A New Book for Vegan Barbecue and Soul Food Lovers

Book review by Kristina Sepetys



Vegan Mob: Vegan BBQ & Soul Food
By Toriano Gordon with Korsha Wilson
(Ten Speed Press, 2024)

Toriano Gordon is a passionate musician and rapper. He’s also the multi-talented chef behind the wildly popular Vegan Mob barbecue and soul food business. He grew up sharing food with his family and friends in the Fillmore (which he calls Fillmoe), a place he describes in his new cookbook as having been like “the Harlem of the West.” Health concerns led him to plant-based vegan eating but left him hungry for the comfort foods and flavors he grew up with. So, Gordon went to the kitchen. There, he figured out how to make his favorite dishes in a way he found healthier, starting with basics like macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, and brisket.

In his new cookbook, Vegan Mob: Vegan BBQ & Soul Food, Gordon shares the results of his experiments in 80 full-flavored, big-plate recipes. These are hearty, occasionally messy dishes that fill up and satisfy, even for those who might believe that plant foods are not up to the task.

Gordon begins with basics like Smoked Brisket made with Better Chew Steak (smoked for an hour, or if you’re short on time, with liquid smoke). He also offers a creamy, rich Smackaroni and Cheese and Mobba’Q Baked Beans spiced up with Beyond Meat sausages, plus lots of sides and sauces. Once you’ve mastered these dishes, you’ll be set to make Gordon’s over-the-top combinations like the Original Brisket Barbequito, which rolls up heaps of brisket, Smackaroni, baked beans, and lots of signature barbecue sauce in a stuffed-to-bursting wrap. While Gordon goes in for barbecue and soul food especially, he’s also a big fan of the Asian, Latin, and Caribbean foods he finds all around the Bay Area, so he came up with his own fusion dishes like the Deep-Fried Mob Chimichanga.

Gordon’s recipes helpfully list meat substitutes and other vegan products by brand names: Impossible Ground Beef, Beyond Meat Sausages, and Earth Balance butter are just a few. But he wanted to make sure not all recipes involve meat substitute products, so he also relies on beans, tofu, and other protein-rich foods. Most recipes use basic ingredients that are likely to be on hand at home or can be picked up easily at any supermarket, and while a number of dishes require smoking or deep frying, preparation is otherwise pretty straightforward.

More than a collection of recipes, Vegan Mob: Vegan BBQ & Soul Food is the story of Gordon’s life and aspirations, his childhood memories from growing up in the Fillmoe, and his deep involvement with the Bay Area music scene. It’s also the story of his journey to building a food business, which began with selling vegan barbecue and soul food out of his car trunk and at Bay Area farmers’ markets. But the endeavor that put Vegan Mob’s crowd-pleasing vegan dishes truly on the map for East Bay folks was the counter service at the historic Kwik-Way Drive-in on Oakland’s Lake Merritt. While that brick-and-mortar business is now closed, Gordon’s Vegan Mob continues selling from food trucks in San Bruno and Santa Rosa. If those locations are too far away for hungry East Bay folks to travel for a Vegan Mob Burger or another crowd fave, this new cookbook will fit the bill and help anyone make these satisfying vegan goods at home.


Smackaroni and Cheese

Excerpted with permission from Vegan Mob: Vegan BBQ & Soul Food by Toriano Gordon, published by Ten Speed Press

I grew up eating my grandma’s macaroni and cheese. It had Velveeta, evaporated milk, sometimes a can of Campbell’s Cheddar Cheese soup, and different kinds of cheese including cheddar. When I became vegan, grandma’s mac and cheese was one of the things that was hardest for me to let go. I knew when veganizing this that it had to look and taste right. We call it Smackaroni for a reason. It’s smackin’! (Aka: it’s hella good.) It’s creamier than most vegan macs because of the pea milk, which has an almost heavy cream–like consistency. I dice up slices of vegan cheddar along with the shreds to get pockets of cheese throughout. I like Daiya cheddar for this recipe because it melts perfectly. Make this for anyone who is skeptical about vegan comfort food. —Toriano Gordon

Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 (16-ounce) box elbow macaroni
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) vegan butter, preferably Earth Balance
  • 1 cup chopped green onions, white and green parts
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 to 4½ cups pea milk, preferably Ripple
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 (7-ounce) packs sliced vegan cheddar, preferably Daiya cheddar-style slices, coarsely chopped
  • 1 (7-ounce) bag vegan cheddar shreds, preferably Daiya cheddar-style shreds
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9 by 13-inch baking pan. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Cook the macaroni in the boiling salted water according to the package instructions, until soft. Drain the pasta and set aside.
  3. Melt the vegan butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the green onions and garlic and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the flour and cook until flour is slightly toasted with a slightly nutty aroma, stirring with a whisk, about 3 minutes.
  4. While whisking, pour in 4 cups of the pea milk and continue to stir until the sauce is thickened and smooth, about 5 minutes. Make sure to run the whisk along the edges of the pot to get all of the flour.
  5. Turn the heat down to low and add the salt, vegan chopped cheddar, and vegan cheddar shreds. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the shredded cheese is melted. If the sauce is lumpy, add an additional ½ cup of pea milk and whisk until smooth.
  6. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well to coat.
  7. Pour the mixture into the greased baking pan. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly.
  8. Let it cool for a few minutes and serve hot.

Reprinted with permission from Vegan Mob: Vegan BBQ and Soul Food by Toriano Gordon with Korsha Wilson copyright © 2024. Photographs copyright © 2024 by Ed Anderson. Illustrations copyright © 2024 by Photo Doctor Graphics. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Purchase book here.