Two No Beef Patties, Special Sauce…
We are not vegan and until somewhat recently I don’t think either of us would have considered recreating perfectly good food in vegan form. We recently spent some time with some Vegan friends and a couple things happened. First we tried some vegan food and a lot of it was really good, but secondly and most importantly, the creativity of creating the flavors of non-vegans foods with vegan foods seemed really fascinating. There are so many creative options to recreate tastes. All kinds of products exist that while not being an absolutely perfect reproduction, they are pretty damn close. So as kind of a loosely earth day theme, we decided to look at vegan fast food recipes, cause ya know vegan food must be better for the earth right? In the quickest decision in history we decided to reproduce a McDonald’s meal as Vegan and here is how it went.
- French Fries
- Vanilla Shake
- Big Mac
Did you know that McDonald’s fries use beef flavoring? Yeah, we didn’t either. At one time, McDonald’s used to fry in animal fat, but eventually switched to vegetable oil. Customers were not happy with the taste, so they added beef flavoring to resemble their original fries. This solution worked in the eyes of the consumer, but unfortunately this means they still are not in fact Vegan. Good news is that no animals were harmed in the making of our fries!
We learned of a “new” (to us) process for making french fries: brining the cut potatoes anywhere from 2 hours to overnight in a water/sugar/salt mixture. This is supposed to make them more crispy, so we went for it. In order to simulate McD’s, I put a lot of effort into cutting the potatoes to try to make very even consistent shape and size.
Once we had them cut, we moved on to the other method of double frying. We fried them for 5 minutes, removed them from the oil, and then fried them again until they were brown and crispy. Important note, it’s really hard to tell when they are brown and crispy. Batch 1 was not so crispy, while batch 2 was crispy but maybe a bit too brown. This is a delicate balance that would probably take a bit of practice to get right. Not sure our health could handle all that “practice”.
The verdict? The fries had a really good taste, but the color and crispiness were not great. This is something I would need to practice, or maybe get better equipment to get them right. (We used a dutch oven and a strainer, it got the job done, but not perfectly…)
Shake It Up
Lastly, we had to Vegan-ize the classic vanilla shake. As someone who dairy is not friends with, this was an easy one to take on. It was super simple to make, with only 3 ingredients: Cashew Milk Vanilla Ice Cream, Almond Milk and Vanilla Extract. The recipe that we used as inspiration had a very strange (in my opinion) ratio of ice cream to milk (like WAY more ice cream than milk), so we made some modifications:
- 2 scoops (approximately 8 oz) of Cashew Milk Vanilla Ice Cream
- 1 Cup of “Creamy” Almond Milk
- 1 teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
As an ice cream fanatic, Laura was skeptical of these at first, but even she agreed they were pretty spot on. They were really tasty and had a pretty good texture (a little too thick for me, but still good). Best of all, they did not make me sick!
The few notes we have is that you really don’t need the vanilla extract. The flavor of the ice cream is more than enough. The other is that it doesn’t have to be cashew milk, any vegan ice cream will work (almond milk, coconut milk, etc). We personally just really like the flavor of cashew milk, but almond milk might make it more similar to a McDonald’s shake. Overall, this is a winner and I would have this over a real milkshake any day, though I might be a little biased. (Laura loved them too, but she’d still take the real deal.)
Lastly – the Main Course, and for this one we did not deviate much from the recipe. Surprisingly this was not nearly as much work as we expected. It took 2 minutes to make the sauce, a few minutes to form the patties (this could be skipped by using pre made patties like the recipe calls for), and a few minutes to cut the onion and lettuce. Cooking took less than 10 minutes.
How Bout That Sauce?
The sauce was the star of the show, and the biggest surprise there was the vegan mayo. This was much closer to the flavor of mayonnaise than I ever would have expected (not sure Laura agrees). The rest of the ingredients in the sauce were easy peasy, and I made this ahead of time so we could focus on the rest of the menu.
Back to the burger – I’ll keep the veggies simple: I recommend dicing the onions as small as your skill allows, and for the lettuce, just roughly chop (careful not too make it too large). For the pickles, we bought some from our local farmers market (and for the record, these were amazing).
Where’s the Beef?
For the patties we made 6 from a 12oz package of Impossible Meat (which I think we prefer over Beyond meat, at least appearance wise). The biggest tip I have is to roll each eighth pounder of “meat” into a ball and then place it between two pieces of parchment paper, and press it into shape. I’ve used this technique with real meat before and it’s a game changer. Once you have each pattie made, you can stack them with a layer or parchment between them until you are ready to cook.
Now when cooking, these will cook VERY fast since they are so thin, watch them carefully or turn down the heat. Personally I think the higher heat will give it more of the McD taste, but this could be personal preference.
So, the moment of truth – how did it taste? We were lovin it! (pun intended) Looking at it, someone could clearly tell it was not a real Big Mac, but I honestly think that in a blind taste test, there’s a chance someone wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Laura thought there wasn’t enough sauce, but I disagree.
A helpful tip: making all of these items at once made it pretty hard to keep everything at the appropriate temperature. It might make sense to leave the fries and burgers in the oven on low to keep them warm while you are working. Timing everything was extremely difficult (or maybe we just suck at this)….but I think that part could have been handled better. Overall we had a lot of fun with this theme challenge, and the Big Mac especially I could see adding into a regular rotation as a weeknight meal. It’s not too difficult (as long as you don’t make your own fries and shakes with it).
I’d recommend that anyone at least give the Big Mac itself a try. If you do, let us know what you think and show us how it turned out.
What other Vegan fast food recipes should we try next?