The UnTurkey Recipe!!

Posted December 20th, 2006 by s5

Well folks, if you’re reading this, it’s because you’ve heard the rumors that Now & Zen / Green Options is no more. We have no idea what happened, other than that they closed up shop, stopped answering the phone, took down their website, and disappeared off the face of the earth. Maybe if they had – crazy, I know – made some kind of announcement or something, vegans everywhere would have rushed to help them out. Instead they disappeared without a trace, and right in the middle of the holidays no less. (Hey, not that I’m BITTER or anything! I’m sure they had a really good reason, or something.)

So anyway, faced with the prospect of never having another UnTurkey again, we here at decided to take matters into our hands. Information wants to be free and all that, so we tracked down a used (and grease splattered) original Now & Zen cookbook and did what comes naturally: we started a blog.

After all, why not? The cookbook is out of print, and the company is out of business. No one is going to be making money off of this, so why not open source the recipe? Don’t get me wrong, I’d LOVE to call Green Options and ask them permission to distribute UnTurkeys, but “this voice mailbox is full, goodbye!”

And besides, for some of us, the UnTurkey has become a holiday tradition, and you just don’t fuck with people’s holiday traditions.

That said, if you love this recipe, please buy Miyoko Nishimoto Schinner’s new cookbook, The New Now and Zen Epicure: Gourmet Vegan Recipes for the Enlightened Palate.

(Disclaimer: We’re not associated with her or her book publisher in any way. We just love her recipes, and we’re peeved that we can’t get them in frozen form anymore!)

Okay, so on to the recipe.

First thing you should know is that the UnTurkey is actually five (5!) recipes. And we’ve lovingly transcribed them for you. The recipes posted here all link to each other, so just start with the first one and click through. Or, they’re all linked here for your convenience.

The Great Gluten Turkey: The fake bird.
Great Gluten Dressing: The delicious stuffing.
Gravy for Mock Turkey: The creamy gravy.
Light Yeast Flavoring Powder: A base ingredient.
Homemade Gluten: The other base ingredient.

Oh yeah, and we haven’t had a chance to actually cook the UnTurkey, since we wanted to get the recipe out there before Christmas, and cooking this looks like it will take at least a day or two. When we do, we’ll post pics and any pointers we pick up along the way, and we hope you will too.

Happy cooking!

53 Responses to “The UnTurkey Recipe!!”

As the creator of the UnTurkey, and wondering for myself why the product wasn’t around, I was tickled and honored that someone had created a website devoted to my creation. Thanks for promoting my book as well (I also have a vegan Japanese cookbook that is available at Amazon). Just one thing for your readers — the recipe looks daunting but is really not. If you make it, make a large batch of the light yeast flavoring for use yearround as a vegan broth substitute or seasoning for other dishes (an “unturkey”noodle soup flavored with this and leftover unturkey is delish!). You can toss regular (not firm) tofu cubes in this and bake on an oiled pan for a dish kids will delight in, or toss with vegetables and roast. It’s highly versatile — I always have it around, not just for holidays. Next, the gluten can be made months ahead of time. Don’t bother with making it from whole wheat flour (this is the old-fashioned way — I gave this up years ago). It’s much easier just using vital wheat gluten (just mix with seasonings and liquid). The key here is not to add too much wheat gluten, as that renders a tough “bird”. Also, skip the cheesecloth — just bake the gluten in a 350 degree oven for a half hour, then simmer for another hour. The pre-baking prevents overexpansion of the gluten, as the cheesecloth did. It’s also easier.
Anyway, if you take care of these two steps, the rest is pretty easy. Have fun and good luck making your own unbird next year!

Posted by MiyokoSchinner on January 2nd, 2007 at 11:30 am | Permalink |

[…] Over a month later I discovered that a new site has emerged. It’s authored not by Now and Zen but UnTurkey enthusiasts! It lists the original recipe from Miyoko Schinner (who apparently is pleased by the grassroots UnTurkey campaign). I have yet to try the recipe but I intend to sometime in the near future. […]

Posted by The Green Vegan » Blog Archive » The demise (and return) of the UnTurkey on January 21st, 2007 at 8:57 am | Permalink |

Not only do I miss the Unturkey… how bout the Unchicken and Unsteak! I am really at a loss everyone knows Tofurkey sucks. Thanks for the recipes and setting a place to share frustration – sure would love to know what happened to the marvelous company… I woulda helped em out as best I could – as it was I bought every darn product sold by them in my little wholefoods market in Monterey CA, when they were available.

Posted by shoredancer on November 19th, 2007 at 10:28 am | Permalink |

Totally bummed. Thanksgiving has taken a hit. I loved the Unturkey and told many about it and turned on quite a few to this gem. Miyoko, please come back!

Posted by Dr. G on November 20th, 2007 at 12:31 am | Permalink |

Just found this out now…Was really looking forward to an Unturkey this Thanksgiving. *Any* chance at all it will come back?? Thanks for the site and information and have a wonderful holiday!

Posted by madeleine on November 20th, 2007 at 11:45 am | Permalink |

If they’d sell them online, I’d buy them in bulk!

Posted by madeleine on November 20th, 2007 at 11:47 am | Permalink |

Just thought you may like to know: I had a bugger of a time finding “Yuba”, or “Dried Soy Bean Skin.” The folks at the store — perhaps because of the language barrier — didn’t seem to know what I was talking about. I finally found out that Yuba is often referred to as “Soy Wrappers.”


Cheers & Happy Holidays.

Posted by doctor.grumpus on November 21st, 2007 at 9:29 am | Permalink |

I also had a bear of a time finding the “Yuba.” I finally found something called dry soy bean and I hope this is it. I’m taking on a big adventure with making this for the first time this Thanksgiving. I usually make a stuffed tofu loaf, but this sounded so great I had to try it. I’ve just finished boiling the gluten from Vital Wheat Gluten and I’ve pulled out a very heavy and thick mass from my stockpot. Does this seem right? If anyone has experience with this, please post here. It looks very chewy and firm…maybe too firm to eat. I’m not sure if I’ve done something wrong, but would love to hear other’s experiences and/or see some pics of this step by step.

Thanks for posting this recipe!

Posted by phabullon on November 21st, 2007 at 2:59 pm | Permalink |

Well, after two tries, my first (and second, I suppose) were abysmal failures. Maybe someone can enlighten me as to what I did wrong (please)?

I used the 8 cups vital wheat gluten flour mixed with 6 cups water (and yes, with the spices), with the result being not a fleshy mound, but a sticky, oozy blob. I got this stiffened up somewhat by adding more VWGF (enough for it to hold its form somewhat) and then — wrapped in the cheese cloth — it was dumped into the drink. My results sound very similar to phabullon’s (above). The result was, as above, a rather unattractive blob that was inedible. It tasted mostly doughy (although we ate the skin: That was about the only tasty part).

Fortunately, I cooked half-expecting the unturkey to not go so well the first time around.

I followed the directions as precisely as I could: Any ideas as to where I erred?

Thanks in advance!

Posted by doctor.grumpus on November 22nd, 2007 at 7:29 pm | Permalink |

doctor.grumpus, I’m wondering if your wheat gluten flour is more like baking flour than pure wheat gluten. Did you take any pictures of the blob? We just made ours again (and devoured it about two hours ago) by following the instructions to the letter (though we were a bit heavy handed with the spices), so maybe it comes down to some kind of tricky food chemistry. What brand of VWGF did you use?

Or maybe just doubling the amount of spice mix would help out.

Posted by s5 on November 22nd, 2007 at 7:42 pm | Permalink |

Thanks s5,

I bought the VWGF from a bulk in at the local Sprouts grocery market. It was labeled “vital wheat gluten flour,” but who knows: Maybe next time I’ll try a packaged version.

I don’t think the spice doubling would work: It was a much a texture issue as anything else. The dough was actually close to a superglue paste, to be honest. I had to throw away the sponge after cleaning because to attached to the scrubby portion and would not come off…

Posted by doctor.grumpus on November 22nd, 2007 at 7:53 pm | Permalink |

We used Bob’s Red Mill brand with good success. I will note, however, that the “dough” is very sticky. I wouldn’t call it pasty, but it is sticky. If you have a marble or granite counter to work on, you’ll have much better luck with rolling it out. We tried rolling it out at first on a cutting board, and that was a mistake. Everything started to go smoothly once we switched to the counter.

If it tastes too much like dough, then it’s possible that you’re actually working with some kind of high gluten baking flour rather than gluten flour itself.

If the texture is too dense, I’d say to keep kneading it for a while, and try stretching it out. Another possibility is to boil and simmer it longer, which will soften up the gluten mass. Just leave it in for as long as you want and keep checking on it after the initial hour and a half. See what happens.

I have to say, though, I do recommend adding a bit more spice mix than what was listed in the recipe. This will definitely come down to personal preference, but it definitely helps.

Posted by s5 on November 22nd, 2007 at 11:22 pm | Permalink |

Thanks for posting this recipe! We created one for thanksgiving 2007 and it came out great!

The more you knead gluten the tougher it will get. Ours wasn’t particularly sticky at all, but quite resistant to being pushed around and shaped into a rectangle. I’d say the doctor.grumpus should switch to pure VWG like Bob’s Red Mill brand.

Posted by dale on November 27th, 2007 at 8:35 pm | Permalink |

If anyone is interested in making an extra, I will buy it. I live in L.A.

Posted by GGGUSC on October 1st, 2008 at 8:42 pm | Permalink |

I will gladly buy one if someone makes an extra, I live in Los Angeles.

Posted by GGGUSC on October 2nd, 2008 at 6:39 pm | Permalink |

[…] roast: since our favorite thanksgiving centerpiece, the unturkey, is no longer available, we have been looking for a worthy replacement. we spent the last two years with the tofurky, which is good but not great. this year we opted for the very scrumptious celebration roast. field roast is a company up in seattle who makes tons of great faux meats, from sausages, to slices, to several different flavors of roasts. their products are kind of hard to find in los angeles, so if you ever see them, buy ‘em up. follow your heart consistently stocks the celebration roasts, and a handful of whole foods carry the sausages. while the celebration roast is no unturkey, it’s pretty damn incredible. the body, crust and middle stuffing are all magnificent. (please note, some folks have made a website and posted a recipe for the original unturky. i’m way to much of a cooking n00b to try it, but others have. and i am jealous). the celebration roast will totally do for now. […]

Posted by vegan thanksgiving with a celebration roast, stuffing, mac & cheese, kale...and tons more! | vegan food and living in Los Angeles on November 27th, 2008 at 8:31 pm | Permalink |

We may have just consumed the last Unturkey. When a Wild Oats store went out of business, we bought one on sale although we already had one in the freezer. So we ate one, found out N&Z had gone out of business, ate a homemade Unturkey last Thanksgiving and this year, ate the final one. It was great, freezes very well for years!!

Posted by cara on December 3rd, 2008 at 4:06 pm | Permalink |

Cara – how did it compare to your home-made UnTurkey? It’s been so long since I had a real one I can’t really remember how the store-bought one tasted!

Posted by olivia on December 3rd, 2008 at 4:15 pm | Permalink |

[…] LA Biodiesel Co-op Unturkey the 1st December 6, 2008, 8:31 pm Filed under: Ramblings, Vegan Food | Tags: food, unturkey, vegan Forthis year’s vegan Thanksgiving we made our own Unturkey. The company that made them (Now and Zen) shut down a couple of years back and our stockpile has run out; so we had to make one. You’re probably wondering why we just didn’t switch over to the dreaded Tofurky. We tried the Tofurkey which resembles a football more than a tasty holiday centerpiece, yuck, not something that I want to go through again! Anyhoo, back to the Unturkey. The byrd consists of four major parts: […]

Posted by Unturkey the 1st « Thoughts on December 6th, 2008 at 8:32 pm | Permalink |

Hi, Olivia,
We didn’t really follow this recipe because we couldn’t find the yuba in time. We made stuffing and heaped it on a plate, made seitan (dark & light), sliced it up and arranged it around the stuffing, then draped a homemade pastry crust over the whole thing. It was very good. We used to use puff pastry as the crust & that’s even better, but we just tried something different last year. Vegetarian Times had the original recipe years ago, which we modified.

thanks for asking!


Posted by cara on December 9th, 2008 at 9:57 am | Permalink |

[...] who want to delve into the kitchen elbow-high in wheat gluten, we also offer the option of the Un-turkey, to make by scratch. Many other recipe sources are shared, and they can be found here (below). We [...]

Posted by Today’s show: The Thanksgiving episode! | Animal Voices Radio Show on October 8th, 2010 at 3:55 am | Permalink |

[...] Click here for the original UnTurkey recipe, and make sure to check out our cooking notes to make sure it’s extra perfect. [...]

Posted by The UnTurkey is gone and whoever is responsible will pay! on November 24th, 2010 at 11:59 pm | Permalink |

[...] So, the holidays are on us once again, and with them comes the required amount of feasting, and festiveness.  This brings up the question of what to eat. There are a growing list of options from Tofurkey, to Field Roast and the UnTurkey [...]

Posted by Holiday Eats!!! « Vegan Caliente on December 9th, 2010 at 7:25 am | Permalink |

HEY NOW!! Tofurkey are nice people and make great deli slices and sausages. Just their thanksgiving thing sucks… okay gravy though

Posted by Jill Palmer on November 21st, 2011 at 8:59 pm | Permalink |

[...] links, links: The original UnTurkey recipe. Cooking notes and special [...]

Posted by The UnTurkey is gone and whoever is responsible will pay! on November 23rd, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Permalink |

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Posted by Aaron on November 25th, 2015 at 3:20 pm | Permalink |

Hi there. Are you still around? I’m a friend of Miyoko’s from 30 years ago, and recently she told her life story to a group at a vegan popup event, and mentioned your site! Did you know she’s published The Homemade Vegan Pantry, and in it are recipes for all of her vegan meats? You should get it; I’ve been following the recipes for a year now, and they’re all great.

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