These vegan drumsticks are a perfect game day snack! They are a healthy and tasty plant based protein alternative to traditional wings and are easy to make (no really, I promise!) They have a meat-like texture (including crispy skin) and so delicious that I bet even the meat eaters will love it.
This post contains helpful tips and tricks! If you're in a rush, please use the "Jump to Recipe" below!
💭 Why you'll love this recipe
The vegan drumsticks are a great way to spice up your game day spread:
- Super versatile and customizable. Though I love making these vegan drumsticks as a game day snack, you can totally enjoy them as part of dinner or lunch meals too. I use a few simple but classic spices, but you can totally mix things up by making different dipping sauces, adjusting the marinade to your liking, or adding other warm spices to keep things interesting!
- Tastes like the real deal. The texture is surprisingly similar to that of real chicken meat, according to my carnivore husband, even down to the juicy interior! And thanks to the basting marinade, it has amazing flavor as well.
- Great for make-ahead. You can enjoy these vegan drumsticks hot right out of the oven (which is what I usually do). However, like my vegan turkey roast, you can steam the wheat meat ahead of time, so it's ready to go on game day.
- Detailed, step-by-step instructions that are helpful regardless of whether you're making this for the first time or the 10th!
📋 Ingredients and notes
For the drumsticks, you'll need all the ingredients used to make wheat meat (also called seitan). This includes: chickpeas, vegetable broth, nutritional yeast, extra virgin olive oil, poultry seasoning, soy sauce, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, miso paste, and vital wheat gluten.
For the basting liquid: I use vegan butter, soy sauce, garlic, vegan bouillon, oregano, and black pepper before finally coating it in rice paper sheets for making crispy skin.
Notes and Variations
- Rice paper substitute. In the event that you're missing rice paper, yuba (tofu skin) makes for a good substitute. That said, I find it much easier to find rice paper than yuba in most places. You can also skip this step!
- Spicy variation. To make a spicy version of these drumsticks, add a dash of red chili powder, smoked paprika or cayenne for added flavor and heat.
- Vegetable broth substitute. To amplify the flavors of your vegan drumsticks, try using vegan chicken-style broth. I absolutely love the vegan Better than Bouillon "no chicken" base.
- Using dark soy sauce or coconut aminos in the basting liquid can help mimic dark meat in this recipe!
There are a couple of tools that are important to make this recipe:
- Food processor works best for pulsing the wheat meat ingredients. However, you can mash chickpeas with a ricer or masher!
- Use a glass or stainless steel mixing bowl and a silicone spatula (versus a plastic bowl and/or wooden spoon). Seitan gets VERY sticky.
- Avoid getting the drumsticks wet while steaming. Using a steamer basket (this one works great with the Instant Pot!) is essential.
- Skewers to make the vegan chicken legs resemble real drumsticks! I use bamboo skewers typically, but you can also use a sugar cane stick or even ice cream sticks if you want a flatter piece to hold on to.
📖 How to make vegan chicken drumsticks!
Make the wheat meat:
Add drained chickpeas, broth, olive oil, nutritional yeast, soy sauce, onion powder, garlic powder, poultry seasoning, and miso paste to a food processor and process until smooth.
Transfer this to a large mixing bowl, making sure to scrape the sides of the food processor along the way. Now, add the vital wheat gluten to the bowl and mix it up with a silicone spatula to start and your hands to finish.
Shape the drumsticks:
Once it has come together in a coarse ball, sprinkle some vital wheat gluten on a clean countertop. Knead the dough (at least 10-12 times).
I've found that kneading gives it the best meaty texture. If you want your drumsticks to be a bit more "gamey" - you can just shape the mixture into a coarse ball and not knead as much.
Divide the dough into 8 pieces and shape your drumsticks into a pear or traditional "drumstick" shape. Pierce each piece with a skewer.
P.S., I love getting these skewers in bulk for these drumsticks, Caprese sticks, etc. They're super inexpensive and a pack of 100 will last you a long time!
Steam the drumsticks:
You'll need a large Dutch oven or pot along with a steamer basket for this recipe. Folks have asked me if you can use an Instant Pot on sauté mode, and yes, you can!
Wrap the drumsticks in foil paper tightly and place them on the steamer basket. Pour hot water into the pot, making sure not to wet the drumsticks. Bring the water to a rolling boil, then lower the heat to steam drumsticks for at least an hour.
I find that for smaller pieces of wheat meat (like these drumsticks), an hour is typically more than sufficient to finish steaming. However, for larger seitan dishes (like my turkey roast) it can take up to half an hour more.
Make the Basting Liquid:
While the wheat meat pieces are steaming, make basting liquid (aka compound butter).
Mix all the ingredients for the basting liquid in a bowl (vegan butter, soy sauce, minced garlic, better than chicken vegan bouillon, oregano, and black pepper).
Wrap the vegan chicken drumsticks:
Once the wheat meat is steamed, soak rice paper in water for 30 seconds and remove excess water from it.
Brush each individual drumstick with the basting liquid. Then, wrap the rice paper around the drumsticks.
It’s okay if there are crinkles or air bubbles, you just want to get it covered as much as possible!
Finally, brush the top of the rice paper with more basting liquid.
Brown the drumsticks:
While the drumsticks are steaming, preheat the oven to 400ºF.
Place the rice paper wrapped drumsticks in a sufficiently large baking dish (I find that you'll need a 9x9 dish typically) and pour basting liquid over them. Bake for 20 minutes.
Spoon the basting liquid over the pieces every 5 minutes to avoid it drying out on the inside. Make sure you cook them until they're golden brown!
Serve hot with your favorite dipping sauce (a simple Sriracha aioli is pictured here!)
👩🏽🍳Top Tips to Make the Best Vegan Drumsticks!
Remember these five tips to help you make the best vegan drumsticks that your friends and family will love!
- Don't skip the skin! The crispy rice paper skin is one of the best parts of these vegan drumsticks. They mimic real chicken skin quite well and add a great textural component to the dish.
- Experiment with spices. I've used a classic combination of garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, and poultry seasoning for a good flavor. However, you can add more bouillon, chili powder or cayenne for an added kick!
- Moisten the rice paper one at a time. This will help prevent them from sticking to each other. Dip them gently and drain off excess liquid.
- Don't worry about crinkles while wrapping your drumsticks. These actually create an amazing texture on the crispy skin.
- Mimic dark meat flavors: Adding coconut amino to the basting liquid and using tofu instead of chickpeas in the seitan works great for dark meat!
👩🏽🍳 Troubleshooting FAQs
Seitan (or wheat meat) is a faux meat made with vital wheat gluten (i.e., the protein from wheat). It replicates the texture and "chewiness" of traditional meat (especially poultry) and can be flavored to mimic most meats!
Unfortunately, gluten is a critical ingredient in this recipe. However, there are two other ways you can make gluten-free drumsticks: using a mixture of jackfruit and king oyster mushrooms, or tofu and tempeh both have a satisfying "meatiness"
Yes! You can steam the drumsticks in an Instant Pot. Place a trivet inside the Instant Pot, then place your drumsticks on top. You might need to do this in a couple of batches potentially. Pour water under the trivet and let it pressure cook on low for 50 minutes to an hour. Let it pressure release and then follow rest of the steps.
Yes! To make air fryer vegan drumsticks, follow the instructions until you have wrapped them in the rice paper skin and coated them in basting liquid. Then, air fry at 350°F for about 15 minutes on each side, flipping over each time. Note that air fryers can be highly variable, so make sure your drumsticks are golden brown and you'll be good to go!
🍴 Serving and storage suggestions
To keep your vegan chicken drumsticks fresh, store them in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. I don't recommend freezing this vegan chicken drumstick recipe since the texture is not great when thawed and reheated.
You can make the vegan drumsticks meat ahead of time! Once the drumsticks are steamed, make sure they cool down completely. Then, store in an airtight container in the fridge.
When you're ready to serve them, wrap the drumsticks in foil, and roast in the oven at 350°F for 30 minutes (or air fryer for 12-15 minutes on each side). Then follow the rest of the instructions for basting and browning.
Vegan drumstick flavor variations:
Once you've perfected this base recipe, you can get really creative with the type of drumsticks you can make by switching up the seasonings and basting liquid / marinade options. These combinations are absolutely delicious:
- Korean gochujang drumsticks: Add a pinch of gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes) into the seasoning for the wheat meat. Then, add a teaspoon of gochujang (spicy Korean fermented soybean paste) to the basting liquid.
- Vegan Chicken-65 inspired drumsticks: This is a popular spicy Indian variation of drumsticks where you can use a mix of vegan yogurt, curry powder, coriander, red chili powder, and turmeric for the basting liquid.
- Buffalo drumsticks: You can achieve this by adding a bit of Frank's red hot sauce to the marinade!
- Baked BBQ drumsticks: To make a homemade BBQ sauce, you can mix ketchup, brown sugar, minced garlic and dark soy in your marinade.
- Sweet and sour drumsticks: I use vegan honey or maple syrup, along with coconut aminos (or even a sweet chili sauce) to make this variation.
What flavors do you like in your drumsticks? Leave a comment!
Check out my favorite vegan game day recipes and snacks below:
- Spicy guacamole (with jalapeños)
- Crispy garlic air fryer smashed potatoes
- Avocado fries (baked or air fried)
- Air fryer vegetarian nachos (five minutes only!)
- Instant pot spinach and artichoke dip
If you want even more meat-free game day recipes, don't forget to check out my roundup of 35+ amazing vegetarian and vegan Super Bowl snacks!
- 1½ cups chickpeas, drained
- 1 cup vegetable broth or vegan chicken-style broth
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- ½ teaspoons salt
- ¼ teaspoons garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoons onion powder
- 1 teaspoon miso paste
- 1⅓ cups vital wheat gluten
For the basting liquid
- 8 oz vegan butter
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon vegan bouillon, optional
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
For crispy skin
- 3 rice paper sheets , optional, but suggest you don't skip!
Make the wheat meat drumsticks:
- Add all the ingredients for the vegan drumsticks except the vital wheat gluten to a food processor (drained chickpeas, broth, olive oil, nutritional yeast, soy sauce, onion powder, garlic powder, poultry seasoning, and miso paste) and process until smooth.
- Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl, making sure to scrape all the good bits off the processor bowl. Add the vital wheat gluten to the bowl and mix it up with a silicone spatula to start and your hands to finish.
- Once it has come together in a coarse ball, sprinkle some vital wheat gluten on a clean countertop. Knead the dough (at least 10-12 times).
- Divide the dough into 8 pieces and shape your drumsticks into a pear shape. Pierce each piece with a skewer.
Steam the drumsticks:
- To a large Dutch oven or pot and a steamer basket, add at least 3 cups of hot water into the bottom of the pot, bring to a boil and lower the heat to steam for at least one hour. Wrap the drumsticks in foil paper tightly and place them on the steamer basket. *See notes for tips when steaming.
Making basting liquid:
- While the wheat meat pieces are steaming, make basting liquid (aka compound butter) by mixing the ingredients in a bowl (vegan butter, soy sauce, minced garlic, better than chicken vegan bouillon, oregano, and black pepper).
Make crispy rice paper skin:
- Soak rice paper in water for 30 seconds and allow it to dry completely. Once the turkey is steamed, brush each individual component with the basting liquid. Then, wrap the rice paper around the components. It’s okay if there are crinkles or air bubbles, you just want to get it covered as much as possible.
- Then, brush the top of the rice paper with more basting liquid.
Brown the drumsticks:
- While the drumsticks are steaming, preheat the oven to 400ºF. Place the steamed pieces in a baking dish and pour basting liquid over them. Bake for 20 minutes.
- Spoon the basting liquid over the pieces every 5 minutes to avoid it drying out on the inside.
- Serve hot with your favorite dipping sauce!
- Steaming: Vital wheat gluten can be touch-and-go. I recommend checking in on the steaming process after an hour to make sure it's cooked. It can take up to 30 minutes more depending on the size of the seitan. Given that these are drumsticks, based on the tests I've run, they 're typically ready in about an hour, or an hour and fifteen minutes!
- Make ahead: You can make the wheat meat and let it steam for an hour. Then, cool and refrigerate in an airtight container. Then, when ready to serve, remove from the fridge, wrap in foil, and roast in oven at 350°F for 30 minutes to warm. Then follow the rest of the instructions for basting and browning!