May 24, 2008

vegan sausage

Almost two months ago I wrote a post about home-made vegan sausage, but I never posted it. That was probably at least a month after vegan sausage recipes started appearing all over the Internet. I was a little behind because one, it looked like too much trouble, and two, I didn't think it would taste good. It turns out I was wrong on both counts and we've made lots of seitan sausage in the last couple of months. This seems like the perfect time to finally post this as it's Memorial Day weekend and "The World's Largest Brat Fest" is happening in the city where we live. ("The World's Largest Vegan Brat Fest," held in the parking lot of Whole Foods, was yesterday.) For the record, the Brat Fest also serves vegetarian brats, and last year there was a controversy over whether or not the veggie brats should be considered in the total number of brats consumed! Click here for stats.
My final version of the sausage, and the one I like best, appears at the very bottom of the post. You can eat it just as it is, but it's at its best sliced and sauteed in a little olive oil. It's really good.

Here's the post:

I'm not fond of overly-processed fake meats and cheeses. They are usually too high in salt and fat, they taste bad and they often try to simulate foods I didn't care to eat when I wasn't vegetarian, like lunch meats, hot dogs, sausage and such. Sheesh, I live in Wisconsin, land of brat-eating cheese heads, (no offense intended) and I've never tasted an actual brat. Before I moved here, I'd never even heard of them. The first one I tried was at an alternative Brat Fest (alternative to "The World's Largest Brat Fest" held here on Memorial Day) put on by Alliance for Animals. (If there are any meat-eating Wisconsinites out there reading this, you're probably shaking your heads in disgust!) The brand was Tofurky. I liked it well enough and they've come in handy at barbecues , but I don't crave them. I like seitan but I don't try to make it taste like meat. My husband sometimes buys lunch "meats" but I rarely eat them. He buys orange slices of "cheese" but they taste worse than American cheese, and I never ate that. It would be arrogant for me to say I didn't like any kind of animal food before becoming vegetarian. For example, I liked short ribs on the barbecue and roasted chicken, and scrambled eggs. And cheese on pizza. Now it all seems so gross. I don't want them anymore. When I think of burgers, I don't think of ground meat - I think of a food shape. I don't want burgers to look or taste like beef. It's not the taste of these things I miss - I think it's TEXTURE. Sometimes you just want to chew something - really sink your teeth in. Yeah. Or wrap your mouth around a gooey stretchy bite of pizza.

One time I was baking a lot of tofu slices to take on a camping trip and in the effort of packing -three kids, dog, husband...- I forgot all about the tofu, and it baked all day. It was supposed to travel in the cooler and be road snacks for a few days. Now it was road kill. I was freaked. It had a texture somewhere between jerky and crackers - and it was great! I was transported back to a childhood of gnawing on the turkey wings of Thanksgivings past. It was texture. Tofu with texture and chew - with good taste as a bonus.

And there's pizza. I've put tofu on it. I've put weird fake cheese on it. I've put no cheese on it. I've put homemade "cheez" sauces on it. With a good crust, sauce and toppings, pizza can be great without cheese. But there's the mouth-feel memory of that stringy melted mozzarella buried somewhere in my brain, and every so often it surfaces. When I first considered becoming vegan, it was visions of pizza that passed before my eyes. I sometimes use small amounts of Follow Your Heart mozzarella on pizza and the melted texture is gratifying. I've even started almost liking the taste. (I've been reading about a new cheese coming from the Chicago soy dairy that's supposed to be even better.)

So where is this heading? Am I going to start eating more meat-like foods? No. I'm content to eat my veggies, fruits, nuts, grains and beans. But sometimes it's fun to create foods with textures (and tastes) that mimic old familiar foods. Sometimes it's fun to eat non-dairy ice cream. Yeah. It's always fun to do that.

Bamboo steamer used with Le Creuset pan
Anyway, I've been reading other blogs and finding all these "sausage" recipes. First I made sausage crumbles with soy protein and put some on a pizza and some into chili. (I didn't like it on the pizza but it was good in the chili!) Then I found Julia Hasson's vegan sausage on Everyday dish and I was intrigued. I found a simpler version called seitan sausage on the ppk, and being lazy, I tried that one, changing it only slightly. The only steamer I have is a bamboo steamer, so I used that to steam the seitan. It fit perfectly on top of my 3-1/2 court enameled cast iron pan. They turned out perfectly with a pleasing texture and taste. I've never steamed seitan before, and this has opened up all sorts of new possibilities.

I've been using vital wheat gluten for years to make a stuffed Thanksgiving roast. I've never had a recipe - just mixed it with water and seasoned it with herbs, spices, dry mustard, onion, garlic and tamari and rolled it out (this is not easy as it's very stretchy — an understatement!), fit it into a pan with the seitan extending over one side, filled the pan with rice-bread stuffing, stretched and tucked the side flap over the top and baked until puffed and golden. Now I'm finding all sorts of recipes out there for steamed seitan and I'm excited to start trying them. It was so easy. I doubled Isa's recipe and ended up with nine of these "sausages." They've been disappearing left and right and I finally photographed the last ones because I was afraid they would all be gone before I had a chance. I like this seitan much better than the stuff from the store. It's not so salty and the taste is mild. The texture is great, and you can use it wherever you use seitan, not just as a sausage thing. You can also form it into different shapes before steaming.

Seitan sausage #1
Makes 4 big sausages

1/2 cup pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup vegetable broth (cool, not hot)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, very finely minced
1 1/4 cups vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seed, crushed (optional-I detest fennel.)
1 teaspoon Chinese red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika (or sweet)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon fresh black pepper

Mash the pintos in a large bowl. My potato masher seems to be gone so I used the bottom of a glass. Mix in all the rest of the ingredients in the order listed and mix with a fork. Form into sausage shapes and roll each sausage up in a piece of aluminum foil, twisting the ends. Steam the rolls for 40 minutes.

Try sautéing slices in a little olive oil until they brown a bit. I guarantee you'll be impressed. Smells good, too.

p.s. Okay. So I bought a potato masher and decided to make these again. (Actually, this is the third time, if you count my husband making them so I could test the recipe and see if it really was as easy as it seemed.) The first time I made this, I pretty much followed the recipe, but it's in my nature to muck around with recipes and change them. I mean, open a whole can of beans and only use 1/2 cup? Why not have a higher percentage of beans to flour. Maybe try a different kind of bean. The recipe below is slightly different from the one above, but the result is similar — perhaps a little more smooth and juicy.

I went to the cupboard for red kidney beans because I like the taste and I thought it would look good to have little flecks of dark red. There were no red kidney beans, so I used cannellini beans. (white kidney beans). I think I actually like the rich taste of cannellini beans better than red kidneys, so it was a good substitution. I didn't have vegetable broth on hand so I used water and added tomato paste for flavor. I also added liquid smoke. I was very happy with the result and the ingredients are listed below. The directions are the same as above except mix the tomato paste and chipotlé (if used) into the mashed beans before adding the rest of the ingredients.

seitan sausage #2 (very spicy)
1- 15 ounce can cannellini beans (or chick peas), rinsed, drained and mashed
1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup water (cool, not hot)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
4 medium cloves garlic, very finely minced
1 1/2 cups vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 teaspoons Chinese red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika (or sweet paprika)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon fresh black pepper (coarse ground)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 chipotlé in adobo, mashed up (optional but really good)

Here's what I did for lunch with the finished sausage. I sautéed thinly sliced yellow potatoes and thinly sliced onion in a little olive oil. When the vegetables were tender, I added sliced seitan and cooked until lightly browned. Fresh pepper was ground over the top.


  1. Great post, Andrea! I loved the stories about your adventures with tofu and other substitute ingredients (I'm now thinking of baking my tofu all day and seeing what happens!!). I always enjoy seeing these sausage and similar recipes on blogs, but sigh because I can't eat wheat (it's the gluten itself that causes problems for me). But these do LOOK great!

  2. This recipe looks fabulous and, I love that it really does seem easy. Making seitan like products has always scared me because it seems like such an endeavor. I work at a cafe where we make seitan all the time but I'm ever directly involved enough in it to actually get comfortable with it. Thanks for providing an awesome, easy recipe to try out :)

  3. Thanks Ricki-especially since you can't even eat wheat! I actually think there's too much gluten in these "sausages" and intend to experiment with substituting other things, but doubt I can get rid of all of it without making the recipe so complicated I'd be too lazy to ever make it again. Do you also have problems with spelt, kamut, barley and other flours?

    gb-Thanks for your comment! I agree that making seitan can be intimidating. I used to make it the traditional way about once a year, but now I'm too lazy even for that level of commitment. Until I discovered this method on PPK and other sites, when we wanted seitan we just bought a tub of it.

  4. Hey, Andrea....

    Like you, I've been reading all those sausage posts thinking, "This sounds like way too much work." Also, I never liked sausage. However, someone in my family really WOULD like it, so when school is out I do play to try this. How do I know he'd like it? Because he loved Robin Robertson's Slow Cooker Potroast, that's why!

  5. Claire, the hardest part about making this is getting the steamer out from behind the pots.

    The last time I made them I used chick peas for the beans because I had a can of them in the pantry. They were the best yet, but mashing the beans was so hard that I won't use them again unless I pressure cook some and they're soft.

  6. im new to your blog... and im really glad i found it!!!! I really need to try these sausages! They intimidate me a bit but i think i need ti set aside my fears!!!!!

  7. Thanks for reading my blog. I hope you try these "sausages." They're really good and surprisingly easy to make.

  8. I made these (recipe 2) yesterday. I'm not that familiar with seitan so am wondering if they are meant to be a little spongy in texture. Yours look more dense than mine. We don't have vital wheat gluten in Australia (well not that I could find) so I used gluten flour. They were still delicious and this is also the first time I've used liquid smoke and chipotle (I had to go to USA Foods to find them!). I was a bit wary of the liquid smoke as the smell reminds me of ham but it tastes great in the sausages.

  9. Hi! I've just made a batch of your sausage, though I spiced them a bit differently with what I had on hand (lots of paprika -- smoked, hot, hungarian, oregano, thyme and fennel seeds)

    I'm eager to try them as the "meat" was delicious straight out of the bowl. Have you tried shaping it into discs for buger-type things?

  10. Charles,

    I haven't tried different shapes but I don't see why you can't make any shape you want. Vegan Dad experiments extensively with fake meats and you might want to check out his blog.

  11. Andrea- I'm late to your post, but have had some of your same experience with vegan sausage- and will never buy it again! Merged recipes from Julie Hasson, the PPK, and VeganDad, and although there have been some variations in texture, all experiments were enthusiastically eaten. I agree with the comment about using only a half cup of beans, why not use the whole can (or bag, as I divide my home cooked beans into ~1.5 cup portions.) The moisture was too high in the first batch I made with the higher beans amount, so next time I'll use more flour and less water. And I will add your suggestion for liquid smoke, thanks!

  12. What a terrific recipe, congratulations!
    will try some
    Mimi Italy


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