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Faux Meat - Recommendations

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For some reason, I never really thought about purchasing the fake meat products - the kinds that are supposed to mimic meat texture and taste) - until last fall. Since then I have made a very good pasta sauce using Morningstar Crumbles (added lots of fennel seeds when sauteing the onions and garlic), a decent set of Italian "sausage" sandwiches using some off-brand tofu sausages, and Amy's frozen veggie patties for burgers.

But now's the time to branch out. A friend has recommended the "chicken" tenders at Trader Joe's, so they're on the list. What other brands / types of fake meat should I be looking for? I'm fine with doctoring-up to increase flavor profiles as needed.

Many thanks!

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  1. Here are some of the faux meats I use often and have been happy with:
    -Gardein beef tips: for stews, and "beef" braises
    -Worthington Loma Linda Big Franks: My favorite veggie hot dog!
    -Original Gardenburger patty: for veggie burgers. I actually like that this particular patty does try to mimic meat...its just veggies, grains/brown rice, etc.
    -soyrizo: I've tried Trader Joe's, El Burrito, and Melissa's version and they're all good. TJ's version is more crumbly while the other two are more mushy.
    -morningstar farms meal starter chick'n strips or Quorn chick'n cutlets: I substitute with these in all recipes that call for chicken.
    -gimme lean sausage: really good substitute for ground sausage

    2 Replies
    1. re: yummfood

      yes! what you say about the gardenburger patties is exactly why I like them. They don't try to mimic meat. That's why I like Gardenburger and Dr. Praeger's brands.

      1. re: yummfood

        Morning Star's original sausage patties are very tasty and the texture is close enough. Not vegan because the ingredients include egg whites.

        I've used TJ's non-meat chorizo and it works for me.

      2. Trader Joe's Italian sausage is very good as are their meatballs (both work great over pasta). SoyRizo is also really great, it's a looser-than-chorizo substitute, but it crisps up nicely in a skillet and works especially well with eggs.

        6 Replies
        1. re: ferret

          Another vote for Soyrizo. Very versatile add-in for omelets, soups/stews, etc.

          1. re: HDinCentralME

            I've gotten Soyrizo in CA--loved it--but haven't seen in NYC

            1. re: JanetG

              Janet, all the Trader Joe's I've been to in NYC have had Soyrizo. It's in the refrigerated section with other fake meats, tofu, tempeh, etc. If you don't see it, ask--don't miss out!

              1. re: herring

                imho, the El Burrito has the best that I've tried:

                http://www.elburrito.com/soyrizo.html

                Be sure it's not the Trader Joe version of Soyrizo - its texture is weird and the flavor balance is not nearly as balanced as El Burrito's...

                http://veggiefoodlover.wordpress.com/...

                1. re: herring

                  I am not a vegetarian but I do like to limit my meat intake. Having read so many raves for Soyrizo, I looked at the package. The sodium content is extremely high. I put it back - that much salt makes it, for me, almost as unhealthy as a fatty meat sausage.

                  1. re: greygarious

                    I've found the sodium level of Soyrizo to be in line if not better than typical meat sausages found in stores. I know sausages in general are not health food, but I'd imagine if one is on a vegetarian diet, this is a nice way of satiating those protein cravings. Here's the nutritional info from a readily available meat sausage:

                    http://www.aidells.com/product/5

                    Compared to Mexican chorizo, it's definitely a healthier alternative. Scroll down to El Burrito's comparative info chart:

                    http://www.elburrito.com/ElBurritoPri...

                    Here's a random nutritional info chart on Mexican chorizo:

                    http://www.calories-nutrition.buddysl...

                    If one is on a salt-restricted diet, then sausage is probably on the no-fly list regardless. Otherwise, why not...

          2. TIVALL, TIVALL, TIVALL--- Buy from a Kosher store (only sold in Kosher stores). Amazing stuff!

            7 Replies
            1. re: marissaj

              marissaj, is Tivall vegan, i.e., does it have egg?

              1. re: JanetG

                Tivall is not vegan because it contains eggs (or at least egg-based product). It does not contain any dairy though.

              2. re: marissaj

                Tivall is owned by Osem. I tried to find where Tivall is sold in the US, but so far no luck. Do you or does anyone have any info? Thanks.

                1. re: mrsdebdav

                  I would check your local kosher supermarkets - I know here in Chicago I have seen them at Hungarian Kosher in Skokie -

                  1. re: weinstein5

                    Thanks! I'll try the local Kosher markets here in suburban NY. I get to Chi a few times a year, so if no luck in NY, Skokie here I come.
                    Anything particular product recs?

                    1. re: mrsdebdav

                      To be honest have not tried it yet but it is on my list - I do like Upton Naturals Seitan Products which are also available at Hungarians - http://www.uptonsnaturals.com/

                      1. re: mrsdebdav

                        If you feel comfortable saying more specifically where you are, I can point you in the right direction. I keep kosher and am vegetarian.

                2. Fieldroast sausages (http://www.fieldroast.com/products/re...
                  )are the best and are the only faux meat that I buy. The chipotle mexican flavor is good in place of chorizo. I've read really good reviews of the Fieldroast frankfurters and I'm excited to try them on my next camping trip :) The other veggie dogs that I've tried (Smart Dogs, Tofu Pups, Yves...) were really not good. They reminded me instantly of the hot dog pieces in Spaghetti-Os and there is a reason I haven't eaten that since childhood!

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: jennymoon

                    I love Yves ground round. Trader Joes has a similar on. I use it in tacos all the time. So good. I'm not a Dan of Gimme Lean, but my friend uses the original flavor to make decent meatballs.

                    I'm a big fan of Tivall, too! And I grew up on Lona Linda; love them still!

                    1. re: jennymoon

                      Fieldroast sausages -- another vote. Flavor is delicious on its own, texture pleasant and familiar, holds its shape well.

                      1. re: jennymoon

                        completely concur with your assessment about the abysmal state of the phoney-meat hot dogs.
                        i would LOVE it if one of these companies would make one that actually tasted good.
                        preferably it would also be made with non-gmo products. . . .

                        a girl can dream, can't she?

                        1. re: westsidegal

                          Faux sausages are far better.

                          1. re: westsidegal

                            Vegetarian corn dogs on the other hand are amazing. Morningstar's version was just so good. Too bad it has egg in it. My meateating brothers always stole them though, which pissed me off.

                          2. re: jennymoon

                            I agree--the Field Roast sausages are the best mock sausage by a wide margin. I like the Morningstar farms breakfast patties for weekend brunch, but most of the rest are terrible. A good sausage should be be loaded with fat and spices, not some soft, tasteless mushy thing.

                          3. Upton Naturals makes excellent seitan suasages - chorizo and itialian - http://www.uptonsnaturals.com/

                            1. Based on this recent thread, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/845029 I made my first foray into Amy's products with the Quarter Pound Veggie Burger, and really liked it. It sort of tasted like an oniony sort of falafel. It crisped up very nicely (I thought it was too browned, and would taste burnt, but it was perfect). I cooked it stove-top, and my only caution is that I used a med-high heat, and after I flipped it and added the cheese, the cheese didn't really melt, and the patty was not quite hot in the center. I wound up sticking it in the microwave for forty-five seconds, and then it was good to go. I am definitely buying these again, and really want to try the recommended California burgers. The omnivore in the house ate two, and has asked that I buy them again. He always filches my faux.

                              1. Morningstar's black bean chipotle burgers are very good. They tend to be more of a veggie burger than a simulated beef product, but in this case, not a bad thing.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: ferret

                                  A local brew pub has had black bean burgers on their menu for years. When Costco started selling MF's I discovered the restaurant's source -- the rippled edges are even the same. They're really delish!

                                2. Not sure which TJ chicken tenders you mean. Years ago, I tried their frozen breaded chicken bits and thought they were awful -- reminded me more of a poor attempt at fish. Their imitation chicken strips (in the refrigerated section), however, are great, and a comparison of ingredients suggests they're the same as what's sold by Morningstar Farms in my supermarket's frozen section. But comparable with either are Quorn's chicken tenders (recipe ready) and breaded nuggets. My wife's trying to avoid soy, so these are our go-to products.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: azveggieguy

                                    TJ's recently released multi-chicken tenders, which are frozen and awesome. They go especially well with the Sweet & Hot mustard from TJs.

                                    I am pretty sure that these tenders are the same ones as the Gardein seven-grain tenders. Same directions, same taste, much cheaper.

                                  2. I believe that Quorn products do the best job of mimicking textures and providing a great tasting product. It is also healthier and safer than using soy protein choices.

                                    Their meatballs are my favourite, never tried their imitation chicken products, but my Aunt and Uncle in Scotland are long time vegetarians and really enjoy using Quorn when they want "meat" in their meals.

                                    Usually I just tend to stick to real food and try to creatively use vegetables in preparations akin to meat. But at least their are some good meat replacements out their nowadays.

                                    1. I love the Trader Joe's chicken and beef strips, though not everyone is a fan. My best friend has made fantastic sloppy joe's with their ground veggie beef. Another friend is a huge huge HUGE fan of quorn but I haven't had it myself.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: frannieface77

                                        i like sloppy joe sauce enough that you could put it on cardboard and i'd probably like it.
                                        my guess is that it's the sugar in it that so appeals to me. . . .

                                        1. re: westsidegal

                                          Similar to what I say about "vegetarian chopped liver" and the debate about whether the better base is lentils, green beans, or something else: once you mix in the sweetness of the caramelized onions, you could use papier mache and no one would notice.

                                      2. I've been pretty happy with everything I've tried from Gardein... I can't seem to get enough of the buffalo wings!

                                        1. Speaking as an omnivore with a sometime vegetarian/vegan boyfriend -- Quorn are the best fake chicken I've had (I'm eating some now, as a matter of fact!); if I didn't know better I'd assume they were real chicken patties (I haven't tried the non-breaded tenders, tho'). Their meatballs are good too, as are Trader Joe's (TJ's are crumblier; Quorn ones are sturdier and a little "meatier"). Field Roast sausages are surprisingly tasty, and certainly the best stand-in for hot dogs/sausages I've tried.

                                          1. I am an inconsistent vegetarian and some folks make a big stink about the use of faux meat but I actually love it. The trick in most cases is that it be used as an ingredient for flavor and mouth feel rather than served as is. I like some of the Field Roast products and agree that Gardein and Quorn, as mentioned here, are about the best. But there's a South African brand Fry's that is available at a few places here in LA. I've tried a number of their products and all are excellent, particularly the hot dogs. For those located in Los Angeles, the Buddhist vegetarian store in Rosemead has a ginormous selection of frozen fakery. Recommend "shrimp" and "ham" particularly.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Layne Murphy

                                              Where in Los Angeles do they sell the Fry's products?

                                              1. re: larissa9

                                                I'm on the Eastside--Figueroa Produce in Highland Park and Fresco Market in Hermon. Frye's has a website so I'm sure you can find out about other local purveyors.

                                            2. I make my own! Black bean burgers is an obvious one, but I've also made veggie sausage, veggie bacon, "chicken" patties, meatballs. It's so much cheaper than buying the processed ones, and you know exactly what's in them. If you season them properly, they can be absolutely delicious!! I don't know the policy about posting links on here, but I have all the recipes online.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: claireooto

                                                I would love to know the recipes you use! The purchased fake meats just seem so processed.

                                                I think it would be best to post as a new discussion on home cooking, then post a link to that thread here.

                                              2. I don't know if this falls into the category you're discussing (which seems to be deliberately fake meat) because it's not a "fake" anything, it's just a natural product.

                                                It's jackfruit. I only know about it because the Sri Lankan restaurants nearby serve it. I don't know where you buy the raw article. But the first time I had it in a prepared dish I almost spit it out because it was so similar to meat....shreds the same way, same texture but a bit softer. Very agreeable flavor with a subtle sweetness.

                                                I don't know where you get it, but there are Sri Lankan groceries here, and I ought to ask.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: comestible

                                                  there us an indian restaurant in LA (samosa house--the location on berryman and washington) that always offers delicious curried jackfruit.
                                                  if you get it to go, it's about 8oz for $4 or so (completely prepared, just reheat)

                                                  1. re: comestible

                                                    I've seen some places here in LA use it for taco fillings (as "carnitas") and other "meat" type applications as well. I enjoy it -- low-cost and delicious, but it is definitely less protein heavy and doesn't really have a ton of nutritional value. East Asian and SE Asian markets often carry canned jackfruit (and here, often the fresh kind as well).

                                                    Keep in mind that for savory applications, you probably want to use "green" jackfruit. We usually use the canned kind, simply because a whole fresh jackfruit is so big.

                                                    Jackfruit curry is great - there should be some SE Asian style jackfruit curry recipes online.

                                                  2. Casting my vote for Morningstar Farms Mushroom Lovers Burger. They usually have them at Trader Joe's, but also can be found at most other grocery stores. So flavorful. I often bring them to friends' BBQs, and they have been known to be chosen over regular burgers by some carnivores. Really great with a little bbq sauce and a bun/pita.

                                                    http://www.healthypantz.com

                                                    1. 1. Vegetable Masala Burgers at Trader Joe's
                                                      2. Original Vegan Boca burgers
                                                      3, Morningstar breakfast sausages

                                                      Sometimes I also get pre-made BBQ seitan from Whole Foods--but it is definitely a local-company.

                                                      1. Field Roast is one of my favorites. I like to slice the meatloaf and fry it so it gets crispy instead of baking it. The apple sage sausages are great with cooked cabbage. Morningstar products are great - corndogs, sausage patties, chicken patties, and the bacon! I like to cook the bacon extra long in the microwave so it gets crisp and have BLTs. I also like the gardein ground beef. I like to mix it with pasta, sauce and cheese. Yummy!

                                                        1. I also like the Field Roast sausages. Another favorite is Fakin' Bacon which I get at my local Whole Foods. With the addition of a little maple syrup in the pan, it's especially nice for breakfast. Makes a good BLT, too. (Using my favorite vegan mayo made by Earth Balance.)

                                                          1. Personally, I just say "No" except for Sunshine (Garden Herb, and Southwest) burgers www.sunshineburger.com

                                                            1. I prefer the MS brand of breaded faux chicken for its taste and texture, though Qorn's faux turkey loaf is a hit this time of year. We really love the LightLife chorizo, which fries up very well. MS used to make a sausage crumble that was great for Italian dishes, but we can't find it in Knoxville any more. We switched from MS burger crumbles to Yves, because those simply cook and taste better in the final applications, even something as silly as sloppy joes. The closest faux meats we've found are the MS Grillers Prime burger (though I prefer their original), and their breakfast sausage patties (the links are a little strange). And I second the LomaLinda/Worthington *canned* hot dog recommendation, especially when grilled or cooked over wood.