Summer get-togethers are a perfect place to set a shining example of compassionate and healthy food choices. Gone are the days when vegans had to attend a cook-out only to be left out, eating a plain ear of corn or lettuce leaves that had wilted under the hot summer sun. No longer do we have to pass up every salad dish laden with mayonnaise turning bad in the heat. Nor do we need to haul boxes of frozen or processed veggie burgers and sausages to the party and place them on a clean (we hope) corner of the grill. We can bring our own homemade vegan dishes that will be the envy of others and yes, that includes homemade vegan sausages that will hold up on the grill.
Sausages that are firm, crisp on the outside and packed with flavor on the inside. Sausages that won’t break, tear or fall apart into the grill while they cook or as soon as we try to turn them with our tongs. Sausages that will continue to hold their shape when they are sliced or bitten into…even if they are gluten-free. With these tips, you can make homemade vegan sausages that will hold up on the grill and be the life of the party:
The first step in making your own vegan sausage is deciding what you want to make them with. Just as you can make burgers from a large variety of vegetables, you have lots of choices from which to make sausages. They can be made entirely from seitan, as in these Seitan Sausages, tofu, texturized vegetable protein (TVP) or a combination of any of them. Tofu can also be blended with beans or the sausages can be made completely from beans – white beans, pinto beans or my choice, black-eyed peas. Other choices include lentils, beets, eggplant and even nuts. The key to choosing a base is dependent on the flavor profile you want. Do you want the strong, meaty taste of lentils, the sweetness of beets or the blank canvas you get from pinto beans or black-eyed peas? Experiment with different ingredients and different combinations until you find the one you love best.
Once you choose the base, you need to decide on the spice blend for your sausages. Some people like sage, others like maple and still others (including me) prefer spicy Spanish and Italian flavors. To make sage sausages (similar to breakfast sausages), combine dried sage, allspice, marjoram, red pepper flakes, fennel, salt, pepper, and brown sugar. For maple sausage, use dried sage, dry mustard, fennel, salt, pepper and real maple syrup. You can also add in pieces of apple by pulsing the sausage mixture in a food processor. For the spicy kick of Mexican chorizo sausage, combine ground cumin, ancho chile powder, cayenne, onion, paprika, oregano, salt, pepper and red wine vinegar. Andouille sausage flavors include garlic, salt, pepper, cayenne, chile powder, thyme, allspice, paprika, mace, bay and sage. My blend for spicy Italian sausage combines garlic, fennel, paprika, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, oregano, salt, pepper, and allspice. And these Red Bean Sausages use garlic powder, fennel, sweet and smoked paprika, oregano, sage, thyme, allspice, and chipotle powder. Again, experiment with different spice blends and learn which flavor profiles you like best.
Along with the spice blends, you need to add umami flavors – those savory notes that are considered our “fifth taste.” These are the flavors that will give the sausages their meaty, satisfying flavors. Ingredients that will add umami to your sausages include mushrooms, tomato paste, ketchup, caramelized onions, soy sauce, tamari, and miso. In my Spicy Italian Sausages, I add mushrooms, onions, tomato paste and vegan Worcestershire sauce to achieve the meaty, savory flavors for which sausages are loved.
Now that we have added all this flavor and spice to our sausages, we need to do something to make them hold together and have that dense texture, that “bite” that you expect from a sausage. Any type of flour can be used to the binding and bread crumbs can also be used, as in these Spicy Veggie Dogs. I prefer brown rice flour since I make my sausages gluten-free. When I was perfecting my sausage recipe, I tried making them with brown rice but I found I preferred the texture I got from using flour. Vital wheat gluten is usually found in vegan sausage recipes.
It not only helps bind the ingredients when the strands of gluten form but it is what gives the sausages their dense, chewy texture. For gluten-free sausages, the key to getting that firm texture is xanthan gum or guar gum. These gums are used as thickeners in baking and gravies and they provide the structure that would normally be provided by gluten. A bag of xanthan gum is a bit expensive, but a little bit goes a very long way, so it is well worth the investment.
Steaming seems to be the best cooking method for achieving dense, firm sausages. Once you have your vegan sausage mixture well-combined, divide it into equal portions. Cut squares of parchment paper or aluminum foil (or both if you want the tight fit of the foil but don’t want the foil touching the food) and place a portion of the sausage mixture on each square. Shape the mixture into a log, about 6-inches long and then roll it up in the parchment paper or foil. Twist the ends closed so the package looks like a candy wrapper. Repeat with the rest of the sausage mixture. Smooth out the shape of the packages and set aside. Set up a steamer basket over a pot of boiling water and lower the heat to a simmer. Place the sausages into the steamer basket and let steam for about 30 minutes.
Remove the foil packages from the basket with tongs and let them cool to room temperature. Refrigerate them for a few hours or until the next day. This helps them become firmer. When ready to use, unwrap the sausages from the foil and cook them however you desire. I like to grill mine until they are crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. The foil-wrapped sausages can stay in the fridge for several days. You can also freeze them so you might want to make a double or triple batch to always have some sausages on hand when you crave one.
Bring some homemade vegan sausages, like these Sweet Potato and Cabbage Dogs, to your next BBQ or picnic and don’t feel left out when everyone else is eating grilled sausages with peppers and onions, mustard or red onion sauce. In fact, bring extra because everyone will definitely want to try yours.
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Lead Image Source: How to Make Homemade Spicy Italian Sausage