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.

    • rocky mattioli says:

      I have to say that gardein`s “beefless ground” is really solid…I make it with my own low sodium slippy joe mixture……add a little low sodium tomato sauce and some garlic and it makes an excellent “meatsauce” with pasata….also great to use as a taco filler…..

      it`s a solid company,imo….I eat the beefless ground in some form or fashion every weekend…f

      • rocky mattioli says:

        that`s pasta,not pasata…

      • dave banno says:

        I agree 100% Rocky. My daughter is on a no meat diet so when I stumbled across this in the frozen food section I figured why not try it. Used it in tacos the first night. Let my daughter in on the secret so she would try it, but rest of kids had no clue it wasn’t burger until we told them. Have since tried it in stuffed peppers, lasagna, chili, shepherd’s pie, sloppy joes and as a pasta meat sauce. It taste as good as real burger and is actually better tasting than most low grade burgers (those 75% lean packages or tubes). Haven’t tried their other products yet, but the beefless tips look interesting.

  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 =-.

    • Magdalena says:

      I like Gardein products. That tenders are really ?. I tried meatloaf and beef less burgers. Both were very good.

  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.

  18. I have been a vegetarian for 5 weeks now. People tell me I’m crazy for not eating meat and to just stop eating meat COLD TURKEY (unintentional pun) . People often tell me I will go running back to eating meat because to just Stop put of nowhere will set my cravings going. Since I found out about the gardein products, I definitely know for sure I am NOT going back to meat any time soon! Everytime I take out the burgers or chicken tenders I always have to read the ingredients . I feel like I’m truly eating meat and I still can’t believe it’s not!! I’m in love with Gardein Products and I’m glad you ,ad this post

  19. Try the Gardein meatballs. They’re kinda like super falafel. Really good.

  20. Eating at Yard House outside Cincinnati ballpark and they have a huge section of the menu dedicated to Gardein products. Must be good

    • Just had the Gardein chicken and rice bowl at Yard House today. I was blown away by how the “chicken” tasted. As close to very tender chicken as you could get without it being chicken.

  21. I liked your blog and I understood your baseball comparison. It was really hard for me to become a vegetarian because when I did head shops were popular and there were no meat substitutes or even tofu. I used to live on cheese steaks in Philadelphia. After being a vegetarian for a little over 10 years I got food with chicken in it and it tasted disgusting. So I don’t want to eat anything that tastes like real meat. But I want something that tastes good. I was really impressed by their new fake turkey cutlets. They look like dog biscuits but they are great with red sauce and cheese. As this company evolves their products are getting better. I have been a vegetarian for 41 years so all you newbies stay strong!

  22. I am not a vegetarian but I love Gardein. The meatless crumbles have a great meaty texture and seasoned to your liking it makes great tacos or you can add it to spaghetti sauce and its delish. I’ve also tried and love the meatless meatballs and scallopini cutlets.. I’ve served Gardien to my boyfriend and his sons and they had no idea they were eating meatless meat.

  23. Harriette Macy says:

    I have been eating the Gardien breakfast patties on breakfast sandwiches made at my local market. Thought they were great so got some to make my own at home. Well I just heated one up on it’s own and took a bite. I was very surprised to taste a chemical taste, so after a moment I tried it again, and no unfortunately tasted like disinfectant with a bitter after-taste. Honestly I was so disappointed and just did not believe it so I braved another bite (I really can eat anything!) Anyway, I narrowed it down to the smell of toilet cleaner and there is no doubt whatsoever that some disinfectant was on at least that batch. Please try your “sausage patty” plain, you may be poisoning yourself.

  24. Thanks Matt for the review. I have been a vegetarian for about 7 years now. I discovered Gardein at Yard House and got hooked. I avoided the Mayo in the sandwich though. My favorites is ” chickin strips” and I use this product and sometimes “scaloppini” to make all my African/Nigerian dishes!

  25. k. lavelle says:

    Gardein is really good ….. trust me, and it’s sure a lot better than eating the corpse of some poor animal.

  26. I just tried the sweet and sour porkless bites and it was positively scary how much like pork they were! The texture and all were right on. Yay!

  27. I recently discovered the BBQ porkless pockets, and they’re really darn good. I definitely recommend giving them a try. Be careful when you bite into them, however, because they’ll be really hot in the middle. I like to cut them in half and poke some dill pickles inside with the BBQ. Delicious!

  28. Very good review 🙂 I discovered gardein at least a couple of years ago at a local grocery store. To be honest, I just do not like the taste of beef, pork or otherwise style products. I didn’t like them before I was vegetarian and vegan and I don’t now either. The veg chikn products are what I really like. I try to eat mostly gluten free because of my autoimmune illness but gardein tenders (and the orange pieces occassionally), Trader Joe’s tenders and boca spicy chikn are my exceptions. I also occassionally really enjoy the chikn sliders by gardein (without the buns though).

  29. I made spaghetti squash with the Meatless Meatballs, (normal pasta for those apprehensive about squash) for an Italian I know and 2 boys school age boys. Opened the package (quickly buried that in the bottom of the trash), used a little olive oil, swirled them around a glass dish, put them in the oven on 475 till a little dark/crispy on the outside (trick is to slightly dry out a smidgen to make them a little more meatballish), and added them to the suga sauce. He actually complimented me on the meatballs (he doesn’t compliment ANYONE EVER) saying they were delicious. The school age boys really liked them also.(one is the pickiest eater I have ever met!) I never told the 60+ year old Italian, but I did tell the boys and they didn’t believe me so, guess who had to go trash diving. haha This girl.
    Hope you enjoy the story and try to dupe those you love too. 🙂

  30. I know some people will disagree that eating things that are “meatlike” is not very vegan. the way I look at it is if I can get my non-vegan kids, hubby and friends to eat this instead of an animal, its a win. At the end of the day, it still means less animals are suffering to be on someones plate, so Im all for foods like this. Thank you for the review.

  31. Curious if the progress in the fake meat industry has altered your views on this category at all. Since this review, all sorts of new brands have emerged (Beyond Meat, Field Roast, etc), and there’s more diversity and higher quality products available than ever before.

  32. Angela Thomas says:

    I LOVE all of the Gardein veggi Meats. The pork is even better than I anticipated. I would like to Request that Gardein make a Pork Chop as you have made the Chicken into a sort of Chicken Breast Cutlet

  33. Angela Thomas says:

    Iv Comment before stating how I love all of your foods and would love to see a pork chop. I would also love to see cold cuts to make a wonderful and refreshing sandwich. I know you can do it!! ???

  34. Linda Chambliss says:

    Gardeins needs to have family sized portions. I have a big family and we all love Gardeins, I would love to see family sized packages

  35. Sharon McGill says:

    I use Gardein and Boca the most, but I have found that Gardein breaded products have a very rancid oil taste to them. At first I thought I was taking too long to thaw them out on the stove, and the oil went rancid, but tonight I realized it is in the product.

  36. Dave Stockman says:

    I’m seventy and never considered eating fake meat foods. Well, guess I’m a late learner! Gardein’s burgers are the only ones I want now and they’re even cheaper than hamburger. I’ll soon be trying their other products.

  37. “if not nearly as flavorful as real meat.”

    Is that:
    “if not (nearly as flavorful) as real meat” or
    “if (not nearly as flavorful) as real meat”?

    Love the baseball analogy!

  38. I liked your review… I’d like to push my favorites for anyone who’s interested: I like most of their products, especially the Meatless Balls which I keep in supply and their Beefless Ground. The only product I can recall not caring too much for was the Beefless Tips which I ate but haven’t bought again because I didn’t care for the texture. I was hooked on the Beefless Strips for a a few months but I think I ate it so much that I got sick of it. The Chicken Strips( plain) needed a lot of seasonings before I liked it and the other Chicken products that are fried in oil came out good but the oil kinda turned me off to it. The Pulled Pork was okay, also.. I bought it a few times but eh, I chose to try other products that I ended up liking more so I haven’t had the Pulled Pork in a while. And I take their cooking instructions into consideration but everything that they suggest be cooked in the over, I mostly thaw out in the microwave and then finish cooking on the stove because oven cooking takes way too long.

  39. I just wish most of the Gardein meats did not have Maltodextrin so bad for your health and unhealthy cause bloating !

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