It’s official, we are living in the golden age of veganism!
There’s very little we planty peeps have to sacrifice to go cruelty-free these days, as there are numerous vegan substitutes for pretty much every non-vegan treat out there, and guess what… they’re just as good as the real deal.
Vegan wings are a particular favorite of mine. They’re so darn tasty that you can’t help but wonder what sorcery is at play.
With legit chicken taste and legit chicken texture, you wouldn’t be the first to ask what these delicious little faux chicken flappers are made of.
So, let’s put vegan wings under the microscope and see what’s really going on under the crispy surface!
Vegan Chicken Wing Ingredients
There are actually a few different ways to go about making vegan chicken wings, each using a different primary ingredient to form the wings themselves. I’ll be breaking each one down for you, starting with the mighty seitan.
In my humble opinion, seitan is by far the best ingredient for veganizing chicken wings, as it gives you a super meaty flavor and texture, but I’m sure there are a few of you out there who’ve never heard of it, so let’s break it down!
Seitan, pronounced say-tan, is just wheat gluten. It’s produced by kneading wheat flour with water until it solidifies into a meaty lump (yum, I know), which isn’t too satisfying, but once it’s the right consistency, you can shape it and cut it however you like.
I’ve made setian wins, seitan steaks, seitan BBQ ribs, even seitan sausages.
It only has a mild natural flavor, but most meat only has a mild flavor anyway; it’s the other stuff that kicks the flavor of both real meat and wheat meat up a notch.
A common ingredient if you’re going for a smoky flavor is liquid smoke — Yep, it’s a thing, and it’s downright delicious. Liquid smoke is just a very smoky flavoring; you can think of it a little bit like barbecue soy sauce.
Another common friend of seitan in vegan wing recipes is nutritional yeast, a deactivated yeast with a mildly cheesy flavor.
It arrives in pots of vitamin-dense flakes, and you can mix it into pretty much anything. I personally use it as a table seasoning too; it’s that darn good.
Beans aren’t a very common primary ingredient for making vegan wings, but it has been done before.
You have to prepare the beans correctly, usually by mushing them a little, but then, with the right cooking technique and flavorings, fake beanie meat can be a real delight.
Chickpeas are a better choice than beans for wings in my opinion, and not just because they have “chick” in their name.
These little legumes are basically miniature sponges for flavor when mashed up, so any herbs, rubs, or marinades you use sink right through the wing.
The only problem is that mushed chickpeas don’t really like binding together unless you use a bunch of flour and oil (which is how you make falafel), but that’s not ideal for vegan wings, so people get creative looking for solutions.
My advice would be to use rice paper to hold your chickpea mix together in vaguely wing-shaped chunks.
Jackfruit looks like big lumpy pears, and on the other side of their textured exterior is a stash of little fleshy pods that can be flavored to taste like pretty much any meaty treat on the planet.
A tropical fruit native to Asia, Africa, and South America, this fig relative has only come into prominence in the Western world rather recently, likely due to the accelerated momentum of the vegan movement over the last decade.
Jackfruit is most commonly used to make pulled pork substitutes as it tears easily, but it’s also a dynamite option for making vegan wings if you know how to approach it.
You can even bring a sugar cane into the equation so you get that genuine wing experience of nibbling chicken from the bone, and as the cane is a natural sweetener that absorbs flavors, it brings even more deliciousness to the treat.
Much like the other fake meat options in this guide, the preparation method is paramount to making a super realistic jackfruit wing. I’d recommend a breadcrumb coating for this style of fake wing, as it gives it that genuine KFC vibe.
Combine with some southern-style gravy and you’re in for one heck of a meal!
Many a non-vegan turn their nose up at the mere suggestion of tofu, but if you use the right kind and prepare it well, soybean curd can make for an amazing meat substitution.
There are five different types of tofu:
- Silken — Very soft and crumbly
- Regular — Not as soft but still quite crumbly
- Firm — Robust and not all that crumbly at all
- Extra firm — Has a similar texture to feta cheese and typically won’t crumble
- Super firm — Has a meaty texture and will only ever crumble if you smush it
As you’d expect, super firm tofu tends to be the weapon of choice for fake meat enthusiasts, but as it’s harder to shape, you might prefer a softer variant alongside some sort of enclosure to get it to hold its form.
Again, rice paper will be just the ticket for holding all the tofu in place.
Vegan wings are one of my all-time favorite fake meat treats, partly because, when they’re made well, you can barely tell the difference between the vegan version and actual chicken.
Messing around with all these different ingredients may sound like a faff to some people, especially meat eaters, but one of the best things about veganism is that it encourages creativity in the kitchen.
Veganism frees you from the 5-meal cycle we often fall into through the week, which can get incredibly boring.
When you choose to go cruelty-free, you’re making an investment in your health, the planet, and keeping your culinary life fresh!
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