Gardein Faux Meats – Vegans Love Them But Can They Really Fool Omnis?

Jane and I have tried the Vegan Chicken Sonoma Salad and Vegan Chicken Curry Salad from Whole Foods. The vegan chicken is actually Gardein Chicken, produced by Garden Protein International (thanks for pointing us in that direction Stephanie). We were quite impressed with the taste and texture of the vegan chicken and commented to each other that we thought meat-eaters would find this product equally palatable.

However, it looks like we may have been wrong about that. The National Post, a Canadian publication, conducted an informal, blind taste-test with four of their employees. The employees were fed Caesar Chicken Salad. One version was prepared using President's Choice Gardein Chicken. The second version was prepared with Lilydale Seasoned Sliced Chicken Breasts (real chicken). In all four instances, the employees seemed to have an issue with the Gardein product. Only one of the panelists liked it, but still complained about the "greyness" of the product.

My favorite comment:

Laura I feel like I put my life on the line by ingesting the grey matter that was the "chicken" of Salad No. 1. Is this what you make all the interns do?

Isn't that what interns are for?

Of course, this is a miniscule, and statistically insignificant survey. But it does make me wonder... Do Jane and I like these products because we've forgotten how "real" meat tastes? Perhaps. Regardless, we know we like the product and that's all that matters to us! Well, that and the fact that others like it enough that it continues to sell.


  1. I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    Chris Moran

  2. Ah, you are having the same internal dialogue that all veg*ns do ­čÖé

    My wife, who is omni, likes the Morningstar Farm strips (and the new Trader Joes knockoff) because they have a good “texture” to them. She likes the taste fairly well although i don’t think they fool her into thinking it is real meat. In general, I think the chicken stuff is easier to imitate since there is the “well, it tastes like chicken” meme that has been around forever.

    Personally, I would like to move away from these imitation meats but they are quick and they at least remind you of the pre-veg days when everything was so “easy.”

  3. Hi Sat. Yes, we’d like to move away from packaged, pre-processed foods… but in reality, it isn’t going to happen. We like/need/want the convenience. So we keep looking for things that are the healthier/better alternatives.
    I loved the “tastes like chicken” comment… How true!

  4. Hi Erik,
    You could always write the company.
    In the meantime, if you have a Trader Joe’s nearby, they sell TJs Chicken-less Strips, which are a pretty good substitute (if not the same product).
    Trader Joe’s tends to do a lot of private branding and I haven’t investigated the origin of the product.

  5. I’m a meat eater, but I’m trying to cut down. I tried the Gardein sliced chicken (for chicken tacos) and although it doesn’t taste even remotely like real chicken i still thought it tasted alright. It’s not something I could eat on it’s own though. I have a few Vegan friends and they all told me that it’s impossible to enjoy any meatless meat until you forgot how the real thing tastes, but I didn’t mind the Gardein “chicken” at all.

  6. Hi Jen,
    We had very similar experiences when we first went vegan. As time has gone by, the “mock meats” have become much more palatable to us. There are some that are better than others, and some that it takes awhile to get used to.
    Since you are cutting down on meat consumption, as opposed to cutting out meat, it might be more difficult for you to acclimate to the taste if you’re having the “real thing.” But there are other things you can try if you want meatless meals… bean based dishes, or chickpeas, or lentils work well instead of meat. There’s always pasta or a large salad too. Good luck in your endeavors. Make sure to visit our Resources page. There’s lots of good information there to help you through the maze of “vegan”

  7. I am an omni and I LOVE gardein. Whenever I go to Wholefoods I look to see if they have their vegan chicken salad and if they do I am a happy girl! I just tried the shredded bbq “chick’n” which is a gardein product and it was yum.

  8. Just finished watching “Oprah”; she featured Tal Ronnen and he prepared some Gardein with mushrooms. She was talking with her mouth full, she enjoyed it so much LOL She also had three meat-eating audience members who were digging in and saying that it tasted just like chicken. So, either they were plants or Gardein passes the “it tastes like chicken” test.

    But I will stick to the real stuff myself LOL

  9. More Gardein kitchen tests on the way, but I’d certainly say that about the buffalo wings tho– which I’m not going to review, but did eat.

  10. You can find Gardein in the fresh aisle at Fresh & Easy and Von’s in California and frozen aisle at Ralph’s. Also, Chipotle in D.C. just started using Gardein in a burrito this week.

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