What Is Plant-Based Chicken Made Out Of?
Any plant-based meat, such as plant-based chicken, is made from a blend of plant-based ingredients that mimic various meats' taste, appearance, and texture.
When it comes specifically to the question of what is plant-based chicken made out of, what you see on the label may vary from country to country or brand to brand in terms of which ingredients are used to bring out the most chicken-like flavor, texture, and appearance. However, soy is the most widely used ingredient in plant-based chicken — this includes tempeh, tofu, and other soy derivatives.
In addition to soy, the other most used ingredients in plant-based chicken include peas, mushrooms, beans, legumes, and wheat gluten.
When carefully combined, these proteins used in plant-based meats produce natural pigments to give imitation meat its color, such as the brown and red colors of beef. And with plant-based chicken, minor adjustments may be made to mimic the pale, white color of chicken.
In terms of what holds plant-based chicken all together, preventing it from crumbling and drying out when cooked, binding agents and plant-based thickeners are often used, as well as sunflower or coconut oil which also brings out the juicy texture of chicken. Pea protein concentrate is commonly used to further recreate chicken's texture in terms of firmness and fibrousness. Sometimes yeast extract is also used for a distinctively meatier texture.
But we'll go over all of these ingredients in more detail below, so you can have a clear understanding of what you're eating when you consume plant-based chicken. Because you certainly aren't alone if you've ever wondered what meat alternatives are made of, as well as the more mystifying answer to how in the world some plant-based meats look and taste like the real deal!
Is Plant-Based Chicken Healthy?
The answer to this question of whether plant-based chicken is healthy depends largely on how it's made.
If you're looking for a version of plant-based chicken with less fat or sodium than real chicken, then be sure to check out organic brands. These are usually derived from vegetables like peas or soybeans without added sugars or preservatives.
But as for whether or not plant-based chicken is healthy overall? If it is made from quality ingredients without preservatives, is low in sugar, and does not contain any genetically modified ingredients, then yes! Plant-based chicken can be a healthy alternative to the real thing.
Furthermore, most plant-based chicken contains added vitamins like iron, zinc, and vitamin B12, which are also found in regular chicken and are essential nutrients for the body.
One thing you'll want to look out for with plant-based chicken is the grams of saturated fat per serving where coconut oil is used. Depending on how much plant-based chicken you intend to eat, it may be worth it to explore alternatives that use canola oil or sunflower oil instead. Although, canola oil lacks nutritional value and contains trace amounts of trans fats, which aren't great for your health either.
Still, any ingredient – not just in plant-based chicken - has its pros and cons that depend mostly on your nutritional needs and values. So the more helpful question might be how this compares to the nutritional value and fats in chicken. While coconut oil is about 90% saturated fat, one serving of boneless, skinless chicken breast comprises less than 1% of saturated fat.
While some plant-based chicken may be higher in added sodium (from fillers) and saturated fat, again, it just depends on the product itself! Regardless, anything in moderation is always okay! And when you opt for plant-based chicken, you're choosing a sustainable and tasty alternative that provides essential nutrients.
What is Plant-Based Chicken Made Out Of?
Here's a closer look into the ingredients commonly used to make plant-based chicken:
Tempeh, tofu, and other soy derivatives are frequently used to make plant-based meat. Tempeh is often used more than other soy products due to its firmer and more meat-like texture. It also pairs well with most nut-based sauces, making tempeh a great option once a recipe comes together.
Seitan (Wheat Gluten)
Seitan, also known as wheat gluten, has a texture that many people describe as meaty, while its taste is more on the mild side.
Pea Protein Concentrate
Pea protein concentrate may be used in place of soy, but it can have a bitter taste once added to the final product. However, some pea proteins have been designed for sweeter sauces and dressings, making them more versatile in plant-based chicken recipes.
Some plant-based chicken brands might use coconut oil specifically to make their product higher in saturated fat for the added flavor. All in all, coconut oil has several nutrients that contribute to good all-around health.
Sunflower Oil or Canola Oil
Sunflower oil is an edible vegetable oil derived from sunflower seeds. Canola oil is made from smaller seeds of the rapeseed plant.
Both canola and sunflower oils are healthy alternatives that also provide essential fatty acids. These are often lower in saturated fats than coconut oil but may also be lower in some essential nutrients.
Generally, yeast extract contains amino acids like glutamic acid, which gives the product a savory, more meaty taste. Yeast extract is also what provides the added benefit of vitamin B12 in plant-based chicken.
Beans and Mushrooms
Plant-based chicken can also be an excellent source of dietary fiber from beans, peas, and mushrooms for an even greater nutrient boost! Beans and mushrooms are often used as fillers to make protein-packed plant-based meats. Chickpea flour is also often added as a dry binder, while beans provide a tofu-like texture.
Some plant-based meats also use binder agents to improve the overall texture and thicken the product. These are typically proteins from natural sources, such as soy protein isolate, veggies, nuts, or seeds.
Methylcellulose and potassium lactate are also commonly used plant-based thickeners. While they don't have a taste of their own, they help the meat stick together and give it a chewy texture similar to animal-derived meats.
Other Flavors and Seasonings
Broth powders and seasonings like onion powder, garlic powder, and paprika are used as flavor enhancers for plant-based meats.
And there you have it — the answer to what plant-based chicken is made from.
If you opt to switch to plant-based chicken or at least incorporate more of it, it can be an excellent source of protein and other nutrients that contribute to a healthy diet. And not only a nutrient-dense diet, but a tasty one at that!
Plant-based chicken is becoming more and more popular, especially for people looking to eat healthier and more mindfully. Still, it's important to check the nutritional labels carefully when considering plant-based meats.
As you can see, for every ingredient and way to make vegan chicken, there are hundreds of more ways to prepare it - you just have to find the one that suits your needs best! Always look out for nutritional ingredients you can trust when choosing good brands and recipes for your body and taste buds.
However, if you're exploring and shopping for meat alternatives to cook with, there's also an alternative to that, which does 95% of the work for you. Having delicious pre-made plant-based meals like soy-based, non-GMO honey garlic "chicken" delivered right to your doorstep is one way to avoid unknown ingredients, like chemical pesticides, preservatives, or additives, and welcome limitless flavor and chef-inspired options.