Sunday, January 16, 2011

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's Chickpea Critters!

If a non-fried, vegetarian mock-up of "fried chicken" exists, I swear that I've found it.

This recipe is edible proof that there truly is a non-meat counterpart to those Texas Roadhouse fried chicken critters.

And the vege-head version is so much better. Promise.

After spending a few fabulous days with Adam's family in Buffalo, NY, my stomach was ready for some down-home vegan cooking when we returned. I was lucky enough to score Veganomicon (otherwise known as "the greatest cookbook in the universe") as an early birthday present from Adam's parents.

It goes without saying that I spent the better part of our 6 hour drive home drooling over the 256 cookbook pages and feverishly stuffing the volume with toilet paper "bookmarks" for all the recipes I want to try ASAP.

Among my must-try recipes were "Chickpea Cutlets" (which I now refer to as "Chickpea Critter Patties," given their semblance to those baskets of Texas Roadhouse fried meatiness). We had all of the ingredients on hand (yay for simplicity!), and they were super-fast to make (prep to fork-in-mouth time was under 30 minutes).

We topped our Chickpea Critters with a basic caramelized onion "gravy," and served cucumber salad on the side. With six years and counting of vegetarianism under my belt, I say with great confidence that this dish easily made its way onto my Top 10 Vege-Head Dinners...of all-time.

And for those of you who inquired about our trip, I must say that not only was the fellowship and family-time sensational, but the food was mighty good as well. I found plenty of vegetarian eats, and there was no shortage of of sweet endings either...I have no shame in admitting that I ate exactly 2 - 1/2 pieces of wedding cake. You only live once, right?

Now go make yourself some Chickpea Critter Patties. You can thank me later :)

Chickpea Critter Patties

This recipe must have been designed to convert swear-by-meat carnivores into vegans. The use of savory and thyme really brings out those traditional flavors historically associate with meat. Only this time, it's chickpeas, baby!

  • 1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 - 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1/2 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 TBSP soy sauce
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. savory seasoning
  • sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Caramelized onion topping (recipe below)
1) In a large bowl, thoroughly mash the chickpeas with the olive oil until no whole chickpeas remain. Add the remaining ingredients and mix with your hands for a few minutes, until the strings of gluten start to appear (sounds yummy, doesn't it?!)

2) Divide the dough into four pieces. Flatten each piece and shape into rectangles.

3) Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Place your Chickpea Critters on the skillet and cook for approximately 4 - 5 minutes until lightly browned on the bottom; flip and cook for 4 - 5 minutes on the opposite side, until lightly browned. Served with caramelized onion topping. And swear that you'll never go back to eating meat again.

Caramelized Onion Topping Ingredients:
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • a dash of olive oil
  • a dash of red wine vinegar (about 1 TBSP)
  • a drizzle of Dijon mustard (about 1 tsp.)
  • a quick drizzle of pure maple syrup

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion slices and cook slowly until lightly browned and softened, about 9 - 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and stir until combined. Serve on top of Chickpea Critter Patties.


  1. Yum! I"m actually not a huge fan of fried chicken but this looks great, much better than the meat version! And I absolutely love carmelized onions, so that makes it even better.

  2. I love the Texas Roadhouse--but I've never seen their chicken fried critters, but this sounds way better anyway! :-)

  3. Welcome back + yay for wonderful early birthday presents :)

    Your picture makes a compelling case for the dish - and obviously caramelized onions always help!

  4. Welcome back, and what a way to come back with a bang! I've heard about Veganomicon, but haven't checked it out yet. (and ha! TP bookmarks!) Sure is promising that the first recipe you try makes it into your Top 10! This sounds crazy good, especially since I've been craving fake-meaty things lately. And hey, nothin' wrong with 2 1/2 slices of cake I say! ;)

  5. I dont like onions, but when they are cooked this way I cant get enough of them! Where can I buy gluten from?

  6. If there are chickpeas involved, it has to be amazing!

  7. this is a genius recipe! I cannot believe how good it sounds! Seriously, enter this in some contests- you would definitely win

  8. Oh.My.Gosh. I can't WAIT to try this!!! I love chickpeas :)

  9. You have me sold!! I have never used vital wheat gluten. I guess I get it at the health food store? Thanks.

  10. Those chickpea critter patties look yummy, especially with the caramelized onion topping! These will definitely be dinner one night next week. :)

  11. I absolutely love Veganomicon! Chickpea cutlets are soooo good. I love that you topped it with an onion gravy. Sounds so delicious!

  12. I never craved fried chicken until I became a vegetarian. This looks way better!

  13. I love that you used tp as a bookmark - definitely something I would do!

  14. Oh my word these sound AMAZING! I must make these chickpea critter patties asap. Thank you sooo much for the recipe, I can't wait to try them. :)