Vegan “chicken fried” plant protein slims down and simplifies a classic (greasy) recipe. Serve with your favorite vegan gravy or condiment.
I enjoy veganizing classic recipes — it’s proof positive that people need not give up anything they love, not even nostalgic favorites. Losing the animal and converting the recipe into chick’n fried plant protein results in a simple comfort food.
First of all, what in the world is chicken fried? Basically, this seems to refer to double-dipping the meat into an egg-and-buttermilk solution, then white flour breading. Then, it’s all deep fried. There’s chicken fried steak and there’s also chicken fried chicken (the latter apparently from the department of redundancy department). Here, we do away with not only the meat, but the egg and dairy as well.
The original recipe is an explosion of fat and cholesterol. One recipe I consulted has 43 grams of fat, 635 calories, and 143 mgs cholesterol per (modest) serving. Other recipes aren’t quite this intense, but pretty close. Seriously, who needs to eat this way in this day and age?
Plant protein breaded and ready to be cooked
Let’s simplify and slim things down. This vegan adaptation uses aquafaba (chickpea liquid) and oat milk for dipping; and the breading can be made from any number of more wholesome options. I used half almond flour and half rice flour; you can also try spelt flour, whole wheat pastry flour, and/or fine cornmeal. You’ll find those options in the Notes section of the recipe box.
Finally, this need not be deep fried. Shallow-sautéing in a small amount of oil, as long as your pan is nice and hot, does the trick. If you have an air fryer, you can skip the oil altogether. Follow manufacturer’s instructions.
For this batch, I used Improved Nature* Prime Filets®, which are a perfect shape! They’re made with one ingredient only — soy. Nothing added, not even salt. Once pre-cooked, they have the ideal texture — firm and chewy — for this preparation. Find out more about Improved Nature filets and while you’re there, explore their other products.
Sautéed to golden crispiness
Gravy or sauce: Original chicken-fried recipes are paired with some kind of not-so-good-for-you gravy, so let’s make that part of it better as well. I recommend my easy mushroom gravy, which you’ll find within this recipe. If you opt for gravy, prepare it before proceeding with the rest of this recipe. but if you’re feeling lazy, serve with barbecue sauce, ketchup, or tartar sauce (vegan mayo + yellow mustard + pickle relish).
Other plant-proteins: While these filets are a lovely option, feel free to experiment with other plant proteins. Anything that comes in (or that can be cut into) a flat shape is best, so that the sautéing happens quickly and evenly. Vegan “steak” or fillets, as long as they’re not breaded, could work, as would homemade seitan.
*This is NOT a sponsored post. Improved Nature provided the product, but these opinions are my own. Part of TheVeganAtlas’s mission is to introduce readers to products that make plant-based living easier and more fun.
- 1/2 cup aquafaba (liquid from canned chickpeas)
- 1/4 cup unsweetened plant-based milk
- 1 cup flour (see options in Notes)
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (if using an unsalted plant protein)
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons salt-free seasoning blend or poultry seasoning
- A few grindings of black pepper
- 10 to 12 pieces fillet-shaped plant protein (about 10 to 12 ounces) such as Improved Nature, or other
- High heat oil as needed for frying
- Gravy (see link in notes), barbecue sauce, ketchup, or tartar sauce
- Combine the aquafaba and plant-based milk in a shallow bowl and stir together.
- Combine the ingredients for the breading in another shallow bowl and stir together.
- Dip each piece of plant protein in the liquid, making sure to moisten each side. Dredge in the breading mixture. Dip into the liquid again, then dredge again. Place on a plate and repeat with each piece of plant protein.
- Once the plant protein pieces are all breaded, heat the oil in a wide skillet. Use just enough for a generous coating, but if your pan doesn’t stick you don’t need much. Once the oil is hot, arrange the plant protein in the pan in a single layer (you’ll need to cook them in 2 or 3 batches depending on the size of your pan). Cook until browned and crisp on the bottom, then turn and cook the other side. This just takes a minute or two per side.
- Remove each batch of plant protein to a paper-towel lined plate or container and cover with foil or a lid until all the breaded pieces are done.
- Serve at once with gravy or other condiment of choice.
Make the flour breading with whatever kind you have on hand. Choose from rice flour (GF), sorghum flour (GF), spelt flour, or whole wheat pastry flour. Use half and half of any of these, or replace 1/2 cup of grain flour with almond flour or super-fine corn flour.
Here’s our easy mushroom gravy, embedded in the recipe for smashed potatoes with vegan mushroom gravy.
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See lots more ways to veganize classic recipes.