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Extreme Vegan Makeover: Gluten-Free Spicy Italian Sausages Edition

Please note: there is a new and improved version of my Gluten-Free Spicy Italian Sausage recipe at this link

If I ever thought it was challenging to go vegetarian or Vegan, it was nothing compared to going gluten-free. Actually, being gluten-free is pretty easy when I’m doing the cooking. It’s no big deal to
switch out a type of flour or bread crumb mixture. But eating out is really tough. There aren’t many places that offer sandwich bread that is both gluten-free and Vegan. I’m pretty sure most places are not using gluten-free flours and try getting Chinese food with gluten-free tamari! Not likely.

It also means that most prepared Vegan meats are out too. Obviously, seitan is a no-no but so are store-bought tempeh bacon, veggie hot dogs and burgers and any products that contain vital wheat gluten (I miss you Gardein). I had given up most of these anyway since I was eliminating processed foods but I have to admit that I really missed Vegan sausages. They are in my Hoppin’ John recipe, we liked them for breakfast, on pizza and in pasta dishes. When we go to Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary events, they serve delicious grilled Field Roast sausages. It isn’t like we ate them everyday, they were an occasional treat. The problem is that there is no gluten-free alternative available that I am aware of. That meant it was time to make my own.

So I researched Vegan sausage recipes and most of them contain vital wheat gluten. That is what gives them that dense texture, that “bite” that you expect from a sausage. There are recipes out there that don’t use vital wheat gluten but those sausages are more like patties or soft links. You get the flavor but not the texture that would hold up on the grill. On one blog, someone asked if she could make the Vegan sausage recipe without the vital wheat gluten and was told, “No, it wouldn’t work.” Well, that was all I needed to hear (or read). The challenge was ON!

I have to admit this is the first recipe I’ve ever posted where I performed multiple tests and trials to get the final product (although I reserve the right to further improve upon it). Usually I make something, it tastes good, I might make a change or two the next time but that’s pretty much it. This time I felt like I was conducting a very important scientific experiment. And I wanted it done in time for summer cookouts.

First, I tried making Vegan sausages with lentils since I love them in my Lentil Burgers and Lentil Meatballs. But the flavor of the lentils overpowered the spices. So I moved to different types of beans. In the end, pinto beans were the best choice. They don’t have a lot of flavor on their own so they make a great blank canvas for the spices.

Next I had to get the spice mix right. I was going for spicy Italian and that took a few tries to get it the way I liked it. What I learned is that less spice is more. Too many spices and you can’t really taste any of them. Then the most important part: the texture. I went into this knowing that I was NOT going to exactly recreate the texture of a sausage with gluten. That’s important because so many times people try a Vegan version of something and get disappointed because it doesn’t taste EXACTLY like the non-Vegan version. My goal was to create a sausage that would be firm enough to be sliced and that would hold up on a grill.

My Sausages alongside some Sunshine Burgers

I tried adding brown rice to the mix but didn’t like that. Brown rice flour works much better. I could have used Texturized Vegetable Protein (TVP) but I didn’t want the recipe to have any hard-to-find or processed ingredients in it. The key to getting that firm texture turned out to be Xanthan Gum (which is also used in the gluten-filled sausages found in stores). Xanthan Gum is used as a thickener in baking and gravies. A bag of Xanthan Gum is a bit expensive BUT a little bit goes a very long way so it’s well worth the investment.

Finally, after multiple trials, it all came together. The right beans, the right amount of mushrooms, the right flour, the right spice mix and the right amount of Xanthan Gum. These sausages are delicious and flavorful. They can be grilled, pan-fried, sliced or crumbled. The spice mixture can be changed up to make them sweet Italian rather than spicy or Spanish flavored.

Make a double or triple batch and freeze them so you can always have some sausages on hand when you want them. Bring some to your next BBQ or picnic and don’t feel left out when everyone else is eating grilled sausages with peppers and onions. Glorious Gluten-Free Goodness!

Gluten-Free Spicy Italian Sausages


Spice Mix:
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 ½ tsp. fennel, crushed
½ tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1 tsp. smoked paprika
¼ – ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
½ tsp. oregano
1/8 tsp. allspice

2 tsp. + 2 tsp. olive oil
¾ cup mushrooms, chopped
¼ cup onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups or 1-15 oz. can of pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 Tbs. sun-dried tomato paste
¼ cup nutritional yeast
½ cup brown rice flour
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1 Tbs. gluten-free tamari
1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
(2 Tbs. of gluten-free, vegan Worcestershire Sauce can be used in place of the tamari and vinegar)
A few drops of Liquid Smoke (optional)


Prepare spice mix in advance. Set aside.

Heat a skillet with 2 tsp. of olive oil. Saute the onions, mushrooms and garlic until softened. Set aside and let cool.

In a large bowl, add the pinto beans and mash them up. You can use a fork, a potato masher or your hands. I prefer to use my hands. If you want to use a food processor, do a rough chop. You don’t want a puree. Then add the tomato paste, nutritional yeast, and brown rice flour. Mix well.

Sprinkle the xanthan gum over the mixture and incorporate it well.

Add the cooled veggie mixture to the bowl and mix it into the dry ingredients. Add the tamari and balsamic vinegar to the bowl and mix it all up well. If you are using the Liquid Smoke, add it in now too.

Divide the mixture into 4 parts. Shape each part into a log. Wrap the logs individually in foil and steam them for 15-20 minutes. I use a metal steamer that sits atop a large stockpot of boiling water. Then refrigerate for a few hours or overnight, if possible. This will help them firm up even more.

When ready to use, unwrap and cook them however you desire. We had them with sauteed bell peppers and onions. Yum!

Note: you can also shape the sausage into patties and if desired, cook them right away.

Please note: there is a new and improved version of my Gluten-Free Spicy Italian Sausage recipe at this link 

The “V” Word: Say it. Eat it. Live it.



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56 Responses to Extreme Vegan Makeover: Gluten-Free Spicy Italian Sausages Edition

  1. Nancy August 19, 2015 at 12:17 pm #

    Rhea, can you fix your print button so it prints the recipe, and not the 29 pages of comments?

    • Rhea August 19, 2015 at 12:32 pm #

      I would if I knew how, Nancy. The newer recipes are in a separate app thing at the bottom. Otherwise, I just cut and paste. If I figure out how to change it, I will though. xoxo

  2. loz August 19, 2015 at 3:22 am #

    Yep, sooooooo lovely. Just had my first two for breakfast. They turned out very well for my first attempt. Teff flour used was fine, I will use brown rice next time for comparison. Slightly soft inside and do they tatse like sausages, I don’t know never really been a sausage fan but they are damn lovely. So now I will make a huge batch for my freezer, as I do with the V beef and V Chicken. Thank you so much for this site, its helped me so much in my early days of eating vegan.

    • Rhea August 19, 2015 at 12:33 pm #

      Hi Loz, I’m so glad you liked them! xoxo

  3. loz August 18, 2015 at 2:35 pm #

    Just made these they are in the fridge ready for breakfast tomorrow! I didn’t have brown rice flour so I used Teff so see what happens.

  4. anonymous July 10, 2015 at 2:40 pm #

    Hi. I was just wondering if you could use cornstarch as the thickener instead of xanthan gum.

    • Rhea July 10, 2015 at 3:25 pm #

      Yes, you definitely can!

  5. Lorraine February 17, 2015 at 5:49 am #


    Can you tell me if the fennel is fennel seeds crushed or fresh fennel?


    • Rhea February 17, 2015 at 1:54 pm #

      I use ground fennel or you can crush the seeds.

  6. Jenny February 5, 2015 at 1:35 pm #

    I doesn’t tolerate mushrooms well and can’t STAND the smell of them cooking. Does anyone have any suggestions for substituting mushrooms in this recipe??

  7. anniy September 5, 2014 at 8:50 am #

    Hi, Can i use chick peas (pois de chiches) instead og beans will it work and still be good ? what happen is i do not put xanthan gum its this be a big mistake ?
    thank you

    • Rhea September 5, 2014 at 10:51 am #

      I never tried chickpeas. I think it could work but they are not as pasty as beans to hold together. But it works for falafel so maybe…

      Xanthan gum is necessary. People who have tried to make these without it or guar gum have had them fall apart. Xanthan gum or guar gum gives you the chew and the structure. I try not to use it much but sometimes you just have to. For patties, I would skip it since they don’t have to be as firm but for links, I say use it.

  8. Sarah August 3, 2014 at 7:33 pm #

    THANK YOU! My husband has really missed his store bought veggie sausages since we switched our kitchen GF after a celiac diagnosis in the family. It was SO nice to be able to produce these sausages and an added bonus that I knew exactly what was in them. They froze and defrosted perfectly too. Next time I will be making a double batch.

    • Rhea August 3, 2014 at 8:39 pm #

      Yay! Sarah, I’m so glad that you and your husband loved the sausages. I’m sorry to hear someone got a celiac diagnosis though. I’m sure it makes it hard for everyone but especially whomever has it. Maybe you should also try V-Meat which is my gluten-free version of seitan that you can make in “beef,” “chicken,” “turkey” and “sausage” flavors. It’s not as great as store-bought vegan meats but it’s pretty good. Thanks for writing. xoxo

  9. Sara November 19, 2013 at 11:58 am #

    Yes, you can get red pepper flakes in the UK- same as cayenne pepper flakes. If you can’t find it them simple ground chilli pepper available everywhere will do.

  10. Rayca October 11, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

    This looks so mouth-watering, I don’t know what to say except Thank you, Rhea!!! Can’t wait to try this weekend.

    • Rhea October 11, 2013 at 5:17 pm #

      Thank you. Make sure you read the updated post (the link is in the original post) because I changed a few ingredients.

      • Michael Hamlin May 29, 2015 at 7:45 am #

        What made you decide to change up some things? I noticed you use Blackeyed peas in the new recipes instead of Pinto Beans. Just curious.

        I was also wondering… would regular tomato paste work well for this instead of sun-dried? I’ve never seen that in any of my local stores.

        Thanks for this, btw. I just saw a Julia Child recipe for Braised Sauerkraut and I wanted something “meaty” to go with it and this looks perfect.

        • Rhea May 29, 2015 at 9:33 am #

          Hi Micahael, when I first tried the sausage recipe, I tried all different kinds of beans – kidney beans (thinking they would look meaty), black beans and pinto beans which were kind of neutral. But later I tried black-eyed peas for Hoppin’ John and decided to give those a try. I ended up liking the texture (less pasty than other beans) and the taste best.

          Yes, regular tomato paste is fine. I just had the sun-dried kind that day. It comes in a tube, by the way. Hope you enjoy them. xoxo

          • Michael Hamlin May 29, 2015 at 9:36 am #

            Thanks so much! I def can’t wait to try them. I’ll post back afterwards and let you know how everything turned out. 🙂

  11. Rhea Parsons August 4, 2013 at 3:16 pm #

    I buy xanthan gum online from Bob’s Red Mill or amazon. It is expensive but you use teaspoons at a time so it lasts long. I want to experiment with using chia, flax and psyllium as a substitute for the gums.

    I’m glad it all turned out well and that your husband liked it.

  12. Ildi August 4, 2013 at 1:00 pm #

    Thanks Rhea, it was all good at the end. In fact when I put pieces of it in my hubby’s quesadilla he asked me if I bought sausage? 😀

    I don’t have xanthan gum and no clue where to buy it so I used 6 times as much corn starch and in worked fine.

  13. Rhea Parsons July 31, 2013 at 5:23 pm #

    I would suggest poking the veggies until they are not so moist. But if you follow the recipe exactly and don’t leave out any ingredients, it should work. I make them all the time. The food processor should only be used for a rough chop. I usually make these by hand.

  14. Ildi July 31, 2013 at 3:13 pm #

    For the mushrooms and onion, yes I used the processor. Didn’t make it mushy but very fine. Do you cut big chunks? Also, the mushrooms let a lot of juice out!

  15. Rhea Parsons July 31, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    I don’t know. Were the veggies still hot? The mixture should feel firm like when you make burgers or meatballs. Did you use the food processor? If you process too long, it can become mushy.

  16. Ildi July 31, 2013 at 8:47 am #

    Yes, I meant EXTRA amounts of beans and rice flour, since the mixture is creamy

  17. Rhea Parsons July 31, 2013 at 8:36 am #

    The recipe is a whole can of beans and 1/2 cup of flour plus more if you need it.

  18. Ildi July 31, 2013 at 8:20 am #

    I put half can of beans and 1/4 cup rice flour in the mixture but it’s still creamy! Help 🙁

  19. Ildi July 31, 2013 at 7:59 am #

    I tried and it was all good until I needed to mix in the veggie mixture.. then it all got creamy so I’m not sure what to do now 🙁 🙁 add more flour..?

  20. Rhea Parsons March 13, 2013 at 6:54 am #

    silkgreen, I’m so glad you liked these. I improved them last summer though so check out the newest recipe at


  21. slkgreen March 12, 2013 at 12:09 pm #

    Thank you!!! I used to love making soysages from my left over okara, but when I was diagnosed coeliacs, I found the texture was all wrong with the gluten free flours – they still tasted nice but it was more like eating stuffing than the sausage texture I was after and they fell apart too easily!!! These are brilliant!!!! By the way I lined my 3 tier steamer with baking paper (to stop them sticking) and pierced holes in it so they don’t sit in the water and did 2 tiers of ‘sausages’ and 1 tier of ‘meat balls’. Once they are cooked and cooled I lay them on a tray and froze them, then put them in a container so I could pull out as many as I need – the meat balls tasted great with homemade tomato sauce and gluten free fettuccine!!!!

  22. Anne Seebaldt October 16, 2012 at 7:20 am #

    This sounds awesome for those trying to eat less meat and vegans/vegetarians.

  23. Rhea Parsons September 27, 2012 at 3:58 am #

    Thank you for all the comments. Please check out the new and improved recipe for gluten-free sausages that I did this past summer. It’s even better than this one!!

    Sunflower – the texture of these is close but not exact. The improved version is closer to animal sausage, much closer. Still not as exact as Tofurkey or Field Roast but much closer.

    • Naomi Pockell December 2, 2016 at 10:11 pm #

      I tried your lovely recipe because it sounded promising, and our family has a tradition of smoked sausage for Christmas/New Year’s Eve–usually made with pork shoulder and lovingly smoked for several days. That being said, we have a new generation of many more vegetarians and vegans, but we wanted to include them, so I thought to try this with Slovak spices (read: garlic, caraway and paprika) I haven’t come to the perfect blend of spices yet–this recipe seems to take in SO MUCH spice mix–I was astounded by the amount of garlic, but it was not even noticeable to this Slovak– but I’m experimenting. Thank you for all your work on the original recipe. My meat loving husband thought my first attempt, despite the lack of authentic seasoning for klebasy, was just great. The texture of these sausages is perfect. I imagine they could go anywhere, flavor-wise.

  24. Sunflower September 27, 2012 at 12:41 am #

    Hello! This recipe looks amazing! Is the texture really similar to a sausage? I’m really craving that texture… thanks! 🙂

  25. BODYFIRM September 25, 2012 at 8:42 am #

    Great recipe!! I made these last night, served them up on a bun with some raw sauerkraut and ketchup! Very good!

  26. whatdoyoueatthen August 14, 2012 at 11:56 am #

    Thank you so much for all your hard work researching !!!! I am so excited to make these!!

  27. Marcos July 17, 2012 at 5:35 pm #

    I just found out that one of soyboy’s veggie hot dogs is gf. Yup, I believe it’s their original one. No wheat gluten at all. Soyboy not dogs.

  28. Sherry Sivo June 4, 2012 at 12:44 am #

    Thank you!!! I was searching for non wheat gluten vegan sausage recipes. I have tried making my own with some success, but none satisfied the family. Can’t wait to try these. Thanks for posting your story of what you tried and what worked 😉

  29. Rhea Parsons June 3, 2012 at 12:07 am #

    D1, I don’t use a food processor to make my sausages or burgers. I mash the beans either with a fork, a potato masher or by hand. But you could use one so long as it doesn’t turn into a puree.

    I will clarify that. Thank you for pointing it out 🙂

  30. D1 June 2, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

    Question: By “mix it up well,” is it meant that one should mash up the beans? Or mix the beans and flours in a food processor? Seems like that direction is missing and it would be good to clarify it. I tried this with the beans–rinsed, drained, mixed up–and realized that I had whole beans with flours all over them. In their whole bean state, they didn’t make much of a shapable substance. I threw them in the food processor. Right? Wrong?

  31. Anonymous May 1, 2012 at 6:58 am #

    Thank you SO much for this recipe. I have celiac disease and had a hard time finding gluten free vegetarian or vegan sausage recipes, and I do sometimes miss sausage. The sausages made with your recipe held together great, although I just ran out of my binding gums and had to use potato flour instead. I really liked the texture and combination of spices, although I will scale down on the pepper flakes next time. Knowing with what little ingredients and at what a low price one can make these, I don’t understand why it’s so difficult to find more recipes or manufactured gluten free meat analogues.

  32. Rhea Parsons March 18, 2012 at 7:30 am #

    Lacie, thank you for letting me know how you liked them. I think mine were more “sticky beanie” than bready. I mean, you could tell they were made of beans and they weren’t going to fool anyone that they were gluteny Tofurky or Field Roast but they were definitely sausage-y. Ha, I think we used all the “-y” words.

    Whether to use more or less flour is really up to you. Bready might be better than beany. Maybe a drop more xanthan gum instead? Or more mushrooms if you prefer that flavor.

    You could make some little batches and try them different ways and see which way they taste best. Then make a bunch that way and freeze them because it’s a lot of work!!!

  33. Lacie March 18, 2012 at 6:30 am #

    I just made these and they are rocking!! can’t thank you enough. i’m usually a gluten goddess, now i’m a gluten free goddess (stole that from the website title)… my daughter is gluten free and breastfeeding so i have to watch what i eat.

    I added more flour to make them less sticky. should I have? after frying they were a little bready, but i prefer bready over sticky beany , but i’m wondering if i hadn’t added the extra flour what the texture would have been like on the inside.

  34. Rhea Parsons September 7, 2011 at 3:55 am #

    Yes, red pepper flakes is the same as crushed red pepper. Thank you for the comment. Hope you love them!

  35. Anonymous September 6, 2011 at 4:26 pm #

    OMG I love you for posting this I cannot wait to tey them.

    Red chili pepper flakes…is that the same as Crushed Red Pepper? Thank you for posting


  36. Vegan2Raw August 14, 2011 at 10:07 am #

    These look awesome! 🙂

  37. Rhea Parsons July 31, 2011 at 1:40 am #

    Carol, really? You can’t get red chili pepper flakes there? I’m amazed. There must be some hot pepper spice you can add…IF you want it hot and spicy. Maybe a spice blend or something?

  38. Carol July 30, 2011 at 7:02 pm #

    Bookmarked! I don’t think I can get all the ingredients over here in the UK but I’ll have a darn good go! Red pepper flakes is something we can’t get over here, I know that. Thanks for another great recipe Rhea 🙂

  39. Rhea Parsons July 30, 2011 at 8:51 am #

    Sailirwin, thank you so much. I love you too 🙂 I hope it tastes good.

    Katy, I look forward to hearing what you think.

    Skye, I had to try when I read that it “couldn’t” be done without gluten. But if you can make it even better, let me know. If anyone can, you can!

  40. Skye July 30, 2011 at 7:18 am #

    You’re blowin my mind Rhea! I thought creating awesome seitan sausages was a task. I’m more than impressed. Glad I have a blog to refer folks to that are gluten intolerant.

  41. Katy July 30, 2011 at 5:40 am #

    Sounds great!!! I am excited to try this!

  42. Sailirwin July 30, 2011 at 5:32 am #

    Rhea… I think I love you..:) Great recipe and seems lots of work you put in to get the sausage as healthy as possible and still delicious.. Great work..


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