Vegan jalapeño poppers are made by stuffing non-dairy cream cheese into peppers and breading them. Fry them in a pan, in the air fryer, or bake in the oven. They are a guaranteed crowd pleaser at parties and get-togethers.
Jalapeño poppers are a classic diner-style appetizer. Filled with cream cheese, breaded, and fried, they are a wonderful mix of spicy, creamy, and crisp. But surprisingly, I rarely see vegan jalapeño poppers on offer at veg-friendly restaurants.
It’s such a pity! There’s nothing like the oozy goodness of cream cheese-stuffed peppers, especially with the kick of heat & crunch from the jalapeños. You never know from one to the next just how spicy it might be, which brings an element of danger & fun.
Luckily, jalapeño peppers are easy to veganize at home. And they always go over beautifully at parties and game nights.
Depending on your preferences, you can fry them in oil in a pan, air fry them, or bake them in the oven.
What kind of cream cheese should I use?
For this recipe, I recommend a thinner vegan cream cheese. It really emulates the poppers experience I remember from going to diners in high school. It also spreads a lot easier into the peppers than thicker, higher end cream cheeses.
So while I prefer cream cheeses like Miyoko’s or Kite Hill for bagels, for poppers I recommend Trader Joe’s vegan cream cheese, Go Veggie, or Tofutti. Plus, those brands tend to be less expensive, which is handy when you’re cooking for a big gathering.
If you’d prefer to make your own filling, I give several ideas below.
Don’t forget the gloves
When working with fresh jalapeños, I highly recommend using kitchen gloves. When you cut peppers open and remove the seeds, you run the risk of burning your hands with the chili oils and capsaicin.
It depends on the individual peppers whether or not this is a problem. I used to never use gloves for cutting jalapeños. Then one time I had what’s known as jalapeño hands. I tried every remedy in the book for hours. Anyway, the best way to avoid it is by prevention.
How to make vegan jalapeño poppers
Start by boiling halved jalapeños in water for about 3 minutes to soften them.
Drain the peppers & run them under cool water to stop the cooking process. (If you’d prefer, you can dunk them in an ice bath instead. But I find running them under cold water to be sufficient.)
Then dry them on a clean kitchen towel.
Remove the seeds and hollow out the peppers using gloved hands and/or a paring knife.
Fill the pepper cavities with vegan cream cheese.
Now it’s time to make a breading station with:
- All-purpose flour
- Non-dairy milk whisked with cornstarch
- Panko breadcrumbs & a pinch of salt
Roll the stuffed jalapeño peppers in flour. Tap off any excess.
Then dunk the peppers in the milk mixture. Tap off any excess.
Finally, roll each pepper in breadcrumbs.
Keep going until you’ve breaded all of them.
Now it’s time to cook them! You can cook them in oil (my preferred way), in the air fryer, or bake them in the oven.
TO FRY: Fill a non-stick skillet with about a half inch of organic canola oil (or other high heat oil). Bring it to a medium high heat. Working in batches, fry the peppers for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until golden.
TO AIR FRY: Working in batches, put the peppers into the air fryer basket & spray with oil. Air fry at 380 degrees for 6 minutes or until golden.
TO BAKE: Put the peppers on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Spray with oil. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Make them your own
Make these jalapeño poppers your own by varying the filling. Stir in shredded non-dairy cheddar along with the cream cheese. Or add seasonings like granulated garlic, granulated onion, or smoked paprika.
Add your favorite seasoning salt to the panko like Slap Ya Mama.
Make your own filling instead of using store-bought cream cheese. Try them with:
- Cashew filling from my fried squash blossoms (just omit the fresh basil)
- Vegan feta cheese (Use the unbaked almond cheese right out of the blender)
- Jalapeño cashew cheese for an extra hit of spiciness
- Vegan ricotta for a milder soy-based cheese
What kind of dipping sauce should I use?
Jalapeño poppers don’t necessarily need a dipping sauce. They’re great all on their own.
However, jalapeños can vary in their intensity from one pepper to the next. One might not be too spicy, and then the next takes you by surprise. So it’s nice to have a cooling dressing on the side to offer relief if necessary.
Vegan ranch dressing is perfect for this. You can use homemade or store-bought.
What to serve with them
Jalapeño poppers are super fun with an array of other indulgent appetizers on game day or for a birthday party. Serve them alongside:
They can also be served as a starter along with:
- Black bean burritos
- Bánh mì sandwiches
- Double decker tacos
- Vegan chili dogs
- Vegan cheeseburger pizza
How to store & reheat
Store any leftovers in the refrigerator in a covered container. They will keep about 3 days.
For reheating, I recommend using the air fryer. Put leftovers into the air fryer basket in a single layer. Air fry at 380 degrees for 5 minutes.
The peppers will have softened a little in the refrigerator, but the coating will get nice and crisp again.
Vegan jalapeño poppers
- Fill a medium-sized pot with water. Bring it to a low boil. Add halved peppers to the pot. Boil for about 3 minutes to gently soften them.
- Drain the peppers in a colander. Run cool water over them to stop the cooking process. Move the halved peppers to a clean kitchen towel and blot them dry.
- Using your hands and/or a paring knife, remove the seeds & any white parts from inside the peppers. For this part, I highly recommend wearing kitchen gloves, so that the oils & capsaicin from the peppers doesn't burn your skin. Again, blot the inside of the peppers dry with the towel. (Dry peppers hold cream cheese better.)
- Using a spoon, fill the cavity of each pepper half with vegan cream cheese.
- Prepare the breading station. Combine non-dairy milk and cornstarch in a shallow bowl. Put ¼ cup of all-purpose flour on a separate plate. Put ½ cup of panko breadcrumbs on another plate, along with a pinch of salt.
- Coat a stuffed jalapeno in the flour. Tap it to remove any excess flour. Then dip it into the milk mixture. Tap it to remove any excess liquid. Finally, coat it in panko breadcrumbs. Move it to a clean plate. Repeat with each pepper until they’re all coated. Peppers vary in size. So if you start to run low on flour or panko breadcrumbs, add another ¼ cup to their respective plate.
- TO FRY: Fill a large non-stick pan with about a half inch of organic canola oil (or other high heat oil). Bring to a medium high heat. To test if the oil is ready, drop a breadcrumb into it. If oil immediately bubbles around it, it's ready. Put several of the breaded peppers into the oil cut side down, being careful not to overcrowd. (You'll likely need to work in batches.) Fry for about 3 minutes on one side until golden. Then flip the peppers and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more.Move the peppers to a towel-lined plate to drain. Top with a pinch of salt. Continue with the remaining peppers until finished.
- TO AIR FRY: Put several of the breaded peppers into the air fryer basket in a single layer, being careful not to overcrowd. (You will likely need to work in batches.) Spray them with oil for best browning. Air fry at 380 degrees for 6 minutes or until browned. (If desired, give them another spray of oil halfway through cooking.) Continue with the remaining peppers until finished.
- TO BAKE: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the breaded peppers on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake the peppers for 30 minutes.
Content, recipe, and photos updated May 17, 2021. Originally posted November 13, 2011.