It looks like meat, it tastes like meat, sometimes it even ‘bleeds’ like meat… But it’s not meat!
You probably have noticed a growing array of plant-based meats hit the shelves of your go-to supermarket. Perhaps your favourite restaurant has featured a new snazzy ‘plant-based burger’? Whether you’re a committed plant-based eater, or have never quite ventured into plant-based territory, one thing is for certain: these new kids on the block (or barbecue) are here to stay. From nuggets to burgers, to mince, schnitzel and sausages, here’s everything you need to know about plant-based meat!
What is plant-based meat?
Plant-based meats are foods made entirely from plants and non-animal products. While the first ever “meatless meat” was actually created as far back as 1896, it is only in recent years that we have seen a growing production of – and demand for – plant-based meats. These products, which are enjoyed by vegans, vegetarians, flexitarians and meat-eaters alike, tend to mimic the flavour, texture and appearance of meat products. Nowadays you are able to satisfy any meaty craving with a plant-based alternative. Lemon and herb chicken? Yup. Hot dogs? Those too. You can even get meat-free meatballs!
What is plant-based meat made from?
Now, we know plant-based meats are made from plants… But what exactly is meant by that? Let’s break it down.
Each plant-based meat has a unique combination of ingredients that give it its form, flavour and (often) meaty-likeness. Some common ingredients found in plant-based meats include:
Protein: All plant-based meats contain some form of plant-based protein, like soy, pea protein, chickpeas, or legumes. You shouldn’t have to forgo your protein intake with products like pea protein mince and cauli-quinoa burgers.
Nutrients: A mix of vegetables (like broccoli, onion, spinach and avocado, to name a few), fibre and added iron and vitamin B12 provide important nutritional value to plant-based meats. Some products even utilise the versatile jackfruit as the core meat-free ingredient!
Oil: Coconut oil and rapeseed oil are commonly used to bind and to add a juicy element to plant-based meats (we all know there’s nothing better than a juicy burger!).
Flavouring: Most plant-based products contain a delicious blend of spices and plant-based flavouring that add depth and enhance the savoury flavours we all know and love. Take this vegan chorizo: tasty as ever with smoked paprika, chilli, garlic, oregano and parsley!
Are plant-based meats healthier?
Plant-based meats – and their mix of protein, vegetables and nutrients – make up part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle. They are often healthier than conventional meat and have been linked to lower risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, as they contain far less saturated fat, on average, than their conventional meat counterparts… Furthermore, the fibre and prebiotics found in plants and plant-based products are associated with healthy gut bacteria and reduced risk of chronic diseases.
Not just that…
Plant-based meats are healthier for the environment.
Part of the rise in popularity of plant-based meats has been the growing concerns over climate change. It is well-documented that the carbon emissions produced by plant-based meats are significantly lower than those produced by conventional meats (93% lower than the greenhouse gases produced by beef!).
So in addition to reducing the environmental impact of our food consumption, plant-based meats get the stamp of approval in favour of animal welfare, too. The factory-farming of animals for meat production is a widespread issue. Plant-based meats are much kinder to our two- and four-legged friends…
Where do I start with plant-based meat?
Whether you’re a plant-based newbie, an on-the-go eater or a regular plant-based cook, the world of plant-based meat is your (meat-free) oyster! There are so many options to kickstart your healthier, ethical and more environmentally-friendly lifestyle today.
1. Pick your meat-free weapon
The best place to start is to consider your favourite conventional meat meal and then find a meat-free alternative.
- Are you burger-obsessed? Next burger night, gather your friends and challenge them to a taste test. Which one will win? A chicken or beef burger alternative.
- Crazy about kebab? Why not swap out your ordinary purchase with this? Best serviced with fresh vegetables, seasoning and sauces, you may never go back!
- Or perhaps you’re more of a Crisp Golden Pastry kind of person… Your last-minute-meal just got 20 times better with an option like Fry’s Curry Pie!
2. Plan and prepare
Most plant-based meats are stored frozen, or can be kept in the refrigerator unfrozen, but must be consumed within 2-3 days. Stock up your freezer with your favourite meat-free alternatives and just pull out your option of choice a few hours before cooking.
Plant-based cooking doesn’t need to be boring! One of the best things about plant-based meats is that you can use them in your everyday cooking and your favourite recipes… Just replace the meat with your meat-free alternative. This means you can adapt dishes (like mother’s famous chicken curry recipe) with more ethical and sustainable alternatives.
Even your secret spaghetti bolognese recipe doesn’t have to suffer with awesome alternatives like this jackfruit mince!
It’s true that plant-based meats are here to stay. But so are healthier, sustainable and more environmentally-friendly lifestyles. This is a revolution we are passionate about here at Zebra! So what are you waiting for?