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Easy Vegan Jalapeño Poppers (Baked or Air Fryer)

Perfect for sharing, these easy Vegan Jalapeno Poppers are tangy, creamy, spicy, and better than the original! These sizzling bites make the perfect appetizer or low-carb party snack. Made with eggplant “bacon” and cashew cream cheese, this poppable paleo appetizer is rich, decadent, and perfect to make for your gluten and dairy-free friends.

vegan jalapeño poppers on baking try

This post was originally published on April 19th, 2020.

You guys. I finally made VEGAN BACON and VEGAN CREAM CHEESE!

On. The. Same. Day. 
What a day!

It wasn’t as tricky as I’d thought, once I figured out the oven temperatures for the bacon and the seasoning for both. Cutting out the bacon in this recipe and replacing it with eggplant essentially cuts the calories in half, and as a short person, that’s important!

hand holding vegan jalapeño poppers

❤️ Why you will love this Jalapeño Popper Recipe

Easy to make: This party food snack is surprisingly easy to make!

Make veganified favorites: You’ll learn how to make vegan cream cheese & vegan eggplant bacon! These two recipes by themselves are so versatile.

Fits many diets: This easy vegan recipe is gluten free, dairy free, and paleo.

Portable: I have layered these both cooked or uncooked in Tupperware to transport them with no issues! It’s the perfect game day food for sharing at events like the super bowl.

Just can’t get enough! They’re called “poppers” for a reason! This tasty snack is totally poppable. You won’t be able to stop!

🗝️ Key Ingredients & Substitutions

  • Jalapeño peppers: The fire, sizzle, and kick. Jalapeño peppers are one of my favorite veggies!
  • Cajun seasoning: This adds just a little extra flavor to the jalapeno poppers. It’s optional but highly recommended.

Eggplant Bacon

  • Eggplant: Also known as aubergine, we’re going to slice the eggplant as thinly as possible so it can soak up all of the smoky maple flavor.
  • Smoked paprika: Adds a hint of smokiness and color.
  • Maple syrup: Bacon often is smoked with maple wood so to recreate that in this vegan version I chose to add in some maple syrup.
  • Liquid smoke: Yes, more smokiness! This excellent ingredient is vegan too.
  • Coconut aminos: Saltiness, sweetness, and umami is added to these baked poppers with coconut aminos. Soy sauce is a great substitute. You may want to add a little more maple syrup if you use soy sauce instead.

Vegan Cheese Mixture

  • Cashews: These nuts, to me, don’t have a very strong flavor so they make the perfect foundation for the filling.
  • Nutritional yeast: For some cheesy flavor.
  • Unsweetened almond milk: You can use your preferred dairy-free milk of choice but I like the neutral taste of unsweetened almond milk for cooking.
  • Mustard powder: This helps to imitate the sharpness of cheese.
  • Garlic powder and onion powder: Well…garlic and onion just make everything taste better! Omit these ingredients if desired but I love them in my vegan cheese.
  • Lemon juice: Again for a little sharpness. You can also omit this ingredient if needed.
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🥣 How to make these easy jalapeño poppers

There are 3 steps!

How to make Eggplant Bacon

The night before:

1. Using a mandoline slicer if you have one, or a sharp knife, slice the eggplant into thin strips lengthways

2. Cut the slices in half lengthways so that you have 2 long strips. I did this after marinating but I think it’s best to do it before.

Eggplant sliced in half.

3. Mix all of the marinade ingredients together.

Vegan bacon marinade in a white bowl with a spoon.

4. Marinade the eggplant overnight in the fridge.

Pouring marinade over eggplant.

The next day:

5. Preheat oven to 110°C/230°F and line a baking tray with parchment paper.

6. Place the eggplant on the parchment paper and bake it for 10 minutes. It should be cooked but not crispy.

Eggplant on parchment paper on a baking sheet.

7. Allow the eggplant to cool to the touch.

How to make Vegan Cream Cheese:

1. Soak the cashews for at least 30 minutes in boiled water (preferably overnight).

2. Add soaked cashews and the rest of the cheese ingredients to a blender or bowl and blend until it forms a paste. I used a hand blender but a food processor would work great too.

Assemble the Vegan Jalapeno Poppers:

1. Turn the heat on the oven up to 160°C/320°F.

2. Cut the jalapeños in half lengthwise. I usually leave the stem on because I like how it looks, but feel free to cut the stems.

Slicing a red jalapeno pepper in half.

3. Remove all the seeds and veins from the jalapeño peppers with a spoon.

4. Spoon the cream cheese mixture into the jalapeño pepper halves OR fill a piping bag with the cashew filling and pipe it into halved peppers.

Spooning cheese mixture into jalapeno halves.

5. Wrap the eggplant bacon around the vegan stuffed jalapenos.

Jalapeno popper wrapped in eggplant bacon.

6. Place the vegan jalapeno poppers on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

7. Sprinkle the stuffed jalapeños with cajun seasoning.

Jalapeno poppers sprinkled with cajun seasoning.

8. Bake for 20 minutes until the eggplant and vegan cheese begin to turn golden brown.

9. Allow the baked jalapeño poppers to cool for a couple of minutes before digging in.

vegan jalapeño poppers on baking try

🫙 Storage Instructions

Fridge: Vegan Jalapeno Poppers will keep in an airtight container for 3-4 days, and they also taste great cold!

If you want to reheat them, just pop them back in the oven on a baking sheet, microwave, or air fry them for 10-15 minutes at 160°C/320°F, or until they’re warm.

🪄 Recipe Tips

Bread crumbs: You can sprinkle some regular, panko breadcrumbs, or gluten-free breadcrumbs over these easy vegan jalapeno poppers for a crispy topping!

Cheese: You can’t really replace the creamy cheese filling with vegan cheddar cheese or even regular vegan cream cheese. It just melts into a puddle. I did try! Stick to the recipe for the creamy filling!

Extra cheesy filling: If you have some cream cheese leftover (or happen to make double!) it makes an excellent dipping sauce with tortilla chips!

Wear gloves: Jalapeno peppers can be pretty spicy food and when you’re slicing them they can actually burn your hands (speaking from experience!). You can avoid this by wearing gloves while you slice them and remove the seeds and veins. Take care not to touch your face, especially your eyes after handling hot peppers.

🔥 Can I make these in the air fryer?

Sure, why not! Air frying jalapeno poppers is a great way to make smaller batches of this amazing finger food.

Preheat the air fryer to 160°C/320°F. Spray some olive oil if needed and carefully add the jalapeño poppers to the air fryer basket. Air fry them for 10-15 minutes until they begin to turn golden brown. Remove the air fryer jalapeno poppers from the basket and allow them to cool for a few minutes before eating.

Jalapeno poppers on wooden board with jalapeños and eggplant

😋 More vegan recipes you will love

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📖 Recipe

Vegan jalapeño poppers on baking tray.

Vegan Jalapeño Poppers Recipe

Bethany Galloway
Vegan Jalapeño Poppers are tangy, spicy, salty, and absolutely irresistible! Made with eggplant “bacon” and cashew cream cheese, these popable bites are Whole30 compliant + paleo + gluten-free + dairy-free.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Course Vegan
Cuisine American
Servings 24 poppers
Calories 69 kcal

Ingredients
  

Eggplant Bacon:

  • 1/2 medium eggplant sliced (see instructions)
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoky paprika
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1/2 tablespoon liquid smoke
  • 1/2 tablespoon coconut aminos

Cashew Cream Cheese:

  • 250 g cashews soaked*
  • 1/2 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup + 1/2 tbsp unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon juice to taste

Other ingredients:

  • 12 jalapeños
  • 1 tablespoon cajun seasoning

Instructions
 

Eggplant Bacon:

    The night before:

    • Using a mandoline slicer if you have one, or a knife, slice the eggplant into thin strips lengthways.
      A hand holding up thinly sliced eggplant.
    • Cut the slices in half lengthways. You'll have two long, thin pieces of eggplant per slice.
      Eggplant sliced in half.
    • Mix the smoky paprika, maple syrup, liquid smoke and coconut aminos together.
      Vegan bacon marinade in a white bowl with a spoon.
    • Mix the eggplant with the marinade and marinate the eggplant overnight.
      Pouring marinade over eggplant.

    Next day:

    • Preheat the oven to 110°C/230°F and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
    • Bake the eggplant in a single layer for 10 minutes. It should be cooked but not crispy.
      Eggplant on parchment paper on a baking sheet.
    • Allow the eggplant to cool.

    Vegan Cream Cheese:

    • Soak cashews in boiled water for at least 30 minutes (preferably overnight).
    • In a medium bowl, add the drained cashews, nutritional yeast, unsweetened almond milk, mustard powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt.
      Cashew cream cheese ingredients in a large white bowl.
    • Blend it together until it forms a paste with either a hand blender or a food processor.
      Blended vegan cream cheese in a white bowl with an immersion blender.

    Assemble the Vegan Jalapeño Poppers:

    • Turn the heat on the oven up to 160°C/320°F (or see below for air fryer option).
    • Cut the jalapeños in half lengthways. I usually leave the stem on because I like how it looks, but feel free to cut the stems.
      Halved jalapenos, deseeded.
    • Remove all the seeds and veins with a spoon.
      Scooping seeds and veins from a jalapeno pepper with a spoon.
    • Spoon vegan cream cheese into jalapeño halves OR Fill a piping bag with vegan cream cheese and pipe cream cheese into jalapeño halves.
      Spooning cheese mixture into jalapeno halves.
    • Wrap eggplant bacon around jalapeños and filling.
      Jalapeno popper wrapped in eggplant bacon.
    • Place on greaseproof/parchment lined baking tray.
    • Sprinkle with cajun seasoning.
      Jalapeno poppers sprinkled with cajun seasoning.
    • Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.

    Air fryer instructions

    • Preheat the air fryer to 160°C/320°F.
    • Spray some olive oil if needed and carefully add the jalapeño poppers to the air fryer basket.
    • Air fry them for 10-15 minutes until they begin to turn golden brown.
    • Remove the air fryer jalapeno poppers from the basket and allow them to cool for a few minutes before eating.

    Video

    Notes

    • Cashews: I prefer to soak the cashews overnight but if you're pressed for time, soak for 30 minutes in boiled water.
    • Bread crumbs: You can sprinkle some regular, panko breadcrumbs, or gluten-free breadcrumbs over these easy vegan jalapeno poppers for a crispy topping!
    • Cheese: You can't really replace the creamy cheese filling with vegan cheddar cheese or even regular vegan cream cheese. It just melts into a puddle. I did try! Stick to the recipe for the creamy filling!
    • Extra cheesy filling: If you have some cream cheese leftover (or happen to make double!) it makes an excellent dipping sauce with tortilla chips!
    • Wear gloves: Jalapeno peppers can be pretty spicy food and when you're slicing them they can actually burn your hands (speaking from experience!). You can avoid this by wearing gloves while you slice them and remove the seeds and veins. Take care not to touch your face, especially your eyes after handling hot peppers.

    Storage instructions

    • Fridge: Vegan Jalapeno Poppers will keep in an airtight container for 3-4 days, and they also taste great cold!
    • Reheat: If you want to reheat them, just pop them back in the oven on a baking sheet, microwave, or air fry them for 10-15 minutes at 160°C/320°F, or until they’re warm.

    Nutrition

    Serving: 1gCalories: 69kcalCarbohydrates: 5gProtein: 2gFat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4gSodium: 258mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1g
    Keyword allergy free, appetizer, cajun, cashew cream cheese, cream cheese, dairy free, gluten free, jalapeno, jalapeno poppers, low carb, paleo, party food, vegan, vegan bacon, vegan cream cheese, whole 30, whole30
    Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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