Vegan Chicken Explained (with Recipes)

If you are not part of the vegan community then the phrase ‘vegan chicken’ may strike you as just a little odd and a bit confusing.

Vegan Chicken Explained: With Recipes

Surely vegans don’t eat chicken? No, of course not but there are meatless alternatives to chicken which come pretty close to the real thing. 

We take a look at what vegan chicken is, whether it is good for you and how to cook it.

We will then share some great vegan chicken recipes with you for you to see for yourself if this meatless alternative is for you. You may surprise yourself at how much you like it! 

How Is Vegan Chicken Possible?

Vegan chicken may seem like a contradiction in terms, but it is a popular alternative to chicken meat. In fact vegan chicken is such a good substitute for the real thing that it may well fool even the most resolute meat lovers. 

Most vegan chicken is made with one of these ingredients; seitan, tempeh, or mushrooms. They all mimic the texture of real chicken and with other ingredients can taste just as good. 

Once it is shaped into chicken fillets, nuggets or patties it is very difficult to tell the difference between vegan chicken and real chicken meat. It is even possible to find vegan chicken drumsticks and roasts. 

Plant based alternatives are a huge movement designed to encourage people to move away from eating meat and exploiting animals. 

Is Vegan Chicken Good For You?

Meat is full of protein so in order to be a good substitute for meat any vegan product should try to replicate the amount of protein consumed. 

In one ounce of meatless chicken there is 6.7 grams of protein. In one real chicken filet there is 26.6 grams of protein. So you probably shouldn’t rely on vegan chicken to supply your protein. 

However, it is high in fiber with 5% of your daily value available in one ounce of meatless chicken. A real chicken filet contains 0% fiber. 

In terms of cholesterol a chicken breast filet has 86 mg while vegan chicken has no cholesterol. Saturated fat in meatless chicken is 0.4 mg and in real chicken it is 0.7 mg. 

On balance vegan chicken seems to be healthier as long as you get your intake of protein from another source or use tofu which has protein.  

How To Cook Vegan Chicken

For the most part vegan chicken can be cooked and prepared in much the same way as real chicken. It can be bought in fillets, nuggets, breaded or in patties. You can use it for any kind of meal or snack the same as you can for regular chicken. 

Vegan chicken can be pan fried, barbecued, stir fried and grilled. It is often added to dishes that contain sauces, herbs and other flavoring to absorb those flavors.

You can also buy pre-cooked vegan chicken for sandwiches or snacks and microwave vegan chicken meals. 

In many ways vegan chicken is actually easier to cook than regular chicken. There is less concern about it being undercooked and causing health issues as real chicken meat would. As it doesn’t take as long to cook this can also save you time and money. 

Vegan chicken is also often sold pre-flavored with herbs and spices, so there is less preparation involved.

However, it is often more expensive than regular chicken as there is less demand for this type of chicken, therefore making the prices higher. 

Making Your Own Vegan Chicken

One of the most popular choices for making your own vegan chicken is using seitan as it very closely mimics the look and texture of chicken. 

Seitan is made by isolating the protein or vital wheat gluten in wheat dough. This is done by rinsing the dough in water to get rid of the starch. What is left is the stretchy chewy substance that is known as seitan. 

It is unlike tofu which does not resemble meat in texture or appearance. However, like tofu it can be flavored in many different ways. You can either buy ready made seitan or you can make it yourself at home, it’s not that difficult. 

Homemade Vegan Chicken

To make your own plant based chicken you will need some vital wheat gluten, nutritional yeast, flour, garlic and onion powder, paprika and some salt. Simply put them all in a bowl and stir them to combine. 

Then add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and some vegan chicken flavor broth. Stir it until the mixture comes away from the sides of the bowl. 

Remove it from the bowl and knead on a lightly floured surface until it comes together. Break into four or six pieces and shape as you want. Wrap each one in foil and put in a steamer basket for 30 minutes. 

Take the pieces out of the foil, and now you can grill, fry or barbecue the vegan chicken. Alternatively you can slice it as it is and eat it just steamed. 

If you want to keep it, put it in the refrigerator for about a week and the cooked vegan chicken can be frozen for approximately 3 months. 

When you have made your vegan chicken you may be looking for different ways to enjoy it. We have found some recipes that you can try with your plant based chicken. 

Chicken Alternatives

Apart from seitan there are other substitutes for chicken that you can use including tofu, soy, cauliflower, tempeh, jackfruit and mushrooms. 

Tofu

Tofu is perhaps the most well known substitute for chicken and is very popular even with people who are not vegetarian or vegan.

It is a source of protein for vegetarians and vegans and is made from condensed soy milk and pressed into blocks. 

It has a good chewy texture and will readily absorb any flavors you add to your vegan chicken dish. You can have tofu nuggets, kung pao tofu, stir fry tofu and barbecue tofu among many other great uses. 

Soy

Dehydrated soy such as soy curls are an excellent alternative to chicken. They have a chewy texture and will readily absorb any flavors in a vegan chicken dish. Soy is high in fiber and is a good source of omega-3. 

Soy works best as a substitute for chicken when the recipe calls for pieces or strips such as in stir fries or curries. 

Cauliflower

As an alternative to chicken, cauliflower has both the goodness, texture and goodness that you are looking for. It works especially well with a battered, crispy skin and a soft buttery inside. 

Like other vegan chicken options it absorbs the flavors that you add very well. You will get a good source of fiber with cauliflower as a chicken substitute as well as lots of B vitamins. 

Tempeh

Tempeh is a soy product which is also used as a vegan substitute for chicken. It is made from fermented soy beans and has a nutty flavor and a grainy texture. Tempeh is full of protein, vitamins and is high in fiber. 

Although it is not as similar to chicken as seitan, tempeh does a good job of bulking out a dish with lots of healthy protein. It also absorbs flavors like seitan and tofu do and works best when it has been marinated. 

Jackfruit

When it comes to imitating the texture of chicken, jackfruit comes a close second to seitan. Its stringy consistency makes it a good chicken substitute.

As it has minimal flavor of its own it is perfect for absorbing and taking on the flavors of the dish you are making. 

Jackfruit is popular as a wholefood alternative to chicken and the texture tends to melt in your mouth. It works best for recipes that would use pulled chicken or chicken pieces. 

Mushrooms

Mushrooms in various forms can be used as vegan chicken. Oyster mushrooms make a fantastic alternative to pieces of chicken which can be breaded and deep fried. Mushrooms also form the basis of mycoprotein such as Quorn. 

Despite not having much protein, mushrooms do have many vitamins and minerals, including lots of B vitamins, selenium, zinc and are the only vegetable with naturally occurring substantial quantities of bioavailable vitamin D. 

Vegan Chicken Recipes

Whether you have bought seitan, or you’re making your own or using other options for vegan chicken these recipes will give you the opportunity to try out plant based chicken in various ways. 

1. Vegan Chicken Drumsticks

You will be surprised at how much these vegan chicken drumsticks resemble real chicken. The color and texture may even fool some of your non-vegan friends and let them see how great vegan food can be. 

This recipe uses jackfruit, mung bean starch and silken tofu in place of chicken, and it works really well.

You can even mimic the bone of the drumstick by using a thin piece of cauliflower stalk. Choose between breaded drumsticks or saucy ones. 

Preparation time is only 20 minutes and cooking time is a mere 10 minutes. So in 30 minutes you can have delicious vegan chicken drumsticks that everyone will love. 

2. Vegan Pot Pie

A great chilly evening recipe for non meat eating people, this tasty vegan pot pie is perfect comfort food. For the chicken replacement you can either buy ready made vegan chicken, use baked tofu or seitan. 

As well as having a vegan filling this pot pie also has a vegan pie crust using vegan butter and vegetable shortening. The broth for the pie filling is vegetable, and it includes unsweetened almond milk. 

Preparation for this recipe takes only 15 minutes, and it is cooked in 45 minutes. If you want you can leave the vegan chicken out and make it simply a vegetable pot pie. 

3. Vegan Orange Chicken

This delicious vegan orange chicken recipe is perfect for a quick weeknight supper. It is made with soy curls which are soaked in vegan chicken-style broth to absorb the flavor. 

Once they have, they are drained and blotted on paper towels and then marinated in the yummy orange sauce for a couple of hours or overnight.

The soy will then absorb the orange flavor. They are then fried till crispy and then finally added to the orange sauce in a skillet. 

This vegan orange chicken is so full of flavor that it will be hard to distinguish it from orange chicken made with real chicken breast fillets. Preparation time is just 5 minutes and the dish is cooked in less than 25 minutes. 

4. Vegan Sour Cream Enchiladas

An incredible vegan chicken dish that uses cauliflower florets instead of chicken fillets. This recipe is chock full of vegetables, nuts, and beans so makes a very healthy alternative to real chicken. 

The sour cream is actually made from raw cashews and canned green chilies. So not only does it have no meat, this dish has no dairy either making it a truly vegan alternative. 

Preparation takes just 10 minutes and cooking time is 50 minutes. The recipe includes enough ingredients to make 8 servings. If you prefer, you can substitute seitan, tempeh or any other chicken alternative for the cauliflower. 

5. Vegan Butter Chicken

This delicious and popular Indian dish works great without actual chicken. Instead you can include extra firm tofu which will do a wonderful job of absorbing the amazing spices and flavors in this recipe. 

The tofu is first coated in cornstarch and then baked. Finally it is added to the spices, coconut milk, and tomato paste for the last few minutes of cooking. Serve with some rice and a tasty vegan naan bread. 

If you prefer you can swap the baked tofu for roasted cauliflower for an extra buttery taste and texture. A wonderful vegan chicken alternative for a great dish.

Preparation is just 15 minutes and cooking takes only 25 minutes. 

6. Vegan Chicken Noodle Soup

A comforting bowl of chicken noodle soup shouldn’t only be the preserve of those who eat meat, vegans can enjoy this staple of home cooking too.

This recipe has most of the ingredients that regular chicken noodle soup has but instead of chicken it uses seitan. 

The vegetables should be cooked first and the seitan added at the same time as the noodles to avoid overcooking it. Preparation time is 15 minutes and the dish is cooked in just 30 minutes. 

Final Thoughts

Vegan chicken is not only possible but is readily available in a wide variety of forms. We hope that you have enjoyed this guide to vegan chicken and that you try some of these chicken alternatives for yourself.