I am beyond excited about being able to share this vegan nougat recipe with you all for several reasons. Firstly, it was a true labour of love, but I had a lot of determination and some willing taste testers. Secondly, nougat is such a great childhood memory for me.
My maternal grandma was a massive connoisseuse of all things coffee and nuts – I have her taste buds for sure – and she always used to get this beautiful nougat in a one particular deli in Krakow, just before Christmas. It was soft, sticky and chewy, studded with crunchy nuts and sandwiched between two sheets of wafer.
It was amazing and I loved that stuff so when an idea to create vegan nougat struck me whilst out running (best food ideas come to me when I exercise!), I changed my Christmas recipe schedule I had planned and set to work. I can be determined and stubborn, especially when it comes to making food exactly how I want it 😛 – shame that doesn’t extend to other areas of my life…
While once you have a recipe firmed up, vegan nougat isn’t actually hard to make – although you do need some cooking skills, for sure – getting to a foolproof recipe without using egg whites or honey took a lot of attempts, heaps of nasty washing up and a bit of frustration. Now that I have my freezer (yes, it does freeze well, I tried it) crammed with boxes of this stuff and a cracking recipe for you just in time for Christmas, I feel like it was time well spent.
Vegan nougat, other than being a delicious dairy-free and eggless treat, makes for a fantastic homemade gift. If you still have a couple of people on your giftee list that are notoriously difficult to buy presents for, make them a box of homemade vegan nougat studded with their favourite nuts and your will see them beam as soon as they open the gift. This vegan nougat is not too difficult to make and I’ve taken plenty of photos to guide you through the process so I am sure you will nail it. Merry Christmas!
MORE ABOUT THE INGREDIENTS
AQUAFABA: In order to replace traditionally used egg whites in this vegan nougat, I used chickpea cooking water. I used chickpea water from a tin of chickpeas, but you can use use water from homecooked chickpeas instead. You can use water from most beans but I like using chickpea water as it’s fairly neutral in taste. I reduced it by 50% as that allowed me to produce a vegan nougat with better texture. Here is how to go about it: place 160 g (2/3 cup) of aquafaba in a small pot, simmer on low heat, uncovered, until reduced by half – i.e. you’ve got 80 g / 1/3 cup aquafaba. Cool down by placing the pot in several changes of cold water.
CREAM OF TARTAR: A small amount of acidic cream of tartar is great at stabilising the meringue. It’s useful when making all sorts of meringue based desserts and doesn’t cost much so it’s worth getting, but it can be substituted with a teaspoon of lemon juice too.
XANTHAN GUM: I like to use a tiny amount of xanthan gum in my meringue based desserts as it produces beautifully marshmallowy texture. There is no substitute for this ingredient, I am afraid and although the recipe will work without it, the texture is not as good.
SUGAR: White sugar is needed to make this sweet and quite a lot of it too. I used fine particle sugar, called caster sugar in the UK as it melts evenly, but any white sugar *should* work.
GOLDEN SYRUP: In order to make a successful nougat, vegan nougat or egg-based nougat, you need to use a type of sugar called invert sugar. Traditionally a mixture of honey and liquid glucose is used, I opted for golden syrup as it’s a type of invert sugar with a pleasant taste that’s widely available in the UK. If you cannot get it, liquid glucose or corn syrup will both work.
DRIED FRUIT AND NUTS: Nougat is all about chewiness of the nougat mixture and crunch of nuts so I added a generous amount of roasted (that’s important as it makes them crunchier and tastier) nuts. I also added some dried cranberries to one of my versions – they feel very festive and add a pleasant tang to otherwise a very sweet treat. I like both versions, one with and one without cranberries so pick what is most appealing to you.
VANILLA: Vanilla is self explanatory, I added a lot of it to enhance the flavour of my vegan nougat. You could also add some spice, like cardamom for example.
OIL: The nature of nougat is that it is very sticky so you’ll need a few drops of neutral oil – I used grapeseed oil – to grease the tin or else you’ll never be able to get the nougat out. An oil spray is handy, but I simply spread it with my fingers.
ORANGE ZEST: Since it’s a Christmas edition, I enjoyed my nougat with some orange zest, alongside vanilla, but that’s an optional addition.
CORNSTARCH: A thin dusting of cornstarch is handy for easier removal of this vegan nougat after it has set.
EDIBLE RICE PAPER: If you can get hold of edible rice paper sheets (they are typically made with potato starch but confusingly called ‘rice paper) or plan wafer sheets both of these are really handy to ‘frame’ the nougat in, but if they are too hard to find, don’t worry, lightly greased baking paper works fine too.
After you prepared the mould, start the process of making vegan nougat by combining sugar and golden syrup in a medium size pot. Stir them together, using a spatula, until uniform.
Place sugar syrup on a low heat and allow it to heat up slowly until it’s bubbly all over and reaches the temperature 150° C / 302 ° F. This will take 10-15 minutes so meanwhile whip aquafaba until it reaches stiff peaks.
Take sugar off the heat (how beautiful does it look, right?) and slowly pour it into the aquafaba mixture in a steady stream while the mixer is running. Take care to pour the sugar syrup onto the wall of the bowl, not onto the whisk.
Carry on whisking the mixture until you’ve used up all of the sugar syrup then whisk some more until the bowl is not longer hot to the touch (warm is fine) and the mixture falls in thick ribbons that linger on the surface for a few seconds before dissolving into the rest of the mixture.
Switch to a wooden spoon and fold your nuts and dried fruit into the mixture in two to three batches. This will be hard work, especially towards the end as the mixture thickens as it cools, so don’t give up.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared mould – I used a silicone one, but metal is fine too – and gently flatten it with a small rolling pin or with a round jar, for example.
Once flat, cover the top with edible rice paper or wafer sheet (if using) or with a lightly greased piece of baking paper. Refrigerate overnight. Cut when cold with a serrated (lightly greasing it helps) knife. Store in the fridge or freeze for later.
I made two versions, one with just nuts (below) and the other with the addition of festive looking dried cranberry, they are both delicious so take your pick. I am nuts about nuts so I probably, only just slightly, prefer the nut only version, but I do love how dried cranberries add a beautifully festive touch of colour and little pops of tartness.
- 80 g / 1/3 cup double strength aquafaba (SEE NOTES)*
- ¼ tsp cream tartar (or 1 tsp lemon juice)
- ¼ tsp xanthan gum
- 320 g / scant 1 cup golden syrup (or other invert sugar)
- 200 g / 1 cup caster sugar (or other white sugar)
- 150 g / 1 cup roasted pistachios*
- 135 g / 1 cup roasted hazelnuts*
- 75 g / heaped ½ cup dried cranberries or more nuts
- 1 tbsp vanilla paste or extract
- zest 1 large orange (optional)
THINGS THAT MINIMISE STICKING…
- neutral oil (I used grapeseed)
- cornflour / cornstarch
- edible rice paper or wafer sheets (optional)
- I recommend using a standing mixer as making vegan nougat with a hand-held whisk is hard work – the mixture gets very stiff.
- Grab a 20 cm / 8″ square tin (I used a silicone mould), baking paper, two flexible spatulas, a wooden spoon, a kitchen thermometer, an oil spray or a teaspoon of neutral oil and a pastry brush.
- If using edible rice paper or wafer sheets, cut them to the size of the tin. Before you lay rice paper/wafer sheets at the bottom of the tin, lightly grease the sides and sprinkle them with cornstarch, shake the excess off. Otherwise, use baking paper to line the bottom of the tin and grease it a little bit (I use my fingers).
- Combine sugar and golden syrup in a medium size pot with a spatula. Set on low heat and allow it to bubble until the mixture reaches 150° C / 302 ° F. This will take about 10-15 minutes, don’t rush this.
- Meanwhile, whip double strength aquafaba and cream of tartar in a standing mixer until soft peaks stage. Use a clean spatula to make sure all of the mixture is being whipped evenly.
- Add xanthan gum and carry on whipping until the mixture is stiff.
- The moment sugar mixture reaches 150° C / 302 ° F, take it off the heat and pour onto the wall of the standing mixer (avoid the whisk) in a slow, steady stream while the mixture is going at medium speed.
- Once you’ve used all of the sugar syrup, add vanilla and orange zest (if using) and carry on whipping the mixture until the bowl is no longer hot to the touch and the nougat mixture falls in thick ribbons.
- Switch off the mixer, grab a wooden spoon and stir in cranberries and nuts in 2-3 batches by hand. The mixture will become progressively thicker and stringy, that’s a good sign, keep going.
- Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin/mould. Pat it down with a slightly greased spatula, then cover with a slightly greased piece of baking paper and roll out flat so that it reaches to all of the corners and edges. I used a small roller, but you can use a round jar.
- Cover the top with edible rice paper / wafer sheet if using or with a piece of greased baking paper.
- Refrigerate for 8-12 hours to harden. Remove from the tin and cut into slices using a lightly greased, serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion.
- Store, in an air-tight box, in the fridge for up to 1 week or freeze for later. Keep away from airborne moisture as it will soften the nougat.
*ROASTED NUTS: I recommend buying ready roasted hazelnuts as they are a pain to peel, but if you cannot find them roast them in a 180° C / 355 ° F oven for about 8-10 minutes, until fragrant and lightly golden. Place hot nuts in the middle of a kitchen towel and rub between your hands to loosen up the skins. Roast pistachios in the same way but their skins do not require peeling. Cool the nuts before using.
This amount makes a 20 cm / 8 inch sheet that is 2.5 cm / 1 inch tall, which gives you at least 32 generous pieces.