What Is Plant-Based Chicken Made Of? Explore the Ingredients

What Is Plant-Based Chicken Made Of? Explore the Ingredients

posted 2023 Nov by

You’ve probably noticed that there’s been something of a dietary revolution happening lately. People are becoming more aware of the foods that they’re eating, and plant-based diets are becoming a common occurrence. 

Plants have long been a part of the average diet, but usually as the side dish that compliments meat. Well, all that’s changing — plants have started to become the main attraction as opposed to playing second fiddle. 

Thanks to innovative new technologies, plants have been transformed into a range of delightful alternatives that can satisfy even the most avid meat-lovers. Among these options, plant-based chicken holds a special place in the culinary landscape.

But many people still have a lot of questions about plant-based chicken. If you’re considering making the transition to a plant-based diet but have a few questions about the ingredients, we’ve got you covered. 

Why Is Plant-Based Chicken Popular?

Plant-based chicken has been carving its niche in the culinary world, and its popularity doesn't show signs of waning. Here are a few of the main reasons why this trailblazer of the plant-based revolution is finding favor with consumers worldwide.

Environmental Impact

One of the most compelling reasons driving the shift towards plant-based chicken lies in its environmental implications. Livestock farming contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and water pollution

By turning to plant-based alternatives, we can help alleviate these concerns. When anyone chooses to switch to plant-based chicken, they’re making a conscious decision to promote a more ecologically sustainable future.

Ethical Concerns

Ethical considerations also lead many consumers towards plant-based options. In many cases, factory farming often involves practices that some people find inhumane

Plant-based chicken allows individuals to enjoy familiar flavors and textures without contributing to practices that they find ethically problematic. It's a compassionate choice that respects the rights of animals without compromising on taste or nutrition. 

Health Benefits

On the health front, plant-based chicken can feature a variety of health benefits that aren’t found in the real thing. We’ll get more into the details later, but plant-based chicken offers a unique nutritional profile that supports your body's energy production from the inside out.

Non-Meat Diets

With the rise of vegetarian, vegan, and flexitarian diets, the demand for plant-based alternatives has seen a significant uptick. Plant-based chicken fits in seamlessly with these dietary choices, offering a satisfying replacement for those missing the texture and flavor of traditional chicken.

Innovations in Taste and Texture

One of the most impressive feats achieved by plant-based chicken producers is their ability to mimic the taste and texture of traditional chicken. This makes plant-based chicken not just a viable option for vegetarians and vegans but also a tempting choice for omnivores looking to reduce their meat intake.

Reduced Risk of Foodborne Illness

Plant-based products inherently carry a lower risk of foodborne illness compared to their animal-based counterparts. 

Pathogens like salmonella and E.coli, often associated with poultry, are much less likely to be present in plant-based chicken. This is an added advantage that can contribute to overall food safety and eliminate the risk of serious illness. 

Longer Shelf Life

Finally, the plant-based nature of these products translates into a longer shelf life. This makes it an ideal pantry staple, allowing you to stock up without worrying about spoilage. 

The convenience factor is an attractive proposition for many consumers, adding yet another reason to the growing popularity of plant-based chicken.

What Is Plant-Based Chicken Made Of?

Plant-based chicken might sound like an oxymoron, but food science and culinary creativity have joined forces to make this paradox a delicious reality. Let's dissect this plant-powered phenomenon and explore what goes into making plant-based chicken.

Soy Protein

Soy protein is a common ingredient in plant-based chicken. It's extracted from soybeans and offers a substantial nutritional punch. Its unique texture and flexibility make it an excellent base ingredient, capable of mimicking the mouthfeel of chicken.

Pea Protein

Another star ingredient is pea protein. Derived from yellow split peas, it's a great source of protein and fiber. Its mild flavor and versatile texture make it a favorite among plant-based chicken producers.

Wheat Gluten

Wheat gluten, also known as seitan, is another essential player. When cooked, wheat gluten develops a chewy texture that is remarkably similar to chicken. This wheat-derived protein is the secret ingredient that gives many plant-based chicken products their meat-like bite.

How Do These Ingredients Mimic the Texture of Chicken?

These plant proteins are manipulated using various techniques to mimic the fibrous texture of chicken. This process, known as extrusion, involves mixing, heating, and cooling the ingredients to create a product that resembles the texture of cooked chicken. 

The result is a product that, when cooked, has the same satisfying chew and mouthfeel as traditional chicken.

What Gives Plant-Based Chicken Its Flavor?

Texture is only one piece of the puzzle. It’s one thing to replicate the texture of chicken, but flavor is an entirely different story. However, the producers of plant-based chicken producers have gone to great lengths to mimic the savory, umami-rich flavor that we associate with chicken. 

There are several key ingredients that play key roles in this flavor development.

Spices and Seasonings

A blend of spices and seasonings goes a long way toward bringing the plant-based chicken to life. These can include everything from garlic and onion powder to paprika and turmeric. Each of these seasonings adds depth and complexity to the flavor profile, making plant-based chicken a delicious addition to a variety of dishes.

Vegetable Oils

Vegetable oils, such as sunflower or canola oil, help enhance the flavor and mouthfeel of plant-based chicken. They contribute to the juiciness and tenderness that you'd expect from a piece of cooked chicken.

Yeast Extract

Yeast extract is a flavor powerhouse. It's rich in glutamate, the compound responsible for umami, the savory taste that's often associated with meat. Adding yeast extract helps give plant-based chicken that satisfyingly savory flavor that makes it so appealing.

Vegetable Broth

Vegetable broth adds another layer of flavor, infusing the plant-based chicken with a well-rounded, savory taste. It also contributes to the product's moistness and tenderness.

Textured Vegetable Protein

Textured vegetable protein, often derived from soy or wheat, is used to create a meaty texture. Its absorbency allows it to take on the flavors of various spices, seasonings, and vegetable broth, making plant-based chicken a delicious and convincing alternative to the real thing.

Are There Nutritional Enhancements in Plant-Based Chicken?

As we briefly mentioned earlier, many people are drawn to plant-based chicken for its nutritional profile. Let's explore the nutritional enhancements that make plant-based chicken a compelling choice.

Protein

Plant-based chicken is typically high in protein, an essential nutrient that supports muscle health, immune function, and overall body repair.

The protein in plant-based chicken comes from sources like soy, pea, or wheat, offering a valuable source of plant-based protein for vegetarians, vegans, and anyone looking to diversify their protein intake.

Fiber

Unlike traditional chicken, plant-based chicken is a source of dietary fiber. Since the primary ingredients are typically soy and pea protein, the fiber content is much higher than chicken meat.

Fiber is a crucial nutrient for digestive health, and most of us don't get enough of it. Fiber plays a crucial role in regulating bowel movements and supports optimal cholesterol and blood sugar levels, as well.

Low Saturated Fat and Cholesterol-Free

Saturated fat is a type of fat that can raise your cholesterol levels and increase your risk of heart disease. While chicken is lower in saturated fat than beef, plant-based chicken is even lower. 

Additionally, plant-based chicken is naturally cholesterol-free. Chicken doesn’t contain an abundance of cholesterol, but it’s much higher than zero milligrams. 

The combination of these benefits makes plant-based chicken a heart-healthy choice. 

Fortified Nutrients

One of the best things about plant-based chicken is that it’s customizable. Since the ingredient list is much longer than merely the parts of an animal, it provides the opportunity to include additional nutrients. 

In many cases, plant-based chicken products are fortified with iron, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin B12. These nutrients are often difficult to come by in plant-based diets, so their addition can help prevent deficiencies. 

What Are the Potential Concerns Regarding Plant-Based Chicken?

Clearly, there are a lot of benefits that come from plant-based chicken. However, there are also a few potential concerns that you should know about. 

Processed Food

Plant-based chicken is a processed food, and like all processed foods, it should be eaten in moderation as part of a balanced diet. While it provides many nutritional benefits, it's not a substitute for whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.

Soy and Gluten Allergies

Some plant-based chicken products are made with soy, which can pose a problem for those with soy allergies. Always check the label if you have dietary restrictions or allergies. Additionally, many plant-based chickens use wheat gluten as a key ingredient for texture. If you're sensitive to gluten or have celiac disease, you'll need to look for gluten-free options.

Nutritional Differences

While plant-based chicken mimics the taste and texture of traditional chicken, its nutritional profile is different. Depending on the brand and product, it may be lower or higher in certain nutrients, like protein or sodium.

Taste and Texture

While many people enjoy the taste and texture of plant-based chicken, it's not identical to traditional chicken. Taste is subjective, and while some people love it, others may not.

Price

Plant-based chicken can be more expensive than traditional chicken, which may be a barrier for some people. As the market grows and production becomes more efficient, prices may come down.

Hidden Ingredients

While plant-based chicken is a more transparent and ethical option, some brands may include hidden ingredients or additives. Always read the label to know what you're eating.

The Takeaway

Plant-based chicken, a culinary innovation marrying science with creativity, offers an environmentally friendly, ethically conscious, and health-boosting alternative to traditional chicken. With its remarkable mimicry of chicken's taste and texture and its fortified nutritional profile, it caters to a variety of dietary needs and preferences. 

Yet, it's essential to consider the potential concerns that come with it. Remember, as with all food choices, balance and moderation are key. If you’re looking for other ways to support your nutritional intake, consider adding L’Evate You Greens to your diet. 

Endorsed by Steve Harvey and powered by our M-Charge Complex, our greens powder is designed to fuel your body's energy production from within. Available in Original, Chocolate, and Tart Cherry flavors, our greens are here to complement your journey toward mindful eating and wellness.

Sources:

The Environmental Cost of Animal Agriculture | IAPWA

What Is Factory Farming and Why Is It a Problem? | Ethical Consumer

Retail Sales Data: Plant-Based Meat, Eggs, Dairy | GFI

What Is the Difference Between Salmonella and E. Coli? | HHS

Plant-Based Meat Manufacturing by Extrusion | GFI

Fiber | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Nutritional Status and the Influence of the Vegan Diet on the Gut Microbiota and Human Health | PMC

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