Make us your home page

Taste test: imitation meat

Food trend followers say fake meats are going to be all the rage in 2017. These are the products manufactured to resemble meat in texture and taste, particularly marketed to vegans and vegetarians. Our judges, only one of which is a vegetarian, were not impressed. These meatless products scored some of the lowest ratings in our tastings of the past 13 years. Even with noticeable grill marks on some of the options, judges were not persuaded to use most of these as meat substitutes on their menus. All of the samples were heated on the stove according to package directions.

Kathy Saunders, Times correspondent


(out of 100)
Tofurky Slow Roasted Chick'n 47MorningStar Farms Chik'n Strips 23Gardein Chick'n Strips 22

Once warmed in a heated frying pan, this product resembled pulled pork. That had judges thinking about possibilities for using the meat substitute. "It looks like shredded meat and tastes a bit like sausage," said one panelist. "It has good spices and might be good with some sauce on a bun or with egg substitute as a frittata." Another said the flavor reminded him of "the taste you get when you bite into a Slim Jim." He said he might be able to disguise the flavor in a thick barbecue sauce. The vegetarian on the panel said the product had "a nice chew" and would be tasty on a toasted bun with cheddar cheese. "This is like marshmallows meeting stuffing," said one panelist who didn't mind the sage flavor of this product but objected to the spongy texture. "It's like a rubber bullet," he said of one piece. "It bounced in my mouth like I was at the NBA," said another. The off-white color also was off-putting to some tasters. One judge described the product as "not bad," but said he would choose "to eat vegetables over this any day."Judges found that the pleasant look of this product did not indicate its taste. "It looks like yummy chicken but tastes like a dirty sponge," said one judge. Another said, "Cardboard comes to mind, and it's a shame because it looks nice and tasty." One panelist did like this brand, saying, "It's very much a surprise but it's got good taste and could pass as meat ... a very clever deception."

they buy?
Two of the four judges said yes.None of the four judges said yes.One of the four judges said yes.
Shopping information$3.99 for an 8-ounce package from Publix. $4.49 for a 10-ounce bag from Publix. $4.59 for a 10.5-ounce package from Winn-Dixie.

Also Sampled: Light Life Smart Tenders ($5.99 for a 6-ounce box from Publix, 16 points); Trader Joe's ($2.99 for an 8-ounce box, 4 points); and Beyond Meat Grilled Strips ($3.99 for a 9-ounce pouch from Publix, 6 points).

Panelists: Nan Jensen, registered dietitian; Bob Devin Jones, artistic director of Studio@620; John Hehn, foodie and owner of All Brite Lighting & Power Design Inc.; and Janet Keeler, assistant professor of journalism at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. All foods were tasted blind.

Send suggestions for product testing to: Taste section, Tampa Bay Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731 or email them to Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line. To read past Taster's Choice columns, go to

Serving size3.2 ounces12 strips2.6 ounces
Fat/Fiber9g /2g4.5g / 2g5g / 2g
Sugars/Sodium1g / 470mg0g / 460mg0g / 240mg
Carbs/Protein8g / 27g4g / 23g4g / 14g

Taste test: imitation meat 01/16/17 [Last modified: Thursday, January 12, 2017 4:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Aug. 19


    Monster Jam Triple Threat Series: Come early for the Pit Party ($15 or free at local Ford dealers) to meet the drivers and get pictures with the trucks. 7 p.m., Amalie Arena, 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa. $15-$80. (813) 301-2500.

    A crew member from the El Toro Loco monster truck, installs a truck tire, Thursday, 8/17/17 in preparation for Saturday's  Monster Jam Triple Threat Series at Amalie Arena, Tampa. The event will be held Saturday at 1pm and 7 pm.
  2. There's a bar in Tampa where you can roller skate and eat sushi

    Food & Dining

    Roller skating, it's not just for kids birthday parties and the 1970s anymore.

    The exterior of Pattinis features this mural by Art Aliens! [Pattinis South Tampa via Facebook]
  3. At 'American Idol' auditions in Orlando, there are life lessons in line

    Music & Concerts

    LAKE BUENA VISTA — From her spot across the lawn, Sasha Orihuela studies her son.

    Jeremy Joshua Dorsey reacts after past American Idol contestants walk by ahead of his audition at the Disney Springs in Orlando, Fla. on Thursday, August 17, 2017. 

Hundreds of people showed up for the first auditions for ABC's reboot of 'American Idol'. CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times
  4. Carnival announces five more cruises from Tampa to Cuba


    TAMPA — Carnival Cruise Line is adding five more cruises from Tampa to Cuba in 2018, Port Tampa Bay announced Thursday.

      Carnival Cruise Line announced additional cruises to  Cuba. Pictured is its Paradise cruise ship departing on its inaugural voyage to Cuba from Tampa. | [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
  5. Beach Drive mural is a first for St. Pete's swanky waterfront street


    Mural mania in St. Petersburg is spreading east.

    This mural in progress is on the side of the Smith & Associates building on Beach Drive in St. Petersburg.