Vegan Pepperoni

After years of recipe modifications it’s finally here! Homemade vegan pepperoni. So much flavor. Perfect texture. Easy to make and doesn’t require any special equipment. At most it’s 15 minutes of actual work and the rest of the time is just cooking. It freezes really well so you can make a batch and store the rest for future pizza making. These are also great for sandwiches! The total cost to make this recipe, which is enough for 10-12 large pizzas, is roughly $5 in ingredients. Store bought vegan pepperoni is more than that for just one pizza.

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So, I’m calling this pepperoni because the spice combination is similar to those iconic, crispy discs on top of the pizza emoji. Did I make this because I miss pepperoni? Naw. I like a challenge, and I like experimenting with flavors and spices and textures. So, I did a lot of research on how meat pepperoni is made, I asked people to describe the flavor of pepperoni, and I put on my thinking cap to come up with a flavor profile that I based my spice mix on. The other challenge was that I wanted a texture that had a little chew but was soft to the bite and would cup up when baked but not dry out. A little bit of sciencing and the results speak for themselves!

Pepp sitting pretty on a pretzel pizza crust!

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First off, what are the flavors in pepperoni?

Pepperoni is made with a mixture of pork and beef then cured with salt and sodium nitrate. That curing process, when the nitrates bind with the iron in the meat, is what gives pepperoni its distinct red color. The meat is dried, ground with spices, then stuffed into a casing where it ferments. This process makes pepperoni salty, a little sour, and umami-y. Basically pepperoni tastes like acid and salt.

Spices are also used to enhance the flavor profile in meat pepperoni. To get a similar combo, but keep it meat free, I used a lot of earthy spices like paprika and garlic. Add in the umami from soy sauce, tahini, and red miso paste and you’ve got a highly favored little disk to top your pizza!

The next trick is to get the iconic cupping that happens when you bake a pepperoni pizza. Achieving that is relatively simple. Slice your pepperoni about 1/8″ thin then toss the slices in olive oil before putting them on your pizza. I also adding in even more paprika to the olive oil blend to make them even more red and pack in extra flavor. You’ll notice that in the recipe there isn’t oil, and that was intentional. I’ve found over the years that adding oil to the recipe actually dries out the seitan rather than keep it moist. Adding oil to the cooked product prior to pizza topping makes it behave how I’ve wanted it to.

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I’ve experimented with many variations of this recipe over the years. I’ve made it with pure tofu but the slices were too brittle. I’ve made it with baked seitan that was wrapped in tin foil but they were too tough. I finally combined everything I know about seitan and landed on both an ingredient list and process that makes a pepperoni slice with just enough chew but tender to the bite. The trick? Add silken tofu to the mix and boil the wrapped seitan rather than baking it! The results are just what I hoped for. Loads of flavor, tender and chewy, and just the right amount of cupping for a Gram worthy pic!

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Seitan Pepperoni

Pepperoni is one of those iconic pizza toppings. So much so that it’s even on the pizza emoji. This recipe is combines a variety of earthy, smoky, and salty flavors to create little discs of deliciousness that are perfect for a vegan pizza! What makes this recipe different than others? It combines both tofu, which helps lock in moisture, and seitan, which gives a chewy texture.

Ingredients

  • 12.3 ounces firm silken tofu (I use Morinu brand)
  • 1 tablespoon red miso paste (I use Miso Master)
  • tablespoon soy sauce
  • 4 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke (Hickory is best for this recipe)
  • 1 tablespoon tahini or peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (Can use 2 tsp if you want more acid flavor)
  • 1 1/2 cups wheat gluten flour
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon paprika (Not a mistake, more paprika is always better)
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground fennel
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper (Can sub with equal amounts of more black pepper)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Instructions

  • Add tofu, miso, ketchup, liquid smoke, tahini to a blender or use an immersion blender. Blend until smooth.
  • Whisk together the remaining dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Mix the liquid mixture with the dry mix using a heavy spoon or a stand mixer. Mix until no dry spots are visible. There is no need to knead.
  • Bring 8-12 cups of water to a boil in a 8 quart pot. While the water is coming to a boil start shaping the pepperoni.
  • Divide the pepperoni mixture into 3 equal pieces. Roll the pieces out to about 2″ in diameter, length doesn’t matter. Place the rolled seitan on a sheet of aluminum foil that is roughly 2′ in length. Roll it tight and twist the ends to create a firm seal.
  • Place the wrapped seitan in the boiling water, turn heat to half for a simmer, and cook in the covered pot for 1 hour. Remove the cooked seitan and place on a wire rack to cool while still wrapped in foil. Allow to cool completely before freezing or refrigerating. Keep the cooked seitain pepperoni in the foil for freezing or refrigeration.
  • When ready to use, slice thin, about 1/8″ thick, using a sharp knife and place on your pizza! See notes for an optional step. A mandolin cutter doesn’t really work. Trust me, I’ve tried.

Notes

It seems like there’s a lot of salt and a lot of spice in this recipe. Well. There is. But, don’t fret, because you really aren’t eating that much if you think about it. You want each slice of pepperoni to have as much flavor as possible because you aren’t really eating that much of it. It’s like each slice is its own little flavor bomb. At most you’ll have maybe 9 thin slices of pepperoni which is maybe 1″ of the seitan. 
Because this recipe is oil free the seitan pepperoni won’t cup like meat-based pepperoni. What I like to do is slice the pepperoni and place it in a small bowl with olive oil and additional paprika. This will help the slices to essentially fry while baking on top of the pizza, hence the cupping action, and the added paprika gives it even more color and flavor. 
Look at that cupping!

2 thoughts on “Vegan Pepperoni

  1. Does this recipe really call for 11/2 cups of wheat gluten flour ? Also 11/2 tablespoons of paprika and 11/2 teaspoons fennel? Seems like a lot.

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