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Dec 8, 2011 01:58 PM

Vegetarian sausage?

Mrs. O has moved into the veggie camp, for very good reasons of her own, and so the cook (me) has been learning New Tricks. It still feels an awful lot like I'm trying to write a story without being able to use adjectives or pronouns, but making friends with tofu is having its charms. The one thing we're really missing is a bit more of a "meaty" experience. A non-vegetarian friend recommended Soyrizo, saying she now prefers it to the lips-and-snouts original, and it does taste a lot like the real thing. So now I'm seeing all kinds of meatless bratwurst, hot dogs, Italian sausage and the like at Whole Foods and other places, and am interested in trying some. I am not however interested in making a pot of something with an expensive meatless substitute that renders the whole dish all but inedible.

It's not that I mind experimenting, but I have a horror of throwing food away, especially when it was not cheap (because, well, I sort of am). So who among us has tried one or more of these things and found them good? Or vile? The Soyrizo, for instance, has the flavor down pat, but not the feel of meat; it's like spicy mush, or soft sawdust. Is there any fake meat that has both flavor and chew? Or is that asking too much of plant protein? Now, we're talking vegetarian here, not vegan, so there is some possible leeway.

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  1. I'm rather suspicious of faux-meat products, but I do love Field Roast (vegan) sausages. They are delicious, nice spicing, texture is appropriate, they hold together in sauce. I used the Italian ones in sausage/onions/peppers in tomato sauce one Christmas, and no one realized.

    I get them at Whole Foods.

    23 Replies
    1. re: DuchessNukem

      +1 for Field Roast - really tasty products.

      1. re: DuchessNukem

        I like the Field Roast apple sage sausage! For Italian flavored faux sausage, I usually get the Tofurkey version.

        Another company that makes great vegetarian products, is Worthington Loma Linda. However, I've found that their products are really hard to find....I've only seen them in a few specialty food stores.

        1. re: DuchessNukem

          I really like all their sausage varieties. The flavor is quite good and the texture better than most fake meat products. I tend to chop or take them apart for recipes rather than serve as a sausage.

          1. re: DuchessNukem

            Ok – here’s one of my beefs (pun) about some vegetarians. Why do you have to eat fake meat? I mean you look in the freezer of almost all my vegetarian friends and you see fake meat products. The tofurkey, the fake corn dogs, the Morningstar sausage. When you open the freezer of a meat lover do you find fake veggies? Maybe no veggies at all, but there isn’t a steak masquerading as broccoli. I’m pretty much an omnivore, but when I prepare vegetarian meals, I don’t cook trying to hide the fact that there’s no meat. Properly prepared vegetarian meals are full of flavour and can satisfy you without the need to use some weird soy/gluten/mush product. What you need to do is look to cultures where vegetarian cooking is common for inspiration. Check out Indian cookbooks, look to Buddhist based Japanese and Korean cooking. There are great Italian dishes that use no meat from eggplant parm to arancini. Plenty out there to discover without using fake meat.

            1. re: Bkeats

              It was Chinese Buddhists who started it, apparently, since meat consumption is even more ingrained in Chinese food culture than it is in America's. If you go to a large Chinese herbalist store you'll see fake meat, fake chicken and duck, fake fish even. Here, it was the Adventists who picked up on that, because the average citizen of turn-of-the-century America could not imagine a full meal with no meat. So now here's me, at least half of whose recipes are flesh-based or use meat as an important ingredient. I have invented a few good dishes using tofu, and we've also had spaghetti with Trader Joe's Meatless Balls (big hit!). However, it's the time of year when I start thinking of dishes such as cassoulet and choucroute garni, or just a simple sausage, potatoes and kraut supper, and I need something to fill the gap in those programs. Yes, we love beans, but we need a few other sources of protein.

              1. re: Will Owen

                There's a wonderful braised onion and mushroom dish that's great for this time of the year. You get as many kinds of different onion varieties as you can. Leeks, red onions, yellow onions, cippolini, pearl, etc. Brown individually in olive oil and garlic. Then sauté different mushrooms like cremini, porcini, hen o woods. Don't need a lot of these. Put everything back in the pot and deglaze with white wine and braise until onions are soft. Awesome with some good crusty bread to soak up all the flavorful liquid. Easy recipe to adjust based on what you can get. Use plenty of fresh herbs like thyme and parsley.

                1. re: Will Owen

                  I've had some really interesting Chinese fake meat items. There's a fake stewing beef that has the texture down pat - the taste isn't wildly beef-like and reminds me more of mushrooms, but at least it blends well with the kinds of dishes you'd use stewing beef in.

                  Unfortunately, I have no idea what it is called or where you could possibly buy it in the US.

                  1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                    it's made from wheat gluten. seitan is the US & Japanese equivalent, but markets with a large selection of Taiwanese products (Ranch 99 et al) carry the canned or frozen "mock meats" used in those Chinese dishes you've had.

                2. re: Bkeats

                  Posts like this interest me, and I've read many like them. Yes, no one has to eat fake meat, but people choose to, and for some reason that seems to set other people off. But I don't see many posts questioning anyone's decision to eat fake sugar or to replace mashed potatoes with mashed cauliflower. So I've concluded that there's a sort of consensus that artificial sweeteners and carb substitutes are justified, but vegetarian approximations of meat are not. How come?

                  1. re: small h

                    Oh, there are plenty of people out there railing loud and long against fake sugar, too. It seems to set a WHOLE lot of people off. Even though I'm going to ask that they not vault in with the usual diatribes against sugar substitutes in this thread, I bet they will anyway.

                    1. re: EWSflash

                      Yes, of course. I'm having some trouble expressing myself precisely about this. I'll try again.

                      The usual diatribes against fake sugar claim that it's bad for you. That's not really the case with fake meat, and certainly not with fake mashed potatoes. While someone usually chimes in about how processed or salty or fatty fake meat can be, fake meat isn't inherently unhealthful in the way fake sugar is (or so the argument goes). Rather, the desire to eat something meat-like that isn't meat seems to strike some people as hypocritical or weird, while the desire to eat something carb-like or sugar-like doesn't provoke the same reaction.

                      I hope that's a little clearer, but I'm not sure it is. Oh, well.

                      1. re: small h

                        It becomes an one-up-man ship of of the purity of ones vegetarianism - if you use fake meat then you must not be truly dedicated...

                        1. re: meatn3

                          I've definitely seen that. But I'm referring to the non-vegetarians who make said comments, like Bkeats (who I'm calling out only because s/he reminded me of this, not because s/he is a particularly illustrative example).

                          1. re: small h

                            Sheesh. My point was that you don't need meat substitutes to have a good vegetarian meal. I've gone between eating meat and not at various times. When I'm not eating meat, I'm perfectly happy and capable of having a meal that has nothing resembling meat. Once upon a time, a favorite dinner was a fresh hot potato salad. Actually went to a Hindu friends wedding just a little while ago and there was no meat in sight. Dinner was filling, satisfying and wonderful. Just missed having a beer to go with it. Mango lassi not very satisfying when you're craving a beer to go with all the spice.

                            1. re: Bkeats

                              I understood your point, but part of your post was "Why do you have to eat fake meat?" The short answer is: I don't have to; I want to. (Just like no one *has* to eat real meat.) And then I decided to try to figure out why some people get so agitated by the very idea of people eating fake meat.

                              1. re: small h

                                I'm not a vegetarian, but I understand the logic. If you eschew meat because you don't like the taste, it's one thing. If you avoid it for ethical or health reasons, but have nothing aesthetically against it, then meat substitutes make sense.

                                The other reason is that a lot of common recipes use meat. Sure, you can eat nothing but naturally vegetarian dishes (and when I eat vegetarian food, that's actually what I prefer), but for a long term vegetarian that can mean permanently giving up entire categories of food you grew up with and enjoyed.

                      2. re: EWSflash

                        I'm going to sit on my keyboard as soon as I post this so I won't rail against fake sugar. Fake meat, fine, I get it. Fake sugar? Okay, sitting on keyboard now.....

                    2. re: Bkeats

                      Former veg here (went back to omni 11 months ago after 20 years), and one of my beefs is omnis who actually care whether or not veg*ns eat faux meat. Add your somewhat condescending tone, and ooh. Many veg*ns with faux meat in their freezers are also very, very good cooks. And are quite familiar with the cuisines you mention and more. Guess what, sometimes they also like the convenience of...convenience food. Sometimes you want to put a patty on a bun. Sometimes you miss the flavor of breakfast sausage.

                      1. re: debbiel

                        I get the fact that sometimes you want something that tastes like breakfast sausage, but you’re missing my point. Almost every meat substitute product I’ve had is a pale imitation of what its trying to mimic. I appreciate vegetarian cooking. Made a mushroom torte for dinner last night in fact. Rather than compromising, celebrate what ingredients you’re working with in vegetarian cooking. One of the first cookbooks I ever got was Greens. Taught me quite a bit. I just dislike the compromise that most fake meat products represent. I mentioned before the hindu wedding I just went to and the fabulous vegetarian meal I had there. I contrast that to another wedding that I went to a few years back where the couple were also vegetarians but not hindu. They had a meal with various fake meat dishes designed to appease the meat eaters I guess. There was this fake Ruben sandwich which still gives me shudders. I have no idea what that slice of pinkish stuff was. When I’m eating vegetarian, I like to think of it as being less processed food. For me, fake meat is emblematic of over processed foods. Just my opinion, we’re each entitled to at least one. As to sounding condescending, my apologies. I was making an attempt at humour but jokes don’t translate well on the web as comic timing is tough.

                        1. re: Bkeats

                          So it sounds that for you this is basically a processed/not processed food issue, and I can see the draw of that. I don't eat many processed foods now as an omni or in the before time as a veg. I would never plan a party (wedding reception or other) built around processed food (veg or omni). But I've also had some seriously compromised meals at omni events.

                          I don't think I was missing your point. Just adding to it that sometimes convenience wins out in the compromise. That this happens on occasion for most veg and most omni eaters. But it doesn't mean they don't have good taste, don't know good food, don't know different cuisines, wouldn't prefer the taste of a great veggie curry over the morningstar nugget, etc.

                          There are of course incredibly processed fake meats. Then of course there are the fake meats that I suppose are processed but I don't tend to view them as such. Perhaps because of their long, long, long history (I'm thinking longingly, right now, of the mock duck basil at one of our local Thai restaurants).

                          And now excuse me while I go finish plucking the damned pin feathers out of a real duck.

                      2. re: Bkeats

                        FYI, you may think this is a novel question, but vegetarians and vegans who like fake meat get bombarded with it. I get at it work pretty much every time I admit to eating faux meat, even seitan/gluten that isn't branded as faux meat. Which is every time I bring it in my lunch -- I'm not going on about it, I'm just eating something that looks vaguely meat-like while people know I'm a vegetarian. (And again, not advertising the vegetarian part, it just comes up when you eat lunch with the same crowd over and over.)

                        It's an old, tired question, and implying that vegetarians/vegans who use them don't know anything about world cuisines is condescending. Why does a chowhound eat anything? <em>Because they like the way it tastes</em>.

                        For some real answers, assuming you are actually asking this in good faith and not to feel superior, reasons I have seen people eat faux meat:

                        1. Because they miss meat.
                        2. Because they have never had meat and don't miss it, but like the way faux meat tastes.
                        3. Because they want to eat a dish that has meat as a component, without trying to redesign it.
                        4. Because they're putting together meals for mixed vegetarian/non-vegetarian crowds and want something familiar to the meat eaters. This works best with ground-meat dishes or similar where the fake-ness of the meat is less obvious.
                        5. A non-vegetarian is cooking for a vegetarian and is more comfortable making small steps away from things they know how to cook.
                        6. Because they're training for a marathon and trying to mainline as much protein as possible and want a variety of sources.
                        7. Because they are going to a grill party and want something uncomplicated to throw on the grill.
                        8. Because they are a meat-eater who is worried about contamination/food safety issues and would rather use faux meat. (Again, works best where it's a small amount of ground meat that's being substituted, or in camping/similar situations.)
                        9. Because it is cheaper and cost is an issue. (Generally here we're talking TVP or homemade gluten, not the commercial ones, which get pricey fast.)
                        10. Because they have health-related diet restrictions that faux meats fit and real ones do not (many faux meats are extremely low-fat compared to the lowest-fat meat version).

                        For me, it's pretty much just that I like them, so I eat them. (I don't like all of them. Some of them are vile. Some are bland. Some are delicious.)

                      3. re: DuchessNukem

                        I know it's been mentioned already, but I really like the Morningstar sausage patties. I make my own "mcmuffin" with them and add roasted red pepper. Very filling but not as heavy as the real thing. Good luck Will.

                        1. re: DuchessNukem

                          Yeah - I like the Field Roast and Tofurkey brand veggie sausage the best. And both also don't have a lot of overly processed / unrecognizable ingredients in them. The Field Roast ones have no casing, so they're also easy to crumble for recipes where that's desirable.

                        2. Oh, and please don't say the word "Quorn" anywhere around my husband. Nearly instant-onset lower GI symptoms. He even looks away when he passes the freezer section at Whole Foods.

                          1. I've been veg for 15 years, but I love the taste and texture of meat so usually shy away from the faux-meat products since they're so often disappointing. But I love the Trader Joe's Italian Sausage. It definitely has a meaty texture, and browns nicely. (Though I've never cooked them whole, just sliced in coins.) I also like the Gimme Lean tube of sausage, which you can shape into breakfast sausage patties or links, or crumble into a meat sauce or chili. For what it's worth, I also really love the TJ soy chorizo, which may be made by whoever makes Soyrizo, since it seems very similar--ie, super tasty, but very crumbly and can't be used in any recipes that require it to hold together.

                            Please post if you ever find a suitable substitute for bacon. I don't think one exists.

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: herring

                              Herring, dehydrator eggplant bacon can be surprisingly bacon-satisfying:


                              1. re: DuchessNukem

                                Wow, that looks fascinating! I don't have a food dehydrator, though, and don't know much about the process. The "food dehydrator tray" pictured just looked like a cookie rack that allows air to circulate. Is that all it takes, or is there a machine involved that wasn't specifically discussed? I'd love to try this.

                                1. re: herring

                                  From the photos, it looks like a tray from the Excalibur dehydrator (I have this one too). Although you can dehydrate on very low heat in the oven (depends on your oven's capabilities), it's easier for me to have a standalone device.

                                  You can get a lower end one for under $40, or sometimes bargain prices at thrift stores. It's a very fun toy. :)

                                  1. re: DuchessNukem

                                    Hmm. How low a heat? My oven is very imprecise, but I'm wondering if I could just stick the eggplant in there with just the pilot light for heat. Thoughts? I'll have to read more on the whole process of food dehydration.

                                    I've been on something of a kitchen spending moratorium, and no matter how cheap I really don't need or have room for another item, but I'll definitely keep this in the back of my mind. And the recipe bookmarked, of course. Thanks!

                                    1. re: herring

                                      I understand about the "no-more-devices" rule lol. I just keep breaking the rule.

                                      Here's a quick-n-dirty descrip of how to use the oven:

                                      Temp control may be less precise; having your oven tied up for 6-8-10+ hours might be a hassle; food may darken a bit more than in dehydrator; but definitely worth a try!

                                      1. re: DuchessNukem

                                        Heh. I don't even like to call it a rule so I can break it occasionally! But I truly have a tiny kitchen and my boyfriend has pretty much done all he can in terms of building shelves, hanging pots and knife racks, etc etc. So thanks for the link to using the oven--and especially for your additional tips! I'll give it a try at some point.

                              2. re: herring

                                Another vote for TJ's Italian Sausage. It is a great product! Very tasty and has a great texture.

                                1. re: jlhinwa

                                  I'll jump on this bandwagon too. My family has taken to using them to have sausage and peppers and grilled onions nights with even the unabashed carnivornes requesting we use the veggie version!

                              3. I've actually had good luck with assorted veggie pepperonis over the years if you're a DIY pizza type. I think it's the case where the main point is well-spiced grease so the underlying protein source doesn't matter so much.

                                1. I once got some breakfast sausages, and since they didn't brown properly they ended up looking like stools, and (yes- I did try them) the flavor was uncharacteristically blah for a veggie burger-type of dish, which I normally like. Don't remember the brand, but it was one of the more common ones. . I think the breakfast sausage thing was what made them gross, the size and shape and all.