I might not love televised sports, but I do love hot peppers. So when everyone else in the U.S. is chowing down on fried foods next weekend, don’t despair! Vegan jalapeño poppers are totally within reach.
These take a little time to assemble, but if you set up a little assembly line and do them all at once, it’s really not a big deal. I’ve included instructions on how to prepare these in advance because it’s awesome to have a batch on hand for spontaneous parties.
When you’re selecting peppers, look for ones that are round and firm. I like my poppers with a little bit of crunch, but if you like your peppers super tender, you may want to blanch them in boiling water before stuffing them. You can also use an alternative method like baking or grilling, but as long as your oil is up to temperature, these will not come out of the fryer greasy. They’re just toasty, hot and delicious!
One last note before we move on to the recipe: be VERY CAREFUL when handling jalapeños (or any other hot pepper). I recommend handling them (when chopping, stuffing, etc.) with your hands safely nested inside plastic bags or rubber gloves. The first time I made jalapeño poppers, I burned my hands so badly that I literally couldn’t feel my right hand for more than two days. I tried everything to get the capsaicin off/out of my hands to pretty much no avail, and was pretty sure I had nerve damage. I don’t even want to imagine what it would do to more sensitive skin. Consider yourself warned!
- 15-20 fresh jalapeno peppers
- 8 oz vegan cream cheese
- ½ bunch cilantro
- 3 cloves garlic
- grated vegan cheese, optional
- vegan bacon bits, optional
- 1 c unsweetened, plain vegan milk
- 1.5 c flour
- 2 c panko
- 3 c oil for frying
- In a small bowl, beat together cream cheese, cilantro and garlic. Fold in cheese and/or bacon bits to taste, if using.
- If possible, refrigerate mixture for an hour to incorporate the flavors.
- Meanwhile, core the peppers. Using a very sharp knife, cut a circle around the stem and pull it out. Then slice a straight line down the length of the pepper. Stick a grapefruit spoon into the slit, being careful not to split the pepper further, and scrape out all of the seeds and other innards. Don’t worry about them opening up a bit and becoming slightly misshapen; the filling will fix this.
- Once all of your peppers have been cored, take a small spoon and stuff a bunch of your cream cheese mixture into the pepper, taking care to fill it all the way into the tip. Then, holding the pepper in the palm of your hand, squeeze the pepper back into shape.
- The cream cheese will glue the slit together, and you can wipe away any excess filling. Repeat for all peppers.
- If you’re preparing them in advance, you can toss them all in the freezer now for a couple of hours or overnight to solidify. If not, go ahead and start breading them.
- Place vegan milk, flour, and bread crumbs in three separate bowls.
- Dip jalapenos one at a time in vegan milk, then roll in flour and set aside to dry.
- After a few minutes, dip jalapenos in milk again, then roll in panko to coat. Set aside to dry.
- Dip peppers in milk a third time, and roll in panko. They should be well-coated at this point.
- Heat up oil in your deep-fryer to 375°F. (You can also deep-fry them in a large pot, or pan fry each side.)
- If you’re preparing them well in advance, you can freeze them in single layers and then toss them in an air-tight container in the freezer. Otherwise, just toss them a few at a time into a deep fryer for 3-6 minutes until golden brown.
- Serve hot (careful of hot juices and oils!).