Vegan Crab Cakes Made By A Pro
Have you ever made vegan crab cakes? This delicious plant-based take on an appetizer favourite will please your most discerning guests, and their crispy grilled finish makes them a perfect complement to the acidity of a wine pairing. Don’t be surprised if your guests exclaim, “I can’t believe these are vegan!” Thanks to their seafood-mimicking ingredients, like seaweed and old bay seasoning, these Crabby Cakes with Tartar Sauce, dreamed up by Toronto-based recipe creator and TV host Priya Rao, are featured in the book,“The Social Herbivore: Perfect Pairings for Plant-Based Cuisine”, co-authored by Rao and Master Sommelier, Jen Huether.
The first-of-its-kind book, bringing together vegan food and wine pairings for plant-based entertaining, showcases 40 mouth-watering recipes—from appetizers through dessert, with save-and-splurge wines to match.
Let’s take a closer look at how Priya makes these fabulous little crabby cakes! Then, check out the book for the wine pairing suggestions!
Priya Rao, Vegan Food Consultant & TV Host
A foodie and wine lover, Priya switched to a vegetarian diet in 1995 and then to a vegan one in 2011. An entertainer since childhood, she’s had a lot of time to think about how to translate her love of hosting and cooking for people from meat and potatoes to vino and veggies.
Priya had previously hosted vegan food and wine events in Toronto as part of the duo A Vine Romance, appearing on Breakfast Television, as guest wine experts on 640AM and Rogers Daytime, and writing articles for Prince Edward County’s Grapevine Magazine, Restaurants Canada and NatalieMaclean.com. She also created and co-hosted the tv show, THE DRINK, for Bell FIBE TV1.
Priya has spoken and shared her knowledge of vegan food and wine pairings at Toronto’s Veg Fest (the largest vegetarian food festival in North America!) and other local vegetarian events and conferences, as well as acting as MC for vegan events around the city.
These days Priya is most often found with a glass of wine in hand entertaining guests at her vegan vacation home, Terra, in Ontario.
Jennifer Huether, Master Sommelier
Jennifer’s love affair with wine began over 20 years ago when she took an interest course at George Brown College. From there, she immediately leaped into the Sommelier Certification from ISG; graduating at the top of her class, before pursuing a Diploma in Wines and Spirits from the Masters of Wine, which was followed by the Advanced Sommelier exam. Jennifer became Canada’s first female Master Sommelier in 2011 as awarded by the Court of Master Sommeliers.
Her restaurant industry experience is vast. Starting off in Toronto restaurants, she ran one of Canada’s top wine programs at Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment — spanning over 7 years, 6 restaurants, and overseeing a multi-million-dollar beverage program. All while mentoring the properties 11 Sommeliers. Jennifer then worked for Canadian-owned Cliff Lede Vineyards based in Napa Valley and was most recently employed by California-based Jackson Family Wines as their brand representative throughout Canada.
TOGETHER, THEY WROTE THE WORLD’S FIRST BOOK WITH PLANT-BASED WINE & FOOD PAIRINGS
The Social Herbivore: Perfect Pairings for Plant-Based Cuisine includes 40 recipes, created by Rao, with a high and low wine pairing selected by Huether for each recipe. Divided from Small Talk (appetizers and starters), to Big Talk (main dishes), and then Sweet Talk (desserts), the book goes beyond cookbook status, as it also includes:
•Expert ideas on how to elevate your wine hosting game
•Info on starting your own wine cellar
•Tips and tricks for the sustainably-minded host
•Easy plant-based swaps and additions for your pantry
•Green wine-making practices, and what distinguishes wines to be vegan, natural, organic, bio-dynamic, or sustainable.
The book launched at a time when more consumers are making the connection between their food choices and the environmental impact, with many more Canadians now willing to explore plant-based eating, and naturally, the wines to accompany.
“The time for this book is now,” says Huether, who holds the distinction as Canada’s first female to achieve the Master Sommelier designation. “There is shockingly little info available on matching wine to plant-based foods, and I wanted to rectify that. So many of the basics change—the fats, the proteins—so it’s quite fascinating and it has been a fun learning curve for me in terms of matching wine to vegan food.”
“Even with plant-based options expanding everywhere, from grocery stores to restaurants, there is a prevailing stereotype of wheatgrass-drinking hippies, and that plant-based food consists primarily of faux meats and salads. We want to show the world that you can have a fabulous plant-based dining experience with all the joys of a perfectly-matched wine, without compromise or FOMO,” enthuses Rao.
Not only has veganism become one of the top global trends, demand for vegan-friendly wine has also sharply increased in the two years since 2019 was named “the year of the vegan” by The Economist. More and more wineries are choosing to become vegan-certified, or to add a ‘V’ on their bottle labels for easy consumer identification.
Huether and Rao are enthusiastic about introducing this first book to the world, after three and a half years of writing, recipe testing, and wine pairing sessions. This is the culmination of an almost decade-long dream for Rao, who has been hosting vegan food and wine events in Toronto since 2012. “I met Jen at a wine pairing dinner she was hosting at Planta in 2018. She and I went for a coffee and I pitched the idea of a book to her. Luckily for me, she was not only intrigued, but very passionate about the environment and plant-based diets too, and here we are toasting its launch!”
In late 2019, the two women launched The Social Herbivore with a sold-out, holiday wine tasting in November of that same year, which featured over 80 vegan-friendly wines from around the globe. Since then, they have hosted wine-pairing events, interviewed local winemakers, and created a directory of Canadian, vegan-friendly wineries to help consumers find wines that match their lifestyles and/or principles.
As the first-ever Master Sommelier to actively focus on plant-based cuisine, Huether—who, notably, was tapped by Hallmark Channel to play herself in “Raise A Glass To Love” (launched September 18, 2021)—is passionate about the environment, choosing to eat mostly plant-based in her own home. “I have enjoyed transitioning to plant-based the past few years. And while researching, found that nobody was talking about how to match this diet with wine, to elevate the experience. I became intrigued to learn about the best matches to amplify the sensory experiences, with great combinations to share with the world.”
The recipes have all been developed by Rao, an enthusiastic entertainer who adapted many of her favorite dishes into vegan versions. “We don’t refer to this as a ‘cookbook’ or a ‘wine pairing book’. It’s really a book on the joys of entertaining, of creating memorable moments and laughter-filled conversations around the dining table, whether you’re incorporating more plant-based meals into your diet, are vegan, or are simply welcoming a vegan to your family or friends’ circle.”
Adds Huether, “Writing this book with Priya has given me the opportunity to use all my training and years in the wine business to share my most important tips and tricks. It is also is written in a way to help give our readers perfect pairings for these recipes, so there is no stress or time wasted.”
The book is available via Amazon.com and at select shops and wineries throughout the U.S. and Canada, including New York’s “original vegan cheesemonger” Riverdel Cheese and Toronto’s world-renowned Evergreen Brickworks Market.
Above release courtesy of Candice Best, BEST PR Co. | Purposeful PR
BACK TO THE VEGAN CRAB CAKES
These vegan crab cakes with a homemade sauce will make your guests do a double-take to confirm that they are, in fact, vegan! The trick is the seaweed and the old bay seasoning which simulate those sea flavors. These are great as a starter course, or you could make them even smaller and serve as finger food with a dollop of the tartar sauce on top.
Vegan Crabby Cakes
- Tartar Sauce:
- ½ cup vegan mayonnaise
- 1-2 tbsp chopped pickle
- ¼ cup chopped fresh dill
- 2 tsp liquid from artichoke hearts see below
- Crabby Cakes:
- 1 19 oz can chickpeas drained
- 1 15 oz can hearts of palm drained
- 1 8 oz jar marinated artichoke hearts drained (reserve 2 tsp for tartar sauce)
- 1 cup breadcrumbs plus an extra ¾ cup for coating
- ¼ cup vegan mayonnaise
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp Old Bay seasoning
- 1 sheet nori or other seaweed crumbled
- 1 tbsp fresh dill chopped
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Oil for frying
- Make the Tartar Sauce:
- Combine vegan mayonnaise, chopped pickle, reserved marinade and dill in a mixing bowl and stir well to combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Make the Cakes:
- Pulse chickpeas, hearts of palm, and artichoke hearts in a food processor several times, keeping an eye on the texture. Mixture should be chunky, not minced.
- Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Add 1 cup of the bread crumbs, vegan mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, the lemon juice, Old Bay seasoning, seaweed and dill. Taste and add salt and pepper if desired. Mix well. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to help the mixture hold together when forming patties.
- Once the mixture has cooled, form it into 1 inch thick patties about 2 inches in diameter.
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in a non-stick pan. Coat each patty in remaining bread crumbs and fry until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes per side, adding 1 tablespoon of oil per batch of cakes.
- Top the cakes with tartar sauce, sprinkle with chopped dill, and serve with a wedge of lemon.
Vegan Crab Cakes With The Perfect Pairing
Jen’s Perfect Pairings
It is unreal how delicious and similar these vegan crab cakes are in comparison to the original dish they are representing. That two-ingredient tartar sauce – really divine!
Jen’s value pick is a dry Chenin Blanc from South Africa. These wines are intriguing and can be slightly herbal with lots of lemon tartness and pear and passion fruit notes. Zippy acidity helps contrast the richness of the fried bread crumb crust and the creamy tartar sauce.
Her splurge is taking the Chenin Blanc grape back to its origins in the Loire Valley, France. Here the beautiful, elegant and dry expression of this grape hits its pinnacle with the wines from Savennieres. These whites somehow have the ability to be mouth-filling and refreshing at the same time. Expect more notes of chamomile, apple blossom, hay, and quince. This match could be one of my all-time favorites for either spring or summer.
Well, folks, you got the full menu on this episode of #LunchBreakLIVE, complete with wine pairing. It all sounds so delicious, and I hope you give it a try. Take a photo of your finished crab cakes and tag @Unchained_Tv on Instagram. Interested in other easy plant-based recipes to try? Jump on over to the #LunchBreakLIVE page, where we have a ton to choose from. Until next time…keep cookin’!
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Donna Dennison is an UnchainedTV writer, graphic designer, video editor, and IG contributor. Donna is also a creative in the film industry.