For years, the "Tofurkey" seemed like some sort of make-believe food item and I pictured blocks of tofu stuck together and carved into a giant turkey shape. This particular mental image was smashed the day I first spotted an actual Tofurkey at the market. The product is a 100% vegan roast made out of tofu and vital wheat gluten (this is the combination, with seasonings, is known as "Tofurkey"), stuffed with a brown rice stuffing and accompanied by a side of "giblet and mushroom gravy," which contains more Tofurkey, mushrooms and a variety of seasonings, oils and thickeners.
I decided that I'd give it a try and see what it was like. After all - how bad could it be?
I opted to follow the basic directions that came on the box, although I later discovered that there was a "Tofurkey Roast Cooking Contest" winning recipe on the bottom that involved a reasonably tasty sounding cherry relish, which sounded somewhat better than the standard. I opened up the box, expecting to find a box-sized roast. Instead, I found this:
There was more gravy than roast. The roast, rolled up like a sausage, was about six inches long and was meant to serve 6 people. The gravy was supposed to have 6.5 2-tbsp servings, but it looked as though there was easily twice that amount.
Surprisingly, the roast looked almost exactly the same once I removed the casing. The primary difference between the wrapped and unwrapped states was the lack of text on the side of the unwrapped version. I put it in a casserole dish with some vegetables and mixed up a batch of the "basting liquid" (3 tbsp vegetable oil, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 1/2 tsp ground sage). The directions were to baste the roast, then bake it for about 75 minutes covered with foil, baste again, and bake uncovered to brown before serving.
Here is the "before" shot, basted:
Here is the "after" shot:
Does that look a bit dry and leathery to you? It did to me, too.
Once I pulled the roast from the oven, I took a moment to prepare the giblet and mushroom gravy. Strangely, even though the container had been at room temperature for some time, the "gravy" seemed to be solid. Still, I popped it into the microwave, as per the directions on the box. Let me just say that the giblet and mushroom "gravy" was probably one of the more disgusting things I have ever laid eyes on. The picture here does not come close to doing justice to its grainy, slightly crumbly yet semi-gelatinous texture. On the plus side, it had no real aroma, so the overall experience could potentially have been much worse. I tossed the gravy and opted to eat the Tofurkey plain.
Getting back to the roast, here is what it looked like plated:
The center pieces of the roast looked just like the picture on the box, although the end pieces had very uneven stuffing distribution. I started tasting with the Tofurkey itself and quickly stopped. The roast appeared to have a somewhat meat-like texture, but it also had a tough, rubbery skin and a very chewy texture that seemed vaguely spongelike. It also had a strange, slightly bitter aftertaste and a strongly peppery flavor, despite the fact that the ingredients do not list pepper.
In contrast to the Tofurkey, the stuffing mixture was actually quite good. It had a distinctly nutty flavor from the brown and wild rice and a nice texture due to the mixture of ingredients that kept it from getting mushy. The spicing was very well done, too. The vegetables, of course, were also fine. It's hard not to like roasted vegetables and the fact that they were in a casserole dish with a Tofurkey seemed to have no impact on their flavor.
So, would I buy this Tofurkey roast again? I think that it would be very unlikely, as I would rather have a meal of well-prepared veggies than a sort-of turkey-flavored roast, especially if the roast has the texture of an old sponge. Vegetarians and vegans can do better than Tofurkey for Thanksgiving, but if a thoughtful relative goes out of their way to prepare one, at least try to get a piece that is mostly stuffing. I should also point out, that the stuffing is sold separately and if that version (which I have yet to see in any local stores) tastes as good as this one did, I would definitely consider picking that up once in a while.