegan or not, I think it’s brilliant for those who’d like a varied choice. You were lucky to get a frozen bean burger when I was growing up in the 90s and 00s. Times are changing for the better when it comes to food options, culinary innovation and an open mindedness towards alternative diets.
As much as I like the convenience of shop bought, there’s nothing better than being able to customise your own flavours by making your own vegan meat subs at home. I order my vital wheat gluten online (Buy Whole Foods Online do a great one if you’re UK based – try Amazon if you’re not) and my chicken-style stock/seasoning of choice is Massel and Schwartz but you can use any. If you’re vegan or are cooking for vegans, read the ingredients to make sure the one you choose is suitable.
If you don’t have a pressure cooker for making the chicken, you can use a large saucepan with a lid and gently simmer (not boil) for 2 1/2 hours. An instant pot is also a great option – cook on high for 35 minutes. A stand mixer with a dough hook attachment is essential for this recipe. If the dough is not kneaded enough, you’ll end up with more of a spongy texture without the desired “pulled” effect. Knead the dough long and hard and keep an eye on your mixer to ensure it doesn’t wiggle across the countertop — they can shift fast! I wrap it tightly in foil to make sure the chicken doesn’t expand too much during the cooking process. We want it nice and compact. You could also use cheesecloth or muslin and string if you’re not keen on using foil, although it is a little messier. Be sure to wrap it tightly for a good shape and to stop the water leaking in. To sum up, It’s the long kneading, tight wrapping and long cooking that gives the chicken its perfect shreddy texture.
Panko are my coating of choice because I like the crunch you get with larger breadcrumb pieces. Switch in regular breadcrumbs if that’s what you have. You’ll need to dust the fillets in plain flour and batter of dairy-free yoghurt and chickpea flour first — this will help the breadcrumbs adhere well. It’s messy but fun and kids will love helping with this part! Feel free to customise the burger toppings to your taste; a slice of melty vegan cheese, wafer-thin pickles and a smidge of mustard or barbecue sauce is also a good idea. I’ve also been known to throw in a few jalapeños for a big chilli kick.
This firm, textured vegan chicken is packed with protein and goodness. It’s made using tofu, beans and the magic ingredient… vital wheat gluten. Cube it, shred it and slice it for curries, stir fries, pasta, salad and wraps.
For the vegan seitan chicken
- 300 g extra-firm tofu ((drained))
- 1 400g tin haricot beans, inc. the liquid from the tin ((you can also use any other white beans, such as cannellini beans or butter beans))
- 150 g vital wheat gluten ((I buy mine on Amazon))
- 150 ml cold water
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp white miso paste ((you can also use 1 tsp MSG if you can tolerate it))
- 1 tbsp vegan chicken-style boullion ((I use Massel))
- 1 tsp fine salt
- 3 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
- In a high-powered blender, combine the tofu, haricot beans in their liquid, miso paste (or msg), boullion, salt, nutritional yeast, oil and water until you have a smooth paste.
- Add the vital wheat gluten to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the tofu mixture and mix on a low speed until the two come together in the form of a dough.
- Switch the paddle attachment to a dough hook and mix on a medium/high speed for 10-12 minutes. Stay close by as the mixer may shuffle across the counter top as the dough is tough to work. You’ll also need to be very careful your mixer’s motor doesn’t burn out. This kneading of the dough is crucial in developing the gluten and proteins in the seitan and shouldn’t be skipped. The longer and harder you work it, the more fibrous and chicken-like the final product will be. I wouldn’t recommend doing it by hand as your arms might threaten to fall off. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger would struggle, seriously. Having said this, you can make it kneading by hand – it will not however, have a shreddable, “pulled” quality and you’ll finish up with a spongy end product instead. It’ll still taste good but probably won’t fool your meat-eating friends.
- Once your dough has been kneaded long and hard, remove it from the mixer and wrap the “loaf” very tightly in 2-3 layers of heavy-duty foil or one piece of cheesecloth. Try to go for an oval shape. You want it to be nice and compact inside to stop it expanding inside as this will promote sponginess rather than the shreddable texture we’re after. The multiple layers of foil will also stop too much water getting inside.
- Next, fill a pressure cooker with plenty of water (about 3/4 of the way full) and bring to a boil. Carefully drop your seitan into the cooker and put the lid on. Cook on a medium/high heat for 40 minutes. Once the time is up, switch off the heat and leave it to cool completely.
- Once cool, remove the parcel from the cooker and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 48 hours. You can also freeze it for up to 6 months.
- Unwrap and check out that amazing texture when you pull it apart. Your chickenless chicken is now ready to cut into fillets for the burger.
- You can freeze the chickenless chicken whole or in pieces in a ziplock-style bag for up to 6 months. Defrost at room temperature, keep refrigerated and use within 48 hours.
Crispy Vegan Chicken-less Burgers
Behold! The vegan burger dreams are made of. This giant panko-crusted vegan “chicken” fillet (or should I say chicken-less fillet) is the star of the show. Nestled between the folds of a squishy sesame bun, it’s joined by fresh avocado, lettuce, red onions, tomatoes and a spicy vegan mayo.
For the crispy seitan chicken:
- 1 recipe vegan chicken, rested and cold ((posted above))
- 100 g plain flour
- 200 g panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tsp vegan chicken seasoning ((I like garlic, chilli and thyme))
- 150 g dairy-free yoghurt
- 2 tbsp chickpea flour
- 1 L rapeseed oil for deep frying
For the burger build:
- 4 burger buns ((sliced in half))
- 200 g gem lettuce leaves
- 1 ripe avocado, sliced
- 1/2 red onion, finely sliced into rings
- 1/2 vine tomato, finely sliced
- 2 tbsp your favourite hot sauce ((I like sriracha))
- 4 tbsp vegan mayo ((I like Follow Your Heart and Hellmans))
- Slice the cold seitan into fillet-like pieces. You might have a few odd pieces left over – don’t throw them away! I like to use them to make nuggets.
- Set up a breadcrumb station. Place the plain flour on a plate. Mix together the panko and chicken seasoning and spread this onto another plate. In a bowl, whisk together the dairy-free yoghurt and chickpea flour.
- In a wok or large, deep saucepan, heat the oil to 175°C/350°F.
- Dredge the chicken in the flour, dip it into the yogurt mixture and then into the breadcrumbs. Repeat the yoghurt and breadcrumb dip for a thicker coating but I found one dip in each was perfect for me. Ensure it’s evenly coated with panko. Repeat for all the fillets. Pop these in the freezer for 5 minutes to set the coating.
- Carefully fry two fillets at a time, turning gently in the oil to ensure even browning all over. They should be golden brown and crispy. Remove from the oil and drain on a plate lined with absorbent kitchen paper.
- Mix together the vegan mayo and hot sauce. Spread the buns with mayo, top with an assortment of the salad and finally, the crispy vegan chicken fillet. Serve immediately. I love these with French fries!
- Add a slice of your favourite melty vegan cheese for extra deliciousness.
- You can freeze the fried fillets in an airtight container for up to 6 months. Allow to cool completely before freezing. Cook them from frozen in the oven – 175°C/350°F, 25-30 minutes.
- After carving your fillets, use any seitan scraps to make nuggets.
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