Hushpuppies are savory little deep-fried balls of cornmeal-based batter. They’re often served alongside seafood and other deep-fried foods. Anyway, if you’re like me, hushpuppies are one of the foods you enjoyed most when eating at seafood joints prior to becoming vegan.
Are they vegan? No, hushpuppies are not considered vegan because the traditional recipe calls for egg as a binder. Milk and buttermilk also tend to be used. Basic ingredients include cornmeal, wheat flour, salt, baking soda, eggs, milk or buttermilk, and water.1
It’s a good question because the answer isn’t obvious. For one, hushpuppies are considered a type of quick bread.2
Quick bread is a type of bread that’s leavened with any leavening agents other than eggs or yeast.3 Quick breads are marked by the consistency of the batter and the temperature in which they’re cooked.2
To avoid gluten development, batters are mixed just to the point where the dry ingredients are moistened. Thinner pour batters include pancakes, waffles, crepes, and popovers. Thicker drop batters include muffins, cornbread, Boston brown bread, quick tea bread, certain coffee cakes, dumplings, and hushpuppies.2
In fact, hushpuppies are just a variation of the cornbread muffin recipe. A few tweaks to the basic muffin ingredients can yield corn bread, Boston brown bread, tea bread, and hushpuppies.4
You take the standard cornbread muffin recipe and make a stone-ground cornmeal drop batter. They’re shaped into small round or oblong balls and then deep-fried.5
Why Hushpuppies Are Considered Non-Vegan
Eggs serve a number of useful functions in baking. For example, in cinnamon rolls and pastries, they contribute to flavor, texture, coagulation, and color.6 I wrote an article on cinnamon rolls and their vegan-friendliness you can check out here.
Eggs have a good bit of what’s known as lecithin, a compound that has a unique ability to emulsify. They also add flavor, improve mouthfeel, thicken, coat, bind, leaven, and color baked goods.
They also help prevent crystallization (the formation of sugar crystals) which makes them a favorite for use in bread products like quick breads and pastries.7
Eggs provide the following properties to hushpuppies:
- Binding. This is the main one. Hushpuppies don’t use egg to leaven, because otherwise they wouldn’t be considered a type of quick bread. Rather, eggs are used in hushpuppies due to their high protein content which makes them great for binding ingredients. High heat in the cooking process coagulates the protein, causing the ingredients to adhere. When the mixture cooks, the proteins firm and stabilize, which provides structural strength to the food product.
- Color. The egg yolk also contributes that nice golden brown color characteristic of hushpuppies.8
- Emulsification. This was mentioned above. Hushpuppies often have milk in the mix and lecithin (a compound found in egg yolks) serves as a natural emulsifier helping the fat (from milk) and water components stay nice and mixed. One end of the molecule attracts water molecules, while the other attracts fat molecules.9
Milk and Buttermilk
A lot of bread products contain milk or buttermilk. Milk provides flavor and improves mouthfeel. Why hushpuppies? Well, remember, hushpuppies are just a variation of the traditional cornbread recipe.
Cornbread often contains buttermilk so hushpuppies tend to as well. Not always, but it’s something to look out for.
Anyway, this ingredient will pop up on a regular basis when scanning the labels of store-bought hushpuppy mix. And you can be pretty sure any hushpuppies you encounter in seafood restaurants will have milk or buttermilk in the ingredients.
Milk derivatives will rear their ugly head when searching for vegan-friendly hushpuppy mix.
Casein is fairly common. Casein makes up about 80% of the protein in milk and contributes to emulsification and stabilization of the dough.
Whey is another one.
For example, ingredients for House-Autry Southern Style Onion Hushpuppy Mix include:10
- Enriched whole grain corn meal (corn, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid)
- Enriched bleached wheat flour (flour, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid)
- Sodium bicarbonate
- Sodium aluminum phosphate
- Whey (milk)
- Soy flour
Are There Any Commercial Vegan Hushpuppies?
I searched high and low for a store-bought hushpuppy mix. In theory, they shouldn’t be difficult to find. I assumed that some mixes available would be largely dry ingredients like cornmeal and leaveners that would leave it to the consumer to add egg.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case because as part of the dry ingredients in every bag I’ve encountered manufacturers included… you guessed it… dry egg. Most threw in dry milk as well.
Making them homemade is easy and a quick search should render a number of recipes on vegan cooking blogs. Or you could use a modified version of the traditional recipe.
There are numerous plant-based alternatives for egg. Any kind of plant that gels when exposed to water (e.g. flax) serves as a good binder, and you won’t likely be able to tell the difference.
Plant-based milks can be used in place of milk, especially if you use a higher-fat variety like soy or coconut. Almond milk may be preferable if you want the taste to go unnoticed. To replace fat content, just use a bit of plant oil.
So, that wraps it up for hushpuppies. Thanks for reading.
You may also want to check out the following related articles:
- Is French Bread Vegan? What About Baguettes?
- Is Rye Bread Really Vegan?
- Is Pita Bread Vegan? What About Pita Chips?
- Are Bagels Really Vegan? The Bottom Line
- Are English Muffins Vegan?
- Is Apple Pie Vegan? (List of Vegan Options)
- Is Angel Food Cake Vegan?
- Are Cinnamon Rolls Vegan?
- Are Croissants Vegan?
- Hushpuppy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hushpuppy#Characteristics_and_preparation
- Understanding Food: Principles and Preparation (Page 408). Amy Brown – Wadsworth Cengage Learning – 2011
- Quick Bread. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quick_bread
- Understanding Food: Principles and Preparation (Page 411). Amy Brown – Wadsworth Cengage Learning – 2011
- Bocuse P, and F Metz. The New Professional Chef. The Culinary Institute of America. Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1996.
- Understanding Food: Principles and Preparation (Page 256). Amy Brown – Wadsworth Cengage Learning – 2011
- Pszczola DE, and K Banasaiak. Ingredients. Food Technology 60(5):45–92, 2006.
- Understanding Food: Principles and Preparation (Page 258). Amy Brown – Wadsworth Cengage Learning – 2011
- Anton M, and G Gandemer. Composition, solubility, and emulsifying properties of granules and plasma of egg yolk. Journal of Food Science 62(3):484–487, 1997.
- House-Autry Southern Style Onion Hushpuppy Mix. https://www.walmart.com/ip/House-Autry-Southern-Style-Onion-Hushpuppy-Mix-8-oz/560405432