Step Aside Seitan, Mushrooms Are the New All-Stars of Alt-Meat

Photo: Stocksy/Pietro Karras
Most people, it seems, are on a quest to eat more plants, but if you're a meat eater—or more aptly, a meat lover—giving up juicy beef burgers and crispy, flavorful bacon can be very, very hard. Tofu and seitan—the all-stars of the meat substitute world—don't exactly hit the spot. But mushrooms as meat substitute? Now you're onto something.

It's no secret that companies are getting closer to creating alternative meats that taste startlingly like the real thing. Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat in particular have won over many carnivores for not only tasting like meat but looking like it, too. One gripe, however, is that many point out how they are still very processed foods, and the ingredients list isn't exactly simple. (Methylcellulose, maltodextrin, and cultured dextrose—delicious!)

For people who want to eat less meat but also want to be able to recognize what everything they're eating is made of, this is a challenge. But recently, a very recognizable ingredient, the humble mushroom, has started popping up as a healthy meat substitute.

Natural salad dressing company, Hansley Foods, is using mushrooms as the primary ingredient in their "bacon" bites, after realizing that burned bits taste surprising similar to the real thing. As Fast Company points out in the same article highlighting Hansley Foods, fast-food chain Sonic is also selling blended burgers, using mushrooms to decrease the amount of beef.

Teton Waters Ranch is launching a blended burger that combines grass-fed beef with portobello mushrooms and pea protein. When I met with the brand and tried the blended burger first-hand, a representative told me that portobello mushrooms are actually structured surprisingly similar to meat, giving them that beefy texture.

Clearly they aren't the only ones who have noticed. With more brands catching on to similarities between meat and mushrooms, you can expect to see the fungus playing an even bigger role in the plant-forward movement. What's next? Mushroom hot dogs? You heard it here first.

By the way, this is the difference between plant-based and vegan—and which one is healthier. Plus, how eating more plants can help your hair grow faster.

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