Fried chicken is an American institution and every fast food chain has its own version, but in a historic move, KFC will sell plant-based Beyond Meat chicken starting this week. Still, there are plenty of ways to DIY—just check out these vegan fried chicken recipes for proof.
We Americans love our fried foods. I mean, would calamari even be on menus if it weren’t fried? The truth is, you can slap some breading on almost anything, dip it in super-hot oil, and you’ve got yourself a crispy, crowd-pleasing appetizer or entree. It’s no wonder, then, that vegan versions of your favorite fried fare are all attainable, indulgent ways to avoid meat. If you’re not near a KFC vegan test market, give these recipes a try (B.Y.O. red-and-white-stripey-bucket), and you’ve got yourself delectable fried goodness sans animal products.
I’ve been some form of vegetarian for a few years now and, honestly, I’ve eaten way more chicken-fried or country-fried “steak” than I ever did the original, meat-centric dish. The vegan kind just works so well—crispy seasoned breading covering savory, tender seitan is delicious whether or not you are comparing it to its meat-ful counterpart. Try this Country Fried Seitan recipe, which includes instructions on how to make the seitan itself. If you want a shortcut, you can always buy pre-packaged seitan (I can usually find Tofurky and Upton Naturals seitan at chain grocery stores near me).
Related Reading: The Best Fake Meat to Buy for Every Occasion
A different way to approach the meatless chicken-fried steak, is with cauliflower. With this Cauliflower “Chicken Fried” Steak recipe, you use sliced, roasted cauliflower and a tempura beer batter to achieve the “crispy on the outside, tender on the inside” textures of that classic Southern favorite. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can also prep the included recipes for mushroom gravy and purple potato salad to complete the meal.
Maybe you’re a vegan missing fried chicken, or maybe you’re just looking for ways to eat less meat. Whatever the reason, you’re going to be very happy with this Spicy Fried Cauliflower “Chicken” recipe. With arrowroot or cornstarch for extra crispiness, as well as spices, hot sauce, and mustard, you get tons of down-south flavor and crunch surrounding our favorite blank canvas food: cauliflower!
Related Reading: All the Amazing Things You Can Do with a Head of Cauliflower
If, instead of fried chicken pieces, you’d like to try to recreate chicken tenders without meat, you can try this Vegan Chicken Nuggets recipe. This time, artichoke hearts and chickpeas form the base of the “chicken,” with cornmeal and breadcrumbs as the coating (in addition to the other spices). Pan-fry, and enjoy (and maybe don’t look at those nutrition facts on the recipe website)!
For those of you who are faux-meat purists, in that you really strive to recreate the texture of meat in vegan dishes, you can use this CFC (Cruelty Free Chicken) Drumsticks recipe. The “chicken” part is made with canned jackfruit, stock, nutritional yeast, onion powder, and liquid smoke—this is cooked together and shaped onto cauliflower “bones” (a little morbid, mostly brilliant!). It’s not going to taste exactly like a chicken drumstick, but it will be impressively close!
With tofu, you don’t need to mess around with creating your own protein base. Just marinate, bread, and fry! This Southern Fried Tofu recipe was inspired by KFC, delivering juicy tofu surrounded by those golden, fried peaks of breading you might fondly remember. This recipe is accompanied by complementary recipes for mashed potatoes, gravy, and coleslaw, so that you can create a whole meal of vegan, Southern goodness.
An alternative way to prepare fried, chicken-y tofu, is with this Chicken Fried Tofu Nuggets recipe. Less of a nod to the Colonel, and more of a way to showcase tofu, this method will result in a bit less breading. Save this recipe for tofu-lovers, and choose some of the other aforementioned recipes when trying to convince your meat-loving friends of the versatility of frying vegan proteins.
With as much flavor as the original meat versions, fried vegan dishes provide all of the comfort without any of the guilt (unless that guilt is related to calories). Give them a try when you’re looking for a different take on football party snacks, a new twist on down-South flavors, or if you want just eat your feelings and not animals!
Related Video: A Visit with the Queen of Vegan Cheese, Miyoko Schinner