Rice University Brings Smoky Vegan Barbecue Brisket to Texas

Private research university William Marsh Rice University, also called Rice University, is stepping up its food game. Local news source Texas Monthly reports that West Colleges Servery, one of Rice University’s dining halls, is “on a mission” to provide students with vegan options that appeal to all taste buds, particularly those of meat-loving Texans.

In many ways, Rice University is just like other colleges in the United States. Its 300-acre campus, located in Houston, Texas, sees its more than 7,000 students navigating lecture rooms, science labs, and football fields. But in at least one way, the school stands out above the others. Its plant-based versions of ham, corned beef, pastrami, turkey, and sausage were all crafted by the university’s culinary team, led by senior executive chef Roger Elkhouri.

The school reached out to Texas Monthly’s Barbecue Editor, Daniel Vaughn, inviting him to visit the campus to sample its latest vegan creation: brisket. In an episode of the Texas Monthly podcast called “Fire & Smoke,” Vaughn admitted he was “dubious” and “skeptical” about the vegan creation at first. He also felt averse to calling it “brisket,” considering that it is made from seitan, a high-protein vegan meat made from vital wheat gluten, and not an animal.


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A plate filled with #plantbased protein. We love it. #ourplantbasedjourney #riceuniversity #delicious

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However, Vaughn agreed that a familiar name could attract attention, “The phrasing here of Vegan Plant-Based Brisket is a way to sell a less familiar alternative. I guess ‘Vital Wheat Gluten Loaf’ likely wouldn’t make it off the shelves in Texas, but Plant-Based Brisket has a shot I guess.”

The vegan brisket took roughly one year to perfect, according to senior executive chef Roger Elkhouri, who created the dish. It was an arduous process; the chef admitted that he would cry on the way home during the time he was working on the vegan meat. The final product is made from 95 percent vital wheat gluten (which is also called “wheat protein”) mixed with water, spices, liquid smoke, and the “secret ingredient” – porcini mushroom powder.

According to Elkhouri, introducing the option is all about inclusivity, since many students at Rice University “don’t eat meat at all.” However, the brisket, along with the other plant-based meats available, are “for everybody, not just for vegans.”

And according to the chef, the plant-powered dish has been a hit. “We fooled a lot of people,” he said, revealing that initially, many believed the brisket was meat. Now, the school sells 400 vegan meat sandwiches a day.

“The future is plant-based,” Elkhouri said. He added that his next goal is to craft plant-based pork ribs and pork belly.

Rice University joins others creating animal-free versions of meat. Brooklyn-based “vegetarian butcher shop and deli,” Monk’s Meats, makes realistic plant-based meat which is served at pop-up events and markets throughout New York City. It is also available for wholesale in the NYC area. Monk’s Meats own vegan brisket, pictured in the lead, Maple Brown Butter Seitan Brisket, can be purchased online.

Image Credit: vegan_abolitionniste 

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