What's Trending: Plant-Based "Meats"

"Mock meats" are growing in popularity - and flavor! Here's what you should know about them.

Plant-Based Proteins
Illustration by Peter and Maria Hoey.

Once upon a time (as little as a decade ago), if you wanted a meat substitute, you had two choices: fairly tasteless veggie burgers or tofu (or, for Thanksgiving, the dreaded tofurkey). But now serious flavor and texture have come to tofu "tenders," "beef" or "chicken" crumbles and cutlets, soy "sausages," "fish" fillets, and newfangled meatless burgers that are packing the grocery's vegetarian shelves.

"Meatless meats" (or "plant-based proteins") are a hot commodity, growing eight percent between 2010 and 2012. That's because more and more people are eating less and less meat. In the U.S., five percent of us (close to 16 million people) are vegetarian, with about 7.5 million of those vegetarians being vegan (meaning they eat zero animal products). Vegan numbers have doubled since 2009.

Then there's the rise in "flexitarians," who eat meat, but only sometimes.

Whatever our reasons for cutting back or giving up on meat—monitoring saturated fat and cholesterol intake, protecting animal welfare and the environment—many of us still crave its texture and flavor. The new generation of faux meats are products you'd actually want to eat. The taste has improved, thanks to a shift in ingredients from wheat gluten to vegetable-based substances like yellow peas, carrot fiber, beetroot fiber, and yeast extract, plus garlic, mustard seeds, paprika, and turmeric, along with blends of ancient grain flours (amaranth, millet, and quinoa). And, say top producers Gardein and Beyond Meat, a technology innovation that uses an extrusion process has created a "tear away" factor that allows the texture and mouthfeel to be more like those of real meat.

So while it may look and taste like chicken, this is "meat" that even a vegan can love.



Find delicious vegetarian recipes.

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