HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


Chemical/Alternatives to the real thing-- that you actually like better...

  • c

1. Bacon salt. I even sprinkle it on back bacon sometimes.
2. Soy milk- over light milks, fuller body, creamier
3. Butter flavour extract or salt... in baking and veggies, well except on the obvious toasts
4. Low fat cream cheese- over both full fat cc and mayo
5. Soy hotdogs- taste exactly the same as the mechanically sepearated ones because its artificial flavor anyways (and makes me remember a video of a a bright pink bubblegum like food being tubed into a box... but it was meat and meat filler blech.) And protein instead of fat.

This could be quite interesting ;)

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Sad to say, but...
    I am not a big fan of maple syrup, but I like "pancake syrup" much more. I don't even know if it's fake maple syrup, but it's just plain old sugar or hcfs with a few fake flavorings added, I'm sure. Save the Vermont specialty stuff for someone else. I'mm all about Mrs Butterworth or Log Cabin. Even better if it's got the fake butter flavoring added!

    3 Replies
    1. re: gordeaux

      for shame, i too prefer the non perishable supermarket goo over the real stuff on pancakes. i am worse off being a native new englander, but the funny thing is i use real maple syrup in everything from tea to soups and chowders! pancake syrup in that regard is definitely a uni-tasker.

      1. re: sarabean

        I will join you in your shame. I like the real maple as an ingredient in baking and cooking but for pancakes and waffles, I find it overpowers the flavour of the main dish. I like a little pancake syrup to add some sweetness and still be able to get the full flavour of the waffle/pancake.

      2. re: gordeaux

        We had friends over for brunch a few weeks ago, and I got out the "good stuff." As we were cleaning up, I commented that I didn't really prefer the real maple syrup, as it left a woody, fuzzy feeling in my mouth. I was surprised to hear from two others (there were just four of us that morning) that there was a strong preference for Mrs. Butterworth's!

      3. Morningstar Farms breakfast links - they're supposed to be veggie based substitute for sausage. I don't think they taste quite like sausage, but they do taste better to me and in theory, at least, are healthier.

        1 Reply
        1. I was about to say that no chemical/alternative is preferred but, when you mentioned soy milk, I had to concede on that. I 'm lactose intolerant so "Silk" goes on my cereal.

          1. Sugar free gum

            American bologna (for grilled balogna sandwiches made with American pre-sliced cheese).

            Diet coke

            3 Replies
            1. re: ipsedixit

              oh yeah, diet coke!
              and Krab with a K in my Kalifornia rolls

              1. re: mariacarmen

                Seriously...don't all California rolls have fake crab?

                1. re: ttoommyy

                  i've had a few experience with real crab - perish the thought! - and it's just not as good.

            2. Imitation (I think they may be soy based) corndogs. They are markedly sweeter and a bit less salty.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Popkin

                Oh, that sounds fancy! I had a POGO craving the other day and had such thoughts :) What brand?

                1. re: crigg

                  We have the morning star brand around these parts, and they're pretty tasty. The chicken is good too (as long as you don't expect it to taste like chicken of course! It's good in it's own right). mmmm, and stripples (imitation bacon), so good when it's a little soggy. I guess that's what happens when a meat eater goes to a school full of (and run by) vegetarians.... I like both real and fake meat for their own unique flavours.

                  Dang, now I'm REALLY craving some fake meat!

              2. I like this topic; thanks for starting it crigg.

                I'll get killed for this one, but I prefer imitation vanilla extract. I find the real thing to be too heady for most of the things I like to bake: cupcakes, cookies and other lowbrow desserts. I can see using the real deal in something more upscale in taste, but I really don't like the real taste of vanilla for a down-and-dirty cupcake or cookie. :)

                6 Replies
                1. re: ttoommyy

                  I agree that imitation vanilla seems to work better for my cookies and cupcakes.

                  Also, not sure if this counts as an alternative, but I use instant coffee for my baking instead of brewing a pot.

                  1. re: LoBrauHouseFrau

                    "I agree that imitation vanilla seems to work better for my cookies and cupcakes. "

                    Glad to see I'm not the only one!

                  2. re: ttoommyy

                    Don't bother trying out Mexican vanilla, then, it's headier by half than the vanilla extract.

                    1. re: EWSflash

                      Someone gave me a bottle of this once and you are so right!

                    2. re: ttoommyy

                      The picky testers at Cook's Illustrated agree with you. Imitation vanilla is fine for baking. Which sure helps my budget!

                      1. re: ttoommyy

                        Yeah I do too, esp since I am always pouring it in my coffee!

                      2. Like Gordeaux, my first thought was maple syrup vs. the artificial stuff. Real maple syrup is...subtle. I prefer my pancake syrup sweeter.

                        Some kinds of beef jerky, though fewer and fewer now. Back in the day I much prefered original formula Lowrey's beef jerky and those "silver dollars" to much of the small-batch, artisan beef jerky. Since they changed the formula of Lowrey's (going on 25 years now) and, from the tastes of it, those silver dollars, I actually find fewer of those weird, chopped jerkies I like.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: PegS

                          I have found this really interesting! I had the opposite experience - I always thought I disliked syrup and always ate my pancakes and such dry until a few years ago, when I was staying with a friend who served the real stuff with french toast at breakfast. It was as though my eyes were opened! It costs a lot more than corn-syrup-water, but since I don't really love pancakes and other syrup vehicles, it's worth it to me to keep the real stuff on hand for those rare occasions every two or three months. mmmm. :) To each her own! - this is fun.

                        2. Krab salad over Crab salad
                          Turkey polska kielbasa over polska kielbasa
                          I tested positive for Coke Zero
                          Liptons Oodles of Noodles chicken soup over homemade chicken noodle soup.
                          And with that last one, I'll show myself out.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: LA Buckeye Fan

                            I adore turkey kielbasa myself. The real deal is filled with too many mysterious white chunks of fat/gristle for me.

                            1. re: LA Buckeye Fan

                              another thing I didn't know existed! I love kielbasa but stopped eating it a few years ago, because it seems so unhealthy, I'll have to look the turkey up, I like chicken sausages so chances are they are pretty rad

                            2. Cake, brownie & cookie mixes. Because sometimes I want something hot/fresh from the oven/baked just hours before, and I don't exactly have all this free time to be baking every damn thing from scratch.

                              2 Replies
                                1. re: yfunk3

                                  Have you read the Cake Mix Doctor? Easy, consistent results, and beats the pants off anything I've ever made from scratch.

                                2. I like the depth and richness that Quoc Viet pho stock helper adds to pho broth. One still has to add the bones and long simmer, no cheating and just using the Quoc Viet stuff alone. But it does add oomph to the real thing.

                                  1. I would far, far rather have Quorn 'fake chicken product' than real, actual chicken any day. Quorn doesn't have veins in the 'breast' patties or chewies or crunchies in the 'nuggets.' (sorry)

                                    Backstory: I was vegetarian-plus-fish for ten years until a year ago, for a variety of equally weighted reasons; one of those reasons was definitely pickiness/squeamishness, which is still with me, obviously.

                                    1. I prefer the macaroni and cheese out of the box, with the powder cheese mix, over homemade.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: bagofwater

                                        Sometimes I do to. For me, I think it is a childhood flavor-memory. I love home made mac and cheese, but sometimes I just have to have the blue box!

                                        1. re: bagofwater

                                          My wife and I thought the same thing for a long time. I tried and tried to make homemade mac and cheese, because I was sure that it had to be better than the blue box stuff, and I couldn't do it.

                                          Then I realized the problem.

                                          99% of the homemade mac and cheese recipes you find are for Baked mac and cheese. We are Stove-Top mac and cheese people. I realized the difference one day while cruising Alton Brown's recipes at foodnetwork.com I highly recommend his Stove-Top Mac and Cheese recipe. It's fast, easy, creamy, and delicious - just like the stuff in the box, but with fewer chemical additives and preservatives.

                                        2. Oh man... this is terrible, but I LOVE Boca's spicy chicken patties, because they remind me of the chicken patty sandwiches served in my school cafeteria. What level of fake is it when it's a vegetarian version of franken-meat? :D

                                          4 Replies
                                            1. re: LauraGrace

                                              Love those chicken patty sandwiches, too. Most recently ate them in colleges (years ago! Ah, aging...), where they deep fry them. MUST be deep-fried and served with mayo on a hamburger bun for the best experience. Heh heh.

                                              Quorn patties taste great, but I like the Boca spicy ones better. The Quorn has a little too much onion flavor for me, but I bet they're better in nugget form with some BBQ sauce or honey mustard.

                                              1. re: LauraGrace

                                                always wondered about soy chicken, but after having a yucky experience with soy beef strips.. maybe I'll give it a try though

                                                1. re: crigg

                                                  It's a combination of textured veggie proteins, not just soy. Honestly, they're so much better than the meat-containing ones because you never have to worry about running into gristle.

                                                  For fake chicken just by itself, though, Quorn cutlets are the best. I pondered veganism for about 6 months and tried every meat substitute I could find... :)

                                              2. Um, I think I prefer candy corn over real corn. Does that count?

                                                5 Replies
                                                    1. re: Isolda

                                                      A few years ago I noticed a bag of candy corn labeled "Made with Honey!" I thought their design team really missed the mark, with all the corn syrup in it they should have labeled it "Made with real corn!"

                                                      1. re: mpjmph

                                                        Now that would have been funny! Maybe that's how the industry should re-package HFCS so people aren't so scared of it.

                                                      2. re: Isolda

                                                        I've had real corn that was EASILY sweeter than candy corn. Maybe that would sway you?
                                                        I miss summer already.

                                                      3. This is very specific - I love natural peanut butter, but when making peanut butter cookies, the unnatural kind (like Skippy) just seems to work much better.

                                                        Also, two things that I have to admit that I like - not BETTER than the real thing, but as their own strange kind of foods - that artificial butter product they put on popcorn at the movies - and Kraft singles. =)

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: aching

                                                          Me too! Prefer grilled cheese with Kraft singles over a fancy 10-yr old aged Cheddar version anytime. :) Also confess a love for Coke Zero and imitation crab meat.

                                                          1. re: tinybites

                                                            The ice cream parlor I grew up going to serves this wonderful thing called a Cheezdog Sandwich - Kraft singles, hot dogs halved lengthwise, yellow mustard, mayo, and white bread, grilled. These are all things I theoretically don't like anymore, but I still order it every time I visit my parents - and love it!

                                                          2. re: aching

                                                            I would guess that most peanut butter cookie recipes were developed using Skippy/Jiff type peanut butter, and using natural instead will throw off the sugar/fat ratio.

                                                            I completely agree re. Kraft singles for grilled cheese.

                                                            I rarely get popcorn at movies, but our local art-house theater has real butter, which spoiled me. The last time I got the "butter" at a theater (I think the pump was actually labeled "golden flavor") it tasted like coconut from the palm/coconut oil. I like coconut, but not like that...

                                                          3. When I was a kid, the "hamburgers" in the school cafeteria were either all or mostly some sort of soy product.

                                                            They were really really good, even though they really tasted nothing like a hamburger. I wish I knew what they were, and where to get some.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                              probably some sort of filler in there! maybe a vegetable or grain too though, oatmeal or made like a meatloaf. Though the use of mechanically separated meat is plausible... eww My favorite cafeteria food as a kid was these hotdogs that were just with cheese in a bun with an ordinary hot dog, they wrapped them in tinfoil and the outside was always crispy and the inside kind of bonded with the bun. Mmm.... too bad I don't eat kraft singles or refined white hotdog buns anymore! mmm gives me ideas for a better 'healthy' gourmet version though. There was also a banana slices with peanut butter in a hotdog bun. *shivers*

                                                              1. re: crigg

                                                                LOL! Banana and peanut butter in a bun is pretty shuddersome!

                                                            2. I like Light Mayo better than regular mayo. Regular mayo is too rich for me.

                                                              1. OK, I'm kinda sorry this popped up again because now I have to come clean.

                                                                I did not fully disclose earlier! I forgot, I swear! It wasn't on purpose!

                                                                I'm sure this admission will destroy what little respect I may have earned thus far. But I shall not shrink!

                                                                The horrible horrible truth is . . .

                                                                You know those little boullion cubes wrapped in shiny gold and red paper?

                                                                Well. I use them ALL the FREAKIN' time.

                                                                If I have stock of my own I will always prefer that. But if my choice is buy something in a can or carton, no matter how pricey and wondermus it is supposed to be, or to drop one of those little cubes in a cup of hot water, I'll go with the cube EVERY time.

                                                                The few times I have not - such as a couple months ago when I tried to use "real beef stock" to make french onion soup - the results have been hideous. HIDEOUS, I tell you! Horrible beyond belief!

                                                                This may very well be an outgrowth of what I was raised on, which was either real stock made by the gallon (by me), of which we usually had plenty, or the little cubes. So both of those taste right and proper to me and the stuff in cans/cartons does NOT.

                                                                Mea culpa, mea culpa, maxima mea culpa.


                                                                4 Replies
                                                                1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                  just as long as its not campbells broth of any sort. so disgusting. I actually found a generic brand at a bulk type store that is probably the best ive had, it actually tastes like chicken and isn't sickeningly salty. But yes cubes over campbells any day :) even bulk powders!

                                                                  1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                    Oh yeah! I forgot about that - I use Better Than Bouillon quite a lot. I'm not sure if it has chemicals in it, but I suspect it does. =)

                                                                    1. re: aching

                                                                      Ah, I am not alone! So glad to have company in this culinary depravity!

                                                                      Is there a 12-step program for us?

                                                                      1. re: aching

                                                                        Love Better than Bouillon! It takes up way less space than the stock it replaces would. Even when I make stock from scratch, I sometimes cheat by stirring in spoonful of BtB.