know your (non)meat

So, you read my last post and now you can’t justify eating pork products ever again. It’s ok, I’ve been there too.. though I can’t say I haven’t had FREQUENT slips (addiction to breakfast sausage is NOT a joke). Well, I’ve come across some tasty alternatives to pork and turkey sausage.

Check it out! We, too can eat sausage guilt-free! Just last weekend I tried the Field Roast Sausage above at a friend’s place in a delicious quinoa dish of which I had three servings. I promptly bought a pack for myself and hopefully I’ll whip up something blog-worthy with them this weekend.

Taste testing vegetarian sausage: Which fake is best? Slate Magazine 

Our criteria: Resemblance to meat, taste, appearance, and juiciness.

The results, from worst to best:

One Lightlife sausage on the grill.

Can Lightlife (the light-colored sausage in the lower center) stack up to the real thing?Lightlife Smart Sausages Italian Style
Lightlife’s soy-based Italian sausages are white, with specks of green and black. They lose their pallor quickly on the grill, but do a poor job of blending in next to real sausages, partly because they’re slightly rectangular.

On the question of texture and mouth-feel, the panelists were divided. Some found the Lightlifes “rubbery,” others considered them nicely “plump.” I felt that they resembled meatloaf more than sausage in density—they were flaky. Everyone agreed that, in terms of taste, they were somewhere between “bland” and “faint.”

A weak showing, and one that reflects poorly not only on Lightlife but on a specialty grocery chain generally adored by vegetarians. Trader Joe’s uses Lightlife’s formula for its store-branded vegetarian sausages—the same ingredients, in the same order, which I only realized after buying a pack of each and comparing. I don’t mind repackaging, per se, but question the wisdom of knocking off a mediocre product.

Tofurky Italian Sausage

Tofurky Italian Sausage
The fabled purveyor of un-turkey dinners for vegetarian Thanksgiving, Tofurky has gotten rather good at appearing meaty. If the sole purpose of fake meat products were to fool a carnivore into grabbing a vegetarian product off the grill, Tofurky would have easily won the competition with its reddish-brown, accurately-tubular, fake Italian sausage. Our expectations raised, we were subsequently disappointed—some more than others. One panelist compared the taste of Tofurky to Play-Doh and noted that while it looked moist and juicy, it was actually granular and crumbled unpleasantly in the mouth. Another called it “peppered cardboard.” But I sided with the taster who had at least a few kind words to spare, specifically the words “lentilly, spicy, middling zest.” I wouldn’t order Tofurky at a restaurant, but if someone brought a pack to a barbecue, I’d gladly eat one instead of a second portobello mushroom.

Field Roast Sausages, Italian
Appearance-wise, the Field Roast was nothing special. Darker than the disturbingly white Lightlifes, paler than the Tofurky, it looked like what it was: vegetal matter aspiring to meat-scrap-hood. Upon first chew, everyone noticed that it had been flavored with fennel, and some held that it had been flavored too liberally. But even those in the latter camp agreed it was the most tasty fake sausage by far. One panelist, a staunch carnivore, claimed he “could eat one every day.”

Alone among the un-sausages we tried, the Field Roast contains no soy; it’s wheat-gluten based. Perhaps that made the difference. (I’ve noticed that, at vegetarian restaurants, I often prefer the chewy, stringy texture of seitan to tofu.) In addition to fennel, we detected garlic and salt and a slight tang, maybe a result of red wine, which comes fourth on the ingredient list right after expeller-pressed safflower oil.

No one could mistake Field Roast’s version of Italian sausage for an actual Italian sausage, but it came closest to satisfying my crazy, weird craving to taste what I’ve forsworn.


One thought on “know your (non)meat

  1. Thanks for sharing this Slate article – of course, I’m not surprised with the verdict on the best veggie sausage 😉 Have you tried any cool recipes yet with the Field Roast that you bought? I’d love to hear about what you end up trying.

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