These vegan BBQ Soy Curls are wonderfully crispy around the edges. They can be made in the air fryer or a skillet. Serve them in a bowl with potato salad & greens for maximum deliciousness.
I can’t resist a good vegan BBQ bowl. With slow cooked greens, something carbohydrate-dense like potato salad or cashew mac and cheese, and then a barbecued star of the show, it beckons me like a cat to a sunny spot. Impossible to refuse.
Lately, I’ve been making vegan barbecue bowls using Soy Curls as the protein-packed main course. With smoky barbecue sauce, it is a wonderful complement to an evening of comfort food. I cook it in the air fryer or skillet. The Soy Curls get delightfully crisp around the edges, while maintaining their chewiness down the middle.
(I prefer the results of the air fryer a little more if you have the option, but if not, don’t worry about it. The skillet version is still very good and super simple.)
What are Soy Curls?
Soy Curls are made with just one ingredient – non-GMO whole soybeans. They are texturized into shreds and dried.
(Remember to store the Soy Curls in the refrigerator or freezer, because they don’t have any preservatives in them.)
In Portland, Oregon, Soy Curls are quite the culinary darling. They can be found in bulk bins at grocery stores, as well as on the menus of many restaurants. (I’m particularly fond of the barbecued Soy Curls served at the magical Homegrown Smoker.)
For the rest of us, though, Soy Curls are less common. I’m able to find them in bags at my local Natural Grocers. However, before they were sold there, I purchased them online.
How to cook with Soy Curls
Before you can cook with Soy Curls, they need to be hydrated first in warm water or broth. After that they can be used in sandwiches, bowls, or soups.
Hydrated Soy Curls are somewhat reminiscent of shredded chicken. They are high in protein and have a great chewy texture that’s similar to seitan, except Soy Curls are an option for people who are wheat averse.
Soy Curls don’t have a lot of flavor on their own. So that’s why it’s good to hydrate them in something flavorful and/or season them in a way that gives them more flavor than just the somewhat beany taste they have on their own.
After soaking the Soy Curls in broth for 10 minutes, they go into a fine mesh sieve, so that all of the liquid can be squeezed out. (Depending on how hot you got your broth, the water may still be on the warm side. So squeeze carefully!)
You’re going to get the best browning and crisping on the Soy Curls if they get as dry as possible. So squeeze a section at a time until the Soy Curls are pretty dry.
For this recipe, to really bring home that shredded barbecue feeling, I like to shred the Soy Curls even further using my fingers. The Soy Curls shred in a way that feels similar to string cheese. Pull the curls apart as best you can, and don’t worry too much about the pieces being even.
The shredded texture means that there are more edges to get crispy in the air fryer or skillet, and it improves the ratio of BBQ sauce to Soy Curl per bite.
Then I throw the Soy Curls into the air fryer on their own for a few minutes to get them even drier. (If you’re using a skillet, you’ll do this step in a lightly oiled skillet.)
Then remove the Soy Curls from the air fryer, toss them with barbecue sauce, and back into the air fryer they go for a few more minutes.
Vegan barbecue sauce
There are loads of vegan barbecue sauces out there. You’ll just want to read the ingredient label since some brands use non-vegan Worcestershire sauce, which includes anchovies.
Out of barbecue sauce? No problem. You probably have everything you need to make vegan barbecue sauce for one in just 30 seconds.
I love the wonderful crackling texture, as well as the chewiness of the curls themselves. If you prefer saucier Soy Curls, feel free to add more barbecue sauce at the end.
Ways to use vegan BBQ Soy Curls
Barbecued Soy Curls play well with all kinds of comfort food favorites. I’m particularly fond of pairing them with the best vegan potato salad and garlicky easy collard greens. They would also be good friends with creamy polenta, vegan fried green tomatoes (in the air fryer!), or cashew mac and cheese.
If you wanted to make a burrito with barbecued Soy Curls, vegan mac and cheese, and greens, I wouldn’t blame you. In fact, I would applaud you.
There are endless options for these barbecued Soy Curls. I have a ton of ideas I’m looking forward to sharing with you – including a vegan BBQ sandwich with a dollop of coleslaw!
For another Soy Curl idea, take a gander at this smoky vegan bean chili. It is terrific in a bowl with crackers or chips, over vegan hot dogs, or on top of an air fryer baked potato. For more ways to use your air fryer, check out these vegan air fryer recipes.