Let me start by saying that I’ve never had non-vegan shawarma. I was my 20s the first time I saw that not-very-appetizing shank of meat revolving behind the counter of the Mediterranean food stand in the mall where I had a part-time job at the bookstore. I was vegetarian, and it was the best place in the mall to grab a bite to eat after leaving my day job as a graphic designer, before starting my shift at the store. My two regular dishes were the falafel sandwich and something they called the Greek peasant vegetarian dinner, which was made with spiced roasted vegetables and pita wedges. That revolving meat always gave me the heebie jeebies, but I ate there twice a week.
Fast forward to last year. Cedar Ridge Café, a local veg-friendly lunch spot took meat off their menu and created an expanded line of vegan and vegetarian items. (Woo-hoo! Let’s home more restaurants follow suite.) I spotted Seitan Shawarma on the menu and wanted to give it a try. It consisted of a flat bread loaded with spiced seitan, peppers, greens, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, and pickles, and it was smothered in dairy-free thousand island dressing. It was incredible. So good, that I have a difficult time ordering anything else when Dennis and I got there for lunch, so I haven’t tried too many of the other new menu items. The last time I had it, someone walking in the door came over to me and asked what it was, because she wanted it, too.
Last month, we were in the middle of a deep freeze here in New Jersey. I found myself with a hankering for vegan shawarma, but it was just too cold to get bundled up and go out. The fridge was full, so maybe I could recreate it at home. I had most of the ingredients on hand, with the exception of the seitan. What could I replace it with? I had just stocked up on soy curls, that I order in bulk from Amazon, and they have a meaty-texture that’s similar to seitan. Why not give them a try?
I cooked the soy curls with sliced peppers, onions, and some shawarma spices. Traditionally, shawarma spices include cinnamon and cardamom, but I don’t like cinnamon in savory foods, and Dennis doesn’t like cardamom, so I left them out. If you don’t mind them, feel free to add ¼ teaspoon of each to the pan when you add the rest of the spices.
I also crumbled a Not-Chick’n vegan bouillon cube into the pan. Often, I’ll add them, or a Not-Beef bouillon cube, to a soy curl dish to give it a little more flavor. No Chicken Better than Bouillon works really well, too.
I loaded lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and pickles onto flatbread along with the cooked soy curl mixture. I had made tempeh Reubens the day before, so I had half a jar of Thousand Island Dressing in the fridge. Since the café serves their vegan shawarma with thousand island, I decided to go with it. Shawarma is traditional served with a yogurt sauce, but I didn’t have any non-dairy yogurt on hand. The thousand island dressing works really well with this sandwich, but if you want to go with something a little closer to the traditional option, you can top yours with Lemony Tahini Dressing, which makes for an equally delicious wrap.
I almost always have soy curls on hand since I order them in bulk from Amazon, but if you can’t find them, you can use seitan instead.
- First, you cook the onion and pepper in a large pan over medium high heat.
- Then, you add the soy curls and spices and cook them until they’ve browned and are slightly crispy.
- Next, you pile flat breads high with the soy curls, mixed greens, cucumber, tomatoes, and pickles.
- Finally, you drizzle on the dressing.
The measurements for the vegetables and pickles in this recipe are approximate. Because it’s a sandwich, you won’t mess things up if you use less cucumber and more dressing.
Since my original at-home recreation, vegan shawarma has become a lunchtime favorite. I’ve made it many times, usually using soy curls, but I’ve used seitan as well. Sometimes I use thousand Island dressing, and other times I’ll use tahini, depending on what I have on hand.
These hearty wraps are best eaten while the soy curls are warm, but they’re delicious when cold, too. They can be packed up and taken to the office for lunch. They’re messy, so make sure you have a napkin or two at the ready!
Vegan Shawarma with Soy Curls
- 4 ounces soy curls (about half a package)
- 1 teaspoon neutral-flavored oil
- 1 green bell pepper, sliced
- ½ onion, sliced (about ½ cup)
- Pinch of sea salt
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon coriander
- Pinch cayenne
- 1 Not-Chick’n vegan bouillon cube (or 1 tablespoon No Chicken Better Than Bouillon)
- 4 whole wheat flat-breads or pitas, warmed
- 2 cups mixed greens
- 1 tomato, sliced
- 1 small cucumber, sliced (about ½ cup)
- ¼ cup sliced pickles
- ½ cup dairy-free Thousand Island Dressing
Re-constitute the soy curls by placing them in a bowl and pouring 2 cups of hot water over them. Let them sit for about 15 minutes. Once they’ve softened, drain them and squeeze some of the excess water out of them.
Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the green bell pepper and onion along with the pinch of salt. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring often, until the onions begin to brown.
Add the soy curls to the pan along with the cumin, turmeric, paprika, ginger, black pepper, coriander, and cayenne. Crumble the not chicken vegan bouillon cube into the pan. (If using no-chicken vegan bouillon, just add it to the pan and stir.) Stir to coat everything in the spices. Cook for about 10 more minutes, or until the soy curls brown and crisp a little, stirring often.
To assemble the wraps, place ½ cup of mixed greens onto each flat bread. Place ¼ of the soy curl mixture on each. Top with the tomato slices, cucumber slices, and pickles. Drizzle each one with 2 tablespoons of the dairy-free Thousand Island Dressing.
Fold over each flat bread, serve, and enjoy!
If you enjoyed this recipe, you might also like: