Buttery, fluffy, homemade biscuits are a beloved American food, and a much-requested bread in our home as well. That's why, a decade ago, I came up with this vegan recipe for a classic buttermilk biscuit and shared it with you on the blog. Many of you have made it since, and loved it, so I wanted to bring it back to the front for those of you who are newer here.
For as long as I lived in India, where English was a legacy of the British colonizers, a biscuit, for me, was any hard cookie to eat with my tea. But once I'd moved to the United States, I fell in love with the southern biscuit: a flaky, light, buttery treat that crackles like a dream between your teeth before it can melt in your mouth.
Homemade biscuits come together really quickly, so they're the perfect bread to bake up when you're in a hurry or have guests. And they need just six ingredients, most of which you almost certainly have in your pantry.
They are also utterly easy to make, with a few caveats to keep in mind. I'm going to share them with you today, so you can make the most delicious vegan biscuits that'll get you rave reviews from everyone who eats them.
How to make the perfect vegan biscuits:
- I've made vegan biscuits with just about every kind of wheat flour -- whole wheat flour, a mix of whole wheat and all purpose, a mix of all purpose flour and whole wheat pastry flour -- but the version I love the most is made with unbleached all purpose flour. If this is something you'd rather not do, and I completely understand, substitute half the all purpose flour with regular whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour. Your biscuit won't be as light as one made with only all purpose flour, but you'll still get a delicious biscuit.
- Making a biscuit dough is not unlike making a pie dough -- it's exactly the same, actually, except that you add leavening -- in the form of baking powder and baking soda -- to your biscuit dough. So for best results, make sure your liquids are at the lowest possible temperature -- use them straight out of the refrigerator -- and keep the butter in the refrigerator until you're ready to use it.
- Keeping ingredients cold all the way until the time you use them is especially important if you're working in a warm kitchen, or making these in warmer weather. I love baking biscuits this time of the year because a fall or winter kitchen is friendlier to biscuit-making and you don't have to work as fast to make sure you get great results.
- Use a fork to mix your dough. Your hands are warm, and warmth is not really a good thing for your biscuits -- until the time they hit the oven. You will need to touch your dough a few times, while putting it in cling wrap or while rolling it, and that's fine, of course. Just don't do all of the mixing with your hands.
- The reason you want to keep things cold is because flakiness and lightness are two essential characteristics of a biscuit -- you don't want those "nice, fluffy" rocks Lucy served Mr. Ritter. And when you keep your dough cold, you minimize chances of the butter melting into your dough. When there are pockets of butter in your biscuit dough, and when the warmth of the oven hits the biscuits, the fat melts, creating little pockets of air that give your biscuits all that desirable flakiness.
- After you've made your dough, be sure to refrigerate your biscuit dough for at least five minutes so, in case things began to melt, they have a chance to firm up again.
- Roll your biscuit dough on a floured surface, but don't over-flour it. You want enough flour to keep your dough from sticking, and you should also flour your rolling pin as well as scatter a bit of flour on top of the dough to make rolling easier.
- You have a few choices with the size, shape and height of your biscuits. I use a two-inch round cookie cutter and I roll my dough about ½-inch thick, which gives me around 12-14 biscuits each time. If you like taller biscuits, you can roll the dough out thicker and make fewer biscuits. You can also use a square or rectangular cookie cutter, although round biscuits are more common, but who's to stop you from being a maverick?
- To make my biscuits a pretty gold on top, I brush on a mixture of a teaspoon of nondairy milk mixed with a teaspoon of oil. This is entirely optional, but looks great.
How to make vegan biscuits gluten-free:
After posting this recipe, some readers asked how they could be made gluten-free, so I went to the kitchen at the first chance I had and baked up a gf version. They turned out so beautifully, I couldn't wait to share them with you. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Use an all purpose gluten-free flour, which makes this process much easier. I use King Arthur's measure for measure flour which already has xanthan gum added. If using a flour that doesn't have xanthan gum, add ½ teaspoon of gum to the flour.
- The flour I used already has tapioca flour in it, but even so, I add an additional tablespoonful to help these hold together.
- Gluten-free flours tend to be a little thirstier than regular all purpose flour, so you might need the entire cup of nondairy milk mixed with apple cider vinegar. If your dough still refuses to hold together, sprinkle a few more drops of nondairy milk until it does.
- Don't roll out your gf biscuit dough--pat it into a circle using your hands before you cut out the biscuits with a cookie cutter.
- The biscuits will not look as golden-brown as the non-gf version does, but when you take them out of the oven, the tops should look lightly golden.
What do you serve with these vegan biscuits?
Because biscuits are basically a quick bread, they taste delicious served with any meal, breakfast, lunch or dinner. Traditionally, biscuits are eaten with gravy, and we love them smothered in oodles of this delicious vegan mushroom gravy that I make each Thanksgiving. But they go just as well with a vegan stew and they make a perfect breakfast, especially when served with vegan scrambled eggs. Or try them in their stark, naked glory.
- Unbleached all purpose flour. Or a mix of unbleached all purpose and whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour.
- Baking powder: For leavening, along with baking soda.
- Baking soda
- Nondairy milk. I use almond, but you can use oat or soy for a nut-free version
- Apple cider vinegar. This, combined with the baking soda, gives a nice lift to the vegan biscuits.
- Vegan butter. Vegan butter adds wonderful, buttery flavor to the biscuits.
Additional ingredients for making these vegan biscuits gluten-free
- Gluten-free all purpose flour. Instead of regular all purpose or wheat flour)
- Tapioca flour
- 1 cup almond milk (cold, straight from the refrigerator. Can use any nondairy milk with the same results)
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 cups unbleached all purpose flour (equal amount of gluten-free flour if making these gf, plus 1 tablespoon tapioca flour added. If your gf flour doesn't have xanthan gum, add ½ teaspoon of the gum)
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 5 tablespoon vegan butter (very cold, straight from the refrigerator. Cut into small cubes just before adding to flour)
- Mix the nondairy milk with the vinegar and set aside in the refrigerator for a couple of minutes to curdle.
- Place the flour in a bowl with the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk together. Add the butter to the bowl and, using a fork or a pastry-cutter, "cut" the butter into the flour until you have a coarse mixture with a few pea-size pieces of butter. (Cutting the butter into the flour is just a fancy way of saying you press down on the pieces of butter with the tines or your fork or your pastry cutter to cut the butter into smaller bits)
- Slowly, using a fork to mix, drizzle in the nondairy milk and vinegar mixture. You may not need all of the milk depending on your climate. Your dough should be moist enough to come together in a ball, but not wet.
- Wrap the biscuit dough in cling wrap, flatten into a disc, and place in the refrigerator for at least 5-10 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F
- On a floured surface, roll out the disc of the biscuit dough. The thicker you roll your dough, the taller your biscuits will be, so you have a choice here. The thicker you roll your dough, the fewer biscuits you'll get. I roll my dough about ½-inch thick and I get 12-14 two-inch biscuits, which is perfect for me. (If you are making gluten-free biscuits, don't roll out the dough. Instead, flour the surface well with gf flour, then pat the dough into a circle using your hands.)
- Use a two-inch round cookie cutter to cut the biscuits and place them at least an inch apart on an unoiled baking sheet. Reroll any leftover scraps of dough and make more biscuits.
- If desired, and this is optional, brush the tops of the biscuits with a mixture of 1 tablespoon soy milk and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil for a nice, golden-brown color.
- Bake the biscuits for 12-14 minutes or until the tops are a nice, light gold. (If making these gluten-free, you will need to bake these around 18 minutes)
- Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.