I always feel a little dirty posting recipes like this; after all, going vegan was just as much about making healthy choices for me as it was about activism and being more factory farming aware. I always, always advocate for a diet as free of processed and fried foods as possible, whether you're vegan, vegetarian or none of the above. But sometimes you just need a good, spicy fried chicken sandwich slathered with mayo, and that's part of what I've always wanted to illustrate — you can eat vegan and still have a good, spicy fried chicken sandwich slathered with mayo.
The recipe below has been Veganized from the pages of Bon Appétit's April 2013 issue. I'm a big fan of accessible and simple-to-cook Gardein in place of meat for this type of recipe; but as usual, I've disregarded the package instructions entirely and chosen to pan-fry the Crispy Tenders in a cast-iron skillet. This technique best replicates the taste and crispy texture of fried chicken the way my mother used to make it — great on a sandwich, or as the main part of a meal with salad and other sides.
A Note About Oils
In my personal general day-to-day, I cook with oils only very lightly. These are the oils I choose, and what they are best used for:
For frying and stir-frying (high-heat cooking):
• High smoke point makes it great for cooking at very high temperatures
• Longer shelf life than other oils
• High in monounsaturated (heart-healthy) fats
Cons: Contains 30% polyunsaturated fats (proceed with caution) and 20% saturated fats (artery-clogging — avoid)
Since I don't fry very often, I prefer to use peanut oil when I do because of the high smoke point. I also use it in my wok when I make stir-frys, but very lightly.
For sauteing (medium- to low-heat cooking):
Virgin Olive Oil (cold-pressed)
• No refined oil
• Higher smoke point than EVOO makes it a better option for cooking at lower temperatures
Canola Oil (expeller-pressed)
• Very high in monounsaturated fats
• Neutral taste makes it a great choice for baking
For salad dressings, drizzling and dipping:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
• Low smoke point makes it a poor choice for cooking with
• Exquisite flavor makes it a great choice for dressings and dipping
• Highest in monounsaturated fats
Photography and styling by Alyssa. Photos ©Alyssa Yeager.