Thursday, August 20, 2015

An Open Letter to Arby's from the @UnhealthyVegan

My vegan version of Arby's Roast Beef and Cheddar as part of @UnhealthyVegan's Open Picture Book to Arby's

Maybe you've seen the Open Letter to Vegetarians that Arby's wrote last month. Then maybe you, like me, were like, "That's pretty f'd up!" Not to mention just plain stupid. (I mean, I'm up for a good joke, but this was just a dumb marketing idea.) A couple of vegan folks have written responses on their Facebook pages, blogs, and took over the comments...but the @UnhealthyVegan took it next level and started an entire book. A picture book, to be exact. Instagrammers united to post a vegan version of an Arby's menu item, but BETTER. Better for the animals. Better for the planet. Better for our health. Andre's there to make sure Arby's knows that #WeMadeArbysBetter and #WeMadeBaconBetter.

Today was my turn. Page 22. I decided to recreate an old favorite. The Roast Beef and Cheddar. I made it completely from scratch, except for the bun. And folks are now asking for the recipes. I also decided to put my Seitan Slab'o'Bacon (below) up against their new Brown Sugar Bacon, because mine has no dead pigs in it.

My caption: "I admit it. I used to love Arby's. The Roast Beef and Cheddar was a favorite of mine. Salty, gooey, fatty, and tasty. But then I learned about the horrors of factory farms. The lies. The greed. The torture. The abuse. I gave it up. Not just Arby's, but all animal products. For the animals. And for the planet. I, and many others like me, have set out to recreate our favorite foods without the cruelty. And guess what? It's so easy. Even with minimal cooking skills, you can recreate just about anything with a trip to the local market and all of the vegan convenience foods now available. And if you want a true, scratch made, marinated, slow cooked, seitan roast beef and cashew cheddar with house made red ranch on an onion roll? Yeah. We can do that too. The result? Salty, gooey, fatty, and tasty. Minus the death and despair. And then, you write this open letter to vegetarians with the oh-so-original, "...but, but, but, bacon!" And you think we can turn a blind eye to the suffering because you slow cooked that pig in brown sugar. Well you're wrong. We don't need to kill pigs for vegan bacon either. We Made Arby's Better. We Made Bacon Better."

I Made Arby's Better: Vegan Roast Beef and Cheddar 
Below is what is included on this sandwich and following are the recipes for all of the components. And below that, a recipe for the bacon. The bacon can also be added to the sandwich, or used in a BLT with a thick schmear of Vegenaise to set it off.

Onion bun
Roast Beef Style Seitan, thinly sliced
Spiced Ketchup (like Arby's Red Ranch Sauce)
Cashew Cheddar Cheese Sauce

Enjoy! And if you take a picture of your creation, don't forget to use those hashtags!

Traditional Beef-Style Simmered Seitan Loaf
Traditional Beef-Style Simmered Seitan Loaf from Going Vegan (page 123)

This seitan is a great base for many recipes calling for seitan. It also tastes good when thinly sliced for sandwiches. You can also chop it up and add it to stir-fries, soups, and stews.

For the simmering broth:
6 cups (1.41 l) water
1/2 cup (120 ml) soy sauce or tamari
1/4 cup (60 ml) vegan Worcestershire sauce (No anchovies!)
2 tablespoons (16 g) garlic powder
2 tablespoons (16 g) onion powder
2 tablespoons (4 g) dried parsley
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

For the seitan loaf:
2 cups (288 g) vital wheat gluten flour
1/2 cup (60 g) whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup (30 g) nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon (2 g) dried parsley
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup (235 ml) low-sodium vegetable broth
1/4 cup (60 ml) soy sauce or tamari
2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil, optional, or low-sodium vegetable broth
2 tablespoons (17 g) minced garlic

You will also need:

To make the broth: In a large pot with a tightly fitting lid, add all broth ingredients and stir to combine.

To make the seitan loaf: In a mixing bowl, stir together vital wheat gluten, flour, nutritional yeast, parsley, and pepper. In a separate small bowl, mix together broth, soy sauce or tamari, oil, and garlic.
Add wet ingredients to dry and knead until a uniform, elastic dough ball is formed. Allow to rest 20 minutes before wrapping.

Form the seitan dough into a log shape about 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter. Wrap tightly with cheesecloth, wrapping several times around, and secure with knots on each end. Place wrapped loaf in broth and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer, cover, and simmer for 2 hours, checking every 20 minutes or so, to make sure the loaf is not stuck to the bottom of the pot and flipping if necessary to make sure all sides get covered and simmered in broth.

Remove from heat and allow to cool enough to handle. Carefully remove cheesecloth, and use seitan as desired. Store in the broth in an airtight container in the refrigerator to keep it moist. It lasts about 2 weeks in the refrigerator, or up to four months in the freezer.

Yield: About 2 pounds

Spiced Ketchup (Like Arby's Red Ranch Sauce)
Inspired by America's Most Wanted Recipes - Copycat Versions of Everyone's Best-Loved Food. 

This is my version of the Arby's Red Ranch Sauce (aka Arby's Sauce.) I tweaked it a teensy bit by using SriRacha instead of Tobasco.

1 cup (235 ml) ketchup
2 teaspoons water
1 tablespoon (14 g) dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon (15 ml) SriRacha sauce

1 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a small saucepan, combine all the ingredients and cook over medium heat. Stir until the sauce begins to boil, about 7 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Let cool, covered. Store covered in the refrigerator. Keep for at least 1 month.

Yield: Just over 1 cup (250 ml)

Cashew Cheddar Cheese Sauce 

From the upcoming The Great Vegan Nut Book by Celine Steen and me!

This quick and easy sauce works well as a spread for sandwiches, mixed into pasta, and takes well to lots of add-ins to customize the flavor for your dish.

1 cup (160 g) soaked cashews
1/2 cup (120 ml) unsweetened nut milk
2 tablespoons (28 g or 30 ml) refined coconut oil
2 tablespoons (15 g) nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon (18 g) yellow miso
1 tablespoon (17 g) ketchup
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon soy sauce or Tamari
1/4 teaspoon turmeric

Add all ingredients to a high speed blender and puree until silky smooth. Heat up if a warm sauce is desired.

Yield: About 1 1/2 cups

Seitan Slab'o'Bacon from The Complete Guide to EVEN MORE Vegan Food Substitutions (page 212)

Seitan Slab'o'Bacon
Seitan Slab'o'Bacon from The Complete Guide to EVEN MORE Vegan Food Substitutions (page 212)

Alright, friends, let's not get all huffy about how much oil is in this recipe. It's bacon! It's supposed to be fatty. Now take into consideration that you will not be eating this whole slab in one sitting. You will be slicing it into thin pieces and eating it a little bit at a time, most likely on a sandwich, or in a breakfast burrito, so it really isn't that much oil, if you look at it that way, right?

For the fatty white part:
1 cup (144 g) vital wheat gluten
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (235 ml) vegetable broth
1/4 cup (60 ml) neutral-flavored oil

For the meaty red part:
1 cup (144 g) vital wheat gluten
1 recipe All-Purpose Bacon Marinade (page XX)
A few drops all-natural red food color, or beet juice, optional for extra red color

For the bacon:
1/4 cup (60 ml) neutral-flavored oil
1 recipe All-Purpose Bacon Seasoning (page XX)

To make the fatty white part: In a medium sized mixing bowl mix together gluten, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt. Mix together the veggie broth and oil. Add wet to dry and stir to combine. Using your hands, knead together until a bouncy elastic dough is formed, about 5 minutes. (Too wet? Add more flour. Too dry? Add more water.) Divide dough into 2 equal portions, set aside and allow to rest.

To make the meaty red part: Put gluten in a medium sized mixing bowl, add All-Purpose Bacon Marinade and food color (if using) to the bowl and stir to combine. Using your hands, knead together until a bouncy elastic dough is formed, about 5 minutes. (Too wet? Add more flour. Too dry? Add more water.) Divide dough into 2 equal portions, set aside and allow to rest for 20 minutes.

To make the bacon: Flatten each piece of dough into a rectangle about 4 inches (10 cm) wide by 6 inches (cm) long. It's okay of your dough shrinks back a little, It doesn't have to be perfect. When it bakes it will expand and form a near perfect loaf, so don't stress too much over it. Layer the dough white, red, white, red, and press together. Place on a flat surface, lined with foil or wax paper, top with another piece of foil or waxed paper, and press by placing a heavy pot or book on top. Allow to rest an additional 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C, or gas mark 5). Lay out a large piece of aluminum foil on a flat surface. Place pressed bacon dough in the center of the foil. Rub half of the oil all over the top, flip over and rub remaining oil all over the other side. Rub half of the All-Purpose Bacon seasoning into the dough like a dry rub, flip and repeat on the other side with the remaining seasoning.

Wrap tightly in the foil (It's important to wrap it tightly, so that the dough does not expand when baking, ensuring that the seitan is dense and firm, not puffy and bready.) and place seam side down in a baking dish. Bake for one hour, carefully flipping halfway through. Remove from the oven and allow to cool enough to handle before unwrapping.

When you unwrap it, it should be blackened and firm to the touch. The blackened edge will make a wonderfully flavorful crispy edge.

Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container, or freeze until ready to use. When ready to enjoy, slice into very thin slices. Enjoy as is, or pan fry in a little more oil (or Vegan Bacon Grease!) for an extra crispy slice of bacon.

Yield: About 24 slices


  1. THANK YOU for posting this! I really must make it soon. Screw Arby's. This is WAY BETTER. I've actually made the Slab O' Bacon before, after the first Complete Guide came out. And it was GOOD! (Or maybe it was also in 500 Vegan Recipes? I can't remember ... one of your books ... anyway, it was awesome).

  2. Hi buddy, your blog's design is simple and clean and i like it. Your blog posts are super. Please keep them coming. Greets!!!
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  3. Wow, this looks delicious! Veganism is just the best. <3 That slab o' bacon!! O_O I'll be making that very, very soon!!

    Also? Dear Arby's: Shut the fuck up.

  4. Really enjoyed the flavor and texture of the "beef"! It was a new seitan prep method for me and turned out great. As an aside, I saw this post and set out to make it... all without scrolling down to the "bacon." Now I feel compelled to make that bacony loaf too at some point, haha

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  7. The whole Arbys marketing was a high eye roll. Blah. As a Canadian who has never had Arbys before, I can only assume it tastes pretty bad, like most fast food. I have never had seitan before but on this recipe, it looks pretty great!

  8. Bake for one hour, carefully flipping halfway through. Remove from the oven and allow to cool enough to handle before unwrapping.
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All recipes written by me, Joni Marie Newman, unless otherwise noted. Please feel free to refer to or link back to any of my recipes, but please ask for permission, or remember to give credit when reprinting recipes in their entirety. I do provide links to affiliate programs (such as Amazon) in which I receive a small commission for items purchased. I do not provide paid reviews. All reviews done on products or books are of my own unsolicited opinion. On occasion I may receive a book or product to review. I will note when this is the case, but rest assured, it will not affect the authenticity of my review. Thanks!--Joni