When you hear the word “steak,” you most likely think of a big slab of meat. You might picture someone sitting in a steakhouse, bib around their neck and a sharp steak knife in their hand. When I stopped eating meat, I looked at a brand-new set of steak knives a friend had gifted me and thought I would probably never need them again. But I was wrong. I have used them but not on meat. That’s when it’s time to make veggie steaks! My steak knives now cut through the most delicious veggie steaks – steaks with all the flavor and texture I’ve always loved. Here’s how to make veggie steaks that totally require a steak knife.
1. What is a Steak, Anyway?
There are always arguments and debates going on about what certain words really mean. Can we call a product mayo if it doesn’t contain eggs? Is non-dairy milk really milk? I love exploring these issues and you should definitely check out The Language of Vegan Food and Why It’s Important. According to The Online Etymology Dictionary, the term “meat” comes from the Old English word “mete” which meant food as opposed to drink. It wasn’t used to mean animal flesh until much later around the 14th century. Today we talk about the meat of a coconut, walnut meat and seitan being wheat meat.
While the origin of the word “steak” did specifically refer to a “thick slice of meat cut for roasting,” the word has also been used to describe “food products formed into a steak shape” including mushrooms, eggplant, cauliflower, beans, and even watermelon. So it’s totally acceptable to refer to plant-based foods as steaks so long as they have the similar shape and texture of the meaty version.
2. Craving Beef?
Remember, the essence of what makes steak, steak is flavor and texture that gets developed through marinades, seasoning, and cooking. We can replicate those qualities to make vegan ingredients taste “beefy.” We can get that flavor from seasoning blends, vegan beef-flavored broths and other ingredients that give us that salty, savory umami taste. We can also use ingredients, sauces, gravies and condiments that are classically associated with beef to further make a dish that is reminiscent of the original version. For all you need to know about making meatless meaty dishes, see Missing Meat? Here’s How to Satisfy Your Cravings in a Meat-Free Way, The Ultimate Guide to Vegan Meats and Meat Substitutes, and 10 Vegetables that can Substitute for Meat. Also, check out Your Favorite Beef Dishes Veganized for tips and recipes on all things vegan “beefy.”
3. Seitan Steaks
If you want food that will satisfy your craving for beef, seitan is the way to go. Learn How to Make the Perfect Seitan so you end up with the right texture and flavor you’re craving. When my husband craves steak, I get out the steak knives and make him this Seitan Steak in Beurre Blanc Sauce with Oven-Baked Fries. It has all the texture of a tender steak with lots of flavor – it’s like having your own steakhouse meal right at home.
Another seitan steak I make is my “Chicken-Fried” Seitan Steak With Buffalo Vinaigrette. Here the seitan steak gets dredged and fried and it sits atop a carrot and celery salad that is tossed in Buffalo vinaigrette. It’s like an indulgent cross between fried chicken, steak, and Buffalo wings but all vegan.
For more seitan recipes, see 15 Meat-Free Recipes with Wheat Meat. If you’re gluten-free and can’t eat seitan, there’s still hope. You can make my V-Meat – A Gluten-Free, Plant-based Meat Recipe that has all the texture and flavor of seitan but is totally gluten-free.
4. Tofu Steaks
Tofu is another plant-based food that can be prepared as steaks. In order to make tofu steaks with a firm texture you’ll need a knife for, you’ll need to follow a few steps. First, it’s a good idea to freeze the tofu. Open the package, drain the water and then wrap the block in plastic wrap. Freeze it until it’s solid, then let it thaw in the fridge. Freezing the tofu will give it a chewier, firmer texture. After it thaws, press the tofu to get all the liquid out and firm it up even more. For all the advice on tofu you could ever use, see 7 Tips to Make The Perfect Tofu Dish and 6 Tips That Will Make You Love Tofu.
Next, cut the block of tofu into thick slices or steaks. Then you’ll want to marinate the tofu and/or use a spice rub to give it the flavors you want. For ideas and tips, see The Ultimate Guide to Making Flavor-Packed Marinades for Plant-Based Dishes, 10 Ways to Make Awesome Vegan BBQ Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades, and 6 Fantastic Marinades for Tofu That Will Make Your Taste Buds Dance.
One of my favorite tofu steak recipes is my “Chicken-Fried” Tofu Steaks with Creamy Mashed Potatoes and White Gravy. In that recipe, thick slices of tofu are dredged and breaded in seasoned flour and then fried until crispy. Not only is it vegan steak but it’s gluten-free as well. Another delicious recipe are these Pan-Fried Tofu Steaks With Coriander Cream and Asparagus Spears. These spicy tofu steaks, tangy herb dressing and fresh, crunchy greens are combined to create a delicious meal – all in less than 30 minutes!
5. Mushroom Steaks
Mushrooms, especially Portobello mushrooms, have long been used as a substitute for beef. They have an earthy, beefy flavor especially when marinated so it’s no surprise that mushrooms are used for burgers, sandwiches and all sorts of “beefy” dishes. To see all the ways mushrooms can be used, see 10 Ways to Cook with Mushrooms.
This juicy Portobello Mushroom Steak will definitely satisfy your cravings and fill you up. It’s sauteed with onions, balsamic vinegar, mirin, and herbs. It’s topped with onions and so savory, you’ll forget all about meat.
6. Eggplant Steaks
Eggplant and cauliflower are two of the most versatile veggies so it’s not surprising that we can also make steaks out of them. Eggplant is meaty especially when cut into thick slices. For tips on cooking with eggplant as well as recipes that feature it, see Do You Really Know How to Cook Eggplant? Here are 10 Ways, Enjoy These 20 Recipes With Eggplant – The Purple Jewel of Veggies, and 10 Ways to Cook Eggplant with Global Flavors. I love making thick slices of eggplant seasoned with Indian spices and roasted to perfection.
To make my Indian-Spiced Eggplant Steaks: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Prepare the spice mix by combining 1 teaspoon each garlic powder, ground cumin, ground coriander and curry powder, 1/2 teaspoon each kosher salt and garam masala and 1/4 teaspoon turmeric. Cut two medium to large eggplants into four thick slices. Sprinkle the spice mix over the eggplant slices. Drizzle vegetable oil over the eggplant slices and distribute the spices over the slices with a pastry brush. Roast the eggplant for 15-20 minutes or until softened and tender. Serve hot.
7. Cauliflower Steaks
Everyone is having a love affair with cauliflower lately. See Cauliflower is the New Kale. Try These Recipes, Do You Really Know How to Cook Cauliflower? Here are 10 Ways! and Cauliflower is Hot! Try These 15 Cauliflower Recipes This Summer for tons of tips and recipes.
Cauliflower can also be cut into steaks. Remove the leaves and trim the stem but leave the core intact. Place the cauliflower down on a cutting board, core side down, and with a large knife, slice the head into four 1/2-inch thick “steaks.” Work from the center of the head to the outside. Some florets will break off. That’s fine, we can eat those too. Roast the steaks in the oven with some oil and your favorite herbs and spices for about 30 minutes or until they are browned and tender. Then you can eat them as is or saute them in a pan with sauce. One incredible way to enjoy cauliflower steaks is by making Cauliflower Piccata. The cauliflower steak gets cooked with mushrooms in a white wine sauce with lemon and capers. Yum!
Where’s the beef? Who cares? We don’t need meat to have thick, juicy, succulent steaks. With the right seasoning and cooking techniques, we can be slicing into the most delicious veggie steaks ever. Better sharpen those steak knives!
Lead image source: Seitan Steak in Beurre Blanc Sauce with Oven-Baked Fries