BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked

Beyond Meat; Beyond Expectations

28 Comments

Decades of stigma and misunderstanding are finally giving way to a more tolerant, open-minded approach to the murky waters of “fake meat.” Even NPR has taken note that more omnivores are willingly eschewing meat in favor of vegan alternatives these days. Though I’d like to believe that this shift can be attributed to a better understanding of factory farms and generally being able to access greater compassion to our feathered, furry, and scaled friends, I know that it all boils down to one thing at the end of the day: Taste. Innovations in the field have brought forth tastier creations than ever before, and suddenly, meat alternatives have become a painless way to eat healthier, without sacrificing flavor. Whatever the reason, convincing those outside of the vegan and vegetarian community to eat more cruelty-free foods can only be a good thing for everyone involved. Since my own approach to cooking puts flavor first, I’ve benefited greatly from the latest and greatest plant-based proteins, too.

A real game-changer in the industry is Beyond Meat, a company that’s made headlines numerous times for winning over Bittman, garnering support from Twitter’s Biz Stone, and unnerving longtime vegetarians for their similarity to actual poultry products. Serving up only chicken-style alternatives, this stuff is the real deal, at least as far as “fake” meat goes.

Right from my first encounter, it was abundantly clear that Beyond Meat was in a category all its own, creating an entirely different protein experience than one would find in traditional meatless mains, such as tofu, tempeh, or seitan. For one, it smells crazily, disturbingly, genuinely like cooked chicken. Even though I haven’t eaten meat in years now, I’m still exposed to those preparing and consuming it, and that previously inimitable scent really threw me through a loop. Firm but easily yielding to the tooth, the texture is where it really shines. Far from the rubbery, chewy, or latex-y consistency of previous faux meat options, the strips shred in a very authentic way, mimicking the grain of cooked chicken. Though this may put off staunch vegans who don’t miss the experience of eating meat one bit, it’s a big selling point for everyone else.

Lightly Seasoned is like a blank canvas; borderline bland, like plain roasted or broiled chicken breast. Ideal for soaking up any sauce or marinade, there are no competing or off flavors that would giveaway the soy base. Lean, non-fatty (“skinless”), the pieces are reminiscent of a light, white meat sort of taste. This was perfect for fulfilling my longtime craving for a bowlful of soothing chicken soup with rice. Tenderizing in the hot broth and soaking in the deeply savory bouillon, it was so unbelievably meaty, I wouldn’t have trusted its vegan label if I hadn’t prepared it myself.

Grilled is very similar to the prior option, now sporting attractive black grill marks that only a practiced hand would be able to achieve at home. Subtly smoky, woodsy, and bearing a charred essence on a lightly peppered backdrop, the hassle of pulling out your own grill is taken out of the picture. Sturdy enough to stay firmly in place on skewers, I was delighted to turn my seared strips into yakitori, a savory delight that hasn’t passed my lips in nearly a decade now. Too simple to consider as a true recipe, all you need is a batch of sauce to dip the “chicken” into, which goes something like this:

1/4 Cup Mirin
1/4 Cup Reduced-Sodium Soy Sauce
2 Tablespoons Rice Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Grated Fresh Ginger
3 Cloves Garlic, Finely Minced
1 Teaspoon Arrowroot

Vigorously whisk all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat, breaking up any clumps of starch should they form. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture comes up to a full boil. Remove from the heat and enjoy immediately.

Finally, Southwestern spices up Beyond Meat’s offerings with a chipotle and lime-spiked base. Defined by a gentle but discernible kick, the subtle burn grows with each successive bite. By the end of the meal, you may very well find your lips tingling, and not in an unpleasant way. Unfortunately, this heat doesn’t add much in the way of nuanced flavor, and overpowers the inherently chicken-like flavor that one might be craving from such a product. Though perfectly tasty, it strikes me as a waste to cover up the masterfully crafted taste of this unique protein base. I probably wouldn’t buy it again, simply because a sough a purer “chicken” experience, but it was undeniably delicious in a layered chicken taco salad. Composed of pico de gallo, shredded romaine, sliced olives, tortilla strips, and of course, Southwestern chicken-free strips chopped into cubes all packed into glass jars, this meal became an ideal impromptu picnic.

A radical departure from the crunchy-granola “hippy” foods of only a decade or two ago, Beyond Meat is making meatless living more possible for those who may not have even considered the option before. Anyone even moderately curious about trying another protein alternative would be doing themselves a disservice not to check these chicken-less strips out- I have yet to hear any negative feedback, from professional food reviewers and my own omnivorous dinner mates alike.

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Author: Hannah Kaminsky

Author of My Sweet Vegan, Vegan Desserts, Vegan a la Mode, and Easy as Vegan Pie.

28 thoughts on “Beyond Meat; Beyond Expectations

  1. Your soup looks so good I want to drink the picture, do you have a recipe posted? Also I had a funny experience with Beyond Meat. I got the vegan curry chicken salad at Whole Foods and the Beyond Meat was so different from any other ‘fake’ meat that I actually called the company to inform them they made a mistake and served actual chicken! They assured me that it was indeed ‘fake’ and that it wasn’t the first time they had to make the distinction.

    • And here I didn’t include that recipe thinking “no one needs another vegan chicken soup recipe!” So glad it really struck a chord though. It’s super simple, and while I didn’t write it down, it’s the same base I always start with. It’s highly flexible, so feel free to vary amounts depending on what you have.

      2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
      1 Small Yellow Onion, Diced
      2 Cloves Garlic, Finely Minced
      2 Carrots, Thinly Sliced
      3 Stalks Celery, Diced
      4 – 5 Cups Vegan Chicken-Style Broth
      1 1/2 – 2 Cups Vegan Chicken-Free Strips, Roughly Chopped
      Handful Chopped Fresh Parsley
      Salt and Pepper, to Taste
      1 – 1 1/2 Cups Cooked Long Grain White Rice

      In a large pot, saute the onion, garlic, carrot, and celery over medium heat until softened, aromatic, and lightly browned. Pour in the broth, cover, and bring the liquid up to a boil. Add in the “chicken” pieces, turn it down to a simmer, and cook until the vegetables are tender; about 15 minutes. Season with parsley, salt, and pepper as desired. Incorporate the rice last, right before serving, because it will continue to absorb the hot broth as it sits. If you want to make the soup in advance, keep the rice separate until you’re ready to eat.

    • This reminds me of my first experience with Beyond Meat! I used to work at Whole Foods and tried the Vegan Sonoma Chicken Salad. I was so uncomfortable at first, I kept stopping and looking at the chicken, contemplating taking it back because I was convinced they had given me the wrong thing. I told a Beyond Meat representative about my experience and he thought it was hilarious.

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  3. After reading your blog, I’m definitely going to run out and buy Beyond Meat! Your photos are so beautiful, I think the company should use them for their own advertising!

  4. Oh gosh, I have been putting off buying these because I don’t want to get addicted. I sometimes can go overboard with fake meat products, which is not good because they can be pricey! I wonder if they ever offer coupons? :-)

  5. Hannah, you’ve very gorgeous photos and clever ideas incorporating Beyond Meat in your meals, plus the meals/recipes sound undeniably delicious! Your Chicken Soup with Rice sounds so good and yummy, I really would love to have it right now. I love Beyond Meat, and given that the strips are fairly chunky, they are easily pulled apart, layer by layer. . According to my previous review, “Beyond Meat” chicken-free strips work very well in stews, soups and creamy-based salads or sauces, which provide more moisture and flavor. I find that grilling and stir-frying them for a long period of time with other veggies can be quite dry.

  6. Yeah, I’m not huge on meat analogues myself but these are really good! There’s a salad with them at WF with arugula and grapefruit segments that is soooo great.

  7. Beyond Meat is fabulous! And so is that soup… recipe???

  8. I work at the first grocery store to carry Beyond Meat on the East Coast. When we started selling it last year, it was wild. People would try to return it, claiming we sold them actual meat. We sell hundreds of pounds of BBQ Beyond Meat each week. It’s almost too eery for me.

  9. Can’t wait to try it. The Whole Foods in Cleveland makes a vegan chicken salad that’s as good or better than real, even according to our 23-year-old. But many of them don’t make it.

    janet

  10. I only brought back one box of Beyond Meat to try when I was in the US and I wish that I’d bought more. It’s a game changer for sure and we made some amazing tacos with it.

  11. Waw! That new fake meat sounds really tasty! You would think inbdeed that it looks like the real deal, especially in that soup! MMMMMMMMMMMM! Lovely recipes too!

  12. Not available in Canada yet, sigh :( I cannot wait until it is!

  13. Beyond Meat is trippy. Personally, I liked cooking mine longer than instructed and didn’t experience anything ‘rubbery’ like the packaging warns you against. I don’t think I could handle it in soup, as delicious as yours looks!

  14. Delicious!

  15. Love your pictures Hannah!

  16. Beyond Meat is simply awesome! Been hooked since it was released last year. If you have a Tropical Smoothie near, I highly suggest making a trip to try it in a flatbread and don’t forget the island green smoothie – both are simply the best!!

  17. Love those perfectly grilled marks and gorgeous photography. I get creeped out by how similar these newer products are to the real deal. I am happy with my beans)

  18. I’m quite keen to try Beyond Meat, but it’s not in Eastern Canada yet. That soup looks SOO delicious!

  19. while I don’t eat fake meat because I do not feel I need it, I will tell you this: I have eaten Beyond Meat several times and it is wonderful!

  20. I can’t believe how much Beyond Meat looks like real meat! Like JoAnne and Richa, I don’t really eat fake meat, I don’t really crave it and at times, I find it creepy. I do think that it is great to have available though, I’m sure it helps a lot of vegans and for newer vegans it’s probably wonderful!

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