Vegan deli slices (and turkey sandwiches)


This was my second attempt at making deli slices (luncheon unmeat, cold cuts, etc), and I was ΓΌber-pleased at how it turned out. Unlike some recipes using wheat gluten, this doesn’t remind one of chewing on rubber bands, or bubble gum.

vegan turkey deli slice roll

In the flavour department, I was attempting to duplicate Redwood’s Vegideli Sage & Onion Slices, and I believe I succeeded very well. In fact, I’m going to use this recipe to create a veggie turkey with stuffing for Christmas.

Many bloggers before me have tread the homemade vegan deli slice path. My inspiration comes from Tracy at A Vegan for Dinner and also from Vegan Dad. Tracy’s Seitan Turkey and Vegan Dad’s Hickory Smoked Veggie Turkey Lunchmeat both use the same basic ingredients (tofu & wheat gluten) that I use for these slices. However, I prefer a less firm, chewy slice, and so I use more tofu/less gluten than my fellow bloggers.

I haven’t had much luck cooking seitan in the oven. I’m not sure if it’s because gas ovens have a less even heat than electric ones, but it always seems to take much longer than the recipe instructs, and frankly I can do without having my oven on for five hours at a time, what with the price of gas being as extortionate as it is.

I was intrigued with Vegan Dad’s method for cooking his lunchmeat (he steams it for an hour, then bakes it for another 40-50 minutes). I decided instead to steam mine for two hours. This worked great; it cooked all the way through and was still nice and moist. Since I don’t like the idea of aluminium foil being in contact with the seitan when it’s cooking, I wrap it first in parchment paper, then in foil.

This slices fairly thinly, though because it’s got less gluten than other recipes, it’s a tad more crumbly. It tasted so good that after I made this yesterday, we decided to have hot turkey sandwiches for tea (American translation: supper), with homemade chips (fries) and gravy, and a side of roasted Brussels sprouts.

hot vegan turkey sandwich

Today I sliced the remainder and froze it in portions for sandwich-making. In fact, I had a turkey bagel sandwich for lunch and it was damn tasty.

A few notes on ingredients.

I used Cauldron’s tofu, which comes in a 250g package. I’ve found the weight varies quite a bit, from around 235g to over 300g. So be aware of that. (It shouldn’t matter much if it’s a bit under- or overweight, though.)

The vegan chicken-style bouillon cube is a Canadian import, and it’s nigh on impossible to find veggie meat-like bouillons here in the UK, but Marigold’s vegetable bouillon tastes quite chickeny, so that would be a good substitute. You can also use bouillon powder or liquid concentrate instead of a cube; use the amount it recommends to make up 500ml (2 cups) of bouillon.

Nutritional yeast is available at health shops; it’s NOT the same as brewer’s yeast or baking yeast. I use Marigold Engevita yeast.

Vital wheat gluten is something I’ve never seen in shops in the UK. I order mine from iHerb, an American company who do incredibly cheap shipping to the UK (just $6, around Β£4, for up to 4 pounds in weight). I order Bob’s Red Mill brand.

Oh, right, and a cost comparison. This recipe makes 600g (1-1/3 pounds), and works out to around 25-40p per 100g (depending on whether or not you cleverly stock up on tofu when it’s on half price), which is about 1/4 the price of the ready-made stuff.

Hail seitan!

vegan turkey bagel sandwich

Turkey-style vegan deli slices

British American
30g ground almonds 5 tablespoons
250g tofu 9 ounces
1 vegan chicken-style bouillon cube 1
1 tablespoon soy sauce 1 tablespoon
3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil 3 tablespoons
34g finely chopped onion 1/4 cup
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast 1 tablespoon
2 teaspoons dried sage leaf 2 teaspoons
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic 1 teaspoon
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1 teaspoon
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaf 1/4 teaspoon
160g vital wheat gluten flour 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons

1. If you’re starting with whole almonds, grind them in the blender first while it’s still clean and dry, then remove and set aside.

2. Crumble the tofu into the blender. Put the bouillon cube in a glass measuring cup and add a couple tablespoons of boiling water to dissolve the cube. Add the soy sauce, then add enough water so the mixture equals 100mlΒ  (6-1/2 tablespoons). Add this to the blender.

3. Add remaining ingredients to blender EXCEPT gluten. Blenderise until completely smooth. Empty into a large mixing bowl.

4. Add gluten and mix until evenly combined. You’ll have a soft dough.

deli slice roll, ready for the steamer

5. Turn out onto the countertop and form into a log. Wrap in baking paper or parchment paper and then in aluminium foil**. (I used a triple layer of foil as I’d read that some people have problems with the gluten bursting the foil as it cooks.) Lightly twist the ends together and tie with a couple pieces of string.

6. Bring water to boil in a pot that has a steamer insert. (I use one something like this one.) Steam for two hours over gently simmering water, turning log a quarter turn every half hour. Turn heat off and let cool for two hours.

Makes 600g (1-1/3 pounds).

** Edit 23 August 2010: I no longer use foil, instead wrapping in baking paper and then in muslin. Baking paper plus cheesecloth can also be used.


  1. Wow. This looks amazing. I am definitely going to make this soon.

  2. That looks Awesomo!
    I LOVE that Sage and Onion stuff from Redwoods. I’ll definitely be giving this a go.
    Oh yeah…you’ve been tagged

    Ha ha!

  3. Made your Turkey-style vegan deli slices recipe tonight and it turned out Awesome! Thank you for posting!

  4. I was looking for a recipe for school lunch ideas for the fall so I definitely will try this out on my lil girl this summer.


  5. i found this, decided to give it a try just for kicks….delicious! verging on lifechanging.

  6. Hi Felicity,
    My wheat gluten arrived today so i’ll have a go tomorrow. I feel quite nervous, not sure whether to bake it or boil, whether to add gram flour or tofu. I’m feeling quite apprehensive, I really want to get it right. I like the look of your deli slices a lot. Is it really hard to get it right?

  7. Hi Karina — With simmering, you really have to be careful not to let the broth come to a boil, because it makes the texture spongy and unappealing. I’ve had success with baking seitan in broth in the oven, though you do have to check it and adjust the oven temp if it doesn’t seem to be cooking enough. My favourite technique is steaming, because it is pretty foolproof, and the only thing you have to keep an eye on is the water level so the pot doesn’t burn dry. I really love these deli slices; they’re one of my favourite faux meaty things. Let me know how it goes!

  8. Hi Felicity,
    I opted for the slow cooker in the end, the texture is very good, it doesn’t look like a roast but i’ll probably use it in a curry. I imagine it would be tasty if I made my curry sauce in advance and let it marinate in that instead of the broth

    I’ll have a go at your deli style turkey in order to replicate a roast. I think it will taste better steamed rather than cooking in a broth

  9. i’ve been making this recipe for a year now…its simply incredible. thanks!

  10. I’m wondering — has anybody tried wrapping this in cheesecloth, instead of a triple layer of foil? Seems greener, but maybe too much juice would leach out?

  11. Hi westomoon — I actually don’t use foil anymore, as I find it can’t really be reused, and it does seem wasteful. I most often use muslin, but have also used cheesecloth. In both cases, I first wrap the roll in a layer of baking paper, as otherwise it sticks to the muslin/cheesecloth. If you use the loose-weave type of cheesecloth, the roll will flatten slightly, but still turn out fine. I’ll edit this recipe to note this as well.

  12. Hi Felicity,

    I am struggling with switching over to vegan because I am wheat and gluten intolerant and so many of the re spies including this one call for one or the other or both. Do you have an advise for me?

    • Hi Daisy — I haven’t developed any gluten-free “meat” or sausage recipes, but Rhea over at The ‘V’ Word has, and they look fab. Check out her Gluten-Free Spicy Italian Sausages. Some of my burger recipes could be made gluten-free quite easily. Years ago, I had some really good tofu balls at a veggie restaurant which were held together with besan (chickpea flour). I’ve not tried to duplicate them, but you could give it a try. Good luck πŸ™‚

  13. This is fantastic – thanks. Great flavour and texture. I’ve been veg for only a couple of years, I swear I could fool most of my carnivore friends with this. I made two logs out of the recipe and steamed them in my rice cooker for an hour. Turns out 45 minutes would’ve been better. The tofu I used was quite dry and firm. I’ll try user softer tofu next time to see if I can get a more moist result. Cheers

  14. Yum Yum Yum Yum!!!! Made this, perfect first time! Thanks soooooo much! x

  15. I was pleasantly surprised at the texture and flavor. We like things kind of spicey so we will add a little more seasoning (garlic,sage and thyme)next time. Used Braggs Amino Acids instead of soy sauce, and left the black pepper out because it is a stimulant and replace with 1/8 tsp. cayenne. Will try the hot dog recipe. Thanks. Do you have any nondairy cheese recipes?

  16. @Lynn: check this out for some vegan feta –

    @Felicity: thanks for the recipe; steaming as I type…

    • Hi Abs — I’ve come across that recipe for almond feta as well, doesn’t it look fab? Do let me know what you think of the deli slices!

  17. Just cooled and what a nice surprise – totally delicious. I’m not a vegan but always open to new ideas and this one’s a keeper!

  18. Can i use white beans in this instead of tofu?

    • hi Nicholle — I’ve only tried the sausages using beans instead of tofu, never the deli slices. It *should* work, though it will probably be a bit crumbly and more difficult to cut into thin slices. You could try adding one teaspoon of arrowroot, that should help make it less crumbly. You also might want to add a bit more vegetable oil, as tofu has some fat in it, which beans don’t… say an extra tablespoon. If you try it, let me know how it works out πŸ™‚

  19. Thank you Felicity! I made it today I used a cup of beans and it sliced great but was a little dry its ok though i put some honey mustard on it and I think they are fab. I did steam in in my crockpot as well. I wanted to tell you Thanks for this site its great and my husband and I are trying to go completly vegan and your site has been soooo helpful thank you thank you! I will be trying out many of your recipes in the future and am excited for summer to come so i can make some “lemon curd”!

  20. OK, I am so trying this next weekend. I am having a hell of a time getting my 5 year old to eat anything else but cheese sandwiches and we are slowly going to a vegan diet, so I hope to get him with this!. I will have to switch the almonds to something else, (his school is nut free) I was thinking of hemp seeds, think that will work?

    • Hi Tanya — I suppose any seed will work in lieu of nuts, as they have similar properties. Let me know how it turns out!

  21. OOPS, forgot to add the hemp seeds,……wish me luck, she’s steaming now.

  22. So the plan was to make this for lunches this week. While making this and I decided to make hot “turkey” sandwiches with the cut fries and broccoli for diner. I used your Vegan Turkey gravy.

    When I served it, our 5 year old son’s reaction was “This is the best super ever!!!”. He devoured the whole plate! Haven’t seen that is a long from him; I will say it was very tasty, hubby also loved it.

    After seeing how easy it was to make, I will not be buying cold cuts again. These are so much tastier and I know for sure what’s in them!

  23. As soon as i get some tofu ill be making this, my roommate is a vegetarian so i like to make things she can eat with me. I am super unfamiliar with tofu, should i be using a certain type? Also I cant seem to find chicken flavored bullion cube anywhere that is vegan, would veg bullion be okay? I want to make hot dogs out of this as well but i saw you have a separate recipe for that but she hates beans so i was wondering if you think this would work for hot dogs (im trying to find a recipe that would be good for on the campfire too so not crumbly)

    • Hi Laura — The tofu I use is medium-firm. It’s not that critical, you could use medium-firm or firm, it shouldn’t make much difference. Veg bouillon would be okay to use… might want to add a bit extra of nutritional yeast to make up for the less “meaty” flavour of veg bouillon. This recipe for hotdogs doesn’t use beans. They should hold up okay on the campfire, be sure to add the arrowroot to the mix for a firmer dog. You can use the deli slice recipe to make dogs, but they won’t taste like dogs.

  24. Just made it again! Both of my daughters are vegetarian and as soon as one’s gone, I make another. Thank you!!!

    • hi Joanne — so glad to hear that your daughters are enjoying the deli slices. They are one of my favourite things πŸ™‚

  25. I can’t find the print button nor can I copy and paste πŸ™

    • hi Zoraida — I had to put cut-and-paste restrictions on my site because people were stealing my photos and content to use without my permission and without credit. You can always use the “print screen” button on your keyboard to capture an image for printing πŸ™‚

  26. Thank you, thank you and thank you!

    I made this and it was so easy and delicious, I can’t believe it! Which means I’ll be making it again and again. I didn’t have what it took to steam it so I baked it in the over with the foil and everything. It came out fine. What I did is I laid in a pan and flipped it every 30 minutes for 2h and a half. A crust formed but it was perfectly eatable and great.

    Thanks again!

  27. Fantastic recipe. Have eaten vegetarian turkey rolls for years…never dreamed I would be able to make it! Texture is perfect and very tasty. I did add “liquid smoke” in along with all the other spices. I am thrilled to have this recipe…it works and is easy!! My husband really likes it too. Thank you very much!!

  28. Love your recipe yet cannot have vital wheat gluten and wondered if you can suggest a replacement that would work. Have you had any desire to make a Gluten Free deli meat like this one? Thanks.

    • Hi Allison — I’m not sure as have not tried to make them without gluten, but perhaps chickpea flour (besan) would work.

  29. What kind of tofu? soft, firm extra firm?….

    • Hi kd — The brand I use (Cauldron) isn’t marked with firm or extra-firm, but it’s packed in water and is probably equivalent to medium-firm. The recipe will work if you use tofu that’s firmer too, the slices will just be a bit more dense.

  30. had this bookmarked for awhile, Made it today, Excellent Recipe! With the awareness and explosion of “plant based” meat , I hope more people will try this recipe.

    A couple of variations I plan; smoke it on our pellet smoker/bbq and maybe use homemade tofu although the latter is time consuming so it is precious and generally reserved for General Tsao’s Tofu.

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