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What is Tofurkey?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2016
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Tofurkey is a vegan meat alternative which is meant to replace the traditional turkey at holiday meals, although it can of course be eaten year-round as well. This product was introduced in 1995 by Turtle Island Foods, and it proved to be successful enough that several companies followed suit. Today, Turtle Island Foods offers an assortment of tofurkey related products including “Tofurkey Jurkey” and “Tofurkey Dogs,” hot dogs made with the same formula used as a base for tofurkey.

One of the things that makes tofurkey unique is that it is a combination of tofu and wheat gluten. Wheat gluten alone is usually called seitan, and it can be leathery, stringy, tough, or tasteless when not prepared well, while tofu tends to have a soft consistency, even when prepared in an extra-firm version. By combining these ingredients, tofurkey gets the best of both worlds, with the high moisture content of tofu and the chewy, more meatlike texture of seitan.

In addition to a meat substitute, tofurkey typically includes dressing, a part of the holiday meal which is often greatly enjoyed. People typically make the meat substitute in the form of a sheet which can be rolled around dressing and trussed for baking. Dressings for tofurkey can take the form of traditional bread-based versions or they can include mixtures of grains like barley and wild rice. In any case, the stuffing is seasoned and soaked in broth to make it moist and flavorful.

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Typically tofurkey is prepared through roasting or baking, just like a regular Thanksgiving turkey. When the food is finished, it can be cut into slices and served with relish, gravy, and anything else one might desire, along with vegetables, mashed potatoes, and other traditional holiday sides. Leftovers can be utilized for things like tofurkey and cranberry sauce sandwiches, in a vegan take on the popular post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwich.

Vegans and vegetarians may choose to prepare tofurkey so that they can have a central protein with a holiday meal. In households where some people eat meat and others don't, offering a tofurkey can help to ensure that everyone feels included in a holiday meal, and the dish does not require a lot of effort if it is produced in a packaged form, so cooks do not need to go out of their way. Several versions of tofurkey can be found at big markets and health food stores, and in some regions you may stumble across tofurkey cooking competitions with novel recipe ideas to make the dish taste a little more exciting.

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