Popeye’s Fried Chicken is a favorite pit stop of the fried chicken eater. Though fried chicken is a southern favorite, and a mainstay food in African American culture, let’s not even THINK ABOUT pretending black folks are the only ones who love fried chicken. That would be a huge mistake. Honey, fried chicken is as American as hot dogs and apple pie!
However, as vegans we don’t eat yard bird anymore. But that doesn’t mean vegans don’t want to still have that “fried chicken” experience with spicy flavors, the crispy crunch, and all the sides and fixings that we grew up eating, right?
My thing is this, if we want to lead meat eaters to the vegan lifestyle, we have to meet people where they are. If we want to present veganism as a viable alternative to omnivores, I feel the best way is to show them, not tell them. No lectures, no crazy dead animal pictures, no guilt trips about the planet or their health. I instead choose to motivate people by stirring their curiosity and eliminating their fear of change.
I do that by showing them first hand that what vegans eat can be just as delicious as any meat-based counterpart.
Well, along those lines…I was recently given a challenge by a Popeye’s Chicken eating friend. He proposed that if I could come up with a spicy, crispy coating for my “fake ass chicken” that rivaled Popeye’s, he would consider giving up his fast food favorite.
What? This was HUGE. And since I’ve been trying to get this man to at least TRY some vegan food, I rolled up my sleeves and got busy with the challenge immediately. I was going to make some Popeye’s style vegan fried chicken if it was the last thing I did.
After some trial and error, this is what I came up with.
Now I have to admit, I’m going by memory here. It’s been YEARS since I’ve eaten Popeye’s fried chicken (I gave up fast food long before going vegan), so I don’t have a recent point of reference for what it should taste like. But thanks to BING and GOOGLE images, I was at least able to see what it should look like, and I think I came pretty close with this rendition of vegan fried chicken.
Fresh off the stove, these puppies are crispy and crunchy, with a spicy kick. I handed one of the vegan fried chicken patties to him wrapped in a paper towel. He gave it the serious side-eye at first, but bravely took a bite. I held my breath.
But then… but then… the magic happened. He looked at me with a big ole shit eating grin on his face, and promptly chugged down three pieces of it.
The chicken style seitan recipe I used is my favorite, and it’s found in my cookbook (link below). But you should feel free to use your favorite chicken style seitan recipe.
Even if you have problems with gluten like Celiac disease or gluten intolerance, you can still enjoy this dish. Try making the gluten free seitan recipe posted on The Happy Herbivore blog.
This particular recipe is about is the spicy Creole seasoned coating, not the seitan.
A note of advice: Steamed or baked seitan is the easiest choice. If you used boiled seitan, be sure to remove all the extra broth it absorbed by draining it in a colander, then sitting it on several pieces of paper toweling. Pat the top with more paper toweling and gently press out as much water as you can. You want the seitan ready to absorb the vegan fried chicken seasonings you’re going to dip and roll it in.
It’s an easy process. First, you mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl…
…then you mix the spicy wet dip ingredients together in a second bowl. At some point you need to be brave and taste your mixes to make sure they have enough salt. The amount of salt you may need to add is dependent upon the brand of Creole/Cajun seasoning you use; some brands are much saltier than others.
Dip your chicken style seitan first into the wet bowl, then the dry bowl. Then you sit it on your cooling rack to “set.”
After about 45 minutes, you repeat the process again. Then you heat your oil to 350 degrees and fry it up, sitting on a clean rack or paper toweling to drain. Serve while it’s hot for maximum crispness with your favorite sides.
Give it a try and report back! I’d love to see a picture of your creation.
- High smoke point cooking oil such as peanut, grape seed or canola oil
- 1 plant-based egg (flax egg or your favorite commercial egg replacer)
- 12 oz unsweetened soy creamer
- ½ cup water
- 2 teaspoons Creole seasoning salt (more to taste)
- 3 Tablespoons Creole or spicy brown mustard
- ½ cup hot sauce (Crystal and Frank's Red Hot are favorites)
- 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 1 Tablespoon Creole seasoning salt (more to taste)
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1-1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- Blend dry ingredients together thoroughly and set aside.
- Blend liquid ingredients together and sit next to the flour mixture.
- Place 1-2 cooling racks on top of cookie sheets, and sit it near your work area on the counter.
- Take one piece of the chicken style seitan and place it in the liquid dip. Remove quickly and shake off excess.
- Immediately roll in the flour dip, coating all sides lightly. Place on cooling rack.
- Repeat with each piece of seitan chicken, being sure to leave enough room on the cooling rack so that the seitan has air circulating on all sides. Leave for 30-45 minutes for coating to “set”.
- Repeat the process again, and leave out to dry for another 30-45 minutes or longer.
- Heat your cooking oil to 350 degrees in a heavy-bottomed pot or frying pan.
- When your oil is hot, drop in one or more pieces of chicken, being sure not to crowd the pan which will lower the temperature of the oil and result in a soggy product.
- Remember, this is not flesh so there is no lengthy frying time required to cook anything – all you're doing is developing a crispy brown coating for your seitan. (Should take about 3 minutes per side)
- When it's brown and crisp on one side, flip seitan over and brown the second side. Remove to a rack to drain while you fry the remaining portion.
- Serve immediately with your favorite sides and more hot sauce.
Get exciting new soul food, Cajun/Creole and classic American recipes done vegan! Check out WHY VEGAN IS THE NEW BLACK: More than 100 Meat and Dairy Free Meal Ideas Your Whole Family Will Love.