All About Fake Meat

Why eat fake meat?
Fake meat is a strange thing, for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. One of the questions I get asked a lot is “Why do you want to eat something that tastes like an animal if you’re a vegetarian?” Well, I don’t really. The fact is that fake meat products rarely taste like meat in the first place. They taste like something (and are therefor an interesting alternative to tofu which is generally bland in taste), but usually not whatever “meat product” they are mimicking. A good example of this is fake bacon. When I did eat meat, I never liked bacon. Didn’t like the look or taste of it. It was grissly, fatty, and just plain gross. However, as a vegetarian I love fakin’ bacon. It’s crisp, smokey, and doesn’t have any of the weird tastes or textures I despised in regular bacon. That said, there are some products like chick patties which I’m told taste similar to actual chicken. Honestly, I never minded the taste as much as the texture (blood, bones, fat, etc. kinda creeped me out as a kid- go figure I should end up loving horror flicks!). I eat fake meat because I find it easy to use as a substitute and I enjoy the differences in textures. Fake meat can be used as easy substitutes for meals that have either a large to small “meat” component, or eaten alone. Lots of vegetarians and vegans don’t eat fake meat, for a variety of reasons (soy allergies, cost, or the taste itself). But for those who find themselves wanting an easy option, and don’t mind the idea of trying something new, I suggest giving fake meat a try.

Where can I buy it and what should I try?
I’ve spent a lot of time (and cash) on finding products I like, so I thought a small guide on fake meat might be worthwhile to those who don’t know where to begin. I’m going to cover the two big companies: Boca and Morningstar Farms, simply because they are the most available, although there are many, many other companies out there that I suggest you try! Many are small businesses working for a good cause! You can find them at Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Rainbow Grocery, and your local vegetarian-friendly stores!

Product Reviews

Burgers – Both Morningstar Farms and Boca make a fake burger out of soy protein. Both burgers, in my opinion, do not taste like an actual burger. I personally do not like the flavor and rarely eat these “as is” inside a bun. However, ground up and used in a pasta sauce these bad boys work wonders. They are also a good substitute in other recipes which require ground such as tacos and burritos, especially if you spice them up a little. The “all american flame grilled” by Boca is a slightly more realistic option, but still fails to taste like much other than cooked soy. I have yet to try the garlic or onion versions. I do not recommend the cheese version which is gooey and a little unnatural tasting.

Fake Chicken Patties – Both companies also make a fake chicken patty. I prefer the Morningstar Farms variety which is thinner and therefor cookies crispier. The texture is also better, in my opinion. Morningstar also makes a spicy chick patty which is delicious served in a quesadilla with cheese or on a bun. I love working with chick patties because, although breaded, they are a very useful chick substitute and can be chopped up and sprinkled on anything to add a little texture and protein.

Breakfast Links – Morningstar was, I think, the first company to come out with the breakfast links and again I have to say I think they do it better. Boca’s links are a little more textured whereas Morninstars have a smooth surface that makes them easier to cook, and tastier in my opinion. These are great by themselves and if you HAVE to microwave them they still taste good, albeit not as tasty as if you pan fry them. Both companies also make breakfast / sausage patties if you have a preference for round food.

Fake Bacon – A lot of people complain about fake bacon, which is made by Morningstar Farms and a few other companies, but not Boca. The biggest complaint is the texture which is really not at all like real bacon. Fake bacon is very easy to overcook if you are looking for “crisp” bacon. I recommend cooking it until it is still bendable, just a little cooked, in order to get the best bacon. If you overcook it, the bacon will look and taste brickish. Cooked correctly, fake bacon is great for breakfast, in sandwiches and soups, or with ketchup as a snack (yup, you heard me).

Buffalo Wings – One of the weirder decisions Morningstar Farms made was to create a vegetarian version of Buffalo Wings- the meat eater’s mid-game pride and joy. Oddly enough, having never liked actual buffalo wings, I think these things are amazing. They are breaded and very spicy. You can heat them up in the microwave in just a couple minutes and have a great snack or light meal. They are delicious with ketchup or dipper in Vegannaise to cool them down. And if you can find a vegetarian barbecue sauce, then I say go for it.

Chicken Nuggets – Boca and MS went the way of bite-sized fake chick when they launched their line of chicken nuggets. The nuggets are breaded and contain soy chicken. Oddly enough, I don’t find them nearly as flavorful as the chick patties and usually avoid buying these unless I really need to add a protein-rich easy-as-hell snack to my shopping list. Pop them in the microwave for a few and devour them in minutes. They are a little bland, and ketchup is certainly a necessary accompaniment.

Ground “beef” – Again manufactured by both companies, I’ve never understood why people use the fake ground when cooking and scrambling whole boca or MS burgers is far more satisfying and tasty. Although buying the pre-ground stuff will save you some time, I’ve never liked cooking with it or enjoyed the taste, which is worse than the burgers.

Corn dogs – I never liked corn dogs until I tried these delicious cornbread encrusted veggie dogs by MS. Although the regular veggie dogs are pretty bland and a bit strange tasting, when covered in corn they are simply incredible tasting. Cook them in the oven (microwaves will leave you with a soggy dog) and dip in mustard and ketchup.

Hot dogs – Many companies have tried to may a veggie version of the hot dog, despite the fact that hot dogs are one of the most disgusting meat-on-meat creations known to man. But, the fact of the matter is, they are easy to make and a staple of the American diet so they are about as common in the vegetarian world as veggie burgers. I’ve tried a lot of veggie dogs, and I have to say I don’t like them. They taste a little strange and balloon and bubble if you try to cook them in the microwave, which means you have to cook them on the stove top which I think is more trouble than it’s worth for a hot dog. However, veggie dogs are magic when placed in a bun with some vegetarian chili and some onions. That way, you don’t taste the dog, just get the texture. Yum yum.

I know I left out a lot, so feel free to leave your opinions and reviews of veggie fake meat products in the comments!


1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Liv said,

    It’s sort of a new brand (as far as stores are concerned, it seems) but my favorite meat replacer is tofu steaks and the like from Helen’s Kitchen ( I don’t like the texture of other fake burgers, but these don’t crumble or gush. They’re near impossible to find, but I snatch up several boxes whenever I do!

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