Vegan alternatives to meat: Best and worst in a two-part guide

Written by By Mary Beth Sweeney, CNN Written by Maggie Fick, CNN If you want to know whether the latest young breakout trend in food is real, try eating without meat. Is it a…

Vegan alternatives to meat: Best and worst in a two-part guide

Written by By Mary Beth Sweeney, CNN Written by Maggie Fick, CNN

If you want to know whether the latest young breakout trend in food is real, try eating without meat.

Is it a fake meat substitute or a veggie meat substitute? Most are seemingly designed for the same purpose — to make meat taste more like meat — and once a healthy product you can eat guilt-free, only use once a week.

See the latest trends in vegan and vegetarian foods.

But to connoisseurs of this superfood you can’t really tell the difference between plant-based meat and meat or vice versa.

Here’s what we ate to see who has the upper hand.

Melt-in-your-mouth tofu stir-fry

Chill Broil Raw Organic Soy Miso Beef Strips Ingredients: 500 grams of soy meat; 800 grams of mirin (whole miso powder) paste; 300 grams of tropical fruit extract; 300 grams of maple syrup; 400 grams of evaporated milk; 1 kg of bamboo charcoal (to purify the milk to prevent contamination); 90 grams of raw crushed pineapple slices; 400 grams of raw crushed cucumber. Amounts of salt and sugar may vary in recommended doses

Texture: Very moist and tasty, with a hint of bitterness from the miso. The soy protein takes up less room in the mouth than other plant-based alternatives.

Satisfaction: Consumed easily as a salty or sweet snack or satisfying one’s hunger. If you’re not a pork person, beef strips feel just like pork.

Taste: Complex and not bland, with a slight smokiness from the soy meat, combined with a pleasant taste of the maple syrup and fruit. The soy meat overall was fatty and salty, with a smokiness from the miso.

Bite count: 6

Bottom line: There was no difference in taste from soy or meat. The lime-rich sauce had a citrusy taste. They both could be very flexible in salads, but ultimately both were tough to recommend over meat — or animal protein at all.

Chill Broil Raw Organic Soy Miso Beef Strips Ingredients: 100 grams of tofu; 1kg of cold water; 4.5 kg of bamboo charcoal (to purify the milk to prevent contamination); 100 grams of pineapple; 1kg of raw pineapple slices; 340 grams of frozen green beans; 4.5 kg of green pea puree; 1.5 kg of vegetable oil.

Quantity: 125 grams of tofu; 100 grams of bamboo charcoal (to purify the milk to prevent contamination); 105 grams of sesame seed oil; 1.5 kg of soy sauce; 10 grams of vegetable oil; 720 grams of black vinegar; 5 grams of sugar; 360 grams of finely ground black pepper; 210 grams of soy maltodextrin; 300 grams of pure maple syrup; 450 grams of evaporated cane juice (from sugarcane); 240 grams of sweet potato; 1 kg of frozen corn kernels.

Texture: Though somewhat chewy, soy meat was sweeter and more fatty than the whole soy protein. It definitely stuck around in the mouth, while soy meat had much less space between the cheeks of the mouth.

Satisfaction: Despite being sweeter and more fatty, the total dish had a slightly different taste than other recipes like tofu stir-fry (corn kernels with green bean puree) and a slightly more earthy, umami-like flavor, compared to bread and butter soup (corn with potato).

Taste: Though the edges of the fried sticks tasted a little salty, it was primarily sweet. The soy protein flavor was subdued, which can be a result of use in a very balanced dish with a lot of soy protein. But because the soy meat flavor is a bit more subtle, it found its way into other dishes more easily.

Bite count: 4

Bottom line: It’s true soy and soy meat were hard to tell apart. But in a dish of pure soy protein like the one, the soy meat product was the most noticeable. It was tangy and rough, while the vegan peanut butter and chocolate “crumbles” were bland and salty.

Heat label: No

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