Diners are also interested in the health and animal welfare benefits of vegetarian proteins. Now’s the time to think beyond boring veggie burgers and branch out into plant-based “faux foods”—foods that look and taste like meat, but aren’t.
A Faux Food Primer
Don’t equate faux food with the non-edible plastic meals you see outside of some restaurants. Instead, think of fake food as “masquerading” food, or one food that impersonates another. Consider:
- Textured vegetable protein instead of ground beef
- Shiitake mushroom “bacon”
- Tempeh for chicken
- Seitan in place of deli meats
Why the Fake-Out?
Plant-based protein is tied to a number of positives for people and the planet. Swapping meat for plants reduces saturated fat, and increases the fiber and vitamin content of dishes. Studies show that this leads to reduced risks for diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Also, plants require fewer environmental resources like water and space, which can offset climate change. Finally, vegetarian proteins are food sources that animal lovers can feel good about eating.
Love at First Sight
The adage is “we eat first with our eyes” making it essential to have foods appear as close to the originals as possible.
- Pull jackfruit like pork, add it to barbeque sauce, and place atop a bun with coleslaw to make a visual double for a pulled-pork sandwich.
- Bread, fry and toss seitan in chipotle-honey sauce to create a chicken nugget clone.
Texture Perfects the Trickery
Cooking your veggie protein to the right texture will have your customers embracing vegetables as much as they do their favourite meats. Match the consistency of a vegetable with the meat it’s replacing.
- Mix quinoa into mashed beans as a toothsome swap out for hamburger meat in tacos or meatballs.
- Shred al dente cauliflower to replace the chew of chicken in nachos.
Global dishes are prime for swapping out meat for faux meat. These cuisines are often naturally vegetarian. Also, their enhanced spicing can cover differences between animal and vegetable proteins, and therefore mimic original dishes more closely.
- Use unripe jackfruit in Indonesian curries.
- Punch up the protein level of Pad Thai with tofu.
Use Umami as Your Trojan Horse
Umami is most often associated with a savoury or meaty flavour. While meat traditionally brings umami, plenty of vegetarian foods do, as well. Examples are aged cheeses, mushrooms, soy sauce, tomatoes, and red wine.
- Add meaty flavor to hearts of palm “crab cakes” with ginger-soy dipping sauce.
- Top brioche toast points with red-wine mushroom stew.