Vegan or veggie jerky usually refers to a product that is made to mimic traditional beef or game jerky. Most often it’s made out of tofu, mushrooms, or eggplant, but anything else that can hold onto the marinade will work as well. Said marinade is salty and sweet, with numerous possible additions – from herbs and chilies to liquid smoke.
Vegan jerky is available in most places that carry vegan-friendly products, but it’s also super easy to make at home.
How to Make Vegan Jerky at Home. louisville vegan jerky
You don’t need any special cooking skills or talent to make this stuff at home. It’s mostly slicing, stirring, and waiting. There’s only a handful of tools that you will need, but if you have been a vegan for a while now chances are that you already have them in your kitchen.
Firm tofu is the best base because of its texture and neutral flavors. It will have to the most meat-like mouthfeel, and you can pretty much do anything to it when it comes to the marinade. The trick to perfect you jerky is to freeze the tofu after you press it. This will form water crystals that will drain out once you defrost the block. This leaves you with numerous pockets for the marinade to settle.
Eggplant is usually a base for vegan bacon, but it can use it for this application as well. Pretty much all you have to do is slice and rinse it, and you’re good to go.
Portobello mushrooms are another great choice bot because of their size and texture. They are also the only ones that will have that stringiness that meat jerky also has. Use the caps only, and set the stems aside for another application.
An interesting option I’ve seen but haven’t tried yet are banana peels. So you see, you have a lot of options that you can play with.
All you need to do is to remember two simple ratios. For every cup of veg, you need to prepare about a quarter cup of marinade.
And for every cup of water (or other liquid) you will need a quarter cup of kosher salt (an eight of the table or iodized), and a half to a full tablespoon of sugar (or another sweetener). This is your marinade base. To that, you can add anything from smoked paprika, chili flakes, liquid smoke, garlic and onion powder, etc.
If you’re using soy sauce instead of salt (which I highly recommend), use equal amounts by volume of it and water (ie, half a cup).
A spoon, a bowl, a knife, a mandoline (preferable, but optional), a food processor and/or a mortar and pestle, a rack, and a food dehydrator. I have a feeling that you already have most of it (if not all) at home.
If your knife skills are rather good, you can skip the mandoline and slice everything by hand. But I would urge you to put one on your wishlist anyway. When jerky making becomes a part of your routine, it will make your life so much easier. Just remember to pick up a V-style slicer instead of one with a regular blade, since those are better for working with veg.
What food dehydrator is the best for vegan jerky
The answer is simple – whichever one that you already have or that is within your budget. Jerky is not that temperamental and all it matters is that there is enough space for the air to flow around all pieces.
If you have a new-ish oven, you will probably be able to finish the job in it just fine. Just turn on the fan and set it to the lowest temperature you can.
You will think that I’m insulting your intelligence once you finish reading this section. It’s that simple to make vegan jerky at home.
First, mix your marinade. Then, prep your base by slicing it into thin strips. Ideally, stay somewhere between a quarter and an eighth of an inch.
Spread the marinade evenly over each slice. If you’re working with tofu, you can place it in the food dehydrator straight away. If you’re working with other veggies, place a rack over a sheet pan, and then arrange the slices on top. Leave them for a bit and let the salt and sugar extract some excess moisture from the veg. This will help both develop the flavor and dry your jerky quicker.
It’s up to you what dehydrator settings you should choose. If you can control the temperature, you can also control the further development of flavor. Higher temp will bring out more from your herbs and spices, as well as dry the jerky quicker. However, it will also cook it and kill some vitamins.
Cooler temperatures help preserve as much nutrition as possible, but it will take a lot longer in the machine.
The jerky is done when it gets a shoe leather texture – firm with some bend to it. In a run of the mill home food dehydrator, that should happen in about 6 to 8 hours.
If you’ve done everything properly, your jerky will keep in an airtight container for a couple of weeks at room temperature.
Big batches should be divided into small portions so the whole batch can keep longer. You should consider vacuum packing everything that you will not eat within the next week or so, so you can preserve the freshness and aroma.