Vegan Cholent (WFPB)

by Nava Atlas
A small gray bowl of orange vegetables and grains on top of a large gray plate with a red napkin and bronze fork.

Vegan cholent might seem like a stretch, but why not? With seitan or other plant-based beefy protein standing in for the real thing used in the original classic Jewish recipe, it’s a warming, hearty dish that’s easy to adapt to plant-based. This updated version of a Jewish classic can be considered an early predecessor to slow-cooker recipes. In its original form, it’s put in the oven before the Sabbath and cooked at a very low temperature for about 12 hours so that it can be eaten for the Sabbath midday or late afternoon meal. It’s a rare Eastern European Jewish recipe highlighting beans, and makes a hefty portion. Vegan cholent is perfect for company or holiday meals (especially Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year); you can also freeze it in portions for future use. For a smaller family, or for two, cut the recipe in half. And if you do want to try this in a slow cooker, see tips below. If you’d like a bit of history, read about the original (that is, non-vegan) cholent recipe. Interesting note—there’s a Sephardic cousin to this recipe called hamin or dafina. Adapted from Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas.


Ingredients

¾ cup pearl barley
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 + ½ to 2 pounds seitan (see Notes), cut into bite-sized pieces
4 medium white or gold potatoes, peeled and diced
3 to 4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
15-ounce can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup dry vegan red wine (Check Barnivore for vegan options.)
3 to 3 + ½ cups cooked small red beans, or two 15-ounce cans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon Spanish (smoked) paprika or cayenne pepper, or to taste
cup minced fresh parsley
Salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste


Instructions
  1. Combine the barley in a saucepan with 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to a gentle boil, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 25 minutes. This won’t cook the barley completely, but will give it a head start as it’s added to the stew.
  2. Heat the oil in a large soup pot. Add the onion and sauté over medium-low heat until translucent. Add the garlic and seitan. Continue to sauté over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the seitan begins to brown lightly.
  3. Add the barley, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, wine, and 4 cups water. Bring to a gentle boil, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer gently for 20 minutes.
  4. Add the beans and paprika. Cook over the lowest heat possible, stirring occasionally, for about an hour, or until the barley and vegetables are tender and the flavors well married. Add more water as needed to keep moist; this should be thick and stew-like, rather than soupy.
  5. Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper. Cook over very low heat for 5 minutes longer. If time allows, let this stand off the heat for an hour or two before serving to further develop flavor, then heat through gently. Otherwise, serve at once.

Notes
  1. For instructions on cooking this recipe in a slow cooker, view this recipe on Nava’s website.
  2. Store bought seitan will work just fine for this recipe, but if you’d like to make your own , try this vegan beef seitan.
  3. Find more of Nava’s recipes at The Vegan Atlas and follow her on Facebook and on Instagram.

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