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While recently experimenting with a seitan based fake turkey, I was curious if I was even pursuing the right media for making a fake vegan turkey.

With respect to the following characteristics, what vegan meat substitute media (as in, can approximate turkey not necessarily in nutrition but rather taste) fits best? What preparation of the media is most suited to creating this profile? Why?

  • Has the defined texture of turkey meat
  • Has the defined texture of turkey skin, whether deep-fried or baked
  • Has the moisture level of either light or dark meat
  • Has the flavor compatibility to suit either a mushroom or vegan sausage stuffing
  • Has the flavor compatibility to suit either a rosemary or vegan sausage gravy
  • When made from scratch, does not exceed the cost of a relatively sized bird

Please note, I am not asking about pre-packaged or brands of media, but rather media and preparations themselves (i.e. not Field Roast or Tofurkey, but rather Seitan/Vital Wheat Gluten)

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I have no idea what turkey tastes like, but what has always tasted most like chicken to me is quorn –  ufotds Nov 14 '11 at 23:25
    
@UFO as quorn uses egg it would not be vegan –  mfg Nov 15 '11 at 15:35
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3 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I always make a tofu turkey by blending tofu with herbs and flavorings and then draining over night in a colander dressed with a kitchen towel. The next day I shape the tofu info a turkey shape with stuffing inside, wrap it in a soaked yuba sheat and bake it in the oven, brushing with butter and marinade occasionally.

This "turkey" will not have the texture of turkey meat but it will be carvable.

The skin will have a texture similar to turkey skin.

The flavor of this "turkey" (I use a lot of sage, light miso and poultry seasoning) is very traditional and goes well together with above mentioned gravies and stuffings.

When brushed with enough marinade and butter it will be moist if a little crumbly.

I spent about 10 € on the tofu (6 blocks of 450 g each), 2.50 € on the skin and 5 € on the herbs. If you have buy seasoning, miso, etc, it will cost more.

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In trying to size up this question I turned first to look at what Turkey replacements are considered viable as commercial products. A recent round-up of the top 5 retail products was composed of seitan, or vital wheat gluten constructed "meats."

Has the defined texture of turkey meat

  • Properly prepared, seitan can easily mimic, though not quite replicate (it kind of "snaps" where turkey gives/tears) the tooth of turkey. A variety of preparations can be used to achieve this effect from baking in basting broth, steaming and baking, browning and baking, or boiling and smoking.

Has the moisture level of either light or dark meat

  • The variety of approaches above in dealing with seitan can help to tailor the white meat taste to approximate white meat quite easily. It is more difficult to hit the nail on the head with dark meat. That said, preparing the seitan loaf as a roulade can provide some consolation to dark meat eaters.

Has the defined texture of turkey skin, whether deep-fried or baked

  • In spite of my failed experiments with yuba, I have found a few additional approaches satisfactory. Recently I tried one with a puff-pastry crust that did not nail the texture, but did well to match the flavor of turkey skin. In my own kitchen, I did a bake and baste prep beforehand, and then in the hour before serving, browned the loaf in a paprika/garlic/onion-powder crust and baked on each side for fifteen minutes at 350'F.

Has the flavor compatibility to suit either a mushroom or vegan sausage stuffing Has the flavor compatibility to suit either a rosemary or vegan sausage gravy

  • These two criteria are rather easy to meet for any of the vegan meat replacements as they just require that you season accordingly. I expected there to be more off-putting elements but most remained fairly compatible (even the smoked seitan).

When made from scratch, does not exceed the cost of a relatively sized bird

  • The commercially produced vegan variants are all about $8-10/#. If 1# of turkey yields approximately 0.4# meat; then a relative cost of $0.50-1.50/# ($1.00) translates to $2.50 per pound. The cost of seitan is approximately $3 per pound of vital wheat gluten, and $3 per pound of tofu (if you use a recipe with tofu). A seitan loaf will likely exceed the raw cost of a bird, but not by a significant amount.

  • Also, a serving size of seitan is 150g (per Tofurkey Feast nutritionals); the rule of thumb for turkey is 1 pound (453g) per person. Granted, it is a 1:3 ratio, but I'm not sure this is definitive evidence of cost parity as the seitan amount is a "serving recommendation" and the turkey amount is based on year-over-year consumption (though I will attest that I am less inclined, for better or worse, to go gorge on seitan).

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Tofu is good! Blend the tofu first, then bake it at a low temperature, in order to remove moisture(this is to give it a more tough meaty texture). once done put in in a bowl and mix it with a bit o' sage, basil, cardamom, lemon pepper, and salt.("Ajinomoto" is good as well, for a meatier flavor...although it is also the Japanese name for "msg"), and maybe a bit of lemon juice, yogurt or vinegar(gives it that tang that slightly drier meats go excellent with). Now that the flavor and texture is defined we need a glue...I guess egg wont do... tapioca powder, water, salt boiled into a pudding makes a good glue, or just a bit of cornstarch to keep it drier. For the skin maybe "harumaki" (rice paper) brush the inside of the ricepaper with soysauce and sugar(sugar soysauce 50/50 bring to a boil on low heat(soysauce burns easily)), add another piece of ricepaper paint that as well. a layer of something leafy.. maybe spinach between the "skin" and the "turkey".This is to keep the inside of the "skin" jellowy mimicking animal fat(the water from the leafy stuff will do that. crsipy outside slightly jellowy inside). Spinich might be a bit flavor strong so less flavorful leafy greens will do.(No stems tho). Next put the tofu turkey, then stuffing inside, close it up and bake it or deep fry it!

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Good call with the addition of deep-frying to the prep ideas –  mfg Nov 28 '11 at 16:11
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