Carrot lox on a bagel

Alternative ingredients have taken the culinary and consumer world by storm, yet it seems that this trend goes beyond health and wellness. While only 2% of Americans identify as vegetarians, that hasn’t stopped plant-based food from taking off across the United States (via Vegan Bits). Everyone has their own reasons for trying out alternatives to animal products; digestive issues, environmental concerns, pure taste preferences, and more can get consumers ready to try novel plant-based ingredients. Enter vegan lox, your new favorite animal-free substitute for cured salmon.

This delectable salmon-free lox can get anyone’s mouth watering and guarantees to make a splash when you need a vegan alternative to traditional lox. With a unique taste and texture all its own, this ingredient guarantees to win over anyone looking for some fishy flavor — even the staunchest meat-lover will find something to appreciate.

What is vegan lox?

Carrot lox on a seeded bagel

Traditionally, lox features strips of salmon belly that get brined in a saltwater solution or cured directly in salt. An authentic recipe takes about three months to prepare, says Epicurious. (Not all lox is created equal either — the Nordic variation gravlax adds an extra flavor dimension with dill.) Lox commonly finds itself on rye or pumpernickel bagels, with a thick coating of cream cheese and toppings like capers, red onion, avocado, and black pepper.

Many kinds of vegan lox require carrots as a suitable base. These vegetables come in colored varietals of yellow, white, purple, red, and of course, orange, which is by far the most popular, per Horticulture Magazine. The right type of carrot makes a great substitute for salmon when preparing vegan lox and truly provides the fishy flavor you need. In addition to the vegetable, all any home chef needs is some salt and seasonings to give this simple ingredient the extra pep to transform into vegan lox.

How is vegan lox made?

Stacked orange carrots

To make plant-based lox, you first need to assemble a couple of carrots. To have a finished product that is bright orange like salmon, orange carrots are the obvious choice (via Love and Lemons). Be sure to shave your carrot to resemble thin filets of tender salmon. After peeling the outer skin from your carrots, the vegetables need to be introduced to a lot of salt. Place the peeled carrots on top of a layer of salt in a baking dish and coat them with even more salt to cure the veggies. You then need to roast the salt-covered carrots, which resembles the way in which a chef makes smoked salmon. This process results in tender, juicy ribbons vegetables of carrot.

The prepared carrots will likely lack much of the flavor found in traditional lox on their own. To mimic the taste of the salmon found on top of your brunch bagel, simply season to preference. Many recipes use olive oil, paprika, lemon juice, rice vinegar, liquid smoke, and other ingredients. From there, you’re ready to top a bagel, stuff a sandwich, or spruce up a salad with your new vegan lox.

What does vegan lox taste like?

Carrot lox atop a bagel with capers and red onion on a black plate, next to a bowl of pineapple and blueberries

This vegan variation won’t have the exact same flavor as some slices of omega-3 rich salmon, but the cured, marinated carrot ribbons get dangerously close. The salt from the curing process, the softened texture, and the mix of flavors used in the marinade closely mimic traditional lox. You can even add some nori if you’re searching for that the fresh-from-the-sea tase, per The Edgy Veg. Pair your vegan lox with a thick bed of herbed cream cheese, capers, and tangy dill atop your bagel of choice, and you may forget you’re eating a vegetable.

You may notice a slight crunch or stiffness in the carrots that just doesn’t feel right; you can experiment with the thickness of the slices and the curing and marinating process to yield different results. If you’re looking to buy pre-made vegan lox, there are several options available, each with it’s own special taste. The vegan lox sold by The Very Good Butchers is made with carrots marinated in apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, hickory smoke flavor, and seaweed. Others (like the vegan lox sold by Sophie’s Kitchen) may not use carrots as their base ingredient.

Nutritional information about vegan lox

Carrot lox on cream cheese

When it comes to alternative eats, sometimes substituting for the original just doesn’t cut it. Vegan lox is a great trade-out for cured or smoked salmon, but it’s worth considering the nutritional differences between the two.

Carrots and salmon are both relatively low in calories within each of their respective food groups. Both supply bountiful vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, but when looking at essential fats and protein between the two, carrots simply cannot compete. A 3.5-ounce serving of smoked salmon yields 117 calories, 4 grams of fat, and 18 grams of protein, per Healthline. A 1/2 cup serving of carrots contains 25 calories and has 0.5 grams of protein (via WebMD). The difference is vast, but what ends up on your plate ultimately depends on if you want more protein and fats, or a lower caloric intake with a similar taste. Either way, you can’t go wrong with this vegan take on lox that can get anyone excited to top off a bagel when hunger strikes.