When I was 13 years old, I gave up eating meat after watching a PETA video and never looked back. There was not a single dish in the entire meat-free world that couldn't replicate the flavours I had grown up eating and loving - bar one: KFC chicken. Since going vegan and falling in love with cooking over two years ago, I've discovered a wealth of ways to recreate different omnivorous dishes in my own kitchen but it isn't until now that I've cracked the code on making vegan KFC-style drumsticks that replicate the 'pulling flesh off the bone' aspect of real meat and I am SO excited to share my recipe with the world.
Jackfruit is a brilliant ingredient to use when recreating meat dishes, and there's so many different recipes around for using it to make pulled pork. It has a stringy texture and absorbs flavours well as long as you're sure to purchase the young, green version as opposed to the far sweeter ripened version. If you've never heard of it, you'll find jackfruit canned and it's most easily found in asian supermarkets. It's imperative when you're looking for a can of jackfruit to use in this recipe that it's this young jackfruit that you use - it'll be canned with brine instead of syrup so there's no sweetness to ruin the flavours in this recipe. Where I was always stuck, though, was on how to make a vegan meat sit on a bone that you could tear it off.. and then it hit me. Why not make the bone edible? Suddenly, it all become clear - cauliflower would make the perfect bone! Cauliflower also has a great neutral taste so that you can build on it to make whatever flavours you like.
I use chicken stock in this recipe, and you would be amazed at how many chicken and beef stocks are actually completely vegan. It just goes to show how the flavours so many people love in their meat recipes are actually from the spice mixes associated with those dishes. The chicken stock I've used is vegan, and I have no doubt that there'll be a chicken stock variety in your local supermarket that happens to be animal free. If not, feel free to sub this with good old fashioned vegetable stock. I also use MSG in this recipe. I've chosen to use this as I want to replicate KFC as closely as I possibly can, but this is totally an optional addition, and if you leave it out this recipe is still really delicious.
These vegan CFC drumsticks have a crunchy outer skin, stringy fleshy insides and the cauliflower bones worked better than I could have ever imagined. These look just like the real deal, even when you bite into them, and whilst it's been far too long for me to remember what chicken or KFC tastes like - I think I've done a great job in getting the flavours as close as you can in a vegan recipe. I can't wait to see other people try using this recipe of mine, as I really think it's going to be a game changer.
CFC (Cruelty Free Chicken) Drumsticks
Makes 4 faux chicken drumsticks. They're very filling.
SPICE MIX BATTER
- 3/4 cup plain white flour
- 3/4 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon celery salt
- 1/4 teaspoon sage
- 1/4 teaspoon all spice
- 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
- Pinch of dried oregano
- Pinch of turmeric
- 1 can's worth of aquafaba (the liquid drained from a can of chickpeas)
- 1/2 teaspoon kala namak (Indian black salt, can be substituted for regular salt)
- OPTIONAL: 1 teaspoon MSG/umami flavouring (I used Aji-No-Moto brand, and it really helps bring out the spice mix)
- 2 cans young green jackfruit (565g cans before draining, 280g cans after draining)
- 1 medium cauliflower, washed and dried
- 1 + 1/2 cups of chicken style stock (I used Australia's Own Organic brand)
- 2 teaspoons nutritional yeast (nooch)
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 10 drops of liquid smoke
- 500-750ml vegetable oil for frying (I used canola)
- Open the two cans of jackfruit and discard the liquid, rinse the pieces in a colander. Each piece will be triangular shaped, with a harder core - cut off this core before squeezing the jackfruit so that any seeds pop out, all of the brine is squeezed out and it spreads out to become stringier.
- Place the jackfruit in a pot with the chicken style stock, nutritional yeast, onion powder and liquid smoke. Bring the stock to a boil whilst stirring and then cook on medium for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low, cover the pot and cook for a further 10 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed by the jackfruit. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
- Take your cauliflower and cut off all leaves as close to the stem as you can, whilst making sure to not cut off any of the stem. Cut the whole cauliflower into quarters, slicing from the stem to the florets of the cauliflower - you want to keep the stem attached to the florets as this is what will make your 'bone' and also hold onto the flesh of the jackfruit. Cut off the majority of the florets of each cauliflower quarter, so that you get the basic shape of a drumstick. See images for a guide as to how this should look before moving on to the next step.
- Place a piece of clingwrap on your bench, followed by one of your cauliflower 'bones', and a quarter of the jackfruit mixture spread around the floret part of the cauliflower. Wrap the clingwrap around the jackfruit flesh, leaving the stem of the cauliflower exposed, and twist the clingwrap until it wraps around the flesh tightly. Use this opportunity to mould the fleshy part of your drumstick, mushing it around until you achieve the desired shape. Repeat for each cauliflower bone, then place all of the drumsticks in your freezer for at least an hour to firm up.
- Mix all spice mix ingredients except for the aquafaba in a large bowl, and pour the aquafaba into a separate bowl - also set up a plate of paper towels to transfer the drumsticks to once fried.
- Once the drumsticks have firmed up a little, take them out of the freezer and unwrap the clingwrap - and this is where it gets tricky. Once aquafaba hits the jackfruit flesh it will want to fall apart, so be sure to work quickly from this point. Dip both of your hands into the aquafaba and coat the whole drumstick before dipping it into the flour mixture and compressing the flesh onto the cauliflower as much as possible. Once you've coated the drumstick in the flour mixture, it will sit on the 'bone' much easier and you can use this opportunity to reshape the flesh on the bone so that it looks just right. Dip your hands back into the aquafaba, coat the drumstick once more and cover it in another layer of the flour mixture. Repeat for each drumstick.
- Pour the canola oil into a deep pan, and heat until bubbling. Cook the drumsticks in batches of two, constantly turning until they become a nice brown colour on all sides. Use tongs to turn, and make sure you grip the drumsticks by the fleshy part as you turn them so they maintain their shape. After 3 - 5 minutes, remove from the pot and place on the paper towels - serve immediately with your choice of dipping sauces!
- Click here for the recipe with a photo guide for the method.