I’m excited to announce my cookbook, SWEET POTATO SOUL. Purchase your copy today at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Indie Bound, or iBooks. This vegan chicken and waffles recipe is not in the book, but it is a little taste of what you’ll find inside.
On February 6, 2018 my first published cookbook, Sweet Potato Soul, will be released. I’ve been working on this book since June 2016: perfecting recipes, researching the history of soul food, and writing about food, veganism, and life. And the most common question I’d get during the process was, “Is it hard to veganize soul food?” Short answer, yes…and no.
I wouldn’t say it was hard—the hard parts were meeting deadlines, reading through edits, and finding time to sit down to write. But it was a bit tricky. For my first published cookbook I needed to share original recipes that reflected my way of cooking, my experience growing up in the south, and my tastes as a southern vegan. At the same time, I wasn’t only relying on myself, because I’m not the first person to do this.
For decades black folks have been spinning gold out of whatever they had access to, not least in the kitchen. And for decades black folks have been making vegan soul food. My own dad worked at one of Atlanta’s very first vegan restaurants, Soul Veg, in the mid 80s. Before we had Whole Foods, and a national dialogue around limiting animal products, or a strong vegan movement, restaurants like this were serving collard greens, mac and “cheese”, cakes, pies, and ice cream without animal products.
Google “vegan soul food” and you will find an amazing array of blogs, recipes, restaurants, and cookbooks dedicated to offering vegan options for this quintessential cuisine. Of course, we must also acknowledge that most traditional foods throughout the world are plant-based. Relying on animal meat and secretions is, has always been, and will always be an egregiously inefficient way to nourish ourselves—an indulgence most people in most parts of the world can’t afford.
Look back just a couple of generations and you’ll find that soul food is highly plant-based. After all, my African and southern US ancestors did not have an industrialized food system to feed them. Rather, they relied on family gardens. Thus we have the essential plant-based soul foods like collard greens, candied yams, cornbread, red rice, and gumbo.
As you can imagine, it’s not too hard to create vegan versions of recipes that are already so plant-centric. Making them unique, fun, beautiful, and absolutely delicious is my job.
This recipe for vegan “chicken” and waffles is a fine example of how creating vegan soul food can be both easy and tricky. Easy because people have been making vegan chicken and waffles for a long time. I came at it knowing all the cool swaps: cauliflower for chicken…soy for chicken…gluten for chicken…mushrooms for chicken…
And tricky because I want this one to be uniquely delicious while still staying true to the original. (Just without the dead animal.) The result is crispy, juicy, double-breaded oyster mushrooms over fluffy waffles. Top that with a drizzle of real maple syrup and some southern hot sauce and you’ve got yourself a crazy good meal.
You won’t find this vegan soul food recipe in my upcoming cookbook (I’ve got 100 more for you in there), but I made this recipe as part of a collab with fellow vegan blogger and YouTuber Kim of The Chic Natural, and Thrive Market (video below). Get all of the ingredients you need to make this vegan chicken and waffles on Thrive Market (except for the fresh oyster mushrooms—I usually buy those at farmers markets or local Asian grocery stores), and get $60 off of groceries if you use my code.
If you can't get your hands on oyster mushrooms (look at an Asian grocery store) try this vegan chicken and waffles using cauliflower. Simply swap cauliflower for the mushrooms. This video will post you how: http://sweetpotatosoul.com/2017/04/vegan-fried-cauliflower-chicken-soul-food-sunday-video.html
I haven't tried it yet, but I'm very interested in how this vegan chicken and waffles would turn out in an air fryer. Let me know if you have a chance to try it, and if you have any recommendations for best air frying machines.
- 2 tbsp ground flax + 4 tbsp water
- 1¾ cups soy milk (or another non-dairy milk)
- 1 tsp apple cider or white vinegar
- 1½ cup whole wheat pastry flour (or a vegan gluten free flour mix)
- ⅓ cup brown sugar or coconut sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- canola or coconut oil non-stick spray
- ¼ cup unsweetened plain soy milk or other non-dairy milk
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup all purpose flour or brown rice flour
- 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder or cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon sweet or smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 8 large oyster mushrooms (I use regular oyster mushrooms, not king oysters, though they will work too), tough base of stem removed
- 5 cups safflower oil, or other frying oil
- maple syrup for serving
- hot sauce for serving
- Combine the flax and water in a large mixing bow to make the flax egg.
- Pour the soy milk into a mixing bowl and add the vinegar. Set aside.
- Combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in another mixing bowl.
- Pour the flax egg into the soy milk, and stir well.
- Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients, and stir until just combined.
- Preheat the waffle iron, and spray both sides with non-stick spray.
- Ladle some batter onto the waffle iron (about ½-3/4 cup), and cook for about 3 minutes, or until the iron's indicator shows that they are done.
- Complete with the remaining batter.
- Keep finished waffles warm in a toaster oven or oven at 200°, or stacked and covered with a clean kitchen towel.
- In a mixing bowl combine the soy milk and vinegar. Stir well, then set aside.
- In another mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients: flour, arrowroot powder, spices, and nutritional yeast.
- Heat the frying oil in a large dutch oven or fryer. It should be around 350°.
- Use one hand to carefully dip a mushroom into the wet mixture, then drop it into the flour mixture. Use your other hand (it should be dry) to coat it completely. Dip it back into the wet mixture, and again into the dry mixture, keeping one hand devoted to wet and one to dry.
- Carefully lower the twice coated mushroom into the hot oil. Repeat with remaining mushrooms until you can’t fit any more into the pot. Be mindful not to overcrowd, I can usually fit 3-4 in my large dutch oven at a time. Cook for about 3 minutes on each side, until golden.
- Transfer fried mushrooms to a large plate covered with two sheets of paper towel to absorb excess oil.
- Continue to cook the remaining mushrooms.
- Serve hot over the waffles, and top with maple syrup and hot sauce.