Review of The New Vegetarian South


The New Vegetarian South

Jennifer Brule

The University of North Carolina Press

September 17, 2018

Blurb: In this enlightening cookbook, chef Jennifer Brule brings southern-style food together with plant-based approaches to eating. Her down-to-earth style and 105 recipes will immediately appeal to vegetarians, vegans, and meat-eaters alike. These dishes are also a boon for those who simply love southern food and want to learn more about options for flexitarian eating. Brule deliciously demystifies meat substitutes and flavors up familiar vegetables. Imagine vegetarian barbecue: Brule’s recipe for spicing, saucing, and oven-roasting jackfruit offers a robustly tasty alternative to pulled pork. Tofu is the perfect base for crispy Southern Fried Buttermilk Nuggets, and cauliflower beautifully fills in for shrimp in a Cajun-inspired etouffee.


I’ve heard that one question omnivores frequently ask of vegetarians is where they get their protein. That is not the question I’m asked most. The one I’m asked most is: if you started eating meat again, what’s the first thing you’d eat?

My answer to that question has altered over the years because I find new recipes by chefs who know what they’re doing so I no longer miss my favorite foods. As chef Jennifer Brule puts it in her new cookbook, The New Vegetarian South, by combining different things you can obtain the “flavor profile” of many of your favorite dishes without eating meat.

One of those foods I frequently mention is fried chicken. My mother used to make a mean southern fried chicken, and, frankly, I thought that was going to be one of those things that would just be a great memory until I saw Brule’s recipe for Southern Fried Tofu Nuggets, which is going to be one of the first recipes I try from this cookbook. Brule introduced me to a new method of preparing tofu and that is soaking it in brine. The recipe seems as though it will take some time, hopefully it will be worth it–and that’s another missed food I’ll cross off my list.

Brule also includes sections on different types of gravy. One, a Sawmill Gravy, which I’ve only heard called Sausage Gravy, is another going onto my immediate cook list. I am glad that she uses vegetarian sausage, which I have been using frequently in my cooking to add texture and flavor. So many vegetarian chefs seem to disdain using faux meats, but I’ve found that some of the better ones work very well as meat substitutes in traditional recipes. And they’re quick.

Savory pies. The past few years I’ve made pithiviers (puff pastry filled with veggies, cheese, and herbs) for Christmas dinner, with varying degrees of success. I’ve found that the more I experiment, the more I learn and the better the outcome. Brule includes an entire section on savory pies, which I can’t wait to try. Savory pies seem like one of the ultimate vegetarian comfort foods next to mac and cheese and mashed potatoes. One of the pies I can’t wait to try is Vidalia Onion and Clemson Blue Pie with Pecan Pretzel crust. Each one of those ingredients makes me say yum.

My tentative try list includes her recipes for crab cakes, which uses heart of palm, and oyster po’ boy, which uses oyster mushrooms. I’m sure my trepidation regarding the crab cakes is because I’ve only ever used heart of palm in salads (you might remember it became really big during the South Beach Diet craze) and can’t imagine their texture resembling crab, but I will give it a try (and I’m a sucker for anything that uses Old Bay seasoning). On the other hand, I have heard about substituting oyster mushrooms for oysters because of the similar taste. I just haven’t easily been able to locate oyster mushrooms (but then I can’t say that I’ve tried with any vigor).

There are also sections on appetizers, including some tempting warm dips, soups (oh, peanut soup I hear you calling my name), and side dishes.

Brule states in her introduction that by exchanging plant-based ingredients for meat doesn’t necessarily make these recipes healthy, but what it does is gives those of us who eat a plant-based diet, an opportunity to rediscover those foods we loved and discover new foods. While not all of the recipes look like foods I’ll enjoy, most do and I’m anxious to give them a try.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

rating: 4-and-a-half

4 butterflies and a ladybug out of 5 butterflies


4 thoughts on “Review of The New Vegetarian South

  1. Nice change from a romance review! Funny, fried chicken is the one thing I really miss, too, but then I realized it’s the “fried” part I really miss and I’ve found it again with battering (not beating, the other batter) veggies and frying those up like eggplant and zucchini. And you can make those with gluten-free flour so yay! Also, as a vegan, I don’t eat dairy, but I use coconut milk for baking and cooking and the best substitute for sweetened condensed milk for desserts is Nature’s Charm sweetened condensed coconut milk. I can eat that by the spoonfuls! Thanks for showcasing an alternative to meat!

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