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Extreme Vegan Makeover: "Fish" N’Chips Edition

Every year at the end of the Spring semester, my colleagues and I would attend the commencement ceremony for our College. Graduation is always held at Madison Square Garden with the marquee congratulating our students, the College’s name up there alongside those of celebrities and athletes.

We find, press and then dress up in our doctoral robes, help each other pin the caps on, fix our hoods and then settle in for a marathon of speeches and the reading of over a thousand names. Seeing our students share their success with their families, seeing the fruits of both theirs and our labors is very gratifying. It’s a proud day for all.

But the best part of the day comes after graduation. Our department has a tradition of walking across town to an Irish tavern and celebrating the day, and the year, with a good dinner. For most of us, that dinner is the ultimate Irish tavern dish, Fish N’Chips.

It’s been several years since I’ve been able to participate in this tradition and I don’t know which I miss more: the celebration, the camaraderie, or the Fish N’Chips. I certainly miss sharing in the accomplishments of my students and getting to meet their families. I terribly miss many of my co-workers. And the Fish N’Chips? Well, I only ever ate it that one day each year even though I loved it. I liked saving it for that special occasion.

Who knows what I would have ordered at that tavern since I became Vegan? My options would have been pretty limited so I most likely would have had salad. Well, I can’t recreate the graduation ceremony or the celebratory dinner with my co-workers myself but I can certainly recreate the Fish N’Chips and do it VEGAN!!

Now I know you can buy Vegan mock “fish.” I did that once and I have to say, it was beyond disgusting. And it doesn’t help when I can’t know what’s really in it because the ingredients are not in English. Tom and I even ordered Vegan Fish N’Chips at a very popular restaurant that specializes in mock dishes and we both hated it. It didn’t taste like the original at all. Just because you batter and fry something, doesn’t mean it’s a success. Doesn’t mean it’s bad but “Sorry Charlie,” it isn’t the Vegan of the Sea.

Don’t Eat Fish. Go Vegan!

So it was up to me to make my own version. Most of the recipes I read used tofu for the “fish” but I wanted something with more texture so I used tempeh. And since I made it gluten-free, the malt vinegar was out (it contains barley); I used cider vinegar instead. Lastly, I didn’t want to add beer so I subbed seltzer to make a light, frothy batter (plus it was funny when I opened the bottle and it exploded all over the kitchen :). Kelp flakes and Old Bay seasoning brought back the flavors of the sea. The result was delicious!!!

The “fish” was crunchy on the outside, tender and flaky on the inside. The chips were crispy and flavorful and the tartar sauce was perfect for dipping.

So cue the “Pomp and Circumstance” and start marching to the kitchen. This recipe will have you smiling to the gills (sorry but all the fishy puns I could think of sounded cruel: reeling you in, luring, baiting, catch of the day, etc. – guess you could say I was floundering for an ending 🙂

Tempeh “Fish” N’Chips with Tartar Sauce

For the Tartar Sauce


1 cup Vegan mayonnaise
2 Tbs. unsweetened pickle relish
1 tsp. lemon zest
Juice of half a lemon

In a bowl, mix the Vegan mayonnaise with the unsweetened pickle relish. Add some lemon zest and the juice of half a lemon. Mix well.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.

For the Chips


4 large russet potatoes cut into wedges
Cooking oil spray
Salt and pepper to taste
½ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. paprika

Preheat oven to 425ºF with a baking sheet in the oven. Pull the hot sheet pan out of the oven and put potato wedges on it in a single layer. Spray with cooking spray, sprinkle the spices onto the potatoes and put them back into the oven. Bake the potatoes, turning occasionally, until golden brown and tender, about 40 minutes.

For the Tempeh “Fish”


2 packages of tempeh
2 cups chickpea flour
1 Tbs. baking powder
1 Tbs. garlic powder
1 Tbs. chile powder
2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
¼ cup cider vinegar
12 oz. seltzer
1 cup corn starch
1 Tbs. kelp flakes
Safflower oil for frying


Split the tempeh in half so that you have two thin rectangles. The way I do this is to lay the tempeh on a cutting board, hold the top steady with the palm of your hand and with a knife, slice through it like you are splitting open a bagel.

If you like your tempeh less chewy, steam it for a few minutes to soften it. Cut each piece of tempeh into 4 pieces so you will have 16 pieces in total.

In a bowl, add the flour, baking powder, garlic powder, chile powder, and Old Bay seasoning. Mix well. Add in the vinegar and slowly mix in the seltzer until the batter is the desired consistency (like pancake batter). In another bowl, mix the corn starch and the kelp flakes.

Heat 2 inches of oil in a large skillet. Dredge the tempeh pieces into the corn starch-kelp mixture, shake off the excess, and then coat with the batter. If you want an extra crunchy, thicker battered covering, re-dredge the tempeh a second time. Fry the tempeh in the skillet in batches, turning once, until golden brown. Place the pieces on paper towels to drain and sprinkle with salt.

Serve while hot with chips and tartar sauce on the side. Add lemon wedges for garnish, if desired.


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17 Responses to Extreme Vegan Makeover: "Fish" N’Chips Edition

  1. Loz March 16, 2015 at 1:14 pm #

    Can you tell me what seltzer is please? and what kelp flakes do you use.

  2. heather September 19, 2014 at 8:15 pm #

    hey, really fantastic! i made this recipe last night for a bunch of (mostly non-vegan) friends and it was a big hit, i can’t believe how great it turned out. thanks! and thanks for the old bay recipe too. i used “cajun spice” and dulse instead since it was what i had, but maybe i’ll try to make my own next time! A+!

    • Rhea September 22, 2014 at 9:47 am #

      Hi Heather, I’m so glad everyone liked it! I love Old Bay; it has all this good stuff in it. Thanks for letting me know! xoxo

  3. Michele R September 11, 2013 at 5:57 pm #

    Hi I have kelp powder instead of kelp flakes so how would I substitute this? I also have Nori sheets if that would be better.

    • Rhea September 11, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

      Either one is fine, Michele. It’s just for seasoning. The powder is fine or chop the nori really tiny. You don’t want to bite chunks of that. Hope it’s good!

  4. Rhea Parsons May 21, 2013 at 6:24 am #

    Hi Patty,
    I’m glad to hear you liked it. We like the leftovers even better than the original meal. We use them for “fish” tacos and po boys (recipes are on the blog). Yum!

    The Old Bay recipe is huge, isn’t it? It really helps if you can find it. Thank you for letting me know!

  5. Patty May 21, 2013 at 5:27 am #

    Made the “fish” last night with baked sweet potato fries and cole slaw…AWESOME! And the leftover fish re-heated to perfect crispiness in the toaster oven at work today (unlike real fish, which is just way too nasty for me the next day.) Had to use that recipe to sub for Old Bay, but that worked perfectly. Thank you!

  6. Elizabeth May 18, 2012 at 5:33 am #

    This looks just delicious! Am going to try it Memorial Day weekend. Thank you for giving me a veganizing break in the kitchen.

  7. Anonymous May 5, 2012 at 9:11 am #

    This looks really good. I tried tempeh once and thought that it had a weird taste. I might have also been influenced by the fact that it looked moldy and not very appealing. I plan on overcoming my tempeh traume with this recipe. 🙂

  8. Christina March 18, 2012 at 9:51 am #

    This was incredible, Rhea! It’s been over a year (when I went vegan) that I’ve been able to enjoy “fish” and chips. Thanks for bringing back one of my all time favorite meals!

  9. Rhea Parsons February 10, 2012 at 11:57 am #

    Old Bay seems to be secretive about their ingredients but I found a recipe for a substitute:

    Yield: Makes about 1/4 cup
    •1 tablespoon ground dried bay leaves
    •2 teaspoons celery salt
    •1-1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
    •1-1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
    •1 teaspoon sweet or smoked paprika
    •1 teaspoon ground celery seeds
    •1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
    •1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    •1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
    •1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
    •1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
    •1/8 teaspoon ground mace
    •1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
    •1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

  10. Tracey February 10, 2012 at 7:02 am #

    I have just bought a pack of Tempeh. Your recipe looks divine so i will have a go at making it. However, i am UK based and i have not come across Bay Seasoning before. If i knew what was in it i could substitute. What can i use instead?

  11. shawn duncan September 18, 2011 at 5:11 am #

    this looks amazing I will try this one for sure!! Ill get back with my review lol 🙂

  12. Anonymous August 30, 2011 at 10:15 pm #

    This is one of my favorite vegan meals ever!!!! Made the sandwiches with the red slaw and tartar sauce and made the chips on the side!!!


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