Will the Real UnTurkey Please Stand Up?

For years, when I had Now and Zen Bistro, and then later when The UnTurkeys were flying out of our facility to stores nationwide,  I had no time to plan my own Thanksgiving.  During the restaurant days, we’d get started on our multi-course UnT-day feast weeks in advance.  UnTurkey with all of the fixings – it didn’t get better.  One year, I even had a customer seated on a five-gallon bucket in the kitchen – he had driven up to San Francisco from Santa Barbara without reservations and didn’t care where he sat as long as he had UnTurkey, so he munched happily away in the bustle and  madness of the kitchen.

Now that I have the luxury of planning our Thanksgiving menu weeks in advance, I find myself approaching the holiday ever so casually. The planning part is easy — after all, the menu, aside from a few tweaks, is pretty much the same every year.  Of course, it starts with UnTurkey.   One year, I thought people might like a change and I served something else.  Uh-oh.  In our house, tradition rules. I’m allowed a few culinary diversions, but the basics have to stay the same.  Yesterday,  I finally got around to making the UnTurkey, and today, I got a head start on dessert.   I don’t know if anyone else is as behind as I am, but there’s still time to make the UnTurkey..  And here’s my recipe – don’t be daunted by the length – it’s actually easier than you think.  One thing is really important – the Light Yeast Seasoning.  This easy-to-make seasoning made from nutritional yeast and herbs is a wonderful poultry flavor and broth substitute, so make a lot of it. I use it in so many recipes, not just for this.   It’s used in every component of the UnTurkey – in the “meat”, the “skin”, the gravy and the stock, so make that before you get started with anything else.


Makes one very large UnTurkey, enough to feed 12 and still have leftovers for sandwiches and UnTurkey Noodle Soup.

Light Yeast Flavoring:
1 cup good tasting nutritional yeast flakes
1 Tbsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. marjoram
1 tsp. tarragon
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. rosemary
2 tsp. sage
2 tsp. celery seed
2 tsp. thyme
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. onion powder

Pulverize all ingredients in a blender until powdered. Store in a jar in a cool place.



For the UnTurkey: 
6 cups water
1/3 cup soy sauce
½ cup Light Yeast Flavoring

8 cups vital wheat gluten
 
 
Step 1 –  In a large bowl, combine the water with the soy sauce and Light Yeast Flavoring, then mix in the wheat gluten, mixing well, until a soft, pliable dough is formed.  If dough is too wet, add a little more wheat gluten; however, this should be a soft dough, not like many seitan doughs that are very stiff.  Form into an oblong ball and place on a greased sheet pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes until puffy and light brown.  Pre-baking is what we did for mass production – this helps prevent the seitan from absorbing too much liquid and becoming too spongy. (You can skip this step if you like, and simply wrap the dough up well in cheesecloth, then skip to step 2. The cheesecloth will prevent it from expanding too much.)
 
 
Step 2:  Transfer to a large pot and cover with water. Add to the water a half-cup of soy sauce and another half-cup of the yeast flavoring. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for an hour or more, adding more water to make sure that the gluten is covered.  Make sure that it is at a simmer and not a rapid boil in order to avoid too much expansion and large air pockets.  Do not discard the liquid – it will be used in the gravy and can be used as stock for UnTurkey Noodle Soup the day after Thanksgiving. When the seitan is cool enough to handle, cut a piece off the bottom to serve as the bottom of the turkey when formed, and then split it.  Here’s what it should look like when split down the middle.  Now, you’ll prepare the yuba and a mound of stuffing, upon which this will be draped. 
 
Step 3 – The Yuba “Skin”:  Get your roasting pan out.  Brush it with oil so that everything doesn’t stick.  You’ll need to soak 2 – 3 sheets or rounds of yuba.  Wait a minute, what’s yuba, you’re thinking.  It’s actually the skin that forms on soy milk when heated, and can be purchased either dried or frozen in Asian grocery stores. This is what forms the delectable  and crispy “skin” of the UnTurkey.  You can use either the dried or frozen, although the latter is better all around.   If using dried yuba, soak for 5 – 10 minutes in water until soft and pliable. If using frozen, thaw and soak for only a minute or two.  You’ll see it transform from yellow to a milkier, lighter color.  Now remove your yuba from the water and spread it out two layers in your roasting pan so that the edges go over the pan.  Place in the middle the piece of UnTurkey that you cut off.  If necessary, slice that in half to create a flat surface about 3 – 4 inches wide and 8 inches long.  
 
Step 4 – Make the stuffing.  Actually, you should make the dressing while the  UnTurkey is cooking in the pot.  You can use any recipe you like, or the one below.  
 
Traditional Dressing:
4 Tbsp. oil
1 large oni
on, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, diced
1 lb. mixed mushrooms, sliced, tossed with oil and roasted in the oven
1 ½ lbs. Bread, cubed and dried in oven
1 Tbs. rubbed. sage
1 1/2 tsp. marjoram
1 1/2 tsp. Thyme
1 tsp. Celery seed
1 tsp. salt
2 cups UnTurkey stock
Heat the oil in a pan. Saute the onions, celery, and mushrooms briefly. They should still be crisp . Combine with the remaining ingredients, moistening with stock as desired.
Once you have the stuffing, mound it on the piece of UnTurkey that you have placed on the yuba.  You’ll have something that looks like this:
 
Step 5: Now, drape the split UnTurkey over the mound of dressing — this is studded with succulently roasted mushrooms.  You’ll now have this:
 
Step 6: Fold the overhanging yuba over the UnTurkey as neatly as you can.  If necessary, you can use drape another layer of yuba over the top.  Now, you’ll have to season and flavor the yuba to create a tasty “skin”.  Brush all over with the following mixture:
 
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup white wine
2 – 3 Tbs. Light Yeast Flavoring
 
Step 7:  You’re ready to bake!  Or if you’re not, you can wrap well and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to several months (Easter?).  Otherwise, cover loosely in aluminum foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for one hour; remove the aluminum foil and continue to  bake for another 10 minutes until brown and crispy. Baste again.  Now, all you need is gravy!
 
Gravy:
5 Tbsp. Oil
1/2 cup. flour
4 cups reserved gluten stock
2 – 3 Tbs. white wine
several dashes soy sauce
3 – 4  Tbsp. Light Yeast Flavoring
Heat the oil in saucepan. Add the flour and cook for two minutes. Add the reserved gluten stock, white wine, and soy sauce. Cook, stirring constantly, until thick. For more flavor, an additional tablespoon of the Light Yeast Flavoring may be added.
 
 
Lastly, here’s a photo of a real turkey perched on my back fence — I wonder if the flock will drop by for dinner?  Happy Free the Turkey Day!

Comments

  1. Thanks for posting this recipe. I make a similar stuffed seitan for Thanksgiving but I’d like to try your version sometime. My family, like yours, might be upset if I made a change in our traditional dinner, so it may have to wait for another occasion!

  2. My Thanksgivings have not been the same without my UnTurkey. We even had some carnivores give up the real thing to join us, it was so delicious!

    I hope my sister-in-law or my mom will help me make one for Christmas this year! Thank you for the recipe!!

    • I’ll never go vegan but am def cutting back on meat. I got sick a while back and went vegan for 6 weeks. I lost 10lbs. Acne ceelrad up. Even toned up w/limited exercise. At end of 6 weeks my infection was gone! I know this works, but no meat ever? I wont even try.

  3. Many thanks to Andrea and horseychicken for your comments and wishing you the very best Save-the-Turkey day! And have fun eating!

  4. Could you make this without the yuba?

  5. Doris,
    Yes, you can make this without the yuba. It would be more like a — dare I say it? — skinless turkey. The yuba creates a phenomenally crispy and delicious skin. If you don’t have it or can’t get it, just brush the marinade (seasoning with oil and wine) on the seitan as it bakes. Alternatively, you can wrap it in puff pastry or filo dough and have an unturkey encroute!

  6. Anonymous says:

    This looks great! I hope to try it for T’giving this year… or maybe for Solstice. (I’ll be visiting relatives for Thanksgiving and I’m not sure how complicated and plentiful a dish I want to make!)

    Thank you for posting this recipe. 🙂

    Emily

  7. You’re welcome, Emily. Please give it a try. You can make it ahead of time and freeze it. Be sure to give it a day to thaw in the fridge if you do.

  8. I made this last year and it was phenomenal, I loved your Un-turkeys and always bought one for Thanksgiving, and I was sad when you stopped selling them…and was so happy to see the recipe, thank you so much for posting it! I will be making it again this year, it is so great!

    Lucy Z.

  9. Lucy, thanks for the comments and have fun with it again this year. I’m making mine today.

  10. I can’t wait to make this tomorrow! I’m so excited, and nervous! However I trust in the genius of Miyoko so I’m confident!

  11. Can the u-turkey be successfully made on a smaller scale, say an un-Cornish game hen size?
    Thank you for helping people continue to enjoy un-turkey–
    Emily

  12. My unturkey did not puff…what now?

  13. Can you tell me what “Light Yeast Flavoring” is? Is this similar to yeast extract we have in the UK – Marmite?

  14. OK … worked it out myself it is the list of ingredients at the beginning! 🙂

  15. Is there a substitute I can use for the white wine in basting and for the gravy? Thanks!

  16. Hi Miyoko! Happy early Thanksgiving!
    I’m making your unturkey for our dinner this year and I have a yuba question. The Chinese market near me has a hefty supply of dried and frozen yuba – have you noticed one being easier to work with? I’m wondering if one is a little more delicate or fragile than the other since this is my first time experimenting with it.

    I’m excited to try these new recipes this year so thank you so much for all your wonderful advice on this site 🙂

    • Hi, Tabitha. Frozen yuba is a lot easier to use. Just thaw, soak briefly, and use. It is far more pliant than dried, and fresher tasting, too. Good luck!

      • It turned out so well! The frozen yuba I bought was in huge round sheets that were still fairly pliable even before thawing. I dunked them very briefly in the stock that was used to simmer the roast, just for a second, and they were perfect. The basting liquid was, for lack of a better word, awesome! We loved it, so thank you so much!

        On a side note, I was the talk of the line at the Chinese market. An elderly Korean woman couldn’t get over the yuba, she thought it was the most bizarre thing she’d ever seen, haha. Everyone was fascinated.

  17. Attempting to make my own yuba in the morning… Here’s to hoping!

  18. Hello! Ive just discovered your recipe and already a massive fan! Just wondering if its possible to Half this recipe?

  19. Hi can I omit the oil?, can I freeze the unturkey,stuffing, yuba etc ? And is yuba, beancurd sheet I couldn’t find yuba and it looks the same, I live in Australia thank you

    • Yes, you can omit the oil. It does affect texture slightly, but I’ve done it oil free. For the gravy, whisk in potato flour (not starch) after it’s hot.

  20. Gara Pavlovic Schouten says:

    Hi Miyoko,I’d like to have a lighter “meat” for my UnTurkey,would adding some tofu alter the taste completely ?Also,since not sure where to get Yuba ,here in the Netherlands,could I wrap it in rice paper instead?Thank you

    • Rice paper will yield a completely different texture, but it certainly could be tried. If you have soymilk, you could try your hand at making your own yuba, which is simply the skin that forms on hot soymilk. There are instructional videos you can find online.

  21. Hi Miyoko,

    my unturkey just went into the oven! First time I made it and I almost quartered the recipe, as we’re just two people. The Yuba I got from the Chinese market… oh well it was dried and I soaked for about an hour and it was still hard to separate the cheats from each other… but that wasn’t the most bothersome, the smell was HORRIFIC. I don’t know why, all chemical and gross. I suppose I was the only one ever buying yuba from that shop and I will not again. Instead, I’ll need to find a larger Asian supermarket where I can get it frozen. I just hope that smell won’t spoil the taste of my unturkey 🙁 I slathered it in the wine mixture and I will again for the last ten minutes of baking, so fingers crossed this works!

    HAPPY CHRISTMAS to you 🙂

    Lisa

    • So how did it come out? Sorry about the bad yuba — it shouldn’t really smell at all, so it sounds like it had turned. Hope you had a delicious Christmas!

  22. I just wanted to let you know that I shared this recipe on my Thanksgiving blog post. I have yet to try the recipe, but I will be doing so this year. I had an Unturkey only once, but I recall it fondly.

  23. Desireé Marana says:

    I made this unturkey this year and it came out amazing! I switched a few things to make it mine I was very pleased with how it turned out! Thanks!

  24. Hi all! Just made a 1/2 portion today to try it out and while the gravy was very good the seitan was rubbery beyond belief. Any dieas what I did wrong so when I make this again it won’t be like eating a rubber ball? Thanks!

    • COuld be for several reasons — you didn’t measure properly, or added too much gluten flour, or didn’t cook long enough. It should be tender, not rubbery. Try decreasing the amount of gluten flour and be sure to bake first until it puffs up, then simmer until tender.

Trackbacks

  1. […] is my vegan crush for April. I can’t wait for the weekend so I can make her glorious UnTurkey https://www.artisanveganlife.com/will-the-real-unturkey-please-stand-up/. You can see a video of the process here https://www.artisanveganlife.com/videos/. I am also going […]

  2. […] Poultry Seasoning: Adapted from Miyoko Schinner’s Light Nutritional Yeast […]

  3. […] Traditional Dressing: 4 Tbsp. oil 1 large oni on, chopped 2 stalks celery, chopped 2 carrots, diced 1 lb. mixed mushrooms, sliced, tossed with oil and roasted in the oven 1 ½ lbs. Bread, cubed and dried in oven 1 Tbs. rubbed. sage 1 1/2 tsp. marjoram 1 1/2 tsp. Thyme 1 tsp. Celery seed 1 tsp. salt 2 cups UnTurkey stock Follow along with Miyoko with her step-by-step directions here:  https://www.artisanveganlife.com/will-the-real-unturkey-please-stand-up/ […]