The Vegan Experience Days 20 and 21: The Vegan Super Bowl Snack Challenge

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Days 20 and 21: Thursday and Friday

Breakfasts: Toast with avocado, a vegan sticky bun from The Smile
Lunches: A variety of vegan superbowl snacks consumed while testing.
Dinners: Potato and chickpea jalfrezi, a giant mashup sandwich of arugula, cilantro, pickled carrots and daikon, spicy mayo, black beans, fried cauliflower, cucumber, and jalapeños (phew!)

I can't say I've ever been much of a sports fan. I've only ever joined two organized team sports. The first was in 7th grade when I played on the middle school soccer "B" team. We went an entire season without scoring a single goal—unless you count the one we made against ourselves (I was the goalie). The second was an adult softball league in Cambridge which, while vaguely organized (as in, Meredith, Will, and I showed up each week for the prospect of a post-game celebratory or commiseratory drink), was barely a sport (unless you count the walk to the post-game bar).

For a non-sports fan, I actually spent a good deal of my childhood watching sports, mostly due to the fact that my dad had a sore back and he'd pay me a penny a minute to walk on it while he watched the game. Football was particularly popular for me because it afforded the opportunity to earn a few extra cents for every time the clock stopped or a time out was called. This makes me perhaps the only person to automatically think of dorsalgia and Abraham Lincoln whenever the Super Bowl is mentioned.

I'm going to a Super Bowl party on Sunday, but as a man who associates himself strongly with both New York and Boston, I can't say I have much of a dog in the fight this year. To keep things interesting, I've decided to issue myself a personal vegan superbowl challenge. The goal? To bring vegan Super Bowl snacks, serve them to a room full of avowed meat eaters, and make them so good that they get eaten before the regular snacks do.

Of course, I'll bring along a few of the standard vegan snacks—guacamole, salsa, bean dip, etc—but I'll also be bringing a few extras. Here's what I got.

Crispy Bánh Mì Spring Rolls With Creamy Chili Mayo


Spring rolls are great, and I love the flavors of bánh mì, so why not stick'em together? These rolls are stuffed with pickled carrots and daikon radish, cucumber, jalapeño, and cilantro (you can, of course, add whatever other filling you'd like. Tofu or shiitake mushrooms would be nice). The sauce is made with a mixture of homemade vegan mayonnaise and spicy chili-garlic sauce (yes, you can use Sriracha—try our homemade version!). Creamy, spicy, crispy, tangy, and a little greasy, they hit all the notes you want in a game time snack.

Get the recipe here!

Fried Plantains with Black Beans, Roasted Poblanos, Avocado, and Pickled Red Onion


Patacones are the Colombian equivalent of Caribbean tostones—double-fried green plantains. Just like cooking a french fry, you start with a starchy chunk of green plantain, cook it once at a low temperature, then cook it a second time at a higher temperature to crisp it up. The difference is that with patacones, you smash them into a flat disk in between. This shape makes them ideal for loading up with toppings. In this version, I go with black beans (canned are fine), roasted poblano peppers, slices of creamy avocado, and a few pickled red onions.

Think nachos, then stop, because these are nothing like nachos.

Get the recipe here!

Smoky Potato and Caper Empanadas with Cilantro Sauce


Who doesn't love empanadas, particularly when they're deep fried to a perfectly crisp, flaky finish? I stuff these pastry pockets with a mixture of cooked potatoes and capers flavored with a touch of chipotle and a dash of madras curry powder. I'm not sure where the flavor combo comes from, but it's pretty fantastic, especially drizzled with a spicy cilantro chutney.

These are the most involved of all of the recipes here, but if you happen to find some decent frozen vegan pie crust, then you're all set (you can even substitute a spring roll or an egg-free samosa wrapper). Otherwise, the dough is still relatively simple to make it from scratch.

Get the recipe here!

Bean-Stuffed Deep Fried Jalapeños with Salsa Roja


Yes, they're derivative of jalapeño poppers, but I love jalapeños, I love refried beans, and I really love golden brown and crunchy, so why not stick them all together? Crisp on the outside and creamy in the middle, they come out of the fry hot as f&*k, so make sure you've got plenty of beer on-hand.

Get the recipe here!

There's all kinds of problems inherent with this challenge: What if someone else brings a vegan snack? (I have it on good authority that the hostess is making a Tunisian grilled vegetable dip). What if nothing gets finished and there are leftovers in all categories, both began and meaty? Do I score based on absolute quantity eaten or based on percentage of food presented?

It's a good thing that football bores me, because I've got my own complicated scoring to take care of.

If anybody wants to join the Vegan Fantasy Football Snack League, just email me.

Get The Recipes: