I Am Thankful for. . . Vegan Tortiere (Meat Pie): Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Anti-Candida Friendly

[As promised, here’s the other recipe from our Thanksgiving dinner last weekend. Who says you can’t have a delicious feast that’s vegan, gluten free and anti-candida friendly? This meal is from leftovers night on day two: vegan tortière, roasted zucchini and savory steel cut oat-stuffed squash (for those who are interested, I’ve posted the squash recipe on the DDD Facebook page, here.)]

Answer:  Alex Trebek.

Question: Who first taught Ricki how to make classic tortière?

Yes, you may know him as “Mr. Jeopardy,” that dapper, affable host with a voice as smooth as a duckless pond on a clear, sunny day. The navy-suited, oft-mustachioed supplier of answers in advance of questions, for $200, $400, $600 or Super-Jeopardy please, Alex.  The slick, handsome, game-show staple–Alex Trebek.

Okay, so maybe he didn’t actually teach me how to make tortière in person, but he was, indirectly, responsible for my learning all about the classic Quebeçois meat pie. You see, it’s a little-known fact that Mr. Trebek hails from Sudbury, Ontario, one of the very few cities in Canada where people actually speak French,** and he grew up with a Francophone mom (which would explain why his accent is always spot on when he announces those answers from the “Heroes of the French Revolution” and “Movies Starring Brigitte Bardot” categories).

Well, when I first moved to Toronto as a fresh-faced PhD student back in the 80s, I was (like most students) too cash-strapped to afford much in the way of extra-curricular books and magazines, far too impecunious (or was it just cheap?) to pay for my own copy of TV Guide each week.  There was a free guide inserted every Saturday in The Toronto Star (the only day I purchased the paper), called the  TV Times.  And the last page of said TV Times was always devoted to a recipe contributed by some famous person: one week, it might be apple pie from Wanda’s Pie in the Sky (a popular Toronto bakery); another, it could be Caesar Salad from Jeannie Beker (host of Fashion Television, the seminal “let’s watch those barely-clad sticks on stillettoes trundle down the runway” show). And then, one fateful week in winter, it featured tortière, courtesy of Alex Trebek.

Apparently, tortière was a favorite dish from Trebek’s childhood back in Sudbury. (Answer: only after many years of trial and error.  Question: did a famous game-show host really make tortière all on his own?). I tore the recipe from the booklet and slipped it into my “recipes to try” collection, a beige cardboard file folder that was by then already straining with countless slips of paper, clipped magazine pages and newspaper columns. (Answer: only my current “recipes to try” folder on my computer’s “Favorites” list.  Question: is there anything even bigger than that original recipes file folder?). Having been born in Quebec myself (land of “‘Mon pays, ce n’est pas un pays, c’est l’hiver,” Celine Dion, real ski hills, sugar pie and the Habs), I felt it was my civic duty to some day try out the recipe.  Even though it contained pork, and ground beef, and probably suet, I figured I’d give it a try at some dinner party and serve it to all the guys, just so I could say I did.

[No, I didn’t pre-slice the crust; that crack is due to my less-than-stellar crust skills.  Still tasted great, though!]

Well, the poor recipe languished there for years–nay, decades–until finally, after adopting a vegan diet and switching to the ACD 1-1/2 years ago, in a rare fit of organizing, I finally threw it away. (Answer: just this type of impulsive purging of old papers, bills, income tax returns or recipes.  Question: What is one activity that Ricki inevitably regrets weeks, months, or even years, later?)

For some reason, this Thanksgiving, I really wanted to make a vegan version of tortière.  Along with poutine, sugar pie, and that Chez Cora’s-inspired Quebeçois classic, cretons (mmm! Couldn’t you go for some right now?), tortière is certainly one of the quintessentially “Canadian” foods.  How could I pass up the opportunity?  And though I’ve never actually had a “real” tortière, the HH assured me it’s delicious and that he’d love to have it  as well. (Answer: Yours truly.  Question: Who in her right mind would attempt tortière when a) she doesn’t eat meat and b) she’s never made a successful pie crust of any kind before, gluten free or otherwise?).

It took all of 8 seconds to decide that my latest veg-based faux meat (the one I used in this lasagna) would be the perfect base for this tortière.  I mean, doesn’t it look just like ground meat?  And wouldn’t it work beautifully with the spectrum of spices that were called for in the original pie?  I even had a big container just waiting in the freezer!  So I pulled it out, gathered my newly-printed tortière recipes from around the Internet, and began to plot how I’d reproduce it.

The first hurdle was the crust.  I was browsing through Maggie’s yummy blog a few weeks back and had tried out her pie crust for the first time with great success.  So, with a few of my own little changes (I just can’t resist), I used her recipe here.  It worked perfectly! The filling, too, came together easily; basically, it’s just sautéed onions and garlic, spices, and the faux meat.  Couldn’t be simpler!

Answer: This vegan tortièreQuestion: What will you want to rush out and try as soon as you finish reading this blog post–maybe sooner?

[I know: that filling really looks like meat.  Eerie, isn’t it?]

The final product is dense without being solid, the spice-warmed bits of the meat mixture offering a moist, savory chew lightly sandwiched between a perfectly flaky crust.  Like a piece of really good shepherd’s pie, it fills you up without being too heavy; it felt as if we were spooning up authentically-prepared comfort food at a local French bistro.  As we sat eating out meals, the HH seemed to be enjoying his immensely, savoring his pie between bites of gravy-laden mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts and stuffed squash.

“Does it taste like real tortière ?” I asked.  He paused.  He inhaled the wafting scent of cloves, thyme and cinnamon and took another bite. He cocked his head and glanced across the room as he chewed contemplatively.

“Well, I think you’d eat it and you might know it wasn’t meat, but you wouldn’t be sure what it was instead. . . it just tastes really, really delicious. I’d say this was one of your more successful dishes. I’d definitely eat this again.”  Wow.  Coming from the usually-reticent HH, that was praise enough for me.

My answer? “You can have it any time you like, sweetheart.”  And the question?  Well, sorry, that’s personal. 😉

**I know that statement was a shock to many of you.  But even though Canada does have two “official” languages, 90% of the country doesn’t speak one of them.  (Answer: Um, it doesn’t make sense to me, either.  Question: Then why is every single product produced or sold in our country required to display labeling in both English and French?) Quel bêtises!


Looking for more Thanksgiving recipes? Here’s my mega roundup of 75+ Healthy, Whole Foods, Vegan & Gluten-Free recipes.

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This post is linked to Amy’s weekly event, Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays. which collects dishes that are made a little bit healthier.  Check it out–or post your own recipe!

Last Year at this Time: Faux Chocolate

Two Years Ago: Lucky Comestible 4(4): Balti Tofu and Chickpeas in a Thick Creamy Coconut Sauce

© 2010 Ricki Heller

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  1. I’m from Ontario and we speak French, both in the capital and the many French-Canadian towns in the south-west.

    To be fair, most Québecois do not speak English….

    This tortiere looks yum!

    • Arielle, sorry if my teasing tone didn’t come through in my joke! I meant that most people DON’T speak French, yet all the rest of Canada must use bilingual labels (except for Quebec, of course, where all-French is just fine by them). Being from Montreal, I grew up surrounded by French (and went to a French immersion school). My Anglo cousins all speak perfect French (mostly because they went to French schools–had no choice), as do my sisters and friends “back home.” I think I’d feel better about presenting Canada as “bilingual” if, as you rightly point out, there were a few more Francophone Quebecois who actually did speak French. Or, even, if they let us Anglos continue to speak English freely!! The laws in that province are whacked. . . anyway, I was just trying to be funny. 😉 Oh, and glad you like the tortiere! 😀

  2. Oh, WOW, Ricki. That looks fantastic! My grandmother’s family is French-Canadian, and we grew up eating tortière every New Year’s day. I have such fond memories of my grandmother, and then eventually my mom, spending all day making it… which, yes, involved grinding the meat. We weren’t even a very meat-centric family, but this meal was so traditional that my mom went all-out for it. And there was really no better way to begin the new year than gathered around the table with family, savoring the flaky crust and the flavorful filling. Although the disparate components of the pie never appealed to me (I’m not a pie or crust fan, generally speaking, and was never too keen on meat to begin with), the sum of the parts created something wonderful.

    Even though I never once regretted giving up meet when I went vegetarian – and often felt/feel queasy just smelling it – the aroma of this particular dish is so nostalgia-inducing that I always felt a little sad when I couldn’t enjoy it with my family. My mom made a vegetarian version a few years back, but it just wasn’t quite the same, and it’s been on my try-to-veganize-it list for a while now.

    Your version looks amazing, though. It’s definitely going on my to-make list. Thanks for sharing!

    • Yay! So happy to hear that. The HH (who ate it three nights in a row) said “It reminds me of tortiere. . . ” though he conceded that “real” tortiere is “moister, with a fatty creaminess.” Sounds gross to me, but he says it delicious! Glad mine is in the same ballpark, anyway. 🙂

  3. Just to show how removed we are from the French culture- I’ve lived in Toronto my entire life and have never even heard of Tortiere. I also didn’t know that Alex Trebek was from Sudbury…I learn so many interesting fun facts from your blog! 😉

    The pie crust looks perfect to me- very flaky and gorgeous. I can’t believe it’s gluten free! And yes, the faux meat looks so real. Great job on this recipe!

    By the way, what is sugar pie? Is the filling like that of a butter tart?

    • Lauren, I wasn’t sure how well-known tortiere is, actually–or whether it’s just a Quebec thing. Anyway, sugar pie is sort of like the filling of a butter tart, without the raisins. And it looks more solid–like a solid block of baked sugar and butter. My sister loves it, but it always made me cringe, even when I was eating such things!

  4. Being oh so very American I have never hear of tortiere, but it looks delicious. Thank you also for reminding of your ground meat substitute.

    BTW still giggling from your comment “you can have it anytime”, you crack me up. LOL


    • Thanks, Ali! I think I need to add “meat pie” to the title–I wasn’t sure how many people would recognize the name! And happy to crack you up–we all need a good laugh once in a while. 😉

  5. Wow – that pie is lovely! How amazing to be able to make a vegan gluten-free “meat” pie. So creative!

    • Thanks, Deanna! I suspect I like this one much more than I’d like the “real” one. I was actually much more excited about the GF crust working out! 😉

  6. looks delicious and a great reminder of your faux meat which had fallen off my radar but is a must-try. The stuffed pumpkin looks great too. I have never had thanksgiving or tortiere but when I see such meals I wish it was part of my culture.

    • I’d say there’s nothing to stop you from enjoying a similar meal just “because”! And with your love of pumpkin (aka squash over here), you’d have a great time with Thanksgiving–so many of the recipes are based on it!

  7. Happy belated Thanksgiving. Ricki. You must have had the most awesome feast!

    • I have to admmit it was one of the best entrees I’ve ever had. 😉 I think I need to find more reasons to be thankful from now on so I can cook up more tortiere!

  8. Whoa, that looks so good! Nice and hearty. Maybe I’ll make this for Thanksgiving…but why wait?! (:

    • Yes, it was incredibly hearty–in fact, I really couldn’t eat too much at one sitting because it has a certain richness about it, too (maybe the pie crust?). I agree–why wait? 😉

  9. Oh man, that filling really DOES look unnervingly similar to meat! I would be doubtful if that was served up by anyone other than you. 😉 Being that it is, it looks and sounds like “meaty” goodness, and I’d definitely take a slice!

    • I know–weird, eh? But I think that’s why it appealed so much to the HH, too–it looked familiar to him and he was happy. As for me, it was a delicious, filling, warming dish. So we both were thankful. 😉

  10. Oh my, that just sounds delicious!

  11. you have no idea how excitedfaced i am about your vegan tortière, Ricki! it looks ridiculously good – and i can’t wait to try out that flax crust, too! your faux meat looks absolutely delicious! i love everything about your tortière! mmmmmmmmmm!

    • The crust was really terrific–so glad I found Maggie’s recipe! So glad you like it! I was surprised at how filling and yummy it was. 🙂

  12. Yay! So glad that I now know what a Tortiere is thanks to you and your dear friend, Alex. This was classically written. I loved this perfect spot of humor mixed into this post. So well written. And this recipe looks totally intriguing so i am going to have to really try it. This would be a perfect dish for a couple of the Vegans that will be attending our Thanksgiving feast.

    • Yep, me and Alex, we’re “like this” (crosses index and middle finger) 😉 Glad you liked it! You may have to reveal the secret ingredient to your vegan friends, or they might just think it’s actually meat!

  13. Seriously! It really does look like meat. I had to pop over to see what your faux meat was made of – genius, sheer genius.

  14. Tortière! We used to make this every Christmas eve when I was little (Quebec-French family traditions obligent!) I haven’t seen it/thought of it in forever. Bookmarking and will be making for holidays! And I knew about Monsieur Alex, bien sûr! Proud of our Northern Ontario peeps!

  15. Answer: Ricki.
    Question: Who rocks and is the Queen of alternative foodstuffs?

    I made your beetaroni today (finally!) and it totally rocked some serious socks! I will blog about it during MoFo…

    Your Tortiere looks amazing! I am bookmarking it for another future MoFo post…

  16. Don’t know if you remember me, I’m Shelly’s mom. You took part in the 60 day project for my 60th birthday last yr, which, by the way, I will never forget.
    Your totiere looks completely authentic. I grew up eating my grandma’s totiere after Midnight Mass. Hers did have the pork and beef. The spices were just cinnamon and cloves with a little salt. I can just smell it! We also use the same mixture for boulettes…meatballs. There was a bakery in Sault Ste Marie, Ont that made a meat pie that was almost as good as grandma’s. Good job.

  17. It really does look like meat. I was surprised when I looked at the “meat” recipe that it doesn’t have beans. I would never have guessed cauliflower and walnuts. Great job!

  18. I might’ve (is might’ve not an acceptable conjunction?? I always write it but spell check says it’s wrong) mentioned this before but my mom always made tourtiere (with meat) on Christmas Eve. And I always hated it (back when I ate meat). But you have made me want to give it another chance with this meat free version! Your creations always look and sound so good.

  19. vegan tortiere?! yippee!!!!!

  20. Hello Ricki,

    This really looks delicious and I will surely try it. I’m French Canadian and live in Montreal. We spell it : tourtière…. By the way, many Québécois do speak English you know. I’ve just discovered your blog and will definitely be trying your recipes.

    • Thanks so much, Gisele! I know there was an accent grave on the word, but the English keyboard makes it difficult to find sometimes–and guess I forgot about that “u”!! And while I *used* to be bilingual when I lived in Montreal, ca fait longtemps que je nais pas parler francais (please imagine all those accents in the right places and forgive any spelling errors) 😉 As for the meat pie (see, I’m just avoiding the whole accent issue entirely there), it really is delicious. My omnivore hubby loved it–and that’s saying something! 😀

  21. I’m so tempted to try this. It looks delicious. I’m nervous about making a pie crust though. Could I cheat and buy a premade one and not have the top layer? I’m guessing the “meat” is packed in there and will stick without having a layer of crust holding it in…

  22. The meat recipe says to cook it in the oven, and this meat pie recipe says to cook in the oven as well. Does the “meat” need to be cooked in the oven prior to it cooking in the oven inside the pie? Just trying to make sure I do this right and that I won’t over cook it. I am thinking the baking part of the “meat” recipe could be skipped since you will be baking it in the pie? Let me know which way is that right way and thanks for this great recipe!!

    • Hi Jenni, Yes, you want to cook the “meat” first on its own, then use it cooked in the tortiere. Baking the tortiere alone wouldn’t be enough time to really brown the cauliflower and allow the flavors to come out fully. And nothing is worse than a white “meat” pie! 😉

  23. I tried this recipe for my Christmas Eve family dinner, and I must say it looked exactly like meat pie. I personally thought the taste was ok, but not great. The taste of the nuts was too pronounced for me. But on the other hand, most of my family loved it. So I think it’s worth trying the recipe, maybe you will fall in love with it!


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