Bold, flavorful, smoky, and a little spicy, this Vegan Pepperoni is obscenely close to the real thing but without any animal cruelty or cholesterol. Use it on vegan pizza, in sandwiches, charcuterie boards, or just eat it on its own because it’s downright delicious!
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Hey Internet, I’ve been missing pepperoni pizza since I went vegan. There are a few brands of vegan pepperoni out there, like Mia, Yves, and a few others, but unfortunately none of them scratched my itch for that recognizable flavor of pepperoni.
But then I thought, why don’t I just make it? I already love making seitan and have made many ludicrously close meat alternatives like vegan sausage, vegan pastrami, vegan gyros, and vegan chicken nuggets.
So I ventured and tried to make it. I had issues making seitan red and keeping it red. I tried beet powder and fermented beets in my vegan ham and while it is a delicious recipe and tastes just like ham, a lot of the red/pink color disappears after cooking it.
That was until I used an actual beet. I was afraid to, because I REALLY dislike beets. Like really.
So I packed the recipe with as much flavor as I could and did the first test. Guess what? It not only stayed red but it DIDN’T TASTE LIKE BEETS. I could not even detect the flavor. Amazing!
I made it several more times to test the recipe and I couldn’t believe it worked each time. No beet flavor, only amazing pepperoni flavor.
The great thing about this vegan pepperoni is that it’s seitan which freezes beautifully.
This recipe makes 2 large rolls of pepperoni, with about 2 cups of slices. So you can toss one in the freezer and defrost some anytime you’ve got a craving.
Finally, I stuck these guys on my new obsession: air fryer pizza and it’s amazing.
So, let’s get into the recipe for these delicious babes.
What You’ll Need
- A small beet: You only need a small beet, slightly larger than a golf ball for this recipe. I promise, you won’t taste it! Plus, beets are a great source of dietary fiber, iron, folate, manganese, vitamin C, and potassium. How’s that for a plant based pepperoni? Oh, and no peeling necessary. Just wash it thoroughly, cut off the root area, and cut into small-ish chunks so your food processor can chop it up quickly.
- Tomato paste: This concentrated tomato puree will both color and flavor our seitan, so it’s necessary. It adds a rich, tomato flavor to the pepperoni but somehow it’s not overwhelming.
- Soy sauce: This recipe needs some salt since pepperoni is basically made with salt and nitrates, however this seitan pepperoni has no nitrates. Anyway, soy sauce is my favorite way of adding salt to seitan because it’s salty, rich, and packed with umami flavor that’s great for making that “cured meat” kind of flavor. I did use reduced sodium soy sauce here so it wasn’t overwhelmingly salty, but regular will work if that’s what you have. You can always dilute it a bit with water. If you can’t have soy, try No Soy instead.
- Vegetable broth: Low sodium is fine, it’s just a little bit more flavor and some necessary moisture.
- Nutritional yeast: Affectionately termed ‘nooch’ by vegans, nutritional yeast is an important ingredient because of the depth of flavor it adds. It’s not super recognizable though, so don’t worry if you’re not a big fan of it. If you don’t want to buy a whole container, check the bulk bins at your local health food store.
- Spices: Spices are SOOO important here! You need spices to get that flavor. I used onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, dried oregano, fennel seeds (for that sausage flavor), chili flakes (more or less to your tastes), and a bit of salt. I didn’t want to go overboard on the soy sauce, so I added more salt to get that cured pepperoni flavor.
- Vital wheat gluten: This is what makes it seitan. Vital wheat gluten is wheat that’s been stripped down to the proteins. It’s essentially a flour that we’ll mix into the blended mixture to make a “dough” so we can roll our mixture into seitan pepperoni logs for steaming.
How to Make Vegan Pepperoni
- Note: You’ll need a food processor for this recipe, what a perfect excuse to invest in one if you haven’t already! If you don’t have one, I recommend a Cuisinart food processor or if you cook a LOT, my baby is the Breville Sous Chef 12 Cup and it is AMAZING. I’ve also heard good things about Ninja, though my prior experience was not amazing. You can use a blender if you need to. If that is the case, do everything except add the vital wheat gluten, and transfer the mixture to a large bowl, then add the vital wheat gluten with a strong spoon (it may get stained from the beets if it’s porous, ask me how I know). Mix by hand once it gets too hard to stir until the vital wheat gluten is fully incorporated.
- Another note: You’ll also need a steamer pot or a pot fitted with a steamer basket. Make sure your pot has a lid, or you can purchase a universal lid.
- Add everything except the vital wheat gluten to your food processor and blend until smooth, scraping down the sides if necessary.
- Add the vital wheat gluten and mix until just combined.
- Add 1-2 inches of water to the base of your steamer pot and start it to boil.
- Divide the mixture in half. If you’d like to be exact, weigh the mixture on a food scale and divide exactly in half. It’ll be fine if you don’t, though, just eyeball it.
- On a large piece of aluminum foil (I recommend the extra wide heavy duty aluminum foil), take your first ball of seitan pepperoni and compact it together really tightly with your hands on all sides. Then begin to roll it between your hands or with your hands on top of it on the foil until you get a large log, approximately 2 inches thick. Roll until it looks even, it should be about 8 inches long.
- Now wrap it by rolling it up in the foil, smoothing the sides as you go. Roll fairly tightly, but don’t be overly concerned about it. Now take the edges and twist them, kind of like a piece of hard candy. Fold the ends in so they stay and repeat this step with the remaining seitan.
- Once the water in your steamer pot is boiling, add the wrapped pepperoni to the steamer insert and put on a lid. Steam on high heat for 35 minutes.
- When the timer is up, remove the lid and the pot from heat. Let stand for 10-20 minutes, then refrigerate the pepperoni (still wrapped) until cool, at least 4 hours. It is fully edible before it’s chilled, but it will be softer. Cooling the vegan pepperoni fully will allow it to firm up. The rolled parcels will become a little inflated and very firm--this is normal. Just unwrap carefully, discard the foil, and slice the pepperoni preferably with a serrated knife. Enjoy!
- You may freeze the wrapped seitan pepperoni in the foil and in a plastic bag for up to 3 months. If already opened/cut, wrap in plastic or foil and place in a freezer safe bag or container and freeze for up to 3 months.
More Seitan Recipes
I’m loving experimenting with 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!)
- Vegan Sausage
- Instant Pot Seitan (the basic beefy recipe for any application)
- Vegan Drumsticks
- Vegan Corned Beef
- Seitan Chicken Nuggets
- Vegan Schnitzel
- Seitan Turkey
- Vegan Pastrami
- Vegan Gyros
- Seitan Chicken
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.
This vegan pepperoni is:
Spicy (can omit if you prefer no spiciness)
Meaty (but without the cruelty!)
And perfect for a vegan pizza, sandwich, charcuterie board, or even just a snack!
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!