What fake meat has to do with baseball

I once heard an interview with a guy who was somehow deemed the worst player in Major League Baseball.  When asked how this felt, he replied,”It’s better than being the best player in the minor leagues.”

Now do me a favor.  Suspend your better judgement and replace “minor leagues” with “fake meat aisle,” and think of the Majors as “all the food that isn’t pretending to be another food,” and you’re primed to understand my feeling about Gardein meat-free products.

Gardein is the best player in the minor leagues.

As a self-proclaimed anti-fake-meat crusader, I’ve found myself procrastinating on writing my Gardein review.  (Thanks, Gardein, for sending me some to try.)  By this late time, chances are you’ve probably seen several (favorable) Gardein reviews floating around the blogosphere.  And this one’s favorable too, for what it is.  Gardein is the best fake meat I’ve ever tried.

What really separates Gardein from the rest of the meat-imposters is the ingredients: On multiple occasions, I’ve picked up buffalo “chicken” tenders from other fake-meat brands, only to put them back down after reading the ingredient list, longer than a steriod-juiced homerun and teeming with all variety of manipulated soy products.  For comparison, check out a Gardein ingredient list:

water, soy protein, vital wheat gluten, ancient grains (quinoa, amaranth, millet and kamut), natural flavors (from plant sources), potato starch, expeller pressed canola oil and/or safflower oil, pea protein, modified vegetable gum, carrot fiber, organic beet root fiber, organic evaporated cane juice, yeast extract, vinegar, sea salt.

Not bad, is it?  Sounds shockingly like real food.

The most amazing thing is that Gardein gets these techno-food-free ingredients to look and feel nearly identical to meat and to taste inoffensive, if not nearly as flavorful as real meat.

Crispy tenders - buffalo sauce added by me

I tried three Gardein products: Seven Grain Crispy Tenders (tossed in buffalo sauce, of course), BBQ Pulled Shreds, and Chick’n Filets.  The first two were really good—though I can’t say they really tasted like meat, they really did “seem” like meat.  And with breading on the tenders and bbq sauce on the shreds, both of which were actually very tasty, it was easy to forget that what I was eating didn’t come from a slaughtered animal.  To me, the guy who once drove seven hours through the night for a Carolina pulled pork sandwich and whose biggest worry about going vegetarian was that he’d never again get to eat buffalo wings, this came as a pleasant surprise.

The Chick’n Filets weren’t as good; they had sort of a slimy texture and a very fake taste, perhaps because there was nothing to mask it.  Gardein recommends that you serve them in pasta or with a sauce, so maybe this would have helped.

BBQ shreds

So that’s where I stand on Gardein.  Every once in a while it’s fun to go to a minor league game, and if you’re going to go, you might as well see the top draft picks play, or perhaps former stars who are shells of the players they once were, hanging on now for the sheer love of the game.  (In this rapidly-devolving metaphor, that’s supposed to be buffalo chicken and pulled pork.)

But as nice a diversion as a minor league game is, it just doesn’t compare to the bigs.

New ‘Running Fuel’ page

Feed readers, listen up!  I added a new page today, called “Natural Running Fuel,” that collects all of my “training food” posts and recipes in one place.  If you’re a new reader, or just want to make sure you haven’t missed any raw gel or natural sports drink recipes, you might want to take a look.  And if you’re feeling really saucy, you can bookmark it.



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  1. I can’t tell if it was your intention or not, but you REALLY have me wanting to try Gardein; I truly love my fake meats, and I think I know the “other” buffalo wings you’re talking about and I love those, too :-) How much longer is Lent? I’ll be counting down the days until I can eat prepared soy again.
    .-= Evan Thomas´s last blog ..20 Minutes =-.

    • Evan, I really didn’t have an intention! I just wrote an honest review. If you like fake meats though, you’ll love Gardein. By far the best I’ve tried. I’ll be interested to see what you make with it.

  2. I really enjoyed the “chicken tenders” from gardein. In fact, they reminded me so much of actual chicken that it kind of freaked me out a bit. I think I’m going to try the “pulled pork” variety next.
    .-= Megan (The Runner’s Kitchen)´s last blog ..Watch out for falling trees =-.

  3. I loved the comparison of fake meats to minor leagues. I agree- if I wanted to eat something that replicated a chicken exactly, then I’d just eat a chicken…

    But I’ve tried some Gardein products before and they WERE the best :)
    .-= Danielle (Coffee Run)´s last blog ..Day 5 + Reflections =-.

  4. Gardein is definately one I want to try. I’d be curious to see what my husband thought about them, he likes all things meat.
    .-= Heather @ Get Healthy With Heather´s last blog ..Dave’s Killer Bread + Giveaway =-.

  5. Wonder if I can pull these past the kids. May have to give it a try.
    .-= Nicki´s last blog ..A Winter Walk =-.

    • Nicki, my sister packaged some of our leftovers up for her boyfriend to take to work the next day and didn’t tell him it wasn’t chicken. He never said anything, so I assume he didn’t know!

  6. Hi,

    I have given you a Beautiful (we can cell it Hnadsome) Blogger Award! Yay! See it here and then pass it to others…

    Have fun! <3

  7. I love Gardein ‘meats’ and the chicken ‘balls’ with the daiya cheese in them are the cutting edge of vegan technology!
    So good.
    Thanks for the review Matt!
    .-= Jose´s last blog ..Movie Review : Ultramarathon Man: 50 Marathons, 50 States, 50 Days =-.

    • Jose, that might be the first time I’ve heard the phrase “vegan technology.” I usually like to keep my food as low-tech as possible :) I’ll give the daiya cheese a try next time I see it; you’ve officially sold me with your zeal for it, here and on Twitter!

  8. I prefer not to eat fake meat products, too, but every once in a while I’ll get some. I AM impressed that sugar isn’t one of the first ingredients in this product and that there’s only one kind of sugar and that it’s quite far down the list! That’s a pleasant surprise. I’ll keep my eyes out for these products the next time I’m considering fake meat.
    .-= Sagan´s last blog ..The Living Healthy in the Real World Guide to Grocery Shopping, Part Six: Healthy Shopping Tips =-.

  9. I like your baseball analogy as well! Thanks for the tip. I may have to give the “pulled pork” a try. Living in Kansas City, I bypass a lot of BBQ.
    .-= Alisha´s last blog ..New Vegan Hot Spot in Kansas City! =-.

  10. yayyyyy…i love gardein! and i can’t wait to try the shreds now that you gave them such a high review. have a great week matt!
    .-= Holly (The Healthy Everythingtarian)´s last blog ..Catch-Up =-.

  11. Hello! I just found your blog, and I’m absolutely loving it! I think I’m close by too…I live in Baltimore! :)

  12. kristyn says:

    are the wings boneless?

  13. I just ate at Loving Hut (vegan) and had the beef less tips and they tasted like the real thing. I loved it! I’m upgrading this product to the majors.

  14. Kristina says:

    I just tried gardein hot wings for the first time. I have been a vegetarian for about 5 and a half years, and always preferred morning star. It was good, and VERY filling, but not the best I’ve had. Before I became a vegetarian, I was a BIG fan of buffalo wings, so I’m always trying to find ways to replace that craving. I’ve yet to find a vegetarian alternative, but the ones I’ve had are good as is. I really like how filling it is though.

  15. My sister and I tried these just about an hour ago for the first time since being mostly vegan for 2 years. We were FREAKED out. It tastes just like how I remember chicken tenders tasting. We read the bag 10 times and googled just to make sure..and found this! This is definitely our new favorite!

  16. David Sanchez says:

    I live in California in Orange county area where do I buy this product just turned vegan last week I feeling really good now each day gets better

  17. Part of the process is also to switch from the mindset of eating animals. What we are eating is something new and doesn’t even necessarily have to replace meat. Why can’t we just try new foods that taste different and sometimes even better? Not to mention that our act of eating is changing the world that is better for our health, planet and animals.


  1. […] I almost couldn’t believe I was eating a grain/soy product and not meat. Matt recently wrote a review of the gardein product line – check it out for more […]

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