If you follow me on snapchat (@minimalistbaker), you know I’ve been trying to make vegan pepperoni for a while now. It’s been one of those recipes I dreamed up and then struggled to perfect. But, after many failed attempts, I’m happy to report I cracked the code!
Say goodbye to the days of vegetables-only pizza (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Vegan pepperoni to the rescue!
Origins of Pepperoni
It’s thought that the technique of curing meat with salt and spices to preserve it originates as far back as the Roman Empire. Spicy sausages were then curated in Italy and pepperoni is thought to have originated in the US as an adaptation from the Italian versions. Pepperoni began appearing in delis and pizza shops in New York City around 1919 and is now many people’s favorite pizza topping!
The following is our plant-based version made with similar spices and flavor, but without the meat!
For the base, I experimented with tofu, tempeh, and chickpeas, trying each individually and mixed to find the right texture.
While tempeh seemed to yield the right texture initially, when baked it gets pretty dry and crumbly. The same goes for chickpeas. Tofu, however, lends itself perfectly to the texture of pepperoni because it bakes up beautifully and holds it shape! Plus, it’s neutral in flavor and does an excellent job at absorbing all of those pepperoni spices.
In total, this recipe requires just 10 ingredients and comes together in less than 1 hour! Some versions I tested required more than 1 full day to prepare, but I knew that wasn’t realistic. I think it’s pretty awesome that you can make this pepperoni from scratch for dinner tonight! (Pats self on back).
What spices will you need? Excellent question!
A blend of sea salt, black pepper, red pepper flake, paprika, garlic powder, ground anise, fennel (this one’s important!), ground mustard, and coconut sugar for a little sweetness. I didn’t have all of these spices on hand, but now that I have them, I can’t wait to experiment with other uses.
In addition to being relatively easy to make, these pepperoni are considerably healthier than their animal-based counterpart. They’re very low in fat – less than 1 gram fat per pepperoni – and relatively high in protein – about 1 gram protein per pepperoni! If you ate all the pepperonis (like I did), that would be 30 g protein. That’s a lot of plant-based fuel!
I hope you all try and love this recipe! It’s:
Perfectly tender + crisp
& Seriously delicious
This is the perfect topper for vegan and gluten-free pizzas, as well as deep dish, portobello, and butternut! I could also see these tucking beautifully inside of calzones! The options are endless. I just love that the texture is so close to the real thing, and they’re addictively salty and spicy.
If you give this recipe a try, let us know what you think! We love your comments, ratings, and especially your photos tagged #minimalistbaker on Instagram! We’d love to see how yours turn out. Cheers, friends!
- 10 ounces extra-firm tofu (organic when possible)
- 1 – 1 1/2 tsp each sea salt and ground black pepper
- 2-3 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (depending on preferred heat level)
- 2 tsp ground mustard seeds
- 1 tsp fennel seeds (lightly crushed)
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp coconut sugar
- 1/4 tsp ground anise
- 1 tsp A1 sauce or liquid smoke (optional)
- Cooking spray or olive oil for baking
- Wrap tofu in a clean towel and set something heavy on top – like a cast-iron skillet – to press out liquid for 10-15 minutes. Also preheat oven to 400 degrees F (204 C).
- Once pressed, cube tofu and add to a food processor along with sea salt, black pepper, red pepper flake, ground mustard, fennel seeds, smoked paprika, garlic powder, coconut sugar, ground anise, and A1 sauce/liquid smoke (optional). Mix/pulse to combine, scraping down sides as needed.
- Sample and adjust seasonings as needed, adding more salt for saltiness, red pepper flake for heat, paprika for smokiness, or coconut sugar for sweetness.
- Transfer the mixture to a parchment-lined baking sheet (or more baking sheets, as needed, if increasing batch size). Lay a sheet of plastic wrap or parchment paper on top and use your hands to spread into a uniformly thin layer about 1/4th – 1/8th inch thick (see photo). The more even the layer is, the more evenly it will bake. Spritz with a little nonstick spray or gently brush with a bit of oil to help it crisp up.
- Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes, or until golden brown and slightly dried out. Then use a small or medium circular cookie cutter to cut out “pepperonis” (see photo). Feel free to keep the scrap pieces as well! They’re just not as pretty.
- At this point, the pepperonis are ready to add to a pizza, where they should bake at least another 10-15 minutes. Time accordingly based on how long your crust takes to bake. You’ll know they’re ready when they’re deep red in color and slightly crisp to the touch.
- If you don’t want to add them to a pizza right away, simply let them cool, cover, and refrigerate (up to 4 days) or freeze (up to 1 month) for later use. If frozen, let thaw slightly before adding to the pizza to bake.
* Nutrition information is a rough estimate.
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