We don’t do a lot of faux meat, or “meat alternatives,” around these parts. I prefer to get protein from whole foods including legumes, nuts, and whole grains. These minimally processed foods don’t have complicated ingredient lists, are better environmentally (less energy and water into processing and less packaging), and are easier on the budget.
We do eat tempeh and tofu a few times a month (tempeh is less processed than tofu), and I enjoy Field Roast sausages, though I buy them only rarely. Ever since a Boca burger left me feeling funky several years ago, I’ve avoided premade veggie burgers, instead making my own bean and veggie burger creations (though I did have a decent store bought veggie burger at a 4th of July party over the summer).
That said, meat alternatives have come a long way since I stopped eating meat (11 1/2 years ago!). During my brief internship with Lighter (a company with a plant-based meal planning app) this spring, recipes using a number of new-to-me meat alternatives piqued my curiosity, and a few weeks ago, I finally bought a couple of items to try: Upton’s Seitan Bacon and Beyond Meat Chicken Strips.
The bacon looks pretty realistic. For my first tasting, I cooked two strips in our smallest cast iron pan . . .
. . . and crumbled them over eggs.
I enjoyed the flavor of this product. I was able to get a bit of crunch on the edges, but overall the texture reminded my more of beef jerky (which I enjoyed, back in the day) than bacon.
Now that we finally have tomatoes coming in, I want to try a BLT using the Upton’s bacon. I do find it annoying that tomatoes and lettuce are not really in season at the same time — the heat that tomatoes need pretty much ruins lettuce — though I guess now we might be getting close to fall lettuce. (A year ago, I had a craving for BLTs that I have yet to satisfy. I actually considered purchasing a small amount of nice, locally raised pork bacon, but never took the plunge. We’ll see how the vegetarian version works out.)
The package of the Beyond Chicken Grilled Strips said it served four, but I decided to stretch it a bit, using half of the container for a fajita recipe.
I sauteed the strips with onion, green pepper, shredded cabbage, thinly sliced kohlrabi, and cumin and chili powder.
Served on whole wheat tortillas topped with lime juice, sour cream, and diced tomatoes.
Like real chicken, these strips don’t have much flavor on their own. (I under-salted the dish, expecting the strips to have plenty of salt already, which they don’t — the brand does offer preseasoned products.)
As a vegetarian, I found the strips’ texture to be creepily similar to real chicken (I’m not alone in this reaction). While it was an interesting addition to the meal, I would have been just as happy having an all-vegetable fajita with a side of beans. I’m not particularly motivated to use the other half of the box. After many years of vegetarian cooking, it’s like, what the heck would I do with chicken?
I can see buying the bacon again / having it around sometimes (it can be frozen, as can the Beyond Chicken product), but probably not the chicken — I’d just as soon eat tofu or tempeh. I may eventually try some of the other Beyond Meat products, but I’m not in a big hurry.
These products could be useful for omnivores who are thinking about becoming vegetarian or who want to eat less meat, but are not sure how to cook without meat. For long-time vegetarians who are used to cooking well-rounded meals without meat alternatives, you’re not missing much other than novelty.
Note: All opinions are my own. This post was not sponsored in any way.