As people become more interested in vegetarian, vegan and plant-based diets, veggie ribs have become more popular. For many people, ribs are synonymous with grilling, so those who wish to cut back on meat, or eliminate it entirely from their diets, are finding themselves learning how to make meatless ribs.
What are veggie ribs?
Quite simply, veggie ribs are some form of meat substitute that have been processed, seasoned and cooked to taste like real pork or beef ribs. There are several ways to enjoy meatless ribs, and, in fact, there are many pre-made options available on the market.
However, it is very possible to prepare plant-based ribs from scratch. Typically, these "ribs" are made with a base of one of three different ingredients:
Seitan: Seitan is made entirely from wheat gluten, a protein that can take on a meat-like texture and flavor from careful preparation. Many people find that well-seasoned seitan is difficult to distinguish from actual meat.
Tempeh: Tempeh is made from soybeans and is a good meat substitute for those who may have a gluten sensitivity or allergy. High in protein, many people find that it does have a different flavor profile than seitan and is less meaty. However, those who like the taste of fermented soy note that tempeh has strong "umami," a savory quality that can be very satisfying.
Jackfruit: Found in many South Asian countries, unripe jackfruit can take on the texture of meat. It is often used in recipes that mimic seafood fritters or pulled pork, but it can also be prepared as veggie ribs.
Preparing veggie ribs
There are many options for preparing veggie ribs available. While some recipes instruct cooks to form a paste of base ingredients and seasonings around popsicle sticks, most plant-based cooks see no reason to do this. Instead, plant-based ribs are usually "country style," which means that there are no real, or substitute, bones involved: Make up a batch of rib "dough" and then slice them into long, thin shapes with a chef's knife before cooking.
Some recipes for vegan ribs include the combination of seitan and jackfruit together. These are blended with nutritional yeast for an additional savory component, along with seasonings. These are then grilled and periodically basted with a barbeque sauce.
Sauces for veggie ribs
As is true for different kinds of ribs, the sauce often reflects a particular culture or cuisine. A Chinese-influenced rib recipe may, for example, make use of Five-Spice powder, while a Southern barbeque recipe may incorporate ketchup and vinegar. It is even possible to craft a South-Carolina style mustard sauce for plant-based ribs.
When it comes to preparing these ribs for grilling, keep a few things in mind:
Do not overwork seitan-based ribs. Mix them and then cut them into sections for grilling. "Kneading" the gluten changes the texture to something that is more like bread than meat.
If you are worried about the ribs holding together, use a BBQ grill pan when cooking. This will prevent crumbly bits from falling into the coals.
Baste the ribs periodically with a silicone spatula, which you can rest on a spoon rest during the basting and cooking process. Serve your veggie ribs with side dishes such as salads or grilled veggies, with extra sauce on the side.