You are going to love this vegan BBQ chicken! Meaty soy curls are marinated and sauced before air-frying to tender perfection! Perfect for meal prep, and great for sandwiches or wraps, pizzas, salads, grain bowls and more. You won’t believe how unbelievably easy, or tasty, this delicious recipe is!
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Looking for the perfect vegan BBQ chicken that can be easily meal prepped? Then, you’ve found the right recipe, my friend! Add these tender pieces of vegan BBQ chicken to bowls and salads, in veganized versions of all your favorite barbecue chicken recipes like a BBQ chicken sandwich, pizza, or wrap. They’re as versatile as they are delicious.
If you’ve never tried Butler soy curls before, you are in for a treat. Soy curls are among the main ingredients in some of our favorite vegan chicken recipes. And these easy air fryer soy curls with a homemade barbecue sauce is the perfect recipe to get you started with them for the first time.
You’ll want to add this vegan version of BBQ chicken to your next meal prep session for a great plant-based protein that can even be frozen for later! We really enjoy them with our tofu baked mac and cheese or in a big mashed potato bowl.
Why You’ll Love Vegan BBQ Air Fryer Chicken
- Perfect for meal prep. These air fryer soy curls are the perfect plant-based protein to prep for a week of various meals – salads, bowls, sandwiches, even pizza!
- This recipe is so easy to make right in your air fryer with very little hands-on time. it’s sure to be a new favorite quickie dinner, or lunch!
- Great flavor AND texture. Soy curls are one of our favorite vegan meat options because they soak up any flavor you add to them impeccably and have a super tender meaty texture. These will have your taste buds singing!
What Exactly Are Soy Curls?
Soy curls are dehydrated strips of plant-based protein. They’re made from whole, non-gmo soybeans and are a staple in many vegan kitchens! They’re dehydrated, so they last a long time, and you can use marinated and rehydrated soy curls in so many different ways.
We order them in bulk on Amazon, but you can also find Butler Foods protein-rich soy curls at many small health food stores. In Philadelphia, V Marks the Shop usually carries them! Check your local health food store to see if they carry them or will get them in.
Ingredients in Plant Based BBQ Chicken
This great recipe is also super adaptable. You just need a few basic ingredients for the soy curls, and the homemade bbq sauce is easy to adjust based on what you have in the pantry! Or, just use your favorite sauce from the store.
For the vegan BBQ sauce recipe, you’ll need:
- Warm water
- Agave nectar
- Olive oil
- Tomato paste
- Creamy peanut butter – Yes, you read that correctly. Peanut butter adds a wonderful flavor and texture addition to standard BBQ sauce.
- Soy sauce
- Nutritional yeast – This is deactivated yeast often used by vegans as an ingredient in cheese substitutes, but it also offers a nutty flavor element that goes well in the sauce
- Apple cider vinegar
- White miso paste – For a hint of umami.
- Hot sauce
- Smoked paprika
Is BBQ sauce vegan?
Many BBQ sauces available at major grocery stores are vegan, save the obvious ones like “Honey BBQ”, etc. But be sure to read any ingredients of brands you might be unfamiliar with.
If you don’t have or can’t tolerate one of the above ingredients in this particular recipe, here are our best substitution tips. Remember though, substituting any of the ingredients may lead to a varied degree of difference in the final product. Let us know in the comments if you try any subs and how they work out for you!
For the soy curls: Outside the US, you can find a product similar to soy curls labeled “TVP chunks” or “TVP strips”. They’re slightly different in texture, but either will work for this recipe! We also have a BBQ Tofu recipe.
For the bouillon powder: You can use 1 vegan-friendly chicken bouillon cube. Or cut the amount in half and use your favorite store-bought bouillon paste.
For the homemade BBQ sauce: Feel free to use a store-bought, vegan-friendly BBQ sauce or experiment with other sauces you love to create variations!
For the apple cider vinegar: Other vinegars will definitely work, but might not offer quite the zip or zing as ACV. Rice wine vinegar is a good place to start, then perhaps red or white. I’d stay away from stronger vinegars like balsamic.
Step 2: Make the vegan BBQ sauce
If you’re using store-bought BBQ sauce, simply skip this step!
If you’re making your own BBQ sauce, simply mix all the ingredients together in a bowl with a small whisk or fork until no clumps remain.
Step 3: Air fry the soy curls
When the soy curls are rehydrated and excess water is gone, add half of your bbq sauce to them and stir. Transfer the sauce-soaked soy curls to your air fryer and fry at 350F for 10-20 minutes, stopping to shake the air fryer basket every 5 minutes.
You may want to do this in small batches depending on how big your air fryer is. We split ours in half.
Baked BBQ Soy Curls
You can do this in the oven if you don’t happen to have an air fryer. I’d stay at 350°F, but you may need to add extra 10 minutes or so to achieve the appropriate chew texture. I’d also probably just move them around every ten minutes instead of 5.
Vegan BBQ Chicken Wings
To make vegan BBQ chicken wings, I recommend you follow the ingredients and instructions on our Air Fryer Tofu Wings recipe but use the BBQ sauce instead of the buffalo sauce suggested there.
How to Serve BBQ Sauce Soy Curls
Add them to a Vegan BBQ Chicken Pizza with some vegan mozzarella or pile them high on a vegan BBQ Chicken Sandwich.
To reheat from the fridge: Reheat in your air fryer at 350°F for about 7-10 minutes until warmed through. If using the microwave, microwave in one-minute intervals for 2-3 minutes until warmed through. Again, the soy curls will stiffen a little when they cool slightly.
Souper Cubes: We love to freeze soy curls in 1/2 cup Souper Cubes to prep easy-to-defrost portions. Just pack the cubes tightly with the cooked and cooled BBQ soy curls and freeze. Once frozen, pop them out and store in a freezer-safe bag. When you want to eat, remove as many as you need from the freezer and let defrost in the fridge overnight or defrost in the microwave at 50-60% for about 5 minutes until thawed, then at 100% for 2-3 minutes until warmed through.
I can’t wait to hear what you thought about these BBQ Soy Curls and all the creatively delicious ways you found to use them!
When you try the recipe, please give it a star rating and review below. It helps more people find our vegan recipes, and we love cheering you on!
For the soy curls:
- 1 (8-oz) bag soy curls
- 2 cups boiling water
- 2.5 Tbsp vegan chicken bouillon powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
For the homemade vegan BBQ sauce* (see notes):
- 1/3 cup warm water
- 3 Tbsp agave nectar
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 2 Tbsp creamy peanut butter
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tbsp miso paste
- 1 Tbsp molasses
- 1 tsp hot sauce
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- Rehydrate your soy curls: Add the soy curls to a large bowl. Pour the boiling water over them and add the rest of the marinade ingredients. Stir, cover, and set aside for 5-10 minutes until completely rehydrated.
- Make vegan BBQ sauce: Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl with a small whisk or fork until no clumps remain.
- Air fry the soy curls: When the soy curls are rehydrated, add half your bbq sauce to them and stir. Transfer the sauced-up soy curls to your air fryer and fry at 350F for 10-20 minutes, stopping to shake the basket every 5 minutes. You may want to do this in batches depending on how big your air fryer is. We split ours in half.
- Finish it off: Toss your soy curls with the remainder of the sauce and add them back to the air fryer. Fry at 350F for another 5 minutes, until your desired texture is reached.
- Serve: Serve on a sandwich or salad with vegan coleslaw or alongside vegan mac and cheese!
- Store: You can store BBQ soy curls in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 10 days or the freezer for 2 months.
* To use store-bought bbq sauce, sub 1/2 cup.
The BBQ sauce in this recipe is inspired by the Pantry BBQ Sauce from the classic vegan food blog Post Punk Kitchen! If you love BBQ sauce, we highly recommend checking it out!
Serving Size:1/6 the recipe
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 135Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1038mgCarbohydrates: 14gFiber: 1gSugar: 10gProtein: 3g
Nutrition information is automatically calculated and may not always be accurate.