Intros and Inspirations
Denny's, circa 1980's. Besides ordering these on the night menu of Denny's, I had no idea how to make a popper, let alone a vegan version. Therefore, I used Cashew Cheese Technology1 along with a traditional popper recipe2 and was beyond satisfied with the results. (All that remains from the traditional recipe cited is the breading method and addition of “bacon” bits.)
History of Dish
According to Wikipedia, the origins are unclear but poppers are thought to be 2nd cousins with chile rellenos. Apparently there was a family feud in the 70's and they parted. There is also a note about the label “poppers” being trademarked, so if you see me rename this post to, say, 'pops' or 'moppers' this would be the reason.
Makes 32 poppers.
Advanced preparation alert: Cover the cashews and almonds in ¾ cup water overnight or at least 4 hours. The water will be used in the recipe.
- ¾ cup raw cashews & ¼ cup raw almonds + remaining water from soaking (initially ¾ cup)
- ½ cup firm tofu (not silken)
- 2 T lemon juice
- ½ T agave or other sweetener
- 1 T tahini
- ¼ cup canola oil
- ¼ cup onion
- 3 garlic cloves
- ¼ t tumeric
- 1 T salt
- 1 T nutritional yeast
- Optional: smoked chipotle powder to taste
- 2-3 T Bacuns (link: http://www.veganessentials.com/catalog/organic-bacuns-bacon-bits-alternative.htm )
- Chopped jalapeno pieces (from surrounding stem)
- 16 jalapenos, sliced and seeded (see below)
- 1 cup unsweetened soy milk or almond milk
- 1.5 cups white unbleached flour + 1 t paprika
- 1.5 cups crushed “Ritz” style crackers3 + 1.5 T garlic granules + ½ t salt (Optional: substitute crackers with actual breadcrumbs)
Blending and Baking Filling
The baking process will make the filling spreadable for slathering on the jalapeno halves. Once the filling is baking, you may proceed to the jalapeno preparation step.
- Place “Filling” ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Transfer to a Corningware or similar dish for baking.
- Bake uncovered for about 25 minutes at 250-300 degrees fahrenheit until thick like cream cheese. Stir well every 10 minutes during this process to circulate the resulting thick portions and crisped browned parts of the mixture.
Example of filling consistency. This recipe makes more filling than pictured above.
Preparing while Waiting for Filling to Bake
- Cut off top part of jalapeno stem first (about 1/8”). Retain for use in filling.
- Slice in half lengthwise.
- Scrape out seeds with small spoon. (Discard or retain for other recipes.)
- Careful not to squirt juice in your eyeball like I did.
- Slice up the small bits of jalapeno connected to the stem (but NOT the stem itself) then add to the baked filling.
Artistic display of spoon and knife
Prepare the breading next:
- Place the flour mixture in a small bowl.
- Place the soy milk in a separate small bowl.
- Crush the crackers into fine pieces then stir in garlic granules and salt in another bowl.
Filling and Breading
- Once the filling has been baked and removed from the oven, adjust the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.
- Stir in Bac'uns and previously added chopped-up jalapeno tops to baked filling.
- Spread filling into jalapeno halves, so that the filling is slightly heaping over and lightly coating the side edges of jalapeno.
- Dip each jalapeno half into soy milk, then roll into flour mixture. Place on plate or sheet.
A not-quite clockwise presentation of the first dipping process.
- Let jalapenos dry for about 10 minutes.
- In the meantime, prepare a baking sheet by spreading about ¼ cup of olive oil on the sheet for baking (in lieu of deep frying).
- After the 10 minutes when dry, dip each half in soy milk again, then dredge in "Ritz" breadcrumb mixture. It's OK if some green jalapeno is showing.
- Set on greased baking sheet, starting filling side up, rolling once to ensure olive oil is lightly coating entire half. Alternative to rolling: use stainless steel spritzer to spray tops of poppers. Place filling side up.
Your oven should already be preheated to 300 degrees F. The 'traditional' recipe calls for deep frying these suckers. Instead, these are baked for 20 minutes, turned once. As with other fried goods, the pops are equally good, and lower in fat, baked with a spritzola of olive oil.
- Place in preheated oven, then bake for 10 minutes.
- Remove and flip with tongs carefully.
- Bake for remaining 10 minutes until golden brown.
This is the best part, except you have to wait first until the poppers cool to move them to a plate (or your mouth). Otherwise they will unpop all over the pan.
Feel free to change up the filling by chopping and adding pimentos, olive bits, or other types of peppers.
I also made the filling without the tofu and Agave and it was still good, but not quite as tasty.
Instead of white flour, I used whole wheat the last time I made these = BLECHHHH.
Delicious and addictive: no need for a trip to Denny's. Reports from non-vegans: “I cannot tell this is vegan.” –Non-vegan who is not my momSources/citations:
3 The Whole Foods brand of rounds is good, cheap, and vegan (GCV).