I knew after one bite this was the recipe. Layers of sweet, juicy, umami rich, sun dried tomatoes in crisp puff pastry. Finally, the vegan cheese straw alternative I’ve been looking for.
Pastry straws are technically retro, yet they never really went out of fashion. Easy to make, simple cheese straws have been a staple party snack for decades. Maybe they’re one of those rare timeless foods we’ll just always love? On the subject of always loving them, this is one of the recipes I needed to veganise yesterday!
The resulting recipe is simple to make, but has a bit of a story. We’ll get to that in a moment, but first of all I want to say these tomato straws are just two ingredients: sun-dried tomatoes and puff pastry. So don’t overthink it! Developing the recipe took time, but making them is super easy. I’ve given measurements for precision, but feel free to go casual with this one. You can make the strips as long or as short as you like. Thick or as thin, and twist them up a little or a lot. They’ll work out fine.
Vegan cheese substitutes
What I want to share most of all in this post is how I created the recipe. Replacing cheese with plants is always an interesting subject.
The search for something delicious and vegan to bake in a pastry straw sounds easy. So why am I so excited by this recipe? Why not stick anything you like in some pastry, twist it and bake it?
What quickly became clear is that cheese has a very useful property – it’s solid when assembling the pastry straw, then it melts during baking.
Lots of alternative things would be delicious in a pastry straw, but cheese straws are delicious because of their taste and their texture. It’s that contrast between the soft cheese layers and the crisp puff pastry. That’s a crucial thing I knew my vegan version must retain.
However, soft fillings were a disaster during assembly, they leaked out everywhere as soon as I tried rolling out the pastry. So I tried dry fillings – but the finished straws lacked the soft filling layers. Tasty, but very dry. My search for a vegan cheese straw alternative then took me to sun-dried tomatoes – specifically the ones packed in oil. They’re close in texture to melted, cooled cheese, they even add that juicy bite and satisfying, slightly oily texture. But they’re relatively solid. So far so good….
However, things weren’t solved immediately. The tomato pieces are slippery and tended to move around and pop out of the layers while rolling the pastry out.
Dusting the tomatoes with a little flour finally solved this last problem. Now they stay put and the pastry rolls out readily.
Using a block of ready-made puff pastry makes this a simple recipe – just assemble and bake. Perfect for a party when you need to make multiple easy snacks and saving time is welcome. Also a fun recipe to make with children.
Green Tip – Save the leftover oil from the jar of tomatoes. It’s delicious for dipping bread in or to use in recipes like my tomato soup.
I could have turned to a vegan cheese, but there’s so many out there it’s impossible to ensure a recipe will work with them all. Besides, I love showing the versatility of plants, and whole plants are my first choice in any recipe.
Sun-Dried Tomato Straws
- 280 g jar of sun-dried tomatoes in oil
- ground black pepper (to taste)
- 3 tablespoons plain white flour + extra for rolling pastry (aka all-purpose)
- 500 g block of ready-made vegan puff pastry* (room temperature)
- Remove tomatoes from the oil – shaking off any excess – then dice them in to chunks (roughly 1-2 cm). In a bowl, season them with a few good grinds of black pepper and stir in the 3 tablespoons of flour until they’re evenly coated.
- On a lightly floured surface roll out pastry to 30×45 cm, then cut into three equal pieces.Spread half of the tomato-flour mixture on one pastry piece, cover with another piece of pastry, spread with the remaining tomatoes, then finish the sandwich with the final piece of pastry. Press the pastry firmly to stick the layers together and trap the tomatoes inside
- Roll out the pastry again, using more flour as needed, into a 25×60 cm rectangle. Using a sharp knife (or pizza wheel), cut into ~3 cm strips. Twist them 2-3 times and place them on baking trays (1-2 cm apart). You'll need at least a couple of trays to fit them all.
Brush lightly with oil from the tomatoes jar and bake in the centre of a preheated oven (200 °C, Fan 180 °C, 400°F, Gas 6) for 20-25 minutes until golden. Allow to cool and firm a little before removing from the tray to finish cooling on a rack.