cast iron skillet with three seared vegan chicken breasts

Vegan Chicken

Tired of tofu and tempeh? Or maybe you want to start eating more plants, but you don’t want to give up the hearty, meaty dishes you’re used to? This vegan chicken recipe will revolutionize your plant-based cooking repertoire.

Gone are the sad days of spongy tofu masquerading as chicken. These cutlets are firm, juicy, and bursting with chicken flavor. Make a big batch and freeze them to always have a delicious protein on hand. Pan-sear them and use them anywhere you’d use chicken — from salads and soups to curries, stir fries, sandwiches — the sky’s the limit!

Table of Contents

What Is Vegan Chicken?

Vegan chicken is a plant-based alternative to traditional chicken. The term encompasses whole plant food ingredients that are used in place of chicken (such as mushrooms or chickpeas), homemade chicken substitutes, and commercial mock meat products. Typically, store-bought vegan chicken is made of soy protein or vital wheat gluten combined with oil and seasonings.

What Is Vegan Chicken Made Of?

Homemade vegan chicken is made of vital wheat gluten mixed with other flours, seasonings, oil, miso, and plant-based milk. This creates a savory seitan base that is then boiled and pan-seared to create chicken meaty cutlets. Here’s a further breakdown of the ingredients:

Vital wheat gluten: This is the base of the chicken. It’s the protein derived from wheat that’s used to make seitan, a popular vegan protein source. It does contain gluten, so this recipe isn’t suitable for gluten-free eaters.

All-purpose flour: A touch of regular flour helps give the chicken structure and firmness.

Chickpea flour: Chickpea flour adds protein and diversifies the texture so it’s not so homogenous.

Chicken seasoning: This vegan chicken broth powder recipe contains nutritional yeast, garlic and onion powder, salt, and other herbs and spices. It’s what gives the chicken its umami flavor!

Water: Combined with plant milk, this creates the base of the wet mix.

Plant-based milk: Make sure you use an unsweetened, unflavored variety.

Avocado oil: Any neutral oil here works, such as grapeseed or canola.

White miso: Miso adds another layer of umami and salty flavor. We use white miso so it doesn’t color the chicken too dark (or else it would look like steak!).

How To Make Vegan Chicken

This recipe is a project, so it’s best to dedicate a couple of free hours to it. I promise, it’s worth it — plus, it’ makes a lot, so you’ll have vegan chicken for weeks or even months!

1. First, create the dry mix. In a large bowl, combine the vital wheat gluten, chickpea flour, all-purpose flour, chicken seasoning, garlic and onion powder, and nutritional yeast. Whisk well to combine.

2. In a separate bowl, create the wet mix. This is just water, unsweetened plant-based milk, oil, salt, and miso. Whisk this well, ensuring the miso has fully dissolved.

3. Add the wet mix to the dry and stir very well with a silicone spatula. Once it’s combined, go in with your hands to knead everything together for a few minutes, making sure there are no dry pockets.

4. Weigh out 4-oz portions. If you don’t have a kitchen scale, you can eyeball this — although the extra precision is nice to ensure uniformity.

5. Stretch and shape each dough ball. This is what creates that stringy, chicken-y texture. Stretch each dough ball and fold it over on itself. Rotate and repeat, about 5 times, until you start to fee resistance. Flatten each dough ball into a breast shape.

6. Boil the cutlets in a large stockpot for about 45 minutes. You want the water to be just barely boiling, so once you add your cutlets, reduce the heat to medium. This prevents a rapid boil, which could break apart your dough.

7. Drain and transfer to a wire rack over a sheet pan. Refrigerate uncovered for an hour, or until firmed up.

8. Sear in a hot skillet with a little bit of oil over medium high for 2–3 minutes per side. You don’t need to worry about cooking the inside, (it’s already cooked!) just get a good hard sear on the outside.

bowl of vital wheat gluten mix for vegan chicken cutlets

Storage and Shelf Life

The chicken cutlets store well, and are actually improved by a day or two in the refrigerator to firm up. You can refrigerate or freeze the chicken depending on how quickly you plan on eating it.

Refrigerator: Store the chicken in airtight containers in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Freezer: After storing in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours to firm up, transfer the chicken to ziplock bags and squeeze all the air out. Zip tightly, date and label, and store in the freezer for up to 6 months. Thaw on the counter for a couple hours, or overnight in the refrigerator before using.

Recipe Ideas

There are so many delicious ways to use these cutlets. Here are 7 of my all-time favorite vegan chicken recipes:

For a super simple meal that needs no recipe, you can pan-sear the chicken cutlets in a cast iron skillet over medium high in a little vegan butter or olive oil. Make sure the pan is hot before you add the chicken. It’ll develop a beautiful outer crust without sticking to the pan. Then, you can serve it up with some simple steamed veggies and rice, or use it as a protein-packed topping for a lightly dressed salad.

cast iron skillet with three seared vegan chicken breasts

Vegan Chicken

Store-bought chicken cutlets are hard to come by, and often expensive. This simple homemade vegan chicken recipe is made with vital wheat gluten and a blend of spices to create a meaty, versatile cutlet. Use it anywhere you'd use chicken! Many thanks to The Herbivorous Butcher for the inspiration for this recipe.
5 from 5 votes
Prep 45 minutes
Cook 45 minutes
Course Main Course
Servings 8 cutlets

Equipment

  • kitchen scale
  • wire cooling rack
  • large stock pot

Ingredients
  

  • 3 cups vital wheat gluten
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp chickpea flour
  • 1/2 cup vegan chicken seasoning (recipe at karliecooksplants.com/vegan-chicken-seasoning/)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup unsweet plant-based milk of choice
  • 3 tbsp avocado or grapeseed oil
  • 2 tbsp white miso paste

Instructions
 

  • First, create the dry mix. In a large bowl, whisk together the vital wheat gluten, all-purpose flour, chickpea flour, and vegan chicken seasoning.
  • Next, create the wet mix. In a separate bowl, combine the water, plant-based milk, oil, and miso paste. Vigorously whisk to ensure no miso clumps remain.
  • Add the wet mix to the dry mix and stir with a silicone spatula until a dough comes together. Then, switch to using clean hands and knead the dough for a couple of minutes until no dry pockets remain.
  • Using a kitchen scale, portion out 4 oz dough balls. If you don't have a kitchen scale, you can eyeball this. It will be approximately 1/2 cup of dough per cutlet.
  • Using your hands, stretch each dough ball and fold it over on itself. Continue doing this 5–6 times per dough ball to create that firm and stringy chicken texture. Don't skip this step — otherwise your chicken will be mushy.
  • Flatten out each dough ball into a chicken breast shape.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the chicken cutlets and immediately reduce heat to medium. You don't want the water to be rapidly boiling or else it may break apart the chicken.
  • Simmer for 45 minutes.
  • Drain the chicken (Reserve the liqid! See note.) and transfer to a wire cooling rack set over a sheet pan. Refrigerate uncovered for 1 hour to firm up the chicken.
  • Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 6 months.

Video

Notes

Pro tip: Save the cooking liquid you used to boil the chicken! This makes super flavorful vegan chicken broth. I throw mine in a gallon ziplock bag in the freezer and use it for soups.

Other Vegan Substitutes For Chicken

There are many vegan ingredients you can use as a chicken substitute depending on what you’re making. Here are some ideas:

Mushrooms: Meaty varieties like lion’s mane or oyster mushrooms make for a remarkably chicken-like experience, especially when marinated, battered, and fried for a chicken sandwich or chicken and waffles. They also work great in tacos or fajitas.

Jackfruit: Shredded jackfruit in brine (not syrup) is a great substitute for shredded chicken. Use it in recipes like tortilla soup or chicken dip. This works well for any recipe where you don’t need a distinctly firm bite, but rather flaky shreds.

Tofu: Nutritionally, tofu is the most similar to chicken due to its high protein content. Tofu works as a great chicken substitute for making breaded, fried (or baked) nuggets.

Chickpeas: While this is the least similar in terms of texture, chickpeas work well slightly mashed in chicken salad. You can also use them in place of chicken in curries or soups (like chicken noodle soup).

Vegan Chicken Brands

If you prefer store-bought chicken, there are lots of brands available now. Strips or “pieces” are a lot easier to find than whole cutlets. Here are the most common un-breaded vegan chicken options at well-stocked supermarkets:

  • 365 Plant-Based Chicken Style Bites
  • Alpha Plant-Based Strips Homestyle Chik’n
  • Daring. Original Plant Chicken Pieces
  • Eat Meati Classic Cutlets
  • Gardein Plant-Based Lightly Seasoned Chick’n Scallopini
  • Gardein Ultimate Plant-Based Chik’n Strips
  • Morningstar Farms Meal Starters Chik’n Strips
  • Sweet Earth Mindful Chik’n Strips

Most of these brands also provide breaded and fried chicken options. Those are generally easier to source, although less versatile for cooking.

Whether you use simple whole food ingredients, a homemade seitan recipe, or store-bought products, you’ll find vegan chicken is a widely versatile ingredient that brings meatiness to any dish.

FAQ

No, vegans don’t eat chicken meat because it comes from an animal. A vegan diet and lifestyle excludes any food or products that contain animal byproducts including meat, dairy, eggs, leather, and more. However, there are many vegan chicken substitutes available made from plants that are just as delicious!

Yes, vegan chicken will taste slightly different than the animal-based version. While it’s not an exact replica, the flavors and textures will be similar enough to enjoy it anywhere you would use traditional chicken. Once you’ve been vegan for a while, your taste buds will change and you’ll stop missing the meat.

The health properties of vegan chicken depend on the ingredients and the method in which it’s made. Generally, un-breaded chicken will be lower in calories and fat than breaded and fried options. Many store-bought products, while high in protein, can contain unnatural additives or flavorings which some people may not consider healthy.

However, if you make your own vegan chicken, you’ll know all the ingredients that go into it. You can also use whole plant food ingredients like mushrooms instead of chicken if you’re concerned about health risks.

(This is for informational purposes only. I’m not a health professional. Always consult your doctor or dietician when seeking health information.)

Did you try this chicken cutlet recipe?

Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to rate 5 stars!

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Recipe Rating




5 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This was so tasty! Reminds me of the food I grew up with, thankfully, without the chicken. Way better than store-bought!

  2. 5 stars
    Yum this recipe looks! It will be amazing to convert chicken into vegan, as I love chicken but personally don’t prefer getting animals killed for our food! I also need to check that vegan chicken seasoning next.