Vegan Pepperoni

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Plate of our homemade gluten-free vegan Pepperoni slices

If you follow me on snapchat (@minimalistbaker), you know I’ve been trying to make vegan pepperoni for a while now. It’s been one of those recipes I dreamed up and then struggled to perfect. But, after many failed attempts, I’m happy to report I cracked the code!

Say goodbye to the days of vegetables-only pizza (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Vegan pepperoni to the rescue!

Food processor with ingredients for making our easy, delicious gluten-free vegan pepperoni recipe

Origins of Pepperoni

It’s thought that the technique of curing meat with salt and spices to preserve it originates as far back as the Roman Empire. Spicy sausages were then curated in Italy and pepperoni is thought to have originated in the US as an adaptation from the Italian versions. Pepperoni began appearing in delis and pizza shops in New York City around 1919 and is now many people’s favorite pizza topping!

The following is our plant-based version made with similar spices and flavor, but without the meat!

Vegan Pepperoni

For the base, I experimented with tofu, tempeh, and chickpeas, trying each individually and mixed to find the right texture.

While tempeh seemed to yield the right texture initially, when baked it gets pretty dry and crumbly. The same goes for chickpeas. Tofu, however, lends itself perfectly to the texture of pepperoni because it bakes up beautifully and holds it shape! Plus, it’s neutral in flavor and does an excellent job at absorbing all of those pepperoni spices.

In total, this recipe requires just 10 ingredients and comes together in less than 1 hour! Some versions I tested required more than 1 full day to prepare, but I knew that wasn’t realistic. I think it’s pretty awesome that you can make this pepperoni from scratch for dinner tonight! (Pats self on back).

Spreading out vegan pepperoni dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet

What spices will you need? Excellent question!

Using a cookie cutter to make circles of vegan pepperoni

A blend of sea salt, black pepper, red pepper flake, paprika, garlic powder, ground anise, fennel (this one’s important!), ground mustard, and coconut sugar for a little sweetness. I didn’t have all of these spices on hand, but now that I have them, I can’t wait to experiment with other uses.

In addition to being relatively easy to make, these pepperoni are considerably healthier than their animal-based counterpart. They’re very low in fat – less than 1 gram fat per pepperoni – and relatively high in protein – about 1 gram protein per pepperoni! If you ate all the pepperonis (like I did), that would be 30 g protein. That’s a lot of plant-based fuel!

Freshly baked circles of vegan pepperoni

I hope you all try and love this recipe! It’s:

Spicy
Hearty
Smoky
Salty
Perfectly tender + crisp
& Seriously delicious

This is the perfect topper for vegan and gluten-free pizzas, as well as deep dish, portobello, and butternut! I could also see these tucking beautifully inside of calzones! The options are endless. I just love that the texture is so close to the real thing, and they’re addictively salty and spicy.

Ceramic platter with slices of vegan pepperoni for making homemade pizza

If you give this recipe a try, let us know what you think! We love your comments, ratings, and especially your photos tagged #minimalistbaker on Instagram! We’d love to see how yours turn out. Cheers, friends!

Vegan Pepperoni

Easy, 10-ingredient vegan pepperoni made with tofu and a blend of spices! Perfect for pizza, calzones, and more!
Author Minimalist Baker
Print
Tray with homemade Vegan Pepperoni, fennel seeds, and red chili flakes
4.75 from 124 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 30 (slices pepperoni)
Course Side, Snack
Cuisine Gluten-Free, Italian-Inspired, Vegan
Freezer Friendly 1 month
Does it keep? 4 Days

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces extra-firm tofu (organic when possible)
  • 1 – 1 1/2 tsp each sea salt and ground black pepper
  • 2-3 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (depending on preferred heat level)
  • 2 tsp ground mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds (lightly crushed)
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp coconut sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground anise
  • 1 tsp A1 sauce or liquid smoke (optional)
  • Cooking spray or olive oil for baking

Instructions

  • Wrap tofu in a clean towel and set something heavy on top – like a cast-iron skillet – to press out liquid for 10-15 minutes. Also preheat oven to 400 degrees F (204 C).
  • Once pressed, cube tofu and add to a food processor along with sea salt, black pepper, red pepper flake, ground mustard, fennel seeds, smoked paprika, garlic powder, coconut sugar, ground anise, and A1 sauce/liquid smoke (optional). Mix/pulse to combine, scraping down sides as needed.
  • Sample and adjust seasonings as needed, adding more salt for saltiness, red pepper flake for heat, paprika for smokiness, or coconut sugar for sweetness.
  • Transfer the mixture to a parchment-lined baking sheet (or more baking sheets, as needed, if increasing batch size). Lay a sheet of plastic wrap or parchment paper on top and use your hands to spread into a uniformly thin layer about 1/4th – 1/8th inch thick (see photo). The more even the layer is, the more evenly it will bake. Spritz with a little nonstick spray or gently brush with a bit of oil to help it crisp up.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes, or until golden brown and slightly dried out. Then use a small or medium circular cookie cutter to cut out “pepperonis” (see photo). Feel free to keep the scrap pieces as well! They’re just not as pretty.
  • At this point, the pepperonis are ready to add to a pizza, where they should bake at least another 10-15 minutes. Time accordingly based on how long your crust takes to bake. You’ll know they’re ready when they’re deep red in color and slightly crisp to the touch.
  • If you don’t want to add them to a pizza right away, simply let them cool, cover, and refrigerate (up to 4 days) or freeze (up to 1 month) for later use. If frozen, let thaw slightly before adding to the pizza to bake.

Notes

* Spices adapted from Food.com.
* Nutrition information is a rough estimate.

Nutrition (1 of 30 servings)

Serving: 1 slices pepperoni Calories: 14 Carbohydrates: 0.8 g Protein: 1 g Fat: 0.9 g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 60 mg

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  1. Deanna says

    Kids loved it. I did decrease the red pepper because my kids don’t like spice.

    Tell tale sign of a good imitation: while they were in the oven, my kids asked me if I was making pepperoni. I asked why they asked, and they said that the whole house just smelled like pepperoni.

  2. Mary says

    Flavor was spot on for these. I just brought them to a party full of meat eaters and while everyone agreed the texture was wrong, they all really liked the taste. I’ll be making these regularly! And the texture was probably on me, I left some parts too thick, so I need to roll out thinner so they get crispier. The crispy edge pieces were delicious!

  3. Kymberly says

    Can you use chickpea tofu? It’s besan flour and water. Wasn’t sure if it would be less crumbly than using mashed chickpeas?

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Kymberly, we haven’t experimented with chickpea tofu so we’re not sure! Let us know if you try it!

  4. Tracy says

    I am looking to make a pepperoni I can also eat cold, such as in a sandwich. Should I cook this the additional time you mention if it where on the pizza?

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      You could just do the initial cook time and it should be a nice texture, but either way would work!

  5. Sally says

    This this taste exactly like pepperoni except for the greasy taste. Flavor is spot on. Thank You. Will be making again. I ended up cutting in squares instead of a circular cutter.

  6. Jonathan says

    I like this recipe but the cookie-cutter approach didn’t let me use turn all the ingredients into pepperonis and I was limited by the size of my cookie cutters. So, I adapted a technique from another book:

    After making the tofu mixture, I placed it into a sheet of plastic wrap and shaped into a firm-ish log about my desired diameter. Then, I folded the wrap around the log, and twisted the ends tightly to form a tight, compact roll. The, I popped the roll in the freeze for about 15 mins to left it firm up, removed it, peeled off the wrap, and sliced into pepperonis which I then baked according to the main recipe.

    They turned out perfectly – no more cookie cutters and no more wasted or irregular bits!

  7. Jeni says

    I made this for pizza and it was delicious and easy! I’m so happy as I missed pepperoni on pizza and this is great! Thank you!

      • Steve says

        This has been a life saver! I’m lazy tho and just whizz up all the ingredients in a spice grinder then keep them in a jar.
        When I want pepperoni I slice up some pre-booked vegan sausage and fry up what I need.
        Genuinely tastier than most shop bought and I love that you can tailor the flavour just how you like. I honestly think if I went back to meat eating I’d still make this recipe.
        Great for breakfast too with beans in toast.
        Omg I’m so hungry after writing this. :-0

  8. Haley says

    I have made this before a long time ago, but I can’t have any sugars including liquid sweeteners anymore. Is it possible to just leave it out? Any substitute that might work? Maybe a little bit of a red bell pepper into the food processor or would that make it too wet? Can this still crisp up without the added oil as well? Thanks!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Haley, we think red bell pepper would make it too wet, but perhaps dried bell pepper (we’ve seen it at some stores)? Otherwise, leaving it out might be okay, just not quite as balanced in flavor. We don’t think it will crisp up as well without the oil, but let us know if you try it!

  9. Coby says

    Pizza is my favorite food ever, and since going vegan I have missed having pepperoni on my pizza. No more! The flavors of this plant based pepperoni are so incredibly close to the real thing; my brain knows it’s not meat, but my taste buds don’t! I am thrilled that I can make my own plant-based pepperoni with this recipe!

  10. Sheryl says

    I made this as written but without the anise because I didn’t have any. It is tasty, but there is a bitter undertone. Can anyone help me out on where the bitterness is coming from? I will try it again and intend to add garlic and maybe a combination of sweet and smoky paprika. After all the rave reviews I expected to love it and it was a bit disappointing. Any help or suggestions would be appreciated.

  11. Andrea says

    This is by far the best vegan “meat “substitute that I’ve ever made. My husband still seems to want those super processed vegan deli meats and sausages, and the doctor read him the riot act. I saw this recipe the other day and decided to give it a try. Unbelievably good, unbelievably easy. Just make sure when you roll it out it’s on the thinner side and as even as you can get it, but it is delicious!