Roasted, crispy, and delicious, these vegan drumsticks are easy to make and high in plant-based protein. Perfect for a holiday meal, appetizer, or fun weeknight main, these tender seitan drumsticks take vegan to a whole new level.
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Hey Internet, I’ve done a few different things now with seitan including my most popular recipe -- Vegan Philly Cheesesteaks -- but I wanted to try making something I really missed from childhood: drumsticks!
No, I’m not talking about those ice cream cones you can buy in the freezer section (for real though, they need to make some vegan ones), I’m talking about the roasted, chewy, fun-to-eat drumsticks typically from chicken (though I did occasionally eat the larger turkey drumsticks).
I don’t eat meat anymore, but I was craving that kind of meal--but didn’t want to compromise my values. So, I made them out of seitan instead!
These awesome vegan drumsticks are made with a savory chicken-like seitan, covered in rice paper (which really does feel and taste like the skin once you roast it), dredged in a crispy batter, and then coated with a super flavorful sauce and roasted to perfection.
Don’t worry if it seems like a lot of steps, it’s actually super easy to make.
They take about the same amount of time, are packed with even more (complete) protein than chicken, can be made super low fat (I give you options below!), and are a seriously fun appetizer or meal.
If you live in the US, you may have heard football is back--and if not, or you like another sport, these are perfect for the big game. So whether you’re enjoying the game with your friends social distance style, watching together over video conference, or just sitting with the fam in your living room, these vegan chicken drums super fun app to serve.
So if you’re ready to learn how to make this delicious seitan masterpiece--and learn how you can customize it too--just keep reading.
What You’ll Need for the Drumstick Itself
The main component of the seitan is vital wheat gluten This is flour that has been stripped down to the protein of the wheat. It’s what makes this recipe so high in, you guessed it, protein!
Once mixed with liquid and the other things in this recipe, the vital wheat gluten will form a dough. This is not a dough we knead--actually, the less we touch it the better. Overworked seitan is rubbery and gross. Let’s not do that.
Standard seitan is ALMOST a complete protein, but it’s missing one of the essential amino acids: lysine.
To add lysine to make seitan a complete protein AND to add more of a tender, meaty texture, I like to blend my seitan with beans.
To make it taste like chicken (which is weird because actual chicken doesn’t taste like much till it’s seasoned), I employ one of my favorite vegan cooking hacks in this recipe: vegan chicken broth.
I personally love Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base (and mix it with water) as it keeps better and is more economical than carton vegan chicken broth. You can absolutely use prepared vegan chicken broth or even just vegetable broth (I recommend adding a little poultry seasoning (it’s vegan!) if you do this).
Speaking of spices, I recommend a bit of onion powder and garlic powder, a touch of smoked paprika (another great vegan cooking hack for adding a meaty or smoky flavor), and poultry seasoning if you’re using vegetable broth instead of vegan chicken broth. Most stores carry poultry seasoning, but if not you can always order it online.
I actually order all my spices from The Spice House. You can get your spices cheaper if you order a flat pack (cheaper to ship as well) and refill your existing spice jars. Here’s a link for a discount with The Spice House.
Now, for the skin--a term which always struck me as kind of gross, but not sure how else to refer to it in this context--I used rice paper. This material is used commonly to make spring or summer rolls and is stiff, but soft and malleable when you soak it, so we can wrap it around the vegan drumstick.
For the richer flavor that drumsticks usually have, it was actually Mr. Zardyplants’ suggestion to soak the rice paper in canned coconut milk. The fat content gives the mouthfeel of chicken skin, and I promise you won’t taste the coconut. There’s so many other amazing flavors going on here.
However, we did test it the first time with just water, and it works just fine, just not as rich and decadent.
Oh, and the skewers--we used bamboo skewers as the “stick” for our drumsticks. It works great, but maybe remove it before serving little ones who may not understand the stick isn’t edible.
EXTRA flavoring options
If you want to add a lot more flavor to your vegan drumsticks, do one or both (both recommended) of these things -- they’re really not hard and not much work, so don’t skimp!
Two, if you want it to be really awesome, halfway through the baking process, baste both sides of the drumsticks with this awesome, simple sauce:
A touch of the Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base
The leftover rub (or just a combo of those ingredients)
A little leftover coconut milk or water
A squeeze of ketchup (I’m serious) (if you hate ketchup, sub tomato sauce, but I promise this is awesome)
Okay, okay, let’s move on.
Tips for Making Vegan Chicken Drumsticks
So first, the dough. Yes, it’s kind of like a dough but it produces the most amazing texture when cooked, I promise!
- First, blend the beans, spices, and about ¾ cup of the vegan chicken broth in the food processor or blender until it is smooth.
- Then add your vital wheat gluten and blend again briefly, until most of it has been incorporated. It may still be a little powdery but that’s OK.
- Add it to a large bowl and press everything together with your hands. You may want to add a tablespoon of water or two if it looks a bit dry. You can press the dough together so there are no more crumbly bits, but DO NOT KNEAD IT. I know other recipes may say to knead the seitan but it always turns out rubbery when I do that. Seriously, just try to form the dough.
- Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. It worked out to a little over one third cup for each piece, but I wanted them to be perfect so I used my food scale to weigh them.
- You don’t have to weigh it, but if you want to: Weigh the uncut ball of dough first, then divide that in half equally (so if my ball is 800g, I would cut it into 400g pieces) and so on until you have 8 pieces at about 100g each (mine actually worked out to 97g each from a 777g ball of dough but yours may vary slightly).
- Now form the pieces into teardrop or pear shapes but don’t spend too much time making it look perfect.
- Pierce them with a skewer and repeat until all 8 vegan chicken drumsticks are prepped.
Making the “Skin”
So you have a few choices when it comes to the “skin.” You can choose what type of liquid to soak your rice paper in, which will really inform the final flavor, and you can choose whether to add the crust to it which will inform the final texture and give the sauce (if using) something to stick to.
Our favorite way to make these was to soak the rice paper in coconut milk. This gave the skin a very rich and delicious texture and mouthfeel, while the inside of the drumstick stays fairly lean.
For a lower fat option, just use water OR you could add a little of the Better Than Bouillon paste to the soaking water and make the skin a little more flavorful if you want.
Either way, here are a few tips for making the skin:
- Set up a station with a rimmed dinner plate, the bowl of crust mixture (if using) with a spoon in it, and a lined rimmed baking tray (I used a lasagna pan).
- Pour coconut milk or water onto the plate for soaking, about ¾ cup.
- Soak one sheet of rice paper at a time (they can stick together if you don’t). Make sure the paper is submerged in the water or coconut milk (if not, use your hand to press it down so it is).
- It takes about 30 seconds to soak each sheet of rice paper enough to make it malleable. You can test one “corner” of it by pinching it, if it starts to stick to itself like cling wrap, it’s ready. Don’t over soak or it will become weak.
- Take your drumstick in one hand and start to lift up the soaked sheet of rice paper with the other. Place the top of the drumstick in the center of the rice paper, then gently pull down the sides so it wraps over the seitan. Pinch or twist the bottom. It won’t stick together perfectly, but it will be fine.
- Either roll the covered drumstick in the crust mixture if using, or use a spoon to sprinkle it over all the way around--that’s what I did.
- Then place the completed drumstick on the lined baking tray. Repeat with the other 7 vegan drumsticks.
Roasting the Drumsticks
I recommend roasting your drumsticks at about 375 degrees Fahrenheit (191 Celsius). This strikes the perfect balance between them not taking forever to cook and the rice paper not burning on the bottom.
Bake them covered for the first half hour. We’ll bake them uncovered after we baste them with sauce.
I also recommend flipping your drumsticks after the first 12-15 minutes.
Make the sauce while they bake--just throw the remaining crust mixture (or sub some spices, nutritional yeast, and cornstarch or arrowroot powder), a bit of the remaining coconut milk (add as needed for consistency), a squeeze of ketchup or tomato sauce, and a small teaspoon of the Better Than Bouillon paste (or just a little more spices and a pinch of salt) in a bowl and mix it together until it’s smooth and has a cake-batter consistency.
You could also use BBQ sauce for a delicious twist on this recipe. Try my homemade easy BBQ sauce.
So after the half hour has elapsed, remove the cover and add the sauce. I recommend a basting brush but you can use a spoon too (it will be a somewhat thicker application).
Add the sauce to both sides, flipping the drumsticks again. Bake for another 12 minutes, then flip one more time (you don’t need to baste again, though) and bake for a final 12 minutes.
Then chow down!
Does It Keep?
Short answer is yes! You can store these in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
If you want to freeze them, I highly recommend freezing BEFORE adding the skin and cooking, as it will make the texture much better if you make the “skin” fresh.
More Awesome Seitan Recipes
I’m really enjoying making seitan. It’s fun to see what I can come up with, and that high protein, delicious meals don’t need to contain animal products.
Here’s a few awesome seitan recipes I’m loving right now:
- Vegan Philly Cheesesteaks (these happen to be the most popular recipe on my blog!)
- Seitan Chicken Nuggets
- Vegan Gyros
- Instant Pot Seitan (the basic beefy recipe for any application)
As always, I hope you love this recipe–I know I do, and Mr. Zardyplants does too. I definitely got the coveted reaction from him when he first tried it: eyes closed and “Mmmmpppphhhh” while chewing. I just love that.
These Vegan Drumsticks are:
- Moist (sorry)
- Meaty (but without the cruelty!)
And perfect for a family-friendly dinner that will soon become a family-favorite dinner! Also perfect for parties, the big game, and stocking the freezer with last minute meals.
Let me know in the comments below if you make this recipe or tag me @Zardyplants on Instagram so I can see your beautiful recreations! If you tag me on IG, I will share your post in my stories :)
Also, one quick request: if you love how this recipe looks or tastes, please leave me a 5-star rating and a nice comment–ratings help more people find my recipes which helps me keep providing them! Thank you!