This Vegan Pepperoni recipe is so flavorful you’ll want to have it with your favorite pizzas, pasta, or even as a snack. This plant-based pepperoni is perfect to use on vegan sandwiches or even to create a tasty party platter. It’s loaded with smoky, spicy flavors that taste great plain, too.
This homemade tofu pepperoni is not like oily meat-based pepperoni that leaves you with indigestion. No way! If you’re like me, you want a healthy vegetarian pepperoni that looks and tastes like regular pepperoni but isn’t so heavy.
My goal was to create a recipe for pepperoni that was both vegan and gluten-free and one that delivered on flavor and texture as well. I believe I accomplished this with today’s recipe.
Pepperoni is Popular
I used to love pepperoni on my pizza. And it seems like everywhere I go, pepperoni pizza is the go-to favorite. So, trust me, I get the appeal.
However, there’s a dark secret about pepperoni — the grease. It seemed like all those pepperoni pizzas I ordered (in my pre-vegetarian/vegan days) were so greasy! I would dab slices of pizza with a paper towel to get the excess oil off the top. It was a lot of dabbing!
I’ve been making vegan pizza with soy pepperoni for quite a while. Check out my Vegan Deep Dish Pizza recipe, for an example. I just felt it was time to make my own vegan version of that pepperoni.
Why This Recipe is a Winner
- Using both tofu and chickpeas creates a perfect texture thanks to the combination of protein and fiber, without lots of added oil
- Adding sun-dried tomatoes creates the perfect flavor and color
- Liquid smoke adds a smoky flavor that we’ve all come to love from pepperoni!
What You Need
You can find the full printable recipe, including ingredient quantities, below. But first, here are some explanations of ingredients and steps to help you make this recipe perfect every time.
Here are the ingredients you’ll need for this recipe:
- Sun-dried tomatoes — Choose the ones not packed in oil
- Extra-firm tofu — If you’re new to tofu, here’s my tofu buying guide
- Chickpeas — We’ll use one full can of chickpeas, including the liquid from the can
- Black pepper — I think freshly ground is best
- Dry mustard powder — You can find this in the spices section of most grocery stores.
- Fennel seeds — These are the secret to most sausage flavoring.
- Paprika — You’ll need both smoked paprika and plain paprika.
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder — You can use onion powder or dehydrated onions interchangeably.
- Olive oil
- Sweetener — You can use sugar, Swerve, stevia, or Truvia sweetener
- Crushed red pepper flakes (add more for spicier)
- Beet puree — I like adding beet puree for the color and texture, but it is optional
- Liquid smoke — You can find this next to the BBQ sauces in most grocery stores.
What Tofu is Best?
Firm or extra-firm tofu is best for making faux meats such as pepperoni. It has a compact texture that produces the perfect mouth-feel. Tofu has a neutral flavor, allowing it to soak up the seasonings it’s cooked with. However, tofu comes packed in water, so pressing the packing water out of the tofu is the best way to make way for the flavors you’re about to cook it with. To press tofu, wrap it in a kitchen towel and place something heavy on it, like a pan or use a tofu press.
How to Make Vegan Pepperoni
- Soak sundried tomatoes in hot water until tender.
- Pulse chopped pressed tofu with chickpeas in a food processor until mostly smooth.
- Add in the rest of the pepperoni ingredients and pulse until combined.
- Add tender sun-dried tomatoes and then pulse again, leaving bits of the sun-dried tomatoes.
- Press the batter onto a prepared baking sheet about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thickness.
- Spray with a light coating of vegetable cooking spray and bake for 25 to 30 minutes,
- Let it cool, then either crumble it or use a small round cookie cutter to cut out pepperoni rounds.
- Save the uncut edges to use in things like pasta, where you’d like some pepperoni flavor.
Here are more detailed step-by-step instructions:
Step One: Vegan Pepperoni Batter
Make the pepperoni dough by combining chickpeas, tofu, and sun-dried tomatoes, and spices in a food processor. Pulse until mostly smooth, leaving bits of sun-dried tomatoes throughout.
Step Two: Bake
Once you’ve added the pepperoni spices to the batch, simply use a spatula to spread it out in two pans covered with parchment paper. Be sure to spread it out evenly.
I personally like the pepperoni slices to be a little thick, but if you prefer a thinner pepperoni slice, you can use even three pans to create a more thin layer of pepperoni dough. It depends on how you want your vegan pepperoni texture to be. Once you get the batter spread out in the pans, then place the pans in the oven and bake.
Step Three: Slice or Crumble
After the dough for this “fake pepperoni” has been baked, use a small cookie cutter or some other circular tool in your kitchen to cut out the pepperoni. I used the end of a frosting tool!
Alternatively, you can crumble it to make little pepperoni crumbles.
Store pepperoni in an airtight container in the fridge. It will keep up to 7 days in the fridge. It can also be frozen. Place it in a freezer-safe container or bags and freeze for up to 2 months. To thaw, set it out at room temperature or use a microwave’s defrost function.
Why Make it Homemade?
So, why am I presenting you with a homemade pepperoni recipe when you can just go to a store and buy meatless pepperoni? A few reasons:
- Access: Sometimes, store-bought vegan pepperoni has been unavailable. There was a period of at least a year when we couldn’t find it at the stores. I vowed at that time to create a recipe to prevent any downtime in the future
- Gluten-Free: I wanted a gluten-free, vegan pepperoni. I’m not entirely gluten-free, but I love reducing my gluten load
- Healthy: This recipe happens to be basically “free” in the Weight Watchers FreeStyle points too.
That said, if you prefer to buy it at the store, our favorite vegan pepperoni brands are Yves Pepperoni and Lightlife Smart Deli Pepperoni.
What is Vegan Pepperoni Made Of?
Typically, a vegan store-bought pepperoni is wheat-based. That is, it’s made from vital wheat gluten. Believe it or not, vital wheat gluten, otherwise known as wheat meat, has a convincing texture for pepperoni. It’s also referred to as seitan pepperoni. Get the pepperoni seasonings just right and you’re there.
Why is it Called Pepperoni?
The word “pepperoni” is basically the plural word for peppers in Italian. Pepperoni is the same as salami, except spicier. If you’re wondering what’s in pepperoni, it is traditionally sausage with a smoky, spicy flavor. If you’re curious what spices are in pepperoni, it’s typically peppers, garlic, fennel, paprika, and of course, smoke sauce. I’ve seen other spices in pepperoni recipes too, so you can get creative here.
Is Pepperoni Bad for You?
A one-ounce serving of meat-based pepperoni has 138 calories. It’s also made from cured meat (aka, highly processed). Thus, it’s full of saturated fats, sodium, and oftentimes questionable ingredients like nitrates. So, definitely, pepperoni leaves a lot to be desired in the healthy category.
This vegan pepperoni, in contrast, has only 50 calories per serving, only 1 gram of fat, and even some fiber, thanks to the chickpeas. That makes this the best healthy pepperoni for your next pizza!
There are lots of ways to use homemade pepperoni in your other dishes. As you know, pepperoni is in the salami family, so you can refer to this as vegan salami and use it in your favorite sandwiches.
Here are more ways you can serve this tasty veggie pepperoni:
- Vegan Pepperoni Dip.
- Make your own vegan pizza beginning with this Vegan Pizza Dough.
- Add it to Vegan Lasagna.
- Sprinkle it over salads or serve it with this Cheesy Pull-Apart Bread.
- Make a gluten-free pizza with this Cassava Flour Pizza Crust
- ½ cup sun dried tomatoes (not packed in oil)
- 10 oz extra firm tofu
- 15 oz can of chickpeas , including liquid from can
- 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons black pepper , freshly ground
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Swerve, stevia, or Truvia sweetener
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (add more for spicier)
- ½ cup beet puree (see note)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons liquid smoke
- Heat your oven to 400°F/200°C. Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking pan.
- Add about ¾ of a cup of water to a microwave-safe bowl. Heat that for 1 to 2 minutes, until hot. Add the firm sun-dried tomatoes and set them aside to allow the tomatoes to soften.
- Remove the tofu, wrap in a dishtowel, and press to remove excess fluid.
- Chop the tofu into large cubes and then place that along with the chickpeas in a food processor. Pulse until mostly smooth. Add in the rest of the ingredients. Pulse until combined.
- Add the sun-dried tomatoes and then pulse again, leaving bits of the sun-dried tomatoes throughout the dough. I feel this adds a textured look to the pepperoni.
- Turn the dough out onto your prepared baking sheet and use a spatula to press it out to about ⅛ to ¼-inch thickness. Spray the top with a light coating of vegetable cooking spray.
- Place in the heated oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until it starts to look a little crispy on the edges. Remove from oven and cool. Then use a small round cookie cutter to cut out pepperoni rounds. Save the uncut edges to use in things like pasta, where you'd like some pepperoni flavor.
- This pepperoni will last up to 5 days in the fridge or can be frozen for up to 2 to 3 months.
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The nutrition information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator and should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
This post was originally published in 2018 and was updated to include new photos, new text, and an updated recipe in 2020.