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These homemade Vegan Deli Slices are an absolute staple in our house! They’re 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!
Table of Contents
- Why Make Your Own Vegan Lunch Meat?
- What’s in Vegan Turkey Slices?
- How to Make Your Own Vegan Deli Meat
- Alternative Uses
- Recipe FAQ
- Storing Your Homemade Vegan Deli Slices
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 boyfriend 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.
What’s in 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.
- 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.
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.
Shape the Dough
- 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.
Cook the Seitan
- Bake the seitan in a preheated 350°F oven for a total of 1 hour. Give it a flip at the halfway point.
- 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.
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 a myriad of ways.
- Instead of slicing your faux meat, chop it into chunks or strips and use in a stir-fry or a pasta dish.
- Dice it up into little pieces and throw it into fried rice.
- 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. Just “carve” it up when it’s time to serve.
- If you want to go a step further, try stuffing the log before it goes in the oven. Just make sure that your stuffing is fully sealed in by the dough. You don’t want to be dealing with a catastrophic rupture right as it’s time to eat!
Can this recipe be made gluten-free?
This is a question I get often, and unfortunately there is no good substitution for vital wheat gluten in this particular recipe. It provides all the protein and structure.
Can Vegan Deli Slices be made oil-free?
Yes; simply omit the oil from the recipe. The slices will be a little less moist, but they will still be very delicious.
Can I make this without a food processor?
You can use a blender to make this recipe instead, though you will have to knead the dough by hand. Simply add all the ingredients except for the vital wheat gluten to a blender, and blend until smooth. Add the vital wheat gluten to a bowl and pour the wet mixture in. Stir to combine, then turn the dough out onto a clean surface and knead until firm. Then proceed with the shaping and cooking instructions as written.
Storing Your Homemade Vegan Deli Slices
These can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
If you’d like to freeze them, they’ll last up to a month. You can either freeze the 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.
Homemade Vegan Deli Slices
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
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!
You can use liquid smoke.
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?
I guess it’s a typo… use cornstarch. Tapioka would make it more chewy.
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!
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.
My food processor has a chopping blade and a dough blade. Which should I use?
I used the dough blade and it worked perfectly!
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?
Many seitan recipes have the typical vital wheat gluten taste. Does this recipe?
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.
So freaking delicious! Thank you for the recipe! Love from Germany 🙂
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!
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!
I’ve not made as yet but am really excited to. I was wondering how long this keeps for in the fridge please
Do you know roughly How much protein is in each slice?
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?
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!
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!
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.