How did the classic trio of bagels, cream cheese, and lox come to be, and who invented it? No one really knows for sure, but it’s widely accepted that this combo is as American as apple pie.
Growing up as part of an extended Jewish family, I can scarcely remember any special occasion at which bagels with cream cheese and lox weren’t part of the buffet table. The combination of yeasty, tangy, smoky, and briny flavors melded into a comfort food that becomes a permanent fixture in a child’s sense memories.
Dipping back into the food rituals we grew up with gives our fragmented, hectic lives islands of comfort and order. For those of us who have gone vegan, our cravings compel us to find ways to re-create what we grew up with.
For Sephardic Jews, revisiting traditional dishes is a cinch, since these Middle Eastern and Mediterranean-based cuisines have so many already-vegan specialties, filled with grains, legumes, vegetables, and fresh and dried fruits.
But when vegan Ashkenazi Jews want to revisit old favorites, there’s a whole lot of adapting to do! And so, the blogosphere is replete with veganized matzo ball soup, challah, latkes, and even meaty classics like cholent.
When I became a vegetarian in my teens, the last thing to go from my diet was fish. Savory baked tofu, vegan mayo, celery, and scallion add up to a tuna salad substitute that’s delicious, if not uncanny. But a lox substitute seemed beyond imagining, so I just filed it into the category of things I’d never eat — or think about — again.
Fast forward a few years — okay, a few decades — and carrot lox have become very much a “thing” in the vegan repertoire. Like the originator of the bagels with cream cheese and lox combo, the first person who had the vision to look at a carrot and transform it into a convincing imitation of lox remains unknown.
There are some good reasons to avoid Nova lox. Those of us of the strict vegan persuasion, as well as those who are allergic to seafood, will appreciate this alternative.
Many contemporary recipes for vegan carrot lox involve a lot of steps, and in some cases, many days, to accomplish. This simplified version doesn’t even require a knife, let alone a mandoline slicer. It starts with wavy-cut carrots, which are the perfect size, shape, and thickness to serve as a lox substitute. Smoky seasoning is the main flavor note here, and if you’d like to add a fishy flavor, nori seaweed (which you know from sushi) is given as an option.
Originally published in Jewish Food Experience, reprinted by permission.
- 8 ounces wavy-cut carrots
- 1 tsp liquid smoke or 1 Tbsp BBQ seasoning
- 1 tsps salt
- 2 tsps natural granulated sugar
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsps lemon juice
- 1 sheet nori, cut into pieces, or 6 pieces nori snacks, optional
- Cook the carrots in a medium skillet with just enough water to cover until just tender-crisp, about 8 to 10 minutes (they’ll soften up a bit more while marinating, so don’t overcook!). Drain and rinse until just warm.
- Combine the BBQ seasoning, salt, and sugar in a mug filled with water. Microwave for about 45 seconds, then stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved.
- Combine this mixture in a small flat container with the olive oil, lemon juice, and optional nori and stir together. Add the carrots and enough additional water to completely immerse them.
- Cover the container and place in the refrigerator for 24 hours or so.
- Serve on bagels with cream cheese, and any of the optional ingredients: sprigs of fresh dill, onion, tomatoes, and capers.
- Cook time doesn't include marinating time, of course!
- BBQ seasoning is available in the spice section of supermarkets. McCormick® Grill Mates has several flavor-packed choices. Liquid smoke is a bit harder to come by; I’ve had more luck finding it in natural foods stores, though well-stocked supermarkets might offer it in the spice section, as well.
- Using nori in the marinade results in a surprisingly fishy flavor, so if you’re not a fan of fishiness, simply omit this ingredient.
Here are two brands of vegan cream cheese that are nearly indistinguishable from their dairy counterparts. Look for them in natural foods stores or well-stocked supermarkets:
Photos: Evan Atlas
- Our Veganize This! selections feature ways to make old favorites vegan.
- See more easy vegan recipes and sandwiches & wraps.