Vegan Barbecue “Ribs”

Vegan Barbecue Ribs

It’s extremely rare that I feel deprived as a vegetarian (although admittedly, I miss bacon more than I sometimes care to acknowledge). With handy veggified substitutes for nearly all the classics – chicken wings, hot dogs, pulled pork – we don’t miss out on much. But on big barbecue days like Memorial Day, Labor Day, and the 4th of July, well, we herbivores sometimes get the short end. A couple of times (a long time ago before veggie options became a norm at these things), I’ve failed to fend for myself and ended up with only coleslaw for dinner while everyone else tore into big plates of barbecue ribs.

Seitan Ribs

Never again, my friends. Never again.

Vegan Barbecue Ribs

There are a whole bunch of fantastic things about these vegan barbecue ribs:

  • They can be made ahead of time, then slathered with barbecue sauce and tossed on the grill at your leisure, providing an easy and convenient option if you need to BYO vegetarian dish to a cookout
  • Seitan gives them a real bite, so they aren’t mushy at all – they hold up beautifully on a grill and on a fork
  • The “ribs” experience is really about the smoky flavor and the virtual bath in BBQ sauce – both of which are perfectly replicated here
  • They aren’t made from a pig

Vegan Barbecue Ribs

This is one of my go-to dishes in the summer. I can’t even tell you how satisfying it is with potato salad, or wilted collards, or even the cole slaw that used to be the main dish. I’ve even brought it to cookouts and shared it with omnivores – it sure wouldn’t fool anyone (no bones is a dead giveaway, for one thing) but this has been a hit with everyone who’s tried it. Whether you bring these to a summer holiday gathering to share or just grill ’em up at home on one of those perfect grilling nights, I’d be willing to bet they’ll become a mainstay in your rotation, too.

Seitan BBQ Ribs

4.0 from 11 reviews
Vegan Barbecue Ribs
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This vegan spin on BBQ ribs is made from seitan for a hearty and wholesome addition to your next cookout.
Yield: 4 servings
  • 1 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 Tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • Several grinds fresh black pepper
  • ¾ cup low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 Tbsp natural peanut butter
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce of choice, plus more for serving
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease an 8x8 baking dish and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together vital wheat gluten, nutritional yeast, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, and pepper.
  3. In a measuring cup, whisk together broth, peanut butter, liquid smoke, and soy sauce until incorporated. Pour mixture into bowl with the dry ingredients, and stir gently until well-incorporated and the mixture has formed a soft dough. With your hands, knead gently for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Transfer mixture into greased baking dish and flatten so it's spread evenly across the entire pan. Use a knife to make one lengthwise cut across the dough, then cut evenly crosswise to make 1-inch slices. You don't need to pull them apart; you just want the ability to easily separate them after grilling.
  5. Place pan in preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes. While the ribs are baking, heat up your grill or lightly oil a grill pan.
  6. Remove from oven and brush the top of the ribs with barbecue sauce. Place sauce side down on heated grill (or grill pan on the stove over medium heat). Brush the top with more barbecue sauce.
  7. When the bottom of the ribs are deeply browned (about 5-6 minutes), flip over and cook the other side until brown. Remove from heat and serve immediately, with more barbecue sauce if desired.

Source: slightly adapted from Fat Free Vegan

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50 Responses to Vegan Barbecue “Ribs”

  1. Thus recipe popped up on my Zite app. I’m from Louisiana so my main source of protein is seafood. I’ve always been a moderate consumer of beef, pork and chicken. I love to cook and I have been intrigued by the incredible vegan recipes that I’ve found, such as this recipe. The vital wheat gluten was easily available at my local supermarket. The dish came together quickly and easily. Maybe 5 minutes to mix the dry then mix the wet then mix them together. In the oven 25 min then onto the grill. This should satisfy even the biggest carnivore in your life!

    • Gregory, I’m so glad you liked them! Also, I had no idea what Zite was until you commented here. I need to look into that!

  2. These are amazing! My husband begs for them now. They are super easy and quick…just my style! Thanks for a great recipe 😀

  3. Julie can these be frozen after baking and cooked on the grill later? They sound like a great option to bring to a music festival next month!

    • They sure can. Just let them cool completely and wrap them up tightly before you freeze. They hold up great after being frozen.

      • Julie, thank you so much! Your website rocks and I can’t wait to try this stuff! I would have already tried a few of your recipes, but I’ve been quite sick for a couple of weeks. As soon as I’m healthy, I’m making me some vegetarian ribs, pulled pork, and hot dogs! 🙂

          • Julie I finally got to try these and they are phenomenal! I’ve tried “fake ribs” from morningstar and other brands in the past and these are way better, and a fraction of the price! I didn’t grill mine…I just baked them for an extra 20 minutes or so with barbecue sauce on the top. The hardest part is getting the gluten dough to flatten out in the pan. My pan was a little larger than 8×8, but it still worked fine…just took me a few minutes to get it flattened out and filling most of the dish! I can easily see meat eaters enjoying these and I can’t wait to try them on the grill. Thanks for the great recipe, Julie!

  4. Julie, thanks! Me too…I’m sick of being sick! One quick question looking at this recipe…I’m not vegan, but vegetarian, so cheese is okay with me. I also hate the taste of nutritional yeast. Would it be okay to substitute parmesan cheese? Or do you have any other substitution suggestions? Thanks for all your help.

    • Usual disclaimer of “I haven’t tried it” – I think it’d be fine with parm, although I also think you could leave it out entirely and add a couple extra teaspoons of gluten, then up the other spices just a bit to give it that extra depth.

  5. I made these this weekend and they were SOOO good. Great flavor & texture. We had two friends over who, like my partner, are meat eaters and the three of them could not stop eating these, even though they had their own real grilled meat too. I think they ate more of them than I did. I will be making these again very soon. Can’t wait to experiment with some different flavors too. Thanks so much for sharing this awesome recipe!!

  6. I made these for the first time for dinner last night and it was a big hit with the family. I can’t wait to bring this on our camping trip. It will be really nice to have another option to throw on the grill. Thank you so much for sharing this!!

  7. Thanks for sharing! Do you think you could bake them and then put them in a crockpot with the bbq sauce? I’m thinking they sound delicious for a potluck for my vegetarian friends, but we won’t have a grill.

    • Ann, I haven’t tried this but I think it should work if you bake them first – they hold up really, really well so they shouldn’t fall apart in a slow cooker unless you leave them for a crazy long time. Let me know how they turn out!

  8. Just made these for memorial day. They were great and easy to make on the stovetop. I’ll double the recipe so I can have thicker slices of “meat” for the next batch.

  9. By far THE BEST and easiest seitan recipe. I used a George Foreman grill and was able to grill both sides at once. Replaced plain water with not beef bouillon cubes for a deeper flavor. Used Annies sauce for the BBQ. My husband was literally dancing around the dining room while eating these. Thank you!!

  10. This recipe is awesome, simple, and not a lot of ingredients. I will defintely use this recipe again!!!!

  11. Do the pictures represent what one recipe looks like? Or is that doubled? Trying to figure out how much I will need to make!

    • Hi Holly – the pictures represent one recipe, as written in the post. I’ve doubled it before with good results, but the pictures are of the single recipe.

      • Julie- made these today and I ran into a few difficulties. Seeing as though no one else did, I must have screwed up somewhere! The first time I made them they barely stretched to fit the pan and came out hard and chewy from the oven. They were also too spicy for me to handle which makes me wonder if I’m using hot smoked paprika. I did make them a second time-this time 1.5x the original in the same pan, no paprika and no kneading whatsoever and little mixing. With these changes the whole thing came together wonderfully!!!

  12. Mine was awful it was hollow with a hard shell. Really dissapointed and annoyed I wasted the vwg.

  13. Any idea if these can be prepared ahead of time and then frozen?
    If so, can they be frozen after step 5 (baking), or should they be frozen after step 4 (shaping)? Or maybe they shouldn’t be frozen at all? Thank you.

  14. I wanted so much to like these that I tried it twice. First time I mixed but didn’t knead. Fluffy, kind of cakey, and watery. Inedible. Second time I kneaded it well until the shape started bouncing back since I wanted a chewy texture. It came out almost like a dense cornbread texture. No chewiness. I regularly cook and bake some rather complicated items, so I’m not sure where I went wrong here.

  15. I’m not a cook by any stretch of the imagination; I would fall below average in that regard. However, I noticed that different people were getting different results. It made me wonder if the sugar content of the barbecue sauce and peanut butter are making the difference.

    According to the photos, Julie used Trader Joe’s Bold & Smoky sauce. The main ingredient is tomato puree, followed by sugar. Many other BBQ sauces, though, have more sugar than tomato puree.

    Also, the recipe calls for “natural” peanut butter, which has no sugar. If people use normal peanut butter, that has sugar.

    I know that excess sugar can prevent bread from rising, so perhaps the people who are getting poor results are accidentally including too much sugar via a different brand of BBQ sauce and normal PB?

    I haven’t tried this recipe yet, just wanted to throw that idea out there.

  16. I just wanted to comment how great this recipe is! It’s a very simple recipe to follow and cooks quite quickly.

    I’ve skimmed through a bit of the reviews complaining and I’m just going to assume they did not follow the recipe closely. I’m very new to cooking and if I was able to get great results, anyone can.

    When I prepared mine, it came out exactly like yours. Except for the slits on the side, I only sliced it down the middle for two large pieces for the boyfriend and I. So yummy, thank you for sharing!

  17. Hi Julie, I want to make your recipe, but hence, it is winter and the grill is stored away, awaiting for the spring. 🙂 I don’t have a grill pan, but I do have a George Foreman Grill that I have grilled veggies on and even some tofu. Do you think it would do the same as the grill pan? I’m thinking it would do the same, but figured I’d run it by you to see what ya thought. Thanks!

  18. Hi Julie, I don’t know if what I posted worked. I don’t know if it’s waiting moderation or I did something to loose it but anyways, if this is a double, I’m so sorry… :/ I wanna make the ribs, but my grill is in storage until summer. I don’t have a grill pan, but wanted to try it on a George Foreman grill. Do you think it would work the same? Thanks!

    • Hi Jamie! I think a Foreman grill would work; my only concern would be that you’d lose too much moisture since the Foreman grill is designed to remove some liquid/fats – you can try the recipe with a Foreman as written, or you could add a little bit of extra peanut butter or a tablespoon or so of olive oil to the dough to make sure it doesn’t dry out too much.

      • Okie doke! Thank you!! I’ll give it a try! 🙂 I’m so sorry I posted something twice, lol…I’m not technologically savvy. Duh, Jame…

        • LOL, no worries – you’re totally fine! It confuses me too when stuff goes into a moderation queue and it looks like it just disappeared 🙂

  19. Although these ribs have a great texture, the flavor just doesn’t do it for me. The peanut butter stood out too much. Just not my personal preference.