Yesterday was my mother-in-law‘s birthday. She was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, a city near and dear to my heart. We were supposed to go down for Mardi Gras in NOLA next month. But, because of Covid, we had to cancel our plans. So alas, if we can’t go to New Orleans, I thought it only appropriate to bring New Orleans to us. We started the evening with these delicious vegan crab cakes drizzled in a spicy Creole Ravigote! Our main was a Cornmeal Encrusted Tofu Po’ Boy with a Creamy Coleslaw! The key to this recipe is the hearts of palm! However, there is a lot of concern about the sustainability of hearts of palm, and for a good reason.
The problem with hearts of palm.
Harvesting the “heart of palm” kills most palms. So wild harvesting can very damaging if done on a widespread basis. The hearts of palm that I buy is the “Native Forest” brand. Here is a quote from their website—”Here we rely upon the Euterpe precatoria, or huasaí palm tree, which grows profusely throughout this vast Amazonian rainforest.
Long term leases secure approximately 240,000 acres of pristine native forest for the wild hearts of palm ecological project, thereby protecting the land from any rain forest-destructive development. In addition to preserving the region’s ecology, this project brings needed employment to those who live deep in the Amazon basin, providing them the opportunity to work closer to their families and their ancestral homes.”
But not all brands are as conscientious as Native Forest, and it’s best to check. The Environmental Working Group’s page is an excellent resource for checking everything from sustainability, to child labor, as well as products that contain pesticides, GMO’s etc,
So back to the recipe! The hearts of palm are a perfect replacement for crab meat. These little gems are crispy on the outside and flaky and moist on the inside. My mother in law (who is not vegan) was completely blown away! You can pan fry, air fry, or oven fry them, whatever your preference. Just be sure to heat your oven to the lowest setting and add them to the oven as you make them to keep them warm.
- 1 14-oz can chickpeas (reserve bean juice, aka aquafaba)
- 1 14-oz cans hearts of palm, chopped into large pieces
- 2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
- 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
- ½ sizeable red bell pepper, finely chopped
- 3 scallions, sliced thin
- ½ cup vegan mayonnaise
- 2 Tbsp Old Bay seasoning
- 1 Tbsp Creole (can also use spicy brown) mustard
- ½ cup panko bread crumbs + ½ cup more for coating
- Salt and pepper
- 3 Tbsp of Dijon mustard
- 3 Tbsp of white wine vinegar
- 2/3 cup vegan mayonnaise
- 1 Tbsp of capers, chopped
- 1 Tbsp of cornichons (pickles), chopped
- 1 tsp each of dried parsley, chervil, and tarragon
- 1 Tbsp Creole mustard or coarse ground spicy brown mustard
- 1 Tbsp prepared horseradish
- 1 Tbsp of shallots, finely chopped
- Place the chickpeas in a food processor and pulse. Don’t over process just enough to break them down. Remove from food processor and set aside.
- Repeat process with hearts of palm. You want a crab-like texture. Do not over-process. Remove and set aside.
- Dice jalapenos.
- Add chickpeas, hearts of palm, and jalapeños to a large bowl. Add celery, bell pepper, and scallions. Mix well to combine.
- In a separate bowl, whisk 1/4 cup of the reserved chickpea liquid until foaming – this will take a few minutes. Add all remaining ingredients except bread crumbs. Stir well to combine.
- Add liquid mixture to crab cake mixture and mix well. You may need to use your hands. Add breadcrumbs and season with salt and pepper.
- On a lined baking sheet, form the mixture into 2” balls and flatten with a spatula or your hand.
- Chill cakes, uncovered, for ½ hour to help set.
- Place the remaining ½ cup of panko in a shallow dish.
- Coat each cake with the remaining panko. Lightly brush with remaining aquafaba.
- Heat an oil-coated skillet on medium-high heat.
- Lightly pan fry for 3 minutes on each side. (You can also air fry for 10 minutes at 400°).
- Do this with the remaining mixture. I usually fit 4-5 patties on the skillet at a time. When they are cooked, transfer them to a plate covered with a paper towel.
- Serve with a dollop of the Ravigote. lemon wedge, and fresh greens.
- In a small mixing bowl, mix together all of the ingredients until evenly combined.
- If you’re like me and you like your Ravigote sauce extra spicy, you can add cayenne pepper to taste.
Makes between 10-12 crab cakes.