Home Cooking

Your 3 Best Fake Meat Options

June 25 2012 - 9:22 AM

FakemeatThe big joke about vegetarians is that they vow not to eat meat, yet they scour the aisles of their local natural foods stores for the perfect protein that tastes just like it. If you’re not going to eat meat, what’s the point? Well, vegetarians and meat-eaters alike will tell you that the fake stuff can pack more protein than real meat, it’s easier to make and you don’t have to worry about questionable meat quality. 

Many Chicago Foodies readers didn’t know that I’m a vegetarian. Well, I’m actually a pescatarian, yet I’ve been eating these meat alternatives for years – even when I did eat poultry occasionally. I’ve tried tons of brands at different stores, and I think I’ve found the best of the best. I always consider the cost and what you’re actually getting.

I’ve found that Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and other specialty stores generally have more reasonable prices than your average Jewel. Even if you do eat meat, you might enjoy trying out one of these meatless options for a change. They’re easy to make, healthy, and all are super-flavorful. 

  1. Upton’s Naturals Seitan
    Upton’s is a local Chicago company, which makes me proud because this stuff really rocks. They make four different types of seitan that are perfectly seasoned to go with any of your meals. Seitan is actually a protein made from wheat gluten, and it’s a great alternative to the soy-based options out there. The Italian-style one is great in a veggie lasagna for a faux-meat sauce. And the chorizo flavor is perfect for tacos.
  2.  Morningtar Chik ‘N Strips
    Everyone knows Morningstar Farms is the king of the fake meat industry. They have a ton of great vegetarian options out there that I am a big fan of. One thing I found I really needed when I stopped eating meat was an easy source of protein to throw on top of salads or into stir fries. These Chik ‘N Strips are really the perfect option. They are preseasoned and cut. They come in the freezer aisle, so all you need to do is saute some to add to your regular meal. Slightly browning them, just like you would normal chicken, is the best way to get that chicken-like texture with a nice crust on the outside. 
  3. Lightlife Smart Dogs
    I stopped eating hot dogs years and years ago, so I’m not entirely sure if I know what the real thing tastes like. But if you’re doing a nutritional comparison, these are definitely the way to go. Each one only has 45 calories and they have a ton of protein. It’s simple to toss these into the microwave, but that does give them a slightly rubbery texture. If you feel left out when you’re grilling this summer, just throw a couple of these on the grill. The smell they give off is exactly like a real hot dog, and the outer skin gets a great char, too. Just be sure to cut slits in them first or they will explode. These are the easiest fake meat to find, aside from tofu, in my opinion. I’ve found them at Trader Joe’s, Jewel and a number of other stores. 

Honorable Mention: Trader Joe’s fake chicken nuggets are incredible, affordable and addicting. They aren’t a total staple in my kitchen but they do make for a delicious weekend lunch or snack. They are a bit greasy like regular chicken nuggets but don’t have any of the mystery meat fear that often comes with the McDonald’s version. 

–Marly Schuman