Tofurky: What the Hell Is It?

Every vegan has heard the oh-so-clever jeers about his or her Thanksgiving prospects.

"What are you gonna eat? Tofurky?" some guy inevitably interjects as he shoves a couple more pieces of Stove Top into the hollow of his dead bird.

Some of these tofu-phobes may not even realize that Tofurky is more than a myth; it's a real food. Well, a real fake food. It kind of looks like a smaller, rounder, wingless version of a turkey, and its flavor is remotely turkey-like. It even comes stuffed with its own special vegan stuffing, and even many non-vegans agree that it's pretty darn tasty.

But if it's not a turkey, then what the hell is it?

Well, it's a whole lot of things. The company behind the vegan holiday roast doesn't make it too easy to get to its ingredients list online -- once you finally find the page that describes the Tofurky feast, the tab linking to the nutrition information is really really tiny. Maybe they're shy because the word "gluten" has become almost profane these days, and it's right at the top of the list:

Ingredients: ROAST: Water, vital wheat gluten, organic tofu (filtered water, organic whole soybeans, magnesium chloride, calcium chloride), expeller pressed non-genetically engineered canola oil, natural vegetarian flavors, shoyu soy sauce (water, non-genetically engineered soybeans, wheat, salt, culture), non-genetically engineered corn starch, white bean flour, garbanzo bean flour, lemon juice from concentrate, onion, carrots, celery, salt, calcium lactate from beets.
Now there is a huge gluten-free movement surging through the health conscious community right now, because of the increase of people being diagnosed with celiac disease. But if you're not allergic to gluten (and the vast majority of people are not), it's an excellent source of protein and great as a meat substitute because of its convincing texture and chameleon-like ability to take on any flavor it's marinated in.

Inside the glutenous Tofurky exterior is the stuffing, which is composed primarily of a blend of rice, whole wheat bread, flour, evaporated cane juice (a sweetener), organic palm oil, carrots and celery.

​The "feast" package contains the stuffed roast, a pack of "giblet" gravy (made with a whole wheat flour base), a vegan chocolate cake dessert from Amy's, and, get this, Tofurky Jurky Wishstix, a replacement for the turkey wishbone and the associated pulling-apart and wish-making ritual, also made primarily of gluten.

So how do you prepare it? Much the same way you prepare a normal turkey: thaw the frozen "bird" in the refrigerator for 24 hours, put it in a covered casserole dish with some vegetables, cover the bird in a baste (the Tofurky website suggests an olive oil, orange juice, or apricot baste), and bake at 350 degrees for up to 2 hours 20 minutes (depending on whether your Tofurky was frozen or thawed).

The Tofurky Vegetarian Feast is available at nearly all food stores around the holidays, including Publix and Whole Foods. It costs about $22 and it feeds six people.

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Camille Lamb Guzman is a journalist who writes on wellness, travel, and culture. She is also finishing a book of creative nonfiction.