Sweet Meat

New animal product substitutes are elevating vegan fare

Vegan eateries are gaining momentum among the meatless and meat-loving alike, but standard plant-based substitutes like tofu and seitan are taking heat due to their unsavory association with much-maligned GMOs and gluten. Fortunately for foodies, creative culinary tinkerers are innovating animal product alternatives.


When vegans wants to whip up a secret weapon for replacing egg whites, a cooking staple that’s particularly difficult to recreate due to its unique consistency and nutrient profile, they’re turning to aquafaba, a substitute made from legume-soaked liquid, like chickpea water. The substance was pioneered in 2015 by Goose Wohlt, a software engineer charged with making vegan meringues for his family’s Seder. His wife showed him to a video of cooks using the liquid from a chickpea can to make chocolate mousse, and Wohlt adapted their technique. When whipped with sugar, the result was a hit. Wholt shared his creation on Facebook, where it has spread like wildfire ever since.


Biotechnology startup Gelzen is “building food with biology,” developing safe, sustainable, and animal-free gelatin for use in food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic products. The product is created using microbes, making it a true gelatin—not a plant-derived substitute. The company programs bacteria and yeast with the same genetic program that produces gelatin in animal tissue, then uses the strains to ferment gelatin. The company's co-founder and CEO, Alex Lorestani, told Food & Wine that his goal is to introduce an environmentally-friendly, cruelty-free alternative to a product used all around the world.


Coconut bacon has long been a staple for vegans who crave a credible replacement for the versatile meat in dishes ranging from salty to sweet. Now, foodies everywhere can learn how to make their own version thanks to Leinana Two Moons’ new cookbook, Baconish: Sultry and Smoky Plant-Based Recipes from BLTs to Bacon Mac & Cheese.In it, the Brooklyn-based blogger (Vegan Good Things) offers instructions for creating plant-based faux bacon from coconut, as well as from unexpected sources like carrots, eggplant, and mushrooms. The book was born after her Coconut BLT—featuring coconut bacon seasoned with tamari, liquid smoke, and maple syrup—went viral.