Go-To Vegan Substitutes for Your 2020 Holiday Charcuterie
While the patrons to your spread may be limited this season, the thought of slacking on accoutrements at the near-end of this miserable year is almost too much to bear. If anything, as larger, centerpiece classics like roast and casserole go to excess even in full company, this is an opportunity to get creative with our holiday dining rituals.
While charcuterie may bring to mind COVID vectors in the way of finger knocking over buffet-style snacks, let’s reimagine the experience. The alternative is to sit people face-to-face at a rough four-foot distance, passing serving utensils before palming a dinner roll. Charcuterie spreads can be visited in single-party, masked trips, moved to guests plates via disposable toothpicks, and allow mobility away from the food and across the living room (at the appropriate, safe distance).
And while we’re getting experimental here, let’s dive in. It’s 2020. Odds are, one or two people in your circle are vegan, or at least dabbling in the all-veg waters. It’s also likely the bulk of your dissenting carnivorous relatives will not be in attendance this year. So here’s your seasoned vegan’s guide to the apocalyptic charcuterie board, because we may as well pardon the turkeys and give a little offering to the planet for some good karma in 2021.
The vegan cheese market is a saturated, often waxy one, but be weary of investing in the heritage brands that are still collecting dust from 2008 (*cough cough* Daiya). Their recipes, most of which rely on chemicals and unrecognizable ingredients, likely haven’t changed much since veganism leapt into mainstream. Newer brands are bypassing the fillers and simply fermenting nuts with the same culturing processes as dairy-based cheese.
Born from wine country California, Miyokos vegan cheeses rightfully earn their spot on any respectable charcuterie board. You could truly fill up a whole spread on their artisanal wheels alone, but we’ll give a few other brands a chance to hold court, too. Play it safe with the smoked farmhouse or herbs de provence, or flaunt your epicurean chops with the winter truffle or aged black ash.
(Germ tip: chop off wedges in advance to avoid reusing the same smearing knife)
Treeline Cheeses has a boutique assortment of cream cheese and soft, French-style cheeses, but for the sake of sophistication and skewer-ability, I’d recommend pre-slicing one of of their aged wheels. At present, they only offer classic and cracked pepper in this style to choose from, but since they have zero cholesterol and half the saturated fat of true fromage, pourquoi pas les deux?
The cheesy half of the the Field Roast Meat and Cheese Company, Chao covers shreds, slices, and even mac, but if you can find their Creamy Original Block on your local shelves, this will add a firmer bite to guests’ plates. Cube it up and maybe even layer an olive-topped skewer or two, if you’re feeling fancy. For something a bit more flavorful, their slices range from garden herb to tomato cayenne, and can be chopped up and layered in make-shift cubes just as easily.
Not Exactly Cold-Cuts
While the vegan cheese market has evolved over time toward some pretty complex mimicries, it’s safe to say the meat alternatives are still relatively basic. I’d love to feature a soy soppressata or a wheat-gluten Calabrese, but I’m still awaiting their debut.
That said, vegan meats typically come far closer to the real thing than vegan cheeses do, so perhaps they simply don’t need to hide behind a wine-snob appeal. They are unabashedly themselves: pepperoni, bacon, sausage. Do your ‘wurst.
Probably as close as you’re going to get to the aesthetic of a cold-cut, the Yves veggie pepperoni requires zero preparation. It comes pre-sliced at a thicker girth than you’d likely expect, and the flavor profile is a bit milder than the real deal. Nonetheless, it’s tasty, and (dare I say?) cute. Spatter a handful around your more established not-meats, or arrange in layered trails, if you want to look like you put more effort in than just peeling open the package.
Upton’s Naturals is usually the go-to brand for jackfruit-based meals that rival pulled pork, i.e., BBQ jackfruit sliders or chili-lime jackfruit tacos, but you’d be hard-pressed to maintain the integrity of jackfruit on a toothpick. If you spot their signature “dapper man” logo in the market, look instead for the bacon seitan. Sauté to your respective crisp preference, or cook them just under the snapping point to fold up and pre-skewer for guests.
Easily browned and portioned, the caramelized onion and beer bratwursts by Field Roast make for a robust bite. No need to pre-season: cut in half-inch diagonals, pan-sear, and serve up with dijon mustard. If you’re a mustard-hater, and you’re not too burnt out by the abundance of cheeses on your board, warm up a dish of The Honest Stand classic cheddar dip and make it a full Belgian indulgence.
Reaching back to my nascent years as a vegan, Gardein meatballs were (and continue to be) a potluck staple. Stewed in your favorite barbecue, marinara, or teriyaki sauce, these have a reputation for fooling veg-hating uncles and beef-only purists. Yes, I know meatballs are not a cut of meat, but they are too delicious to leave off of this list. If you want to really be a stickler about knifing into the contents of your board, Gardein just released a line of chop-able plant-based jerky that should bring around the naysayers as well.
Fill it In, Oh Fancy One
This is a remix, so if flipping your table plant-ward is a step far enough from the classic charcuterie, to each their own.
But remember, there are no rules in 2020; the world is your oyster (mushroom). Figs, grapes, olives, and gherkins will do nothing but elevate the integrity of your holiday feast rebellion. And I certainly don’t need to tell you about the wine.
Now, go make your spread, stock up on toothpicks, and for the love of our planet, please spread the f*ck out.