What is a Meat Analog?

meatanalogs

If you are exploring meatless meals, you no doubt have heard the term, meat analog. So what exactly is a meat analog? Rest assured, it has nothing to do with TV reception or old cell phones! Meat analogs are simply plant based versions of common meat products. They are shaped into burgers, shaved to resemble ground beef or chicken, rolled into frankfurter or sausage form, or pounded into cutlets. Meat analogs can be found in health food or natural foods stores, and a greater selection is now available in most traditional grocery stores. They come canned, dried, frozen, or refrigerated. Some are good, healthy substitutes for their meat counterparts while others fall well into the over-processed and unhealthy category. Most meat analogs are made from soy, but they can also be made from wheat gluten, nuts, cheese, beans, grains and even a fungus similar to mushrooms. If you wanted, you could make any meat substitute yourself from scratch. However, at the end of a long day, when the family is clamoring for dinner, I am thankful that Morningstar Farms, or Turtle Island Foods, or Yves, or any of many other companies, has already done most of the work for me.

So how do you decide what meat analog is a good choice for your family? Start by reading labels. If the product contains any hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fat,  put it back on the shelf! A meatless diet should be a healthy diet, and hydrogenated fats are definitely not healthy.  Also check out the salt content. Something in the 15-18% DV category is ok. Too much over that and you will want to make sure that there is no other salt in the meal. Anything less than that is great. Most meat analogs now really limit salt, wheras many actual meats are now injected with salt to increase flavor.  If you see any product, meat analog or otherwise, that pushes up above 25% DV or so, avoid it.

The photo above shows some of my favorite meat analogs. I use others according to what I am cooking, but these are ususally found in my freezer or cupboard. If you try one burger product and don’t like it, try another. They certainly don’t all taste the same. I am especially partial to the new Chez Gourmet from Marie Veggie Pattis. They are made from wheat, cheese, corn, rice and pecans, although she also has a vegan version. Another frozen product I use when making a meatless “meat” dish like rum-marinated steak is Worthington’s Staklets. Some burger products taste too much like meat for me, but you might be different. The canned Tender Bits by Loma Linda are one of my favorite meatless chicken products. They are basically wheat gluten and are great stir-fried. The Quorn brand tenders are made from mycoprotein, which is actually a fungus produced through a fermentation process. They are perfect for casseroles and soups. Some people have difficulty digesting a mycoprotein product, but I don’t and find them juicy and tasty. The Fri-Chick patties are a canned product whose texture doesn’t appeal to everyone. My husband for example, doesn’t care for them at all. But they are kind of spongy and full of flavor, so they go into casseroles and meatless pies.  Although most meat analogs don’t really taste like meat, some taste too much like meat! Texture is really important too. I don’t care for meatless “chicken” roasts because the texture is too “chicken-like”. But these roasts are very popular, so obviously I am in the minority. Your best bet is to experiment with all kinds of analogs. You may find that canned “frankfurters” are perfect for baking with beans, but frozen “franks” are best for grilling. Unlike meat products, where chicken basically tastes like chicken no matter who grew it, meatless “chicken” products are all different. Let me know about your favorite meat analogs, and how you use them and we’ll share them here. Have a great weekend, cooking with meat analogs!

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About the Author

Renee Pottle, an author and heart-healthy educator, loves to explore and write about the Mediterranean Diet. She blogs at SeedToPantry.com and HestiasKitchen.com.

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