Once upon a time, it was tough to be vegetarian if you wanted anything other than tofu to replace meat. Meat replacements were often stringy, or too soft, or left a bad aftertaste. For years, I have been on a quest for the perfect meat replacement. As more and more Americans grew conscious of their eating habits and developed a demand similar to mine, a company called Gardein formulated the ultimate product and effectively ended my quest. I have found the holy grail of vegetarian food.
Gardein makes products perfectly imitating pulled pork, beef tips, chicken breasts, and other traditional meat dishes, but I’ll focus on a few of their products today.
The Tuscan (“chicken”) Breasts come in a very light sauce of tomato and basil. This comes in a 2-pack, but a Chick’n Filets 4-pack costs exactly the same, about $4 in my region. I’d recommend buying the Chick’n Filets instead of the Tuscan Breasts, because they are more versatile. They are plain and can replace chicken breasts in any recipe and you’re getting twice as much for the same amount of money.
If you want to eschew meat but you miss stuffed chicken, Gardein makes two delicious alternatives. The Santa Fe Good Stuff has black beans and corn inside, while the Marinara Chick’n Good Stuff has marinara sauce and vegan “cheese.” The cheese has a bit of an odd taste that has some getting used to. It seems that while Gardein has mastered the art of faux meat, the faux cheese market has some catching up to do.
My absolute favorite food by Gardein is the Seven Grain Crispy Tenders. These are a lot like chicken tenders, but better. Seriously. The breading is what does it. These are a perfect snack, a hit with the kids (vegetarian or not) and adults too.
Gardein also has started a new line of complete meals, which include the “meat,” rice, and veggies; unfortunately these aren’t available in my area yet so I can’t review them. I have a feeling they are awesome.
Another thing I can’t comment on yet but that has my mouth watering: Gardein is partnering with restaurants to offer their products! So far, Chipotle and Yard House are offering Gardein products; Gardein has on their web site a long list of local restaurants across the country that are also offering Gardein.
I am in love with this brand. It seems to be succeeding, as a major chain like Chipotle offering this product is a big deal. My next hope is that fast food chains like McDonalds or Wendy’s will offer Gardein products too.