When the folks at Yogatrōpic asked me to be their resident vegan blogger, I struggled with how I wanted to approach it. I felt like I owed something to vegans everywhere, without even knowing what that might be. I could tell you about how I made my transition from meat eating child, to vegetarian teen, to vegan adult—but that would be a really long story. So, instead, I’ll start with my first memory of cooking.
I was probably eight years old and my mom had signed me up for a cooking class at a local park and recreation center. This memory sticks in my mind because the recipe we used was super weird. It was a baked crispy chicken recipe—A DIY Shake n’ Bake. What made the recipe odd was the fact that the breading was a mixture of crushed potato chips and Rice Crispies. It involved cleaning the chicken breasts, dredging them in egg, and throwing them in the gallon-sized bag full of the chips and cereal that we’d had fun crushing up.
So, why recreate this recipe in a vegan version? To celebrate my husband’s long awaited and newly achieved American citizenship! We decided to throw an American themed party, complete with classic dishes from the standard American diet (SAD). The choices were pretty sad—mostly centered around meat and potatoes, and lots of comfort food. I knew this chicken recipe from my childhood memory would make a perfect addition to our American fare party. My husband is not vegan, but he loves my cooking and appreciates when I can “veganize” things.
I researched other vegan recipes that use a dredging technique before frying or baking. As any vegan cook will tell you, it is tricky to get a similar binding power to eggs. I decided to try my own concoction in combination with a couple of other tricks I’ve learned for getting a nice, crispy outside to this chicken that wouldn’t completely fall apart upon hitting the hot oil.
I divided the batch into two meat alternatives: chicken-style seitan and tofu. I split them into halves before baking one half of each, and then frying the other half. The important thing is to make sure both the tofu and seitan are fairly dry. The tofu should be pressed to get extra moisture out. I recommend putting the block of tofu under a plate with something heavy on top of that. The longer it presses, the better. Even as I was setting up my dipping station, I let the pieces sit on paper towel to dry out a little more.
There you have it! Vegan Fried Chicken! I personally preferred the tofu—I like the contrast between the soft inside and crunchy outside. The seitan did have a nice flavor inside, and it has a chewier texture more akin to meat. If you make ahead (which might be necessary, since this is not a quick recipe), these will keep in the fridge for five to seven days. When you’re ready to eat, reheat them in the oven at 350 degrees for 7–10 minutes.
I hope you enjoy this recipe! Our guests at the party loved it. In the future, I’ll probably post some healthier recipes, but sometimes you just need some fried food! It’s all about the balance. Here’s a bonus picture of us celebrating in the unseasonably warm weather of February 28th in Albany, New York. See if you can spot me (Hint: My pants are the most American).