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This vegan schnitzel is inspired by Italian "Cotoletta alla Milanese" and it's meaty, crisp, aromatic, and made with our healthy vegan meat cutlets to get to a flavour and texture that is as delicious as the one of real meat.
This recipe is simple, but you'll need a bit of time if you need to make the vegan cutlets from scratch. We use our homemade vegan cutlets as a meat replacement and use a mix of Italian herbs to flavour the vegan breading
Ingredients & substitutions
Vegan meat cutlets: you will need to make these before hand to cook this vegan schnitzel. Don't worry, the procedure is easy, and you can follow our step-by-step instructions here --> "How to make vegan meat cutlets". Just make sure you do it a day or so in advance as the vegan cutlets need some time in the refrigerator before you can cook them.
Bread crumbs: you can either blend some stale bread in your high speed blender, or purchase some pre-made bread crumbs.
Flour: all purpose flour is fine. We use it for the breading.
Plant milk: pick your favourite unflavoured and unsweetened plant milk. We use soy milk here but you can substitute with oat milk, pea protein milk, rice milk, etc. as long as they are unsweetened and unflavoured.
Spice mix: we use garlic powder, sea salt, black pepper, thyme and rosemary. It's a simple mix that recalls Italian flavours. Feel free to change it up and add your favourite spices.
Oil for frying: get an oil that is specifically developed for deep frying so that it can withstand high temperatures.
Our take on fried foods
What is important for us to make clear is that frying and deep frying are not healthy ways of cooking food. While we love to eat foods that are deep fried, we only do so in moderation, on special occasions.
On a day to day basis, we eat a whole-foods plant based diet that is rich in raw fruits and vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, and poor in refined foods like oils and sugar.
However, we believe that eaten in moderation and as part of a plant-rich diet full of raw vegetables and fruit, vegan fried foods like this schnitzel are good for your soul and can be helpful for people that are trying to eat less meat and more vegan.
To keep in mind when frying
1) NEVER heat up the oil to more than 180°C / 356°F as the oil will become unstable and will burn, creating toxic compounds. That is why we always recommend using a kitchen thermometer to constantly check the temperature of the oil.
2) NEVER reuse oil more than once, as reheating the oil might make it more unstable.
3) Eat deep fried foods in moderation and only as part of a diet that is plant-based, with plenty of raw fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants that are able to offset, at least in part, the harmful effects of oils.
Pick the right oil for frying
Choosing the right oil is probably the hardest thing in the cooking world when it comes to frying. Different websites pick different oils as the best, and we at the plant-based school couldn't come down with one best oil for frying.
Scientific research shows that extra virgin olive oil is one of the best oils for deep frying food as it is quite stable thanks to its high amounts of antioxidants, while coconut oil is the worst. Canola oil is also a good choice, but we really don't like its flavour so we never use it.
When we fry we either use extra virgin olive oil (which despite its lower smoking point is quite a stable oil, rich in antioxidants) or generic frying oil (which is less nutritionally healthy than olive oil, but it has a high smoking point and it is cheaper). We never reuse the oils.
Deep-fry at the right temperature
Keep the oil between 170°C to 180°C (338°F to 356°F). This is important for flavour and health reasons.
If the oil temperature is too low, the food will absorb the oil, it will have a lot more calories when you eat it, and it will not be as crispy and tasty.
If the oil temperature is too high, the oil will burn, creating toxic particles that end up in your food and will, in the long term, make you ill. Also, at high temperature the oil will taste burnt and the food will turn out dry.
Questions & answers
In our opinion the best vegan schnitzels are made from vital wheat gluten using a technique that is thousands of years old and has been developed to create fake meats that have a texture and flavour that are very similar to real meat. This way of making fake meats has originated in Asia. We adapted this technique to western flavours and developed our own recipe for fake meat cutlets.
This is impossible to say. Some believe that it was created in Austria with the name of Wiener Schnitzel, others believe that it was invented in Italy with the name Cotoletta alla Milanese. Nico grew up eating Cotoletta alla Milanese, so our version is based on the Italian one.
Schnitzel is widely known in Italy as "cotoletta" or "costoletta". The Italian counterpart of Wiener Schnitzel is "Cotoletta alla Milanese".
To keep the Schnitzel crispy you need to first coat it in a batter made with soy milk and flour, then coat it in bread crumbs, and then deep-frying it in vegetable oil that is at the right temperature of 180C / 356F.
You can replace eggs with a batter made of soy milk and flour. You can add all sorts of spices to the batter to make it extra delicious.
We believe that the best oil to fry our vegan schnitzel is generic vegetable oil because it is neutral in taste and because it has a high smoking point.
Frying and deep frying are not healthy ways of cooking food. However, we believe that eaten in moderation and as part of a plant-rich diet full of raw vegetables and fruit, these foods are good for your soul. Extra virgin olive oil is one of the best oils for deep frying food as is quite stable thanks to its high amounts of antioxidants.
You should deep-fry your schnitzel in oil between 170°C and 180°C (338°F to 356°F). No more, no less.
If you feel like eating meat, but don't want to eat deep fried food, we have two delicious Italian meat recipes that are made with the same vegan meat cutlets as the base:
1. Vegan Lemon Scaloppini: delicious fake meat cutlets gently cooked the Italian way with some herbs and lemon juice. Simple and mouthwatering!
2. Mushroom Scaloppini: delicious vegan cutlets cooked in a creamy mushroom sauce. A staple of Italian secondi piatti that will impress any non-vegan meat eaters.
Vegan schnitzel is only good when eaten straight out of the frying pan and cannot be stored or reheated. You can however store the homemade vegan meat cutlets (before cooking them in the lemon sauce) in a container in their own cooking broth and in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. This is the best way to have a quick dinner almost ready during the week.
Vegan Schnitzel - Italian Recipe
- 4 homemade vegan meat cutlets <-- click link for our full recipe
- 2 liters (0.5 gal) frying oil
For the vegan breading
- 6 tbsp all purpose flour
- ½ cup soy milk or other unsweetened plant milk
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 tsp rosemary
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 4 lemon wedges
- ½ cup ketchup
- ½ cup mustard
- 300 g oven baked french fries
- IMPORTANT BEFORE YOU START: making homemade vegan meat cutlets is very easy, however, our advice is to make it a day in advance as the meat needs to rest in the fridge for at least 8 hours before you can cook it into a Vegan Schnitzel.
- If you are cooking the french fries in the oven, preheat the oven as instructed on your french fries package.
Prep the breading
- In a bowl, add soy milk, flour, salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary and garlic powder, and start mixing with a whisk till you get a smooth batter.
- On a tray or large plate, spread out the bread crumbs. Then on a table and next to each other, set the bowl with the batter, the plate with the breadcrumbs, and a third empty plate.
- Take the vegan meat cutlets out of their marinating broth. Pat dry with a kitchen towel. Dip the cutlets in the batter until they are fully coated.
- Take out of the batter, let excess batter drip away, then dip both sides of the cutlet in the breadcrumbs. With your clean fingers, pat down the breadcrumbs so that they stick to the cutlet. Add some extra breadcrumbs on top and keep patting till the cutlet is fully coated with the breadcrumbs.
- Move the breaded cutlets onto the empty plate and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. In the meantime, start cooking the french fries in the oven. Also, in a large frying pan, warm up the frying oil.
Fry the cutlets
- Bring the oil to frying temperature (180C / 356F) then fry the cutlets in the oil for about 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden and crisp on both sides. Turn the cutlets while frying so that they cook evenly. TIP: the best way to check oil temperature is with a thermometer.
- Take out of the oil and place on a clean plate lined with kitchen paper to absorb the excess oil. Sprinkle with sea salt before serving. Best served with a wedge of lemon, french fries, ketchup and mustard.
Did you try this recipe at home? Let us know in the comments below, or take a picture and tag us on Instagram @italiaplantbased.