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. 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 BBQ 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 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?
They are made with just one ingredient – non-GMO whole soybeans. They are texturized into shreds and dried.
(Remember to store them 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 way they are 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
Since they are a dried product, they need to be hydrated first in warm water or broth. After that they can be used in sandwiches, bowls, or soups.
Hydrated 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.
Outside of some beany-ness, they don’t have a lot of flavor on their own. That’s why it’s good to hydrate them in something flavorful and/or season them generously.
After soaking them 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 curls if they get as dry as possible. So squeeze a section at a time until they are pretty dry.
For this recipe, to really bring home that shredded barbecue feeling, I like to shred the curls even further using my fingers.
They 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 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 them 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 meat-free 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 them
If you wanted to make a burrito with barbecued Soy Curls, dairy-free mac and cheese, and greens, I wouldn’t blame you. In fact, I would applaud you.
There are endless options for these barbecued Curls – including a vegan BBQ sandwich with a dollop of coleslaw!
Vegan BBQ Soy Curls
- Soak Soy Curls in water water & bouillon in a bowl for 10 minutes. Drain them in sieve, squeezing out all excess water.
- Move them to a mixing bowl, and physically pull apart the hydrated Curls into shreds, like shredding string cheese.
- TO COOK IN AN AIR FRYER: Air fry the Soy Curls for 3 minutes at 400 degrees. Remove them from air fryer, move them back to the mixing bowl, toss in BBQ sauce, and stir them. Make sure all of the curls gets evenly coated. Return to air fryer. Air fry 5 minutes at 400 degrees, stopping twice to shake pan.
- TO COOK IN A SKILLET: Bring skillet to a medium heat with 1/2 teaspoon oil. Add the hydrated & squeezed Soy Curls to the pan, and fry for 3 minutes, until they are dry and slightly crisp. Remove them from skillet and move them back to the mixing bowl. Toss them with barbecue sauce, making sure each Curl gets evenly coated. Put the remaining 1/2 teaspoon oil in skillet, and cook the Curls for 4 minutes longer. Don't move them too much, so that they can get some nice dark marks on them.
- Serve with vegan potato salad, collard greens, and/or non-dairy mac and cheese.