These vegan ribs are juicy, tender, and coated in a sweet yet savory caramelized sticky BBQ sauce. This recipe is made with seitan which gives it the best meaty texture. With an optional “bone” for the rack and no steaming required, these vegan ribs will impress even picky omnivores!
Plus, a video tutorial is included to walk you through step-by-step how to make the best vegan ribs!
Why You’ll Love These Vegan Ribs
I’ve made a lot of vegan ‘meat’ recipes here on the blog, but these vegan ribs might be one of my favorites. Maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for anything with BBQ sauce. Anyway, I love the texture of this recipe and the sticky, charred exterior. It’s just such a good combination!
Here are a few more reasons we love this recipe and you will too:
- Meaty, Sticky & Charred to Perfection– Thanks to the seitan, these ribs have a chewy and meaty texture that will satisfy even the most dedicated meat lovers.
- Sweet and Savory BBQ sauce – Coated in a caramelized sticky BBQ sauce, these ribs have the perfect balance of sweetness and savory richness.
- Realistic Appearance with Optional ‘Bones’ – Using Popsicle sticks, skewers, Ceylon cinnamon sticks or sugar cane, these ribs even look like the real deal.
- No Steaming Required – The baking method used in this recipe ensures moist and tender seitan without any need for steaming.
- 40 Grams of Protein Per Serving – Each serving of this recipe is packed with protein thanks to the vital wheat gluten.
- Step-by-Step Video Tutorial – The video tutorial below makes following this recipe a breeze, so if it’s your first time making seitan, no worries!
Why This Recipe Works
The base of the recipe is seitan, which is made from vital wheat gluten. This is what creates a chewy and meaty texture. You’ll also see chickpeas and onions are part of the ingredient list below. These two ingredients help tenderize the seitan, so it isn’t too chewy.
While my vegan shredded chicken recipe uses young jackfruit, I’ve opted not to use it in this recipe because I find chickpeas give a more ‘rib-like’ texture. I will most likely test substituting jackfruit pieces for chickpeas in the future, so stay tuned! If I had to guess, jackfruit will add a nice stringy texture to the dough.
Using Ceylon cinnamon sticks, sugar cane, or even Popsicle sticks as the optional “bone” adds a realistic touch to the rack. Let’s dive into how to make these vegan BBQ ribs!
While the ingredient list for these ribs may seem a bit long, it’s because seitan is similar to tofu in that it needs a lot of flavorings to taste good! Here, each spice builds on the next to create amazing flavor.
Here’s what you’ll need for the seitan ribs, the dry rub and the barbecue sauce:
- Chickpeas – Canned and finely minced, these add moisture and help to tenderize the ribs.
- Yellow onion – Onion adds lots of flavor, moisture and also helps tenderize the ribs.
- Vital wheat gluten – The main ingredient for seitan, giving it the chewy, meaty texture.
- Garlic powder, smoked paprika, and onion powder – These spices build the foundational flavor for the ribs.
- Vegan ham broth base (optional) – To enhance the meaty flavor.
- Low-sodium soy sauce – Adds a salty, umami flavor.
- Extra virgin olive oil – For moisture and richness.
- BBQ sauce – Incorporated in the dough for a hint of smoky sweetness and we’re using it to charr the ribs.
- Ceylon cinnamon sticks, popsicle sticks, wooden cake dowels, bamboo skewers or sugar cane (optional) – For the appearance of vegan bones. This is totally optional. Note– the cinnamon sticks leave a very subtle cinnamon flavor. Opt. for a different option for a neutral flavor.
- Light brown sugar – Adds sweetness to the dry rub and helps to caramelize the seitan.
If possible, I don’t recommend making major substitutions. Making seitan is like baking and can be finicky. The most important thing to note when making substitutions is that the ratio of dry ingredients to wet ingredients should remain the same.
Feel free to switch up the seasonings and spices, but I don’t recommend adding more liquid to the recipe. Below are some substitutions you could try:
- Ceylon cinnamon sticks – These can be omitted altogether. Or substitute with fresh sugar cane, bamboo skewers or popsicle sticks for the rib bones.
- Low-sodium soy sauce – Use tamari or coconut aminos instead.
- BBQ sauce – Feel free to use a homemade BBQ sauce.
- Olive Oil – This can be swapped for another oil like avocado oil, vegetable oil, canola oil, or sunflower oil.
- Spices & Seasonings – Feel free to add in nutritional yeast, liquid smoke (for a smoky flavor), or other dry spices.
- 9×13” Baking Dish
- Digital Kitchen Scale
- Cutting board & Sharp Knife
- Food Processor ( optional- for onion and chickpeas)
- Cast Iron Grill Pan (optional, for charring)
Step By Step Instructions
🎥 Video Tutorial is in the Recipe Card Below!
Preparing the Seitan Dough
STEP 1: In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients (vital wheat gluten, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, and vegan ham broth base).
STEP 2: Make a well in the center and add the minced chickpeas and onions, soy sauce, oil, 2 tbsp BBQ sauce, and 3/4 cup of water. Stir to combine with a rubber spatula.
📌 TIP: Use a glass bowl and rubber spatula (not a wooden spoon) to form the dough. Seitan dough sticks to everything and this makes clean-up easier.
STEP 3: The mixture will look slightly dry, but will come together once it is kneaded. Use your hand to gently knead the dough in the mixing bowl. Gradually add the remaining water, 1 tbsp at a time to form a moist dough
Shaping and Preparing the Vegan Ribs
STEP 4: Shape the dough into rectangles, then stack and score them to resemble rib racks. Insert optional Ceylon cinnamon sticks, popsicle sticks, or sugar cane for ‘bones’.
📌 TIP: While shaping the seitan into a rib shape, resist the temptation to overwork the dough for the perfect appearance. It’s easy to make the ribs too tough in pursuit of that ideal ‘rib shape’. Focus on a gentle touch to maintain the desired texture.
STEP 5: Place the vegan ribs in an oiled baking dish and coat with extra virgin olive oil.
Making the Dry Rub and Baking the Ribs
STEP 5: In a small bowl, combine light brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika to make the dry rub.
STEP 6: Rub the dry mixture onto the top of the vegan ribs. Then add water or vegetable broth to the baking dish.
STEP 7: Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes.
📌 TIP: Baked covered with water in the dish to help steam the seitan and to keep it moist! If the water evaporates during baking, add a bit extra.
STEP 8: Remove the foil, apply BBQ sauce to the tops and sides of the ribs, increase the oven temperature, and bake uncovered for another 10-15 minutes until caramelized. Optionally, char the edges under the broiler or on a grill pan.
STEP 9: Let the ribs cool for 10-15 minutes to firm up. If making in advance, remove the optional bones so the cinnamon flavor doesn’t infuse into the seitan.
These juicy and tender vegan ribs are perfect for your summer bbq gatherings. Here are some classic vegan dishes that you can serve alongside them to complete your meal:
- Cornbread: A classic pairing that’s sweet and crumbly.
- Coleslaw: Adds a crunchy and refreshing texture to balance the richness of the ribs.
- Vegan Potato Salad: Creamy and savory, the perfect complement to BBQ flavors.
- Grilled or Roasted Vegetables: Brussel sprouts, zucchini, bell peppers, and asparagus grilled to perfection.
- Garden Salad: Light and fresh, tossed with seasonal veggies and a tangy dressing.
- Baked Beans: A hearty and flavorful classic for BBQ gatherings.
- Vegan Macaroni Salad or Mac & Cheese: Creamy and chilled, adding comfort to your BBQ spread.
- Grilled Corn on the Cob: Seasoned with a hint of chili and lime for an extra zing.
Storing your vegan ribs properly will help maintain their juicy and tender texture.
- Remove the Cinnamon Sticks: If you’ve chosen to use cinnamon sticks or sugar cane as the “bone” in your ribs, be sure to remove them no longer than 1 hour after cooking. Leaving them in any longer may infuse the flavor into the seitan, altering the taste.
- Fridge: The seitan should be stored in a glass airtight container in the fridge, where it will keep well for 3-4 days.
- Reheating: Because seitan has a tendency to dry out, it’s important to reheat it properly to retain its delightful meaty texture. To reheat, you can microwave the seitan on 50% power with a bit of vegetable stock to keep it moist or place it on a grill pan with some broth.
- Freezer: If you want to freeze the seitan ribz, be sure to wrap them tightly in plastic wrap or place it in a freezer-safe airtight container, eliminating as much air as possible. Properly stored in the freezer, they’ll stay fresh for up to 2-3 months.
Pro Tips for the Best Vegan Ribs
Seitan is a fantastic meat substitute that’s versatile and delicious, but it can be a bit finicky to work with. I have an entire article on how to make seitan if you’d like to learn more. But for now, here’s a quick guide to help you navigate some common seitan challenges:
1. Over Kneading or Overworking the Dough
- Problem: Over kneading or overworking the dough can lead to tough, too chewy seitan.
- Solution: Knead the dough just enough to develop the gluten and combine the ingredients. It should feel firm and moist, but not overly tight. If it seems too tough, it’s possible you’ve kneaded it too much. The right touch is essential, and less can be more when it comes to kneading seitan! Knead the dough just until the dough forms.
- Problem: Overcooking leads to dry seitan that lacks the juicy texture you want.
- Solution: Follow the cooking time carefully and use a thermometer to check for the proper temperature if needed. Check to see if the water or broth has evaporated from the baking dish. Add more if it has. If you find that your seitan is dry, try reducing the cooking time next time, or cook it covered longer.
3. Incorrect Measurement of Ingredients
- Problem: Incorrect measurements can lead to dry and tough seitan.
- Solution: Use a kitchen scale for the best results. Precision in measuring the vital wheat gluten and other dry ingredients ensures that the texture will be just right. A small difference in measurement can have a big impact, so be accurate!
4. Soggy Seitan
- Problem: Soggy seitan could be a result of undercooking, too much moisture, or underdeveloped gluten.
- Solution: Ensure that the dough is kneaded sufficiently to develop the gluten, but not overworked. Check for proper cooking time and adjust if needed. Also, be cautious with the amount of liquid added. The mixture should be moist but not soggy. If it’s too wet, try reducing the liquid or adding a bit more vital wheat gluten.
Yes, you can prepare them in advance and store them in the fridge to enjoy the next day. Remember to remove the cinnamon sticks after baking if making them ahead of time so they don’t infuse into the ribs. You can place them back in the seitan when ready to serve.
Vital wheat gluten is essential for achieving the meaty texture of these vegan ribs. Other flours lack the necessary gluten content and will not provide the same result.
Absolutely! The Popsicle sticks, skewers, Ceylon cinnamon sticks or sugar cane are used for appearance only and can be omitted without affecting the texture.
Did you make these juicy vegan ribs with bbq sauce?
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