When I became Vegan, I made up my mind that I wouldn’t be sating my non-Vegan cravings with “faux foods” very often. That means cheese-less pizzas and veggie burritos sans ground round, for the most part.
But once in awhile, it’s fun to see what is out there for pretend animal products. Beyond the fact that they’re usually heavily processed, I really have no problem with it. I think that for most Vegans it’s the morality of it, or the environmental impacts, or the health detriments, not simply the fact that they don’t like meat. So some kind of imaginary escapism is totally acceptable!
With this in mind, my S.O. and I decided to try out Gardein Barbeque Wings the other night. Gardein is compacted from “garden protein”, and boasts certified Vegan meat products that are “renewable [and] inspired”, and supposedly taste good.
The ingredient list is a bit long, but impressively natural: water, soy protein isolate, vital wheat gluten*, expeller pressed/canola oil, organic ancient grain flour (kamut, amaranth, millet, quinoa), natural flavor (from plant sources), modified vegetable gum, yeast extract, sea salt, organic cane sugar, potato starch, onion powder, garlic powder, pea protein, vinegar, carrot fiber, beetroot fiber, extractives of paprika and turmeric.
Not bad, eh? And the sauce is fine, too: crushed tomatoes (tomatoes, salt, citric acid), organic cane sugar, water, Dijon mustard (water, mustard flour, white vinegar), blackstrap molasses, malted barley extract, sea salt, spices, vinegar, corn starch, xanthan gum, onion powder, hickory smoke flavor, paprika, garlic powder.
Nevertheless, I was skeptical. I put the whole bag in hot water to defrost as directed, but I left them in a little long, and some of the “wings” were squishy. Ew…I thought. These cannot possibly taste good.
I tossed them in the pan with some olive oil and a few minutes later I smelled … chicken. Seriously! The damn things smelled exactly like chicken. I let them get brown and crispy on each side (that’s what the directions say, but they didn’t actually get THAT crispy), and then dumped in the barbeque sauce packet. I stirred them around for a few more minutes, and then divvied them up.
I could have finished my half, my S.O.’s half, and driven back to Walmart for another bag. They were honestly that good, and I wasn’t a huge fan of boneless wings when I DID eat meat. The big thing, for both me and the S.O. was that they had that texture. No matter how good they might taste, if they feel like tofu on the tongue, they’re unlikely to be a big hit. But the guys at Gardien have the ground chicken simulation down pat. I’m sorry I don’t have a photo, though that does speak to how fast they left my plate. Even the carnivore in the house wanted some:
How on earth do I resist that face?
Sure, they’re no red cabbage (mmm….), but four wings have just 120 calories, 14 grams of protein, some iron, and only 5 grams of fat – not too shabby for the freezer section. And for those days when you just don’t have the time or energy to cook something from scratch, or when you feel like braving sleet and high winds for some McDonalds – they will definitely do the trick. (They’re also pretty affordable. 11 wings/225 g for 4 dollars at Walmart.)
We are sold, and intend to try their other options every few weeks. I’ll be sure to let you know how they are. But until then – if a friend invites you over for wings and you really want to go but don’t want to eat spaghetti squash while everyone else sucks the meat from the bones … pick up a bag of these!