The most ridiculously tender and moist on the inside, crispy and crunchy on the outside vegan chicken you ever had. Your family isn’t going to believe the flavor and texture!
Listen, alright? There are plenty of times when crispy fried tofu is good enough…
But when you want to make proper vegan wings and breasts that will absolutely blow your mind, this is the recipe you want to follow! Rejoice too, because this vegan fried chicken can be easily turned into buffalo wings, plant-based Korean fried chicken with gochujang glaze, and even drizzled with Middle Eastern hot sauce.
Crispy buttermilk-tasting crunch perfectly encapsulated the moist, meaty seitan inside.
What are you waiting for! Grab some pickles, pickled burdock, or Korean cucumber salad. Grab your favorite dipping sauce, (whip up some of my bomb elotes💣🌽 too if you want), because this is the recipe that is going to upgrade your vegan wings forevaaaarrrhhhh.
🥰Why you are going to adore the ever-loving heck outta this recipe
- The buttermilk marinade which tenderizes the seitan and imparts great flavor serves double duty in the battering process, so this recipe is a snap to throw together.
- The pickle juice tang in the vegan buttermilk helps penetrate the seitan with extra flavor and moisture.
- Don’t want to actually fry? These also come out LEGENDARY in an air fryer!
You wanna see how this yummy thing gets made? I will walk you through the quick and painless process. Or you can follow along with the easy-to-print recipe card towards the bottom of this page.
- 🔪Seitan- I really recommend making this dish using my vegan chicken (seitan) recipe. You can use store-bought brands, but only if they come in big pieces, which is honestly rare. For the totally uninitiated, seitan, A.K.A. wheat meat, is a vegan protein made from wheat gluten (the protein of wheat which has been rinsed of wheat’s other components: starch and bran). When seasoned and cooked properly, it becomes a delicious and satisfying substitute for meat in a variety of dishes such as stir-fries, sandwiches, and stews.
- 🥒Pickle juice- Pickle juice adds a tangy, garlicy and slightly salty flavor to a vegan buttermilk marinade, which enhances the taste of the vegan chicken. Additionally, the acidity in pickle juice tenderizes and breaks down the fibers in the seitan, resulting in a more tender and juicy consistency. You can absolutely use the brine from a jar of homemade yamagobo.
- 🐤Poultry seasoning- don’t worry, this doesn’t contain poultry of any kind! Poultry seasoning typically has a warm and slightly earthy flavor with notes of sage, thyme, marjoram, and sometimes rosemary. The flavor profile is commonly used in dishes featuring poultry, but can also be used in vegetarian dishes like this one to add a savory depth of flavor.
- 🌶️Old bay- Old Bay seasoning is a blend of herbs and spices that originated in the Chesapeake Bay area of the United States. It has a distinctive savory, slightly salty and slightly spicy flavor, with prominent notes of celery salt, paprika, black pepper, and bay leaf. It is used in the flour mixture which encapsulates that layer of batter around the seitan making it crispier, and adding flavor to all the nooks and crannies of crunch.
- 🥛Unsweetened plant-based milk- don’t mess up and use any kind of sweetened or vanilla BS here. I prefer to use unsweetened soy milk, because it curdles the best of all milks from the interaction with the acids from the pickle juice and mustard. You can use whatever you like as long as it is not sweetened or flavored.
- 🍯Mustard- I really like dijon mustard best. But honestly, it’s used in a pretty small quantity in this recipe. So if you have a different kind of mustard already in your fridge, don’t go out and get new mustard. What you have will work fine.
There are a bunch of other ingredients in this recipe that aren’t fascinating enough for me to write about in detail here.
➡️ See the recipe card at the bottom of this page for all the ingredients and their exact quantities.
I am gonna hold your pretty, diamond-glove-enrobed hand and walk you into the vegan fried chicken sunset, cascading over the misty forest of pickles.
Begin by preparing the seitan using my recipe for an incredible vegan chicken substitute. If you're using store-bought seitan, you can skip this step and just tear it into uneven medium-sized pieces resembling small chicken parts.
Mix plant-based milk, pickle juice, poultry seasoning, mustard, and ¼ cup of flour using a whisk in a container large enough to hold the seitan. Submerge the seitan pieces into the buttermilk marinade, ensuring that they are completely coated, then chill them in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Heat 1 cup of oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until it reaches 350-360 degrees Fahrenheit using a frying thermometer. Or... you can use an air fryer, or a counter top deep fryer if preferred.
Mix 2 cups of flour, Old Bay seasoning, and salt in a separate bowl.
Dip the seitan pieces one by one, removing them from the buttermilk marinade and coating them evenly with the seasoned flour. Dip them back into the marinade, ensuring full coverage, and coat them a final time with the seasoned flour a final time to create a batter.
Fry each piece of coated seitan in the hot oil until golden brown on both sides, working in 2-3 batches to avoid overcrowding the pan.
Allow the fried seitan pieces to cool and drip dry on a wire rack before seasoning with salt.
Serve with pickles and/or whatever condiments you are most in love with.
- Flour- almost any kind of flour will work here, but regular all-purpose does a great job, and its what most people have on hand. I wouldn’t recommend rice flour which can be gritty, or garbanzo flour which has a strong taste. Otherwise, if you don’t want to use all-purpose wheat flour, be my guest and use a different flour of your choice.
- No pickle juice, no problem- You might not have pickles on hand, which is a damn shame. You can substitute apple cider vinegar, half of a minced clove of garlic, and a pinch of salt in its place.
- Old bay and poutry seasoning alternatives- look, these seasonings are just what I think makes a great vegan fried chicken. But you can swap them out for seasonings you have or prefer, and that can open up radical, exciting opportunities to impart flavor! Try using za’atar for a middle eastern vibe, or cajun seasonings if that’s your thing. Be wild. I am not there to stop ya!
- Instead of the seitan itself! -you can make this fried chicken with oyster mushrooms or chicken of the woods mushrooms instead. It's crazy how meaty they can be. My shawarma recipe is a great example of what they can do. Just briefly steam medium-sized bunches of the mushrooms, and then place them into the buttermilk marinade. Follow the rest of the recipe using the mushrooms in place of the seitan. In some ways, the shapes of the mushrooms can be better, as they have more nooks and crannies for the better to seep into and become crispy. If you are gluten-free, you can use a measure for measure gluten free flour mixture to make this mushroom-style fried chicken completely wheat free.
This is where this recipe really shines and gets exciting.
- KFC (vegan Korean Fried Chicken!) - don't walk- RUN to this recipe for Korean BBQ sauce. Toss the hot vegan fried chicken in that glaze. Optionally serve it on a bed of my kimchi fried rice, or with a side of my homemade vegan kimchi. This is probably one of my favorite things in the galaxy. We used to also offer a gochujang crispy stein sandwich kinda like what I just explained, but with sriracha mayo, arugula and pickled daikon on a grilled pretzel bun. It was gosh darned insane!
- A classic way to make it even more crispy- if you are obsessed with making the absolutely crispiest vegan fried chicken, you can ⅔ cup of crushed cornflakes, or crushed lotus seed puffs to the flour mixture. The cornflakes create a rough, uneven surface so that as the seitan as it cooks, a more complex, crispier exterior is formed.
- Make it taste even more like actual chicken if you want- The company Better than Bullion makes a very realistic “no chicken” bullion that is 100% vegan. If you want your vegan fried chicken to taste even more like the real thing, whisk 4 teaspoons of that bullion paste into the buttermilk marinade before you put the seitan into it.
- Seitan buffalo wings- mix ⅓ cup of Franks Red Hot or another mild hot sauce of your choice with 3 tablespoons of melted vegan butter. Toss the fried vegan chicken in that, and then bake in a preheated oven at 350 for 10 minutes. Serve with vegan ranch dip, pickles, and celery sticks.
- The best vegan chicken sandwich in the galaxy- I like to serve the hot crispy fried seitan on a freshly grilled sesame bun loaded with roasted garlic aioli, pickles, butter lettuce, and sometimes some thinly sliced heirloom tomato.
- Nashville Hot Seitan- Nashville hot chicken originated in Tennessee. To make this style, ddd a half teaspoon of onion powder, and a teaspoon of garlic powder to the seasoned flour mixture. After batter frying, the seitan is coated in warm vegan butter that has a fiery blend of cayenne pepper, paprika, and brown sugar added to it to the point it is red and spicy. It gets served with pickles, thin red onion slices, and soft white bread. Fun fact- I made this exact dish for a cooking show I was trying to create in an abandoned insane asylum. The show featured vegan dishes cooked illegally in beautiful, spooky abandoned places. The dishes were all abstractly connected to the history of the spaces. No network wanted to take a risk on the illegal nature of the show. Anyway, if you are reading this, have some TV connections, and think it sounds like a good idea for a show, please hit me up! I still want to make it a reality.
- Thai Fried Chicken- Instead of the mustard and pickle juice, use a big spoonful of tom yum paste in the buttermilk marinade, and in place of the mustard, molasses is used. After being fried, the seitan can be tossed in a spicy sweet Jamaican jerk sauce and garnished with thinly sliced chives.
🙅♀️🌾How do I make GLUTEN-FREE vegan fried chicken?
There are numerous things you can use instead of seitan and flour to make this recipe completely gluten free.
👉One easy workaround is to follow my tofu katsu recipe, which is unbelievably chicken-y, and use gluten-free bread crumbs in place of the panko.
👉Another thing you can do is follow this recipe, but substitute lightly steamed oyster mushrooms in place of the seitan, and just swap the flour out with your favorite measure for measure gluten-free flour blend. I have made it that very way a zillion times because I am often cooking at events with at least some GF diners.
👉The main thing is not to use too starchy of a gluten-free flour, as they can get a little gummy when fried. If you are making your own gluten-free flour blend for this recipe, I would recommend a mix of equal parts white rice flour, cassava flour, and soy flour.
There are a ton of accompaniments that make natural sense with vegan fried chicken. Stewed collard greens, jalapeño Mac n cheese, mexican street corn (see my recipe for vegan elote here) cherry pepper roasted potatoes. And then there are a myriad of sauces (like this Japanese goma dressing)and condiments that can work great with VFC. If you are including it in a Mediterranean spread, serve it on this freshly baked pita bread with tahini sauce. Consider a rich mushroom gravy if you are making this part of your Thanksgiving spread. If you make the Korean Fried Chicken variation I detailed above, I recommend serving this with my kimchi fried rice, or with a bowl of coconut pandan rice.
Regrettably, similar to traditional fried chicken, vegan fried chicken doesn't maintain its quality for long periods. It's best to consume it as soon as possible after frying. Nonetheless, you can preserve the vegan chicken in the buttermilk marinade for a maximum of three days and fry it when you're prepared to serve it.
If life’s wacky roller coaster forces you to fry it in advance, you can cool it and keep it in a container in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Simply warm it up back up in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.
Salt- Lightly salt the vegan fried chicken as soon as it's out of the hot oil and on the cooling rack. This helps it crisp up even a little more.
Double-dip the seitan- dipping the seitan in the seasoned flour mixture, then back into the buttermilk marinade mixture, and then back into the flour mixture again helps to create the perfect crispy coating.
For perfectly cooked vegan fried chicken, use a thermometer- use a frying thermometer or candy thermometer to check that the oil is between 350-360 degrees. This is the ideal temperature that will get the outside crispy and crunch without drawing out too much moisture from the seitan inside.
To fry plant-based food, it's best to use an oil with a high smoke point, which means it can handle high heat without burning. Some suitable vegan oils for frying are peanut oil, vegetable oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, and avocado oil. These oils all have a smoke point between 400-520 degrees Fahrenheit (or 204-271°C)
The main advantage of frying at high temperatures is that it can create a crispy and flavorful outer coating on the food being fried. Frying at a higher temperature also means the food is in the oil for a shorter period of time, and has less time to absorb the frying oil.
However, it's important to use an oil with a high smoke point and to not overheat the oil to minimize the risk of harmful compounds being produced. Frying at temperatures below 380 cause less oxidization of the oil, and still allows the food to crisp, and the sugars on the outside of the food to caramelize.
Seitan can be a healthy source of protein for people who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. It is high in protein and low in fat, making it a good meat substitute for those looking to reduce their meat consumption. Additionally, seitan is a good source of several micronutrients, including iron, calcium, and phosphorus.
However, it is important to note that seitan is made from wheat gluten and is therefore not suitable for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
The exact blend of herbs and spices used in KFC's fried chicken recipe is a closely guarded secret and is known only to a small group of top executives within the company. However, the company has disclosed that the blend does include a combination of salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and other proprietary ingredients. Winston Shelton, a former friend of Harland "Colonel" Sanders who started KFC, has said that the secret recipe contains Tellicherry black pepper.
Over the years, many people have attempted to replicate KFC's famous recipe, with some claiming to have discovered the exact blend of herbs and spices used by the company. Many people believe there is some white pepper in the recipe. However, KFC has never confirmed or denied these claims, and the true recipe remains a mystery to the public.
One thing about the cooking process is that KFC uses a pressure frying method which allows them to cook at a lower temperature. This is really not a great option for home cooks because low temperature frying causes greater fat absorption in the breading, and pressure fryers at home just aren't really a thing.
This recipe comes pretty close, but in my opinion, makes improvements on the taste and texture.
Sauces that go great on this vegan fried chicken:
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Vegan fried chicken
- 550 grams seitan *about a third of a batch if you are following my Seitan recipe
For the vegan buttermilk marinade
- 2 cups unsweetened plant-based milk
- ⅓ cup pickle juice
- 1 teaspoon poultry seasonings
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- ¼ cup all purpose flour
- The frying oil
- First, make the seitan. Follow my seitan recipe here. It’s absolutely astonishing for making vegan fried chicken out of! If you are using store-bought seitan, just skip this step. You will then need to pull the seitan apart by hand into irregular medium size chunks about the size of small chicken breasts and wings.
- In a container large enough to marinate the seitan in, using a whisk, mix together the plant-based milk, pickle juice, poultry seasonings, mustard, and ¼ cup of flour. Place the seitan pieces into the buttermilk marinade, and make sure all pieces get coated.
- Place the brining seitan into the refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours, or overnight.
- Preheat 1 cup of oil in a large cast iron skillet over a medium-high flame. You can use a frying thermometer to ensure the temperature is between 350-360. Alternatively, you can use a deep fryer and more oil, which will be needed if you use a deep fryer.
- In a bowl mix together the 2 cups of flour, old bay seasoning, and salt.
- Working with one piece of seitan at a time. Take each pieces of seitan, remove it from the buttermilk marinade, coat it thoroughly in the seasoned flour, dip it back into the marinade, coating it entirely with liquid again. Then one final coating in the seasoned flour to encapsulate the batter. Place each fully coated piece of seitan into the hot oil. You will probably need to fry the seitan in 2-3 batches so there is room for the seitan pieces to not touch one another while they cook.
- Fry for 2-3 minutes on the first side. Then flip the seitan pieces with tongs and fry on the second side. For about 2 minutes until lightly golden brown.
- Transfer all of the fried seitan pieces onto a wire rack to cool and drip dry. Immediately season with salt to taste.
- Fry any subsequent batches of seitan until it is all cooked.
- Serve with pickles and your favorite dipping sauce!