This post is not sponsored by any of the Brands mentioned.
I'm really hoping that this doesn't spark a mob of Pierce-Morgan style clones throwing their opinions against veganism and I'm not trying to convert you (because lol, I'm not vegan). I decided to write this blog stemming from my experience of #Veganuary, as a meat consumer, who just so happened to genuinely enjoy it. This can also act as a starter guide for those new to veganism (food-wise) or fellow non-vegans who're participating in a vegan challenge.
First thing's first, I'm going admit you will not find a 100% bang on replica of real meat or dairy and I'm not going to convince you they are 'the same' even if I found that some things tasted similar or close. I've based this purely on my own opinion and what products worked for me. (Obviously.) This may not work for you. With any new dietary or lifestyle change, it all depends on trial and error.
So I live in the sunny, tropical and exotic island that is England and I've found that in order to maintain a predominantly British diet that meat and dairy alternatives are a must. I've put together a review of meat / dairy free alternatives so that, should you decide to cut down on meat, the 'vegetables and carb only' lifestyle, it doesn't feel so restricting.
On that note, I just thought I'd warn you that as much as people, forums and blogs convince you to, don't bother wasting your money on the following products: - Deli Items (Ham, Salami, Chorizo etc. these take a long time to adjust to.)
- Bacon (Just don't do it.) - Supermarket's-own version of Vegan Cheese. (You will be disappointed) I'm yet to find a decent replacement for fish. If I do find a replacement I'll update this blog.
Let's begin with (as my dad would say ) one of three most important components to living... Milk, Bread and Toilet Paper... Well, Milk- oh this was just a shamble of an introduction. Anyway, I'd say keep it simple with milk and use a Soya Alpro for most things that require milk, just because it's accessible and it's everywhere. You can find it in about 80% of 'metro' shop, or branch-named petrol stations. I've been drinking Soya milk for years and just learned to love it over normal milk but it is a little bit sweeter and the unsweetened or whole bean options do taste a little plant-y. A word of warning, you'll find that once it's been opened, after a day or two (Especially in coffee) it might curdle and make bits when using it for hot drinks. This doesn't mean it's 'off' at all, it's just... i don't know some weird soy-bean science... Honey, it just does what it does. Anyway, The way around this is to give the carton a good shake and pour it in either (I hate that I'm gonna say this) before you brew or at the same time you pour your hot water. You won't find those bits if you just drink it as it is or have it in cereal.
AVID TEA DRINKERS; you gotta look for Oatly Milk. If you want a Proppa Good Ol' English brew, this is the closest consistency and taste wise. When I mention consistency it's not that milk replacements are completely different to normal milk, you'd just find them to be a little weaker and some quite watery comparison. FOR YOU COFFEE LOVERS, Hazelnut or Almond milk makes coffee taste next level.
Coconut milk and Rice milk are a very hardcore tastes. I personally don't rate these, so yeah, try them if you must.
This is gonna be a big ol' rant... Cheese. Being a lactose intolerant, I have been trying to find a vegan cheese that I actually like for maybe 3-4 years. Last year non-vegan "Lactose Free Cheese" became widely available in large supermarkets (aka normal cheese but without the enzyme). Before this the choices of cheese were extremely slim and very touch and go and I have gone through my fair share of disappointment with vegan cheese. My general takings and feedback are that unfortunately, no matter the brand, it will always taste quite artificial, more so than a cheese string or a Babybel. The textures nowadays do closely compare the that of normal blocked or sliced cheese BUT in reality it's as if they've taken a cheese textured substance and over-seasoned it with what's used on a quavers crisps. I would personally recommend you just cut it out completely to save (potential) ultimate disappointment, but i guess, in moments of sheer desperation (I guess) I would recommend the following:
This was the best out of what was 'offered' in my local supermarket. I would describe this to as a strange love child birthed out of a three-some of a mild cheddar, mozzarella and butter. (Don't I just have a way with words.) As much as I did have a good bitch about vegan cheese (Call me a hypocrit!) it made for a decent replacement but you just need to keep your expectations low. You won't get a cheese pull from it but it does melt very well and is a suitable replacement for Jacket potatoes, Burgers, Grated on pasta or a Toastie. A word of warning though, this is a coconut oil based product and certain ways you cook this stuff brings out a coconutty flavour. I'd recommend >not< to use this in anything Baked or Mash Potato.
Yoghurt / Creams: Alpro Soya Yoghurt
I didn't really like dairy growing up because I found that lots of dairy products 'lingered' in your mouth after eating them. Yoghurt being a big one for it (makes sense knowing yoghurt is full of bacteria and cultures). The thing is it needs a lot of palette cleansing after eating and normally leaves you with what i call 'milk breath' which, unnoticed is pretty damn gross. Alpro Soya Yoghurt is genuinely really tasty and versatile (eg. the natural flavoured Alpro Yog makes an excellent replacement for natural & Greek yoghurt... and best of all doesn't linger and make ya' breath stink! I also love Alpro GO! These are high protein pots of yogurt with a fruit compote at the bottom. They come in mango, passion fruit, strawberry and blackcurrant flavours. I love to give these a good swirl with a spoon before eating.
Oatly Creme Fraiche / Cream - These work an absolute treat when cooking! The consistency is perfect and I imagine with some testing that the Creme Fraiche would actually be good for making a vegan cheesecake... Writing this blog is definitely giving me some ideas. Their custard is also delicious to accompany a dessert.
Whilst this is more a protein than a 'dairy' product it I'm just gonna put this in here because I don't class eggs as a meat. Admittedly I'm yet to try a 'product' that replicates eggs simply because I can't find them. I've been to Holland and Barrett but I REFUSE to spend £7.99 on a replacement for £1 pack of eggs. The closest I've got is 'Tofu Eggs' which you can find lots of recipes for online but replacements are still far from affortable. This is the 'Tofu Egg' recipe I use (by 'Loving It Vegan'). Products wise - This may have to be a section that I update later when I can justify making the purchase.
Meat: (This section is a longer read)
I'm gonna change up the structure here, as i would be writing around in circles if I tried to pinpoint or compare products to types or cuts of meat. Those who go vegan for 'Morality' reasons, tend to find it quite easy not to eat foods that resemble meat at all. I'm not a vegan, so I found the transition from Meat-Eater to Vegan quite extreme and really had to do my research (and waste a lot of money) trying and testing things. These are all foods I felt genuinely impressed by. Products like Tofu, Tempeh and Seitan are also great, providing you know how to work with them but i'm keeping this guide simple with quick go-to's to settle your inner carnivore. I'm not going to teach you how to drain, squeeze and marinate tofu or make seitan taste and resemble your favourite type of chicken nugget, Soz.
My opinion of Quorn is a bit lost, because I'm neither here nor there with it.. I'm not going to completely fault it, as they were one of the first big brands to really 'don' supermarkets as a meat-replacement. I'm talking about the times when bean burgers and veggie sausages made out of mash potato, were basically the only options you could get in the frozed isle. And their home "junk" food is next level, having nuggets and breaded fillets but for comparison, I do feel like they are the 'Birds Eye' or 'Bernard Matthews' of the veggie world.
Before I drop a bit of a controversial opinion, I'm gonna lead in with the positives. Firstly, It's everywhere (which is also good) and very versatile, in that they have a generous choice of items which can be used in numerous ways (which i mean is also very good) but I just feel (here's the catch)... Once you've tried one Quorn product, unfortunately you've tried them all. Like tofu, seitan and tempeh, the most important factor with Quorn products is that they are dependent on what you cook or serve the products with that determines whether they are actually going to taste good or not (I know a lot of Quorn products that get covered in ketchup or bbq sauce.) My personal opinion of what defines a good food product (and I'm not even talking vegan here, I'm talking about all foods) is that you don't neccessarily have to smother it in condiments after cooking it to it to make it enjoyable. I'm very much aware I could've lived off Quorn products this whole time doing Veganuary but I consider that the 'easy route' as opposed to the 'best tasting' route. I wanted to find foods that would really compete with real meat and I feel like Quorn products are make to 'settle' not satisfy. Sorry Quorn.
You will find Linda McCartney products in practically ALL supermarkets around the UK and it is up there as one of the most top vegetarian and vegan brands. It's incredibly popular and heavily depended on (not only because was owned by the famous wife of Paul McCartney) because of it's affordability, high quality and offering as it covers the staples such as sausages, burgers, meatballs and mince. It's definitely are my go to if I'm craving something quite meaty and you'll find that most vegetarians or vegans have a stockpile of these products in their freezers too. It's mostly about the taste because they are really savoury. You can use the products "as is" (eg. sausages and mash, burgers, pasta and meatballs etc.) but I find these to be quite versitile when partnered a creative mind. Sausages when cut into pieces cook very well as part of a stew or a pasta dish and hold their structure. The burgers are very easy to cook from frozen and whilst being thick and dense, they take a great char, especially when cooked on the grill or at BBQ. The only small little nitty gritty negative I have with Linda's is what it's made from... as they are wheat-based meat replacements- which makes for heavy meals if not balanced properly. BUT (silver linings) on the plus side, it means you can expect a full tummy after meals. New Update! I tried Linda McCartney Meatballs and Scampi from the chilled isle. She never lets me down & the scampi is mind-blowingly similar to normal scampi.
Beyond Burgers Competing against my much loved Linda's are these bad boys, which you won't locate as easily and are priced a little higher at £5.50 for 2 Burgers. I'd say this is more of a home-gourmet vegan burger (like those days when you treat yourself to an Real Angus).
This burger is different. It's meaty and with it's pink colour and meat-looking texture whilest raw. Accurately resembling the grains of mince in a real burger, it browns like a normal burger when cooking it and keeps a pink blush when cooked. It's so savoury, it's filled with umami and it's so confusing how it "does it all" it genuinely resembles a real burger, without containing strange amounts of wheat / carbohydrates. That's not to sh*t on the Linda Mccartney ones (because I love those too) but they do replace the meat with a more balanced alternative.
What I've gathered from doing veganuary and watching documentaries and docu-series about plant-based living is that veganism is primarily for the morality of animals (secondly sustainability). With that in the forefront of my mind, I found the concept of this product quite... strange. (Steak being what I would considered the one of the most primitively carnivorous dishes other than a barbecue or a roast) Anyway what I'm getting at is I wouldn't be desperate for a steak if I decided to go vegan (for the reasons that vegans do), especially for a product that actually BLUSHES and BLEEDS like a steak does. Regardless, it is vegan and also incredibly meaty, succulent and delicious. Although small in size and resembling more of a 'burger patty' than a steak. This is packed with umami flavour, high in protein, iron and B12 and I would recommend this to those who are transitioning from a meat-eating to plant-based diet based on the novelty experience of it 'bleeding' in a similar way to a beef steak. I ate this with grilled cheery tomatoes, mash and gravy just like I would at a pub! I would like to try other products by Vivera.
Oumph! Chunk / Kebab / Pulled "The chunk" and "Kebab" products are what I'd compare to chicken and the "Pulled"resembles BBQ pulled pork. I am finishing this section with what I consider as the best meat-free-meat, and I'm not alone with that opinion either. Shortly after its release Oumph! won several awards including Best Vegan Meat and there's very little wonder why. This product sets the bar incredibly high when it comes to taste, texture and quality of cooking. It browns / goes crispy unlike any other meat replacement product I've ever tried. It's succulent, which you don't find with similar products as commonly, they dry up when you cook them or they suck up and absorb copious amounts of cooking oil. It's also made from soya making it a protein rich food!
Here is a list of other miscellaneous "alternatives" that I rate highly. (This list will be updated as I discover new food vegan alternatives.) - Hellman's Vegan Mayonnaise
- Sriracha Mayo
Please leave a comment as I'd love to hear what you think, especially if you've tried these products too, or if you have any products that you highly recommend, I'd love to give them a try! I hope you enjoyed this blog.