The jalapeño poppers I had in my pre-vegan days were deep-fried pepper-like objects breaded and filled with cream cheese. And let’s face it- vegan or not we can all do better than that. So here’s my recipe for ooey-gooey, melty, stretchy, cheesy, oven-baked, crispy, vegan jalapeño poppers (although I shortened it a little for the title). These poppers are filled with a cashew-based cheese (because by now we all know that the cashew makes the best cheeses), each inside a half jalapeño, and topped with a crunchy bread-crumb crust.
And while some might be thinking, “wow, real opportunity missed, posting this recipe a week after the super bowl!” I’m going to stop you right there and pull up my soap box. I’m going to take a moment to be decidedly un-American and put it out there that I am completely opposed to football (American football, not what we call soccer). The amount of research showing how harmful the sport is to a players brain makes it really hard to justify allowing it for entertainment. Not only are there the constant concussions, but the blows to the head (even the much less severe ones) will most likely lead to the development of a neurodegenerative disease. And don’t get me started on youth football…
Soapbox away. I know you didn’t come here to read my football rants, so I’ll instead move forward to a little bit of shameless self-promotion. The other day I was on Facebook and I read a post asking why vegans don’t eat oysters. To me, the answer is obvious- oysters are an animal, not a plant, and therefore a no-go. To others, the answer was less apparent, some citing they don’t eat anything with a face (which oysters don’t have), or anything that can feel pain (which is a grey area with oysters too). Instead of trying to solve the grey area of who feels pain, or if a face makes you sentient I decided to distill my philosophy into the basics of biology- plant cells, yes. Animal cells, no. And one of the most consistent and irrefutable differences between the two are plant cells are surrounded by a cell wall, whereas animal cells only have a membrane. With that in mind I worked up a T-shirt (and sticker, sweatshirt, coffee mug, etc.) design- please check it out!
At this point I promise I’m back to the jalapeño poppers. We’ve been eating a lot of jalapeños lately, because Haymarket, where we shop almost every week, has had bags of around 15 large jalapeños for $1. Which is a great deal, although if you’ve ever been to Haymarket, you won’t be all that impressed. At Haymarket, virtually everything is a dollar. 10 limes- $1. Acorn squash- $1. Kale, collards, $1 a bunch. $2, if they’re really nice looking. It’s basically the bargain hunters produce dream. The jalapeños we get from Haymarket are much spicier than any of the ones I’ve gotten from a grocery store- I’m not exactly sure why that is, but they’re really tasty when made into poppers!
The secret for the vegan cashew cheese to make it melty, stretch, ooey-gooey is tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour). Tapioca can be found really inexpensively in any Asian grocery store, and many of your more mainstream stores too. If you’re really in a pinch, you can always order some off Amazon. It works by binding and thickening the cashew cheese, giving it a stretchy and melty quality. Mix it in some water on the stove, and add the cashew to it. Make sure to keep on stirring to avoid any burning. If at any point the cheese feels like its getting away from you, and heating up too fast, clumping too much, remember- you can always stop cooking. Take it off the stove, and let it cool a little. Then start again. I had a moment like this when I was making my cheese, so I thought some of you might benefit from that advice too. You’ll know the cheese is thick enough when you start feeling a little more resistance when you stir. It should have the consistency of, well, melted cheese.
From there it should be smooth sailing- cut the pepper in half and remove the seeds and white inside bits. Fill each half with the cashew cheese, making it close to level. Sprinkle some bread crumbs on top (you could skip that step to make them gluten-free) and put them in the oven. Remove, and voila- baked vegan jalapeño poppers!
Ooey-Gooey Cheesy Baked Vegan Jalapeño Poppers
- 1 cup raw unsalted cashews
- 2 tsp. lemon juice
- 1 TBSP. white miso
- 2 TBSP. nutritional yeast
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 TBSP. tapioca starch
- 10 jalapeño peppers
- ¼ cup bread crumbs
1. Soak your cashews in water for at least 15 minutes before you begin cooking. Once that’s done, preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C) and prepare a baking tray either with a silicone baking sheet, wax paper, or grease.
2. Drain all the water besides half a cup from the cashews and place in a blender. Add the lemon juice, miso, nutritional yeast and salt and pepper and blend until smooth.
3. In a small pot on the stove add ¼ a cup of water and the tapioca starch on medium heat, stirring until there are no more clumps. Add the cashew cream to the pot and stir in until tapioca water is well incorporated. Continue stirring continually, making sure to scrape the cheese from the sides and bottom of the pot to prevent sticking. As it heats and you stir, the cheese will start to thicken. Continue until the mixture becomes a little harder to stir and is smooth, creamy, and the thickness you would want melted cheese. Remove from the heat and set aside.
4. Cut all the peppers in half the long way, and scrape out the seeds and center from them (a grapefruit spoon works well for this). Next use a silicone spatula to fill each of the pepper halves with the cashew cheese, and sprinkle bread crumbs on top (dusting off the excess crumbs). Place all your filled poppers on the baking sheet.
5. Put the baking sheet of poppers in the oven for 20 minutes. For the tastiest poppers, serve hot.