Every turducken should have a vegducken sidekick. Or perhaps vegducken should be the only star if you’re vegan. Our take on a healthy vegducken comes with an Asian twist! Combining 4 of the 5 primary tastes: Salty, sweet, bitter, and umami. Nothing sour about this vegducken.
What is vegducken?
The original vegducken was started by The Sporkful back in 2012. It consisted of sweet potatoes stuffed inside leeks, stuffed inside banana squash, along with veggie stuffing in between every layer. And it’s since been replicated in many forms.
Our version comes with Asian flavors and uses a similar base – butternut squash. It pairs squash with healthy Asian vegetables (including the most bitter one of the vegetable kingdom), for the ultimate and first Asian fusion vegducken.
Whether you make this during the holidays, or simply as a vegetarian and vegan roast, one thing is for sure – it’ll be a real show stopper!
What’s in Asian vegducken?
We created 4 layers plus an Asian-inspired stuffing:
- Butternut squash (outer layer)
- Eggplant (second layer)
- Bitter melon (last layer)
- Taro cake (the center, stuffed into the bitter melon)
In between each layer is our Asian take on stuffing – a hybrid of the inside of a delicious Chinese spring roll.
Ok, technically this is a hapa vegducken, since its outer butternut squash layer originates from Mexico and South America. But it’s completely Asian at its core!
Watch how to make Asian vegducken
- Soak your shiitake mushrooms and wood ear mushrooms overnight, so they’ll be ready in a pinch. If you didn’t get a chance to soak them overnight, soak them in hot water and cover for 30 minutes.
- Chop the taro cake stuffing and egg roll stuffing ingredients the night before to save time.
- Make sure you salt your bitter melon liberally, rest, then rinse with water. Salt it again before baking, as salt reduces the bitterness quite a bit.
- Be sure to wear gloves when cutting taro! The raw leaves and roots can irritate your skin.
What is bitter melon?
Bitter melon, also called bitter gourd, is a tropical vegetable grown in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. It takes the crown as the most bitter of all vegetables and fruit.
It also takes the crown as a nutrition powerhouse. For 100 grams of bitter melon, there’s 17 calories, 1g of protein, and 2.6g of fiber. It’s known to be packed with antioxidants, and have anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Bitter melon is shaped like a long and much wider cucumber with a bumpy and pebble-like skin on the outside. As you probably guessed, it tastes quite bitter even when cooked. Salting it and serving it alongside other sweet or salty vegetables and ingredients helps combat the bitterness!
Where can I find bitter melon?
Bitter melon is a common year-round Chinese vegetable that you should be able to find at a Chinese supermarket. Try calling ahead to see if they carry it.
If you’re unable to find one near you, you can swap out bitter melon with zucchini (though zucchini aren’t Asian veggies 😉 ).
What is taro?
Taro has been called “the potato of the tropics” as the cousin of the potato. It originates from Southeast Asia and India, grows in tropical climates, and is very popular in Chinese cuisine.
Taro has similar starchiness as a potato and is very nutritious. A cup of cooked taro has about 187 calories, 6.7g of fiber, and 18% of your recommended daily value of potassium.
In Asian cuisines, taro cake is a common and delicious dim sum dish. Taro is also used for many different desserts and loved for the natural light purple color it imparts – from ice cream, to smoothies, puddings, cakes, and more.
Can you freeze vegducken?
We don’t recommend freezing vegducken as the veggies and fillings are water-dense and won’t freeze well. It’s best to eat your vegducken as leftovers!
Vegducken Asian Style
- Kitchen twine
- Basting brush
- 1 (9", 4.5 lbs) butternut squash
- 1 (8", 2 lbs) eggplant
- 1 (6", 500g) bitter melon
- 1/4 (lb, 250g) taro root
Butternut squash layer
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp sweet ginger glaze
- salt sprinkle
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp sweet ginger glaze
- salt sprinkle
Taro cake stuffing
- 1/4 cup rice flour or cassava flour (for paleo and keto)
- 1.5 tbsp tapioca flour
- 1/2 cup water for rice batter
- 1 tbsp reserved shiitake liquid for rice batter
- 2 tbsp olive oil for cooking
- 2 tbsp shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated and diced about 2 dried shiitake
- 2 tsp garlic, minced about 2 cloves
- 3 green scallions, chopped
- 1 shallot, diced or 1/4 red onion
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp five spice powder
- 1/4 tsp white pepper
- 1/4 tsp sesame oil
Spring roll stuffing
- 2 tbsp shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated and sliced about 2 dried shiitake
- 1/4 cup wood ear mushrooms, rehydrated and diced about 1.5T dried wood ear
- 1/4 cup water chestnuts, diced
- 1/4 cup bamboo shoots, chopped into 1" pieces
- 1/4 cup carrot, diced
- 2 green scallions, chopped
- 1 shallot, diced
- 1 tsp garlic, minced about 1 clove
- 1/2 tsp ginger, finely minced
- 1/2 tbsp soy sauce or coconut aminos (for paleo and keto)
- 1/2 tbsp sake or any white cooking wine
- 1/2 tsp white pepper
- 1/4 tsp sesame oil
- 1/4 tsp salt to taste
- 2 tbsp almond flour
- 1 tbsp tapioca flour
- 1 flax egg mix 1 tbsp flax meal with 3 tbsp water
Sweet ginger glaze
- 2 tbsp soy sauce or coconut aminos
- 1.3 tbsp maple syrup (use 1T + 1 tsp)
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar or white vinegar
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp garlic, minced about 1 clove
- 1 tsp ginger, minced about 1/2" piece
- 1 tsp white pepper
- dash salt to taste
- Preheat oven to 350°F (204°C).
Rehydrate dried mushrooms
- In 2 separate bowls, soak shiitake mushrooms and wood ear mushrooms in hot water for at least 30 minutes. Reserve shiitake mushroom liquid for later.
Make flax egg
- In a bowl, mix 1 tbsp flax meal with 3 tbsp water. Set aside to gel for 20 minutes.
Prep eggplant and bitter melon
- Cut your eggplant in half lengthwise. Scoop out the insides, leaving a 1/2" layer (you can chop and eat the insides later).
- Cut your bitter melon in half lengthwise. Scoop out the insides and toss.
- Salt both eggplant and bitter melon, and rest 20 minutes to sweat out any bitterness.
Prep butternut squash
- Cut your butternut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds (save for later and roast!). Use a knife to score the squash, leaving a 3/4" border. Score and scoop with a melon scooper (easier than a spoon).
- Drizzle olive oil on butternut squash insides, and rub in oil. Sprinkle with salt.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and roast butternut squash for 15 minutes at 350°F.
Prep taro cake
- Peel and chop taro into 1/4" cubes. Reserve 1/4 of it.
- In a small pot, add water halfway, then bring to a boil. Drop in the reserved taro. Boil for 10 minutes, until soft. Drain, then mash with a fork. Add 2T reserved shiitake liquid to make a taro slurry.
Make the taro cake rice batter
- In a bowl, add rice flour and tapioca flour. Slowly add 1/2C water and 1T reserved shiitake liquid, and mix into a smooth batter (it should be pretty runny).
- In a sauce pan, add 2T oil, and brown oil and garlic for 4 minutes. Add all other taro cake ingredients including taro slurry, except the rice batter. Mix on low to medium heat for another 4 minutes.
- Give the rice batter a mix, then slowly add to the taro cake mixture. Cook on low heat and stir until it thickens.
- Steam in a bowl on medium heat for 30 minutes.
Finish prepping layers
- Take out butternut squash from oven, and transfer to another pan to cool.
- Place eggplant on same parchment paper and pan from squash. Drizzle eggplant skin and insides with olive oil. Roast skin side down at 350°F for 20 minutes.
- Rinse bitter melon with water, then dry with paper towels. Drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt.
Make spring roll stuffing
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl, except for almond flour, tapioca flour, and flax egg. Mix well.
- Mix in almond and tapioca flour. Then add in flax egg and mix well.
Make your sweet ginger glaze
- Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, and mix well.
Assemble your vegducken
- Take out eggplant from oven and cool 10 minutes.
- Take out steamed taro cake and cool 5 minutes.
- Baste butternut squash and eggplant insides by brushing with sweet ginger glaze.
- Place butternut squash on a pan lined with aluminum foil.
- Fill bottom and sides evenly with about 1/4" of spring roll stuffing. Spread and press to flatten.
- Take your eggplant halves and trim them lengthwise to fit inside the squash. Nestle the eggplant halves inside the squash halves.
- Fill eggplant halves evenly with about 1/4" of spring roll stuffing. Spread and press to flatten.
- Take your bitter melon halves and trim them lengthwise to fit inside the eggplant. Nestle the bitter melon halves inside the eggplant halves.
- Fill bitter melon halves all the way with taro cake stuffing.
- Align squash halves, and place one half on top of the other. Press down gently to seal the vegducken. Baste outside of squash with sweet ginger glaze.
Tie your vegducken
- Cut 2 long pieces of kitchen twine.
- On one side of the vegducken, slip one piece of twine under the bottom and tie tightly around squash to seal it.
- Repeat for the other piece of twine, on the other side of the vegducken.
Bake your vegducken
- Cover your vegducken in aluminum foil.
- Bake at 350°F for 1 hour, covered.
- Then, unwrap aluminum foil, and bake for another 1 hour or longer, uncovered.
- Your vegducken will be ready when a long wooden skewer can pierce through it easily, or it’s soft to the touch.
- Take your vegducken out of the oven, and let it cool for 15 minutes.
- Slice and baste sliced pieces with more sweet ginger glaze. Serve and devour!
- In addition to trimming your eggplant and bitter melon lengthwise to fit in the squash shell, you can trim them crosswise to fit more closely depth-wise inside the butternut squash. This lets you have a tighter enclosure between the 2 vegducken halves without the inside layers showing.
- When baking your vegducken, you can use a deeper dish, and place crumpled aluminum foil along the sides to prevent it from rolling.
Serving Size 1" slice
Servings Per Container 8
Amount Per Serving
Calories 310 Calories from Fat 100.8
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 11.2g 17%
Saturated Fat 1.5g 8%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 806.1mg 34%
Total Carbohydrate 52.6g 18%
Dietary Fiber 11.5g 46%
Protein 6.2g 12%
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Did you try this recipe?
Drop a comment or tip below, pin it to Pinterest, and share a photo of your vegducken on Instagram and tag us #ainayums!