Revamping soul food favorites into tasty vegan dishes is one of my most challenging quests. One thing I remember eating frequently is my grandmother’s hot water cornbread, fried up crispy on the outside, and eaten with greens fresh picked from her backyard garden. Dunking those bad boys in the flavorful ‘pot liqqor’ left from cooking the greens, then eating the patty was a truly delicious snack.
Sigh, I miss my grandmother, even after all these years.
As we all know though, many of the tastiest soul food dishes we love, especially pots of greens, rely on the meat essence of smoked hamhocks or bacon. Hot water cornbread, hoe cakes and hush puppies are usually fried up in bacon grease as well. Though we all know bacon is horrible to eat, it’s one of the flavors that new vegans and vegetarians say they miss the most. For soul food cooking, the taste of smoked meat in dishes is an essential flavoring tool.
So how can one cook healthy soul food and create similar flavors without using artery-clogging, heart attack creating animal fat? I figured it out!
A few months ago I’d ordered a product called coconut bacon on the internet. Though coconut bacon is easy enough to make, I didn’t feel like doing all that. So I just bought a couple of packages of Phoney Baloney brand coconut bacon, which was the one most highly recommended by long-time vegetarian friends.
I had a craving for some black-eyed peas and greens, which I made the other day. When it came time to eat leftovers yesterday, I craved some hot water cornbread to go with them. So I created a vegan version of the delicious little crispy nuggets that taste surprisingly like the ones I remember from childhood.
First, I took some of the coconut bacon and dumped it on a cutting board. I took my rolling pin and crushed the coconut bacon into large crumbs. Then I mixed it with the cornmeal and salt, and topped it with a tablespoon of Earth Balance (vegan butter). Poured in the boiling water and stirred well until it formed the thick batter and the butter was melted throughout.
Then I heated up the peanut oil (that and grapeseed oil are the two oils I use for high heat frying). While it heated I shaped large tablespoons of batter into small flattened medallions. When the oil was hot, I put them into the pan and fried them, about 1-2 minutes on each side until crisp and brown.
Once in the bowl with my black eyed peas and greens, they soaked up the juices and made a delicious dinner with the familiar old skool soul food flavors I’d been craving. Completely without the saturated fat, cholesterol and general grossness of animal fat.
If you are trying to lose a few pounds, this is probably NOT the best meal choice for you. Fried bread isn’t exactly a low cal dish, ya know? But you only need to eat 3-4 of them with your greens and beans, so if you’ve eaten well the rest of the day you should be okay.
The omnivores in the household gave them 2 thumbs up and the meat-eater’s stamp of approval. Let me know what you think after you try it.
- 2 cups yellow cornmeal
- ½ to 1 tsp sea salt
- ⅓ cup Phoney Baloney coconut bacon
- 1 Tablespoon Earth Balance (vegan butter spread)
- 2 cups boiling water
- Place teakettle or small pot of water on and heat until boiling.
- Using rolling pin, smash Phoney Baloney coconut bacon into fine crumbs.
- Dump coconut bacon crumbs, cornmeal and salt into a bowl and mix well. Add Earth Balance to top.
- When water has reached boiling temperature, measure out two cups and pour over cornmeal mixture. Stir well to mix in the melting Earth Balance.
- Heat 1 cup your favorite oil in small frying pan over medium flame. Shape dough with hands into silver dollar sized medallions, ovals or flattened cakes and drop into hot grease. Do not crowd pan.
- Once they have reached a light toasty brown, turn and brown other side. Will take 3-4 minutes total per batch.
- Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.
Category: Side Dishes