Try the vegan 'chicken' that tastes like the real deal

Grilled pizza topped with broccoli, mozzarella and “chicken.”

There are plenty of chicken substitute products on the market, and while some of them come close, none have ever mimicked the taste and texture of real white meat. Enter Beyond Meat, a Los Angeles-based company who make chicken-free, gluten-free chicken strips that taste just like the real thing. Seriously.

I had heard about Beyond Meat last year, when famous foodie Mark Bittman was fooled by the chicken-free strips in a blind taste test. The product wasn’t widely available then, but Beyond Meat is hitting Whole Foods Market this month. I could hardly contain my anticipation. I also wondered if I could fool my dinner guests into thinking they were eating real chicken.

Made from a blend of soy and pea protein, the chicken-free strips come in three varieties: Lightly Seasoned, Southwest Style and Grilled and have 18 grams of protein per serving. The company’s founder, Ethan Brown, says he was nagged by this basic question: “Would we continue to raise and eat animals if a delicious, perfect plant-based replication of meat existed?” In 2009, he started Beyond Meat (Twitter founders Ev Williams, Biz Stone and Jason Goldman are partners) and set out to answer that question.

When the chicken-free strips arrived, I was amazed at how close they were to real chicken in taste, texture and appearance. My husband knew I was getting samples of the product, so I couldn’t fool him, so I decided to serve the Lightly Seasoned chicken-free strips when my brother-in-law and sister-in-law came for dinner last weekend. We grilled pizza topped with broccoli, mozzarella and “chicken.” It was only after we had finished eating—and they raved about how good everything was—that I told them the truth. They, too, were stunned. In fact, my sister-in-law said that she was going to ask me what I seasoned the chicken with because she liked it, but couldn’t place the flavor. Success!

"Chicken" with pasta and Swiss chard pesto

In addition to the pizza, I used the chicken-free strips in quesadillas and in a pasta dish with Swiss chard pesto. We’ve eaten all our samples, but thankfully Beyond Meat is available in Whole Foods Markets across the country (a 12-ounce package retails for $5.29) and will be available in other natural food stores in July. Bonus: the packaging is completely recyclable. (Be sure to check the cardboard sleeve for recipes and a coupon.) While I can’t say that I will stop eating meat entirely, I will definitely be eating a lot less chicken now that such a superior plant-based substitute exists!

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