These gluten free veggie nuggets are completely free of wheat, soy, dairy, & eggs. No mysterious binding ingredients. Just veggies, spices and my secret ingredient, crushed corn tortilla chips!
I have to say that it does take a special amount of dedication to attempt to create a more whole-foods version of something you could just buy in the freezer section of the supermarket. Vegan chicken nugget substitutes are everywhere now, and they taste pretty darn good. But they can be made with funky ingredients and weird fillers, making them more of a guilty pleasure buy than something you would incorporate into your weekly meal plan.
I set out to make a nugget that is comprised primarily of vegetables, without vital wheat gluten or beans or any other kind of binding trickery. I wanted to be able to bake them, pan fry them and freeze them. The key, I quickly realized, was moisture. Of course vegetables hold a ton of water, and the process of cooking vegetables causes them to release some, but not all, of their moisture. So if you want to construct a solid nugget of pre-cooked vegetable matter, you better make sure you can get a whole lot of moisture out first.
Since I didn’t want to spend all day squeezing vegetable pulp, I also incorporated a dry ingredient to help absorb any residual moisture, making a more dough-like nugget mix. Plain flours, either from wheat or other sources, could be used for this purpose. But in my experience, I find that most flours will drastically dilute the flavor, making the resulting nugget pretty bland. I decided to create my own “flour” of sorts by pulverizing corn tortilla chips in my food processor until they resembled a fine powder. The tortilla chips already have a toasty, slightly salty flavor making them a perfect addition.
I nearly named these, “Southwest Veggie Nuggets” because of the tortilla chips and the fresh and dry chiles in the mix, but the final flavor of these nuggets is not overtly southwestern or Mexican. They are well-seasoned and pleasantly spiced without too much heat. They can be served with any style of food. I like them on their own with some cashew cream, or on top of a salad.
You also have the flexibility to include the vegetables that you like eating – the vegetable ratios are simply categories – 2 cups hearty greens of any type, 2 cups of any kind of root vegetable and 2 cups of brassicas like broccoli, cauliflower or both. For added flavor the mix is rounded out with a cup of any kind of pepper, hot or sweet, and garlic. While I think the nutritional yeast and poultry seasoning are fairly important seasonings to keep, you can also adjust the seasonings to your preference, adding or subtracting where needed.
On a final note, squeezing out the water from the vegetables is the most important part of this recipe. A potato ricer could be a helpful gadget to get the water out, but a clean kitchen towel also does the trick. If you want to freeze some of these for later, you can freeze them on a dish in a single layer with some space in between each nugget to prevent sticking. Then transfer them to a freezer container once completely frozen.