The health benefits of following a vegan diet are clear, but not all of the plant-based substitutes out there are good for you.
Vegan Chicken and other vegan meats are often the basis of discussion when it comes to questions of nutrition, so it’s worth learning more about.
What is vegan chicken made of? Most vegan chicken substitutes are made with some form of soy as their base but can include spices, sodium, oils, and vegetables.
Choosing one with a healthier protein source and fewer processed ingredients is the best approach, which means learning how to read the labels.
Thanks to advancements in plant-based foods, these fake meats and poultry have come a long way. However, they might not always be the healthiest choice, which we’ll discover in our guide to vegan chicken.
What Is Vegan Chicken?
Vegan chicken is a commercially used name for products that are designed to taste and look like meat and poultry with a chewy texture and salty taste.
Although they might closely resemble them, they’re made without any animal products and are suitable for vegans to enjoy without the guilt of harming animals.
Fake meats like vegan chicken are made with a range of different ingredients depending on the manufacturer and how the chicken is designed to be eaten.
You can get fake chicken that’s made to resemble deli meats, strips, nuggets, burger patties, and even mince, so there’s no shortage of ways to enjoy them if you’re sticking to a plant-based diet.
The cooking methods for fake chicken are just the same as well, and you can grill, stir fry, pan fry, barbecue, and sauté them as you would the real thing.
They hold onto sauces, spices, and other flavorings if you want to marinate them or stir them through other ingredients, so their versatility is just as impressive.
The Standard Ingredients in Fake Meat
There’s never been a better time to be a vegan with such a huge selection of fake chicken and other meats found on supermarket shelves.
Thanks to the vast range, there are a number of commonly used ingredients you might see find when you check the ingredients list of your next fake meat purchase.
Soy: Soy extracts are the less healthy version of whole soybeans, but are commonly used to create the poultry meat in these fake products.
Wheat: Wheat gluten is one of the unhealthier ways to get protein in these fake meat products.
Seitan: Another term for wheat gluten, seitan most closely resembles the texture of chicken when cooked properly, but it’s not very healthy.
Tofu: Tofu has a chewy consistency that works for fake chicken and is one of the better sources of protein for vegans.
Mycoprotein: This protein is derived from fungi and is a healthy way to make fake chicken and other meats.
Preservatives: Various preservatives and additives are used with fake chicken and meats, which might not be as healthy for consumption as they seem.
Sodium: Sodium is used to flavor the protein sources, but these products can sometimes be too high in them.
Quinoa: Quinoa is rich in protein and fiber, both of which are important for someone following a vegan diet.
Hemp: Another healthier form of protein, hemp is used sometimes in fake chicken products.
How Does the Taste Compare?
As with regular chicken, the vegan alternative is versatile enough to be cooked and seasoned in a variety of ways.
Anyone who’s eaten poultry before will know that it’s not the most flavorsome of meats, and so the fake chicken version is fairly similar in this regard.
Overall, most people would class fake chicken as having a mild and savory flavor, with some being saltier than others.
It’s what you do with them that gives them their final essence, so we always recommend adding some of your own condiments, spices, stocks, and flavorings to ensure it tastes good.
The texture of the vegan chicken is eerily similar to the real deal, and this can be achieved with ingredients like tofu and seitan.
You’ll get the soft, chewy texture of chicken without having to rely on animal products, so it’s a popular addition to many vegan meals.
Is Vegan Chicken Nutritious?
There are good and bad products out there in the fake meat world, and vegan chicken is no exception.
You’ll find some vegan chicken is healthier than the real deal, like where frozen nuggets and strips are concerned, including being lower in fat, sodium, cholesterol, and calories.
However, in its purest form, a skinless chicken breast would likely be healthier than the fake alternative.
For athletes or people wanting to increase the protein in their diet, vegan chicken usually isn’t recommended as the first source.
As these fake meats are usually highly processed, it’s best to stick to ingredients like beans, lentils, and tofu when trying to eat more protein, especially for good health.
Although vegan chicken and the rest of these plant-based meats have become hugely popular, they’re not always as healthy as they’re marketed to be.
These types of foods are best eaten in moderation and it’s important to learn how to read the labels and nutritional profile on the packaging to see if they’re right for you.
Tips for Finding Healthy Vegan Chicken
The market for vegan meats is plentiful at the moment, but not all of these fake chicken brands are created equally. Here are a few tips if you’re shopping for faux meats and want to make sure you’re choosing the healthier option.
Find simple ingredients
A quick scan of the ingredient list can tell you everything you need to know about fake meat, including how many of them you’re familiar with.
If there are lots of long words and numbers, steer clear, but if you can see it’s filled with simple ingredients that you know, it’s probably a lot better for you.
Healthier protein sources
Many vegan chicken will be marketed as being high in protein, which might sound good on the surface, but isn’t always so. You’ll need to look a little further and find out what the protein source actually is first.
Pea protein is one of the better options whereas ingredients like soy protein isolate and wheat gluten are a lot unhealthier.
Salt content is one of the biggest issues facing convenience foods like this, especially if they’re vegan. To make them taste more like actual meat, manufacturers load them up with sodium to give that salty taste, so beware of how much you’re consuming.
Lower saturated fat
One of the main benefits of going vegan is that your saturated fat intake will reduce naturally, but not so much if you snack on a lot of these fake meats.
Check the nutritional profile to see how much-saturated fat is contained in a serving of your favorite fake chicken before chowing down.
Make your own
Rather than buying processed fake meat that might contain a myriad of ingredients that you don’t want, think about going back to basics.
Create your vegan meals with ingredients like beans, lentils, tofu, and tempeh, providing you with a major protein boost and loads of nutrients.
A Kinder Protein Source
Choosing faux meats over ones made of animals is always the better route to take, but you need to learn how to find healthier options in the supermarket.
Whether it’s vegan chicken or plant-based ground beef, there are good and bad ways to increase your protein intake if you’re a vegan, so it’s worth learning them.
The world of fake meats and vegan-friendly substitutes is getting larger, and more overwhelming to navigate.
If you want to find out more about your meat-free options at the supermarket, we’ve answered some commonly asked questions that can point you in the right direction.
What Is An Impossible Burger?
An Impossible Burger is the trademarked name of a burger made of fake meat, created by Impossible Foods.
The main ingredients in these burger patties are protein derived from soy and potatoes, coconut oil and sunflower oil, and flavoring from the heme molecule.
Are Soy Products Healthy?
Soy products can be healthy and a good source of protein for vegans and vegetarians, depending on the source which the soy was derived from.
The recommended intake of soy is a few times a week, and sometimes more, which should come from a variety of different products.
What Is Fake Deli Meat Made Of?
Vegan deli meats are usually made with ingredients like tofu and tempeh that can be formed into thinner slices to resemble the real thing.
Most fake deli meats are high in sodium and other processed ingredients so they should be enjoyed in moderation just as you would the real deal.
Lorraine Pinnix is a passionate nutritionist and loves seeing people living healthy, and fulfilled lives. She believes that food is an essential piece of staying fit and strongly believes in going vegan. PureGrowthOrganic is a passionate work that details her research in helping you go on complete organic diets. She is available for questions, comments, and follow-ups.