Homemade Vegan Deli Slices

Make your own protein-packed Homemade Vegan Deli Slices — they're tastier and way more affordable than store bought options. This recipe is full of flavor and easy to customize.

These homemade Vegan Deli Slices are an absolute staple in our house! Packed with protein and flavor, they’re easy to make and super economical compared to store-bought options. Pile them high in your sandwiches or wraps, or add them to your charcuterie spread for an epic snack time.

This recipe makes vegan cold cuts that are reminiscent of oven-baked turkey slices, but it can be easily customized to any of your favorite flavor profiles.

an overhead shot of vegan deli slices on a wood and marble cutting board

Why Make Your Own Vegan Lunch Meat?

Nowadays, there are plenty of options in stores when it comes to vegan lunch meat. Unfortunately, they usually come in small packages with just a few servings! At the time I’m writing this blog post (in early 2023), a packet of Tofurky vegan deli slices costs about $4.50 at my local Kroger store and contains only 3 servings.

My partner and I can easily blow through a package of vegan cold cuts in just a day or two! I wanted to save some money and avoid creating so much plastic waste, so I developed this recipe.

Not only is homemade vegan lunch meat much more cost-effective, but it’s also so easy to customize with your favorite spices and seasonings.

closeup of vegan lunch meat, to demonstrate texture

Ingredients for Vegan Turkey Slices

The key ingredients for homemade vegan deli meat are extra-firm tofu and vital wheat gluten. Both are a great source of plant-based protein and fiber. Together, they produce a log of seitan that has a texture remarkably similar to store-bought deli slices. It’s easy to slice super thin for sandwiches, or it can be cubed to use in stir fries and other entrées.

  • Vital wheat gluten is the pure protein from wheat. It’s available at many regular grocery stores in the baking aisle, but it can also be ordered easily online.
  • Extra-firm tofu is mixed in with the vital wheat gluten as an additional protein source. Seitan made with only gluten tends to be quite chewy and dry, but the tofu produces a more tender and moist result with a more neutral flavor. In this recipe, it isn’t necessary to press the tofu; the extra moisture is already figured into the measurements.
  • Olive oil and tapioca starch also improve the texture of this seitan. Olive oil helps to keep the deli slices moist. Tapioca starch (cornstarch can also be used) adds a nice meaty chew.
  • Nutritional yeast and soy sauce add umami and some saltiness to the seitan dough. You can also use tamari or liquid aminos in place of soy sauce, or a vegan chicken- or beef-style bouillon.
  • Garlic & onion powder, paprika, salt, pepper are the simple savory seasoning blend I like to use in this recipe. Feel free to experiment with your favorite seasonings. Sometimes I add a little poultry spice for a more classic turkey flavor.
an overhead shot of the ingredients for homemade vegan deli slices

How to Make Your Own Vegan Deli Meat

Make the Dough

  • Drain the tofu and add it to a food processor. (No need to press it first! I’ve taken the liquid into account when testing this recipe.)
  • Add in all ingredients except for the vital wheat gluten, and process to form a smooth paste. Scrape down the bowl of the food processor as needed to make sure everything is evenly incorporated.
  • Add in the vital wheat gluten and process for a few minutes to form and knead the dough. It’s sufficiently kneaded once it comes together into mostly one large mass.
  • If the dough looks very sticky or wet, you can add in extra vital wheat gluten and knead between additions until the dough is firm.
a six-panel image showing the first six steps for making vegan deli slices

Shape and Wrap the Dough

This seitan log can be wrapped two different ways, depending on how you intended to cook it (more details on this in the next section). The two options for wrapping are:

  1. Shape the dough into a log and wrap it first in parchment, and then in a layer of aluminum foil. Seal the foil by twisting the ends like a Tootsie roll. Note: this method can be both baked in the oven or steamed in the Instant Pot.
  2. Shape the dough into a log and wrap it in cheesecloth and tie it off with cooking twine. Note: this method can only be steamed in the Instant Pot. (It will dry out in the oven if wrapped this way.)
a four-panel image showing two different ways to prepare deli slices loaf for cooking

Cook the Seitan

There are two ways to cook your seitan log: you can bake it in the oven or steam it in your Instant Pot.

Oven Cooking Instructions

  1. Place the wrapped loaf on a baking tray. Cook in the preheated 350°F for a total of 1 hour. I like to rotate the loaf by 90° every 15 minutes so that a new section is on the bottom each time. This prevents the spice blend from burning, or the bottom of the loaf from getting overly dark or dry.

Instant Pot Cooking Instructions

  1. Add 1 cup of water to the Instant Pot and place a rack to keep the seitan log from touching the bottom. The loaf can be wrapped in foil as directed above, or in several layers of cheesecloth secured with twine. Place the seitan on the rack.
  2. Put on the lid, set the valve to Sealing, and pressure cook on High for 45 minutes. Allow to release naturally for 15 minutes before removing the seitan.

Preferably, allow the loaf to cool to room temperature without unwrapping it. Once it has cooled, it can be sliced and enjoyed. If you refrigerate it for a few hours before slicing, it will firm up considerably, making it easier to carve nice thin slices.

Alternative Uses

You don’t have to turn your homemade vegan meat into cold cuts if you don’t want to. This recipe can be used in so many ways.

  • Stir-fry it: Chop it into chunks or strips to enjoy in stir-fries.
  • Fried rice, soup & pasta: Dice it up into smaller pieces and add it to fried rice, soups, and pasta dishes. (I use it in dishes that usually call for diced ham.)
  • Holiday roast: If you’d prefer a homemade vegan roast over a store-bought one for the holidays, look no further! This tofu-seitan log can be served whole next to stuffing, gravy, and the rest of the traditional fixings. You can even add your favorite stuffing when shaping the dough into a log. “Carve” it up when it’s time to serve.
  • Cutlets: Slice the log on a bias into 1/2″ slices. Bread and fry/bake for crispy vegan cutlets that can be used in dishes like vegan chicken parmesan.

Recipe FAQ – Substitutions & Variations

Q: Can this recipe be made gluten-free?

This is a question I get often, and unfortunately there’s no good substitution for vital wheat gluten in this particular recipe. It provides all the protein and structure.

Q: Can Vegan Deli Slices be made oil-free?

Yep! Simply omit the oil from the recipe. The slices will be a little on the dry side, but they’ll still be very delicious.

Q: Can I make this without a food processor?

You can use a blender to purée the tofu with the wet ingredients and spices, but a blender won’t be able to knead the dough in the same way as the food processor. You’ll need to hand-knead the dough.

To use a blender, simply add all the ingredients except for the vital wheat gluten to a blender, and blend until smooth. Then add the vital wheat gluten to a bowl and pour the wet mixture in. Stir to combine, and turn the dough out onto a clean surface and knead until firm. Then proceed with the shaping and cooking instructions as written.

slices of vegan deli meat in a glass food storage container

Storing Your Homemade Vegan Deli Slices

Refrigerator: Your plant-based deli slices can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week, but they are best enjoyed within the first 5 days.

Freezer: Freezing is a great option if you don’t think you’ll be able to eat the entire batch within the first week. Store for up to 1 month in the freezer, and simply defrost in the refrigerator overnight.

You can either freeze log whole, or pre-slice it before freezing. It will be easier to defrost if it’s pre-sliced, but if you’re not sure about how you want to use it, feel free to freeze it whole. If freezing whole, make sure it has cooled before placing in the freezer.

More High-Protein Vegan Recipes

an overhead shot of vegan deli slices on a wood and marble cutting board

Homemade Vegan Deli Slices

Make your own protein-packed Homemade Vegan Deli Slices — they're tastier and way more affordable than store bought options. This recipe is full of flavor and easy to customize.
4.9 from 43 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Servings: 10 servings
Author: Sarah Sullivan

Ingredients

  • 1 (14 oz) block extra-firm tofu
  • 1-2 teaspoons liquid smoke to preference
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or oil of choice
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • black pepper to preference
  • 1 1/2 cups (180g) vital wheat gluten see notes on measuring

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Make the Dough

  • Drain the tofu. It's not necessary to press the tofu; the liquid is figured into the recipe. Break it up into a few pieces and add it to a food processor.
  • Add in liquid ingredients: liquid smoke, soy sauce, and olive oil. Also add in tapioca starch and seasonings (nutritional yeast, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, salt, and pepper). Process into a smooth paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed to incorporate everything evenly.
  • Add in vital wheat gluten and run the food processor to combine all ingredients and knead the dough. The dough will go through a few phases: first it will come together; then it may appear to crumble apart. Keep processing and eventually the gluten will develop, and it will come together into a firm dough again.
  • The dough should be firm enough that it "cleans" the sides of the bowl — i.e., it should not be so wet that it sticks to the container. If it does, sprinkle in vital wheat gluten 1 tablespoon at a time, processing to combine between additions, until a firm dough is achieved.

Shape the Dough

  • Remove the dough to a clean surface. Knead it 2-3 times, then shape it into a log.
  • Optionally, rub about 1 tablespoon of your favorite seasoning blend to coat the outside of the seitan. Check the notes section for some of my favorite recommendations.
  • I like to first wrap the seitan in a layer of parchment, followed by a layer of aluminum foil. You can wrap it directly in aluminum if you feel comfortable doing so. Twist off the ends of the foil like a Tootsie roll to seal it in. Make sure the edges of foil overlap each other by at least a few inches, otherwise the loaf might burst out of the seam as it expands during the cooking process.

Oven Cooking Instructions

  • Place the wrapped loaf on a baking tray. Cook in the preheated 350°F for a total of 1 hour. I like to rotate the loaf by 90° every 15 minutes so that a new section is on the bottom each time. This prevents the spice blend from burning, or the bottom of the loaf from getting overly dark or dry.

Instant Pot Cooking Instructions

  • Add 1 cup of water to the Instant Pot and place a rack to keep the seitan log from touching the bottom. The loaf can be wrapped in foil as directed above, or in several layers of cheesecloth secured with twine. Place the seitan on the rack.
  • Put on the lid, set the valve to Sealing, and pressure cook on High for 45 minutes. Allow to release naturally for 15 minutes before removing the seitan.

To Slice

  • When the loaf is done cooking, remove it from the oven and, without unwrapping it, allow it to come to room temperature on the counter. Once it has cooled, place it in the fridge to chill for a few hours or overnight. You can eat it while still warm, but the texture improves and it is easier to slice when chilled, especially if you're going for thin deli slices.

Video

Notes

Measuring Vital Wheat Gluten: If you have a kitchen scale, I recommend weighing out the Vital Wheat Gluten for the most consistent results. If you don’t have a scale, please measure it by spooning it into a measuring cup and leveling it. Do not pack the measuring cup, or you may end up with a dough that is overly dry or crumbly.
Spice Rub: You can use any of your favorite spice blends to add an extra layer of flavor to the deli slices. Some of my favorites are a simple smoky barbecue rub or the Noble Made Buffalo Seasoning. Just note that if your rub contains sugar, you will definitely want to rotate the loaf a few times while baking so it doesn’t burn or caramelize on the bottom of the loaf.
No Food Processor: You can use a blender to purée all the ingredients except for the vital wheat gluten. Then add the vital wheat gluten into a bowl and pour in the wet mixture. Stir to combine and knead by hand until very firm.
Recipe Inspiration: This recipe was inspired by a few others! I adopted the method of kneading the seitan in a food processor from the Avocados and Ales Chickwheat Shreds and the 86 Eats Vegan Deli-Sliced Turkey Breast. Both of these recipes are fantastic and these creators definitely changed the game for me as far as seitan goes!
Did you make this recipe?We’d love for you to leave a review on the website! You can also share a photo on IG and tag @sarahsvegankitchen_ or #sarahsvegankitchen.

52 Comments

  1. Love the way this recipe seems actually simple and I can’t wait to try it. My favorite Tofurky slices are the ‘hickory smoked’ ones – any suggestions about how to add that type of flavoring to this loaf? Thanks!

  2. Really looking forward to making this, I was just noting down the ingredients to order some things and noticed that you mention cornflour in the list but in the directions you talk about tapioca? Can you use either?
    Thanks!

    • I guess it’s a typo… use cornstarch. Tapioka would make it more chewy.

    • 5 stars
      Made this tonight and it’s absolutely delicious! Tastes just like Tofurky, maybe even better, since it doesn’t have that stuffing in the middle. I’m going to be making this again and again. Thank you!

    • Tapioca flour would work fine!

    • 5 stars
      Love the recipe! Dare I say it’s better than the tofurky slices from the store! Curious, though. What exactly is a serving of this? How many slices of grams?

  3. 5 stars
    I made it! I used cornstarch in the end.
    Also left out the added salt and used low sodium soy sauce. Also didn’t use the oil.
    It came out amazing, the texture is perfectly chewy, it tastes great and is not dry, it reminds me of roast beef slices I used to have when I ate meat. I think it will also work well cubed in a stir fry and cut thicker for roast dinners. It’s going to be very useful for me, thank you so much for posting this recipe.

  4. My food processor has a chopping blade and a dough blade. Which should I use?

    • 5 stars
      I used the dough blade and it worked perfectly!

    • 5 stars
      I made this 1 time and it was wonderful but quite large for just me.
      I plan to half the recipe. Do you have any qualms or recommendations?
      What should be the cook temp and time?

  5. 5 stars
    Hi Sarah! This was the first recipe I made from your blog and it turned out great! I was trying to tell which food processor you have..would you mind sharing the name/model?

  6. Lawrence Kellie

    Many seitan recipes have the typical vital wheat gluten taste. Does this recipe?

    • 5 stars
      It didn’t for me. Liquid smoke does the trick. Make sure to cover it in spices (i used a BBQ spice), so it got a great flavor.

  7. 5 stars
    So freaking delicious! Thank you for the recipe! Love from Germany 🙂

  8. 5 stars
    Thank you—I’ve always done seitan this way, never understanding the need to press tofu, or use expensive vacuum packed! I do use vegan boullion-usually Better than Boullion no chik or no beef. You have a pic holding Not Chiken boullion, but I don’t see it used in the recipe? Was it forgotten? Love your recipes!

  9. 5 stars
    This recipe is incredible! Awesome macros for my fitness goals; a super option for vegans looking to increase protein, without consuming a ton of fat/oil. So tasty and versatile! Thank you!

  10. 4 stars
    Hi
    I’ve not made as yet but am really excited to. I was wondering how long this keeps for in the fridge please

  11. Do you know roughly How much protein is in each slice?

  12. I want to give this a try, but am a bit confused. The video & pictures show you adding a bouillon cube but it isn’t listed in the ingredients. Is it optional?

  13. 5 stars
    Made this without the Not Chick’n bouillon as the directions left this step out so I forgot. So nice to have a sandwich again! I’ll be making it right the next time. Please update the directions for future makers! Thanks for sharing this!

  14. 5 stars
    Ditto the other comments that made it sans boullion cube, because it was left out of the recipe. Still really good though! I covered mine in smoked paprika, and it’s delicious.
    Somehow my dough crept under the blade of my food processor… up and down the inside of the center hole of the bowl… and INTO the drive shaft of my machine. I spent a *while* pulling bits out, and more kept appearing when I turned the drive shaft. I’m hoping there’s no long-term damage to the machine, and that this was a fluke weird thing, but I’ll be watching for it next time I make this. Super tasty!

  15. Brittany C

    5 stars
    Taste great BUT, Any suggestions on cooking? I made this but the middle seems to not be cooked right kinda gummy, I don’t want to burn it.

  16. 5 stars
    Hi Sarah! This is fabulous, but since I batch cook and meal prep, wondering if the leftovers can be frozen for later use? I’m the only Vegan in the house.
    Thanks again

  17. Can I use normal tofu and just press it? My country has either silken or ‘normal’ tofu

  18. 4 stars
    Hey Sarah! I made this recently and it’s delicious, but it was a bit dry. I live in really dry climate, and sometimes need to adjust recipes because of that. Can I ask your opinion on how I might adjust this recipe slightly to make it more juicy? Thank you!

  19. 4 stars
    Hi Sarah
    Any suggestions how this could made less dense? Less gluten flour maybe?

  20. Rachelle Thibodeau

    5 stars
    Absolutely delicious and super easy! Like another commenter, I left out the salt and used low-sodium soy sauce. It was still plenty salty. It made a 700 gram loaf and cost the same as a 200 gram package of the cheapest commercial vegan deli slices. The protein content is great as well. This just became a new staple at our house.

  21. 5 stars
    I AM SO GLAD I CAME ACROSS YOUR LINKTREE ON TIKTOK

    So I made this tonight! It is in the AirFryer now at 350 on bake mode and I hope it comes out good.

    I am very excited.

    So I have one question. How would you say storing this works is it freezer safe?

    How much protien do you think is in this ?

    What portion is a serving?

    I know so many questions but I am curious. I look forward to trying more recipes

  22. Lawrence Kellie

    5 stars
    I finally made this, and it is the best seitan I’ve had. I used 2 tsp liquid smoke, and I didn’t taste the gluten. It actually did have a bit of turkey flavor to it. I think next time, I’ll increase the smoke by a tsp.

    Thank you

    Lawrence

  23. 4 stars
    Just finished making this and it came out pretty good. Like other commenters, I did find it a little dry and a little bit too salty so maybe I will cut back on the amount of boullion a little (you forgot to include it in the ingredient list so I wasn’t sure how much to put), and use low sodium soy next time. In terms of dryness I’m not quite sure how to work on that, I don’t want to add too much more oil to it to keep the calories down but all in all, quite happy with it. One of the better Seitan recipes I’ve tried. 🙂

  24. 5 stars
    I just made this, it’s very good! Thank you for posting the recipe.

  25. Can you use all purpose flour instead of wheat if you don’t have that?

  26. 5 stars
    This turned out so great, I absolutely love the taste and texture, something Ive been wishing for! Thanks Sarah

  27. 5 stars
    Thanks so much for this recipe! I was a bit sceptical because my previous takes on seitan didn’t turn out so well but this one really convinced me! I couldn’t wait to let it cool completely but it’s so good, was hardly able to stop eating it. Oh and I used (partly) smoked tofu because I don’t have liquid smoke, but I think it fits really nicely.

  28. Thanks for sharing! I know the recipe mentions mixing in a blender and kneading by hand, but have you tried the whole process with a Vitamix? Did you have any luck with the kneading portion there? Or should I just play it safe and mix/knead separately?

  29. Linda Jean

    I cannot have wheat/gluten so is there a substitute for vital wheat gluten?

  30. 5 stars
    This is an absolute game-changer for me. My kids love deli slices for sandwiches in their lunch, but inflation made them unaffordable. This recipe is super simple/great tasting/cost-effective. The whole family loves it! Thank you Sarah 🙂

  31. 5 stars
    Hey Sarah, great recipe. We love it. Do you have any nutrition information on the deli slices. Greetings from Germany.

  32. Stephanie Chin

    5 stars
    Thanks for posting this delicious recipe!! I love how it uses ingredients I already have! Now I don’t have to buy expensive Tofurkey slices anymore. 😘Maybe everybody else knows this already but parchment paper is not the same as wax paper. I learned the hard way when my roll got stuck to wax paper. 🤦 Can’t wait to make this again. I used 1 tsp of liquid smoke and it does have that gluten taste to me. Will try 2 tsp next time. Thank you!!

  33. 5 stars
    Delicious flavor and good texture. I added a buffalo wing glaze and it really added to the end result. I think without the buffalo sauce it would have been a little plain. Other reviewers said it was too salty but I think it could have stood more salt. I sliced it paper thin with my mandolin slicer and it made a good sandwich. Can’t wait to try with more seasoning and spice rubs. I 100% recommend this recipe!

  34. 5 stars
    Excellent! The texture is great. Flavor really good. I will increase seasonings and try the rub next time. Wanted to make it once without too many alterations. I used firm tofu because that’s what I had. VWG from Hoosier Farms. I cooked my in the I-pot. Thanks for such a good recipe!

  35. Can we have the tofu measurement in grams please?

  36. 5 stars
    Why did it never occur to me to use my food processor to make seitan? This recipe is so easy and SO good! Thank you!

  37. 5 stars
    I was really nervous to try this recipe and it turned out great. I cooked it in my pressure cooker and the texture is perfect. Thank you

  38. 5 stars
    I made this recipe exactly as listed and baked it as directed. It was SO easy and turned out as an insanely amazing dupe for the Hickory Smoked Tofurkey slices. I’m literally never buying those again!! Thank you for sharing such a kicking recipe!

  39. I have couple of questions:
    How long does it last in the fridge?
    Is it freezer friendly?
    And if it is freezer friendly, is it better to slice it before freezing or better to freeze it in one piece and slice it after defrosting?

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