In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “Can vegetarians eat chicken?” and will discuss vegetarian alternatives for chicken.
Can vegetarians eat chicken?
No, vegetarians cannot eat chicken. Vegetarians are unable to consume chicken since it is an animal product. To be vegetarian, you must not consume any animal products, including dairy, eggs, or leather, regardless of the animal from which it comes.
The number of vegetarians in the past decade has not fluctuated much. Research has shown that about
3% of adults in the U.S. are lacto-ovo vegetarians. About a third or quarter of all vegetarians confirm that they use only plant-based foods in their diet, excluding dairy products, eggs and honey-based products from their diet. It is important to note that females are much more likely to opt for this type of diet compared to males. It is estimated that there are about 75 million vegetarians in the world, who voluntarily adhere to this diet, and 1.450 million people are vegetarians out of necessity. The number of vegetarians in countries such as India is estimated to be 40%, whereas the data for Europe and America depending on the country range from 1 to 10% (e.g. 9% in Germany, 0.3% in Portugal, 3.2% in the USA) (1).
The Vegetarian Movement Isn’t About Health
There is a widespread misconception among those who are just beginning to learn about plant-based diets that the vegetarian movement is mainly focused on human health (2). And based on this premise, it’s easy to assume that chicken would be OK for vegetarians.
Without a doubt, chicken is not healthy food, but compared to other types of meat, it has a low saturated fat content. Often, when people see a healthy meal, they envision steaming chicken breast and vegetables. Studies show that the consumption of poultry meat can be considered healthier than bovine and processed meat. Higher intakes of red meat, red meat excluding processed meat, red meat to poultry ratio, red meat to poultry plus fish ratio, and high-fat dairy were significantly associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Higher intakes of poultry, fish, and low-fat dairy sources were significantly associated with decreased risk (3).
A vegetarian diet may be good for your health, but many vegetarians will eat chicken from time to time if it is all they ate.
The vegetarian diet has never been a healthy one, alas. In reality, a vegetarian diet, depending on the foods consumed, might be dangerously unhealthy. Some vegetarians subsist only on Coke and potato chips; this is not recommended. So long as the chips and Coke don’t include any animal products, the diet is vegetarian. Unhealthful vegetarian diets include refined and processed foods and must be distinguished from healthy diets, which consists of all minimally processed fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices and excludes meat, fish, poultry, and may include animal products, such as eggs, and dairy products (2).
Vegetarians abstain from using any products that include animal products.
Vegetarianism is about eliminating animal exploitation, not health or the environment, as many self-identified vegetarians believe. Anyone vegetarian for any purpose other than ethical considerations is more accurately defined as someone who consumes only plant-based foods. I wouldn’t call myself a vegetarian, but I’m not sure.
Vegetarians, like omnivores, eat just plants as part of their diet. This is because “plant-based diet” is an umbrella word encompassing diets devoid of animal products regardless of one’s motive for choosing the dietary pattern.
Because a vegetarian diet is based on plants, the words “vegetarian” and “plant-based” are sometimes used interchangeably by me.
While the prescription for a plant-based diet is usually the same (only plants, no animals), the reasons for choosing this eating pattern might vary from health to the environment to ethical considerations towards animals.
Many vegetarians care about the environment and health, but vegetarianism is the practice of eliminating all animal products because of ethical considerations. For the most part, vegetarians abstain from wearing leather, eating dairy products, and consuming any kind of meat, including chicken, red meat, fish, and shellfish (4).
To follow a vegetarian diet, you must also avoid eating any food that has been processed using animal by-products.
The Best Chicken Substitutes for Vegetarians
Thanks to a variety of plant-based substitutes, vegetarians no longer have to forgo chicken in their diet.
There are several alternatives to chicken, but I’ve found Seitan (All-Purpose Chicken Replacement) to be the most believable. There are several ways to prepare seitan as a meat substitute. However, the texture is quite close to that of chicken. Wheat gluten, also called seitan, is obtained during the isolation of starch from wheat flour and is used for its binding, dough-forming and leavening ability. Its cohesive and chewy quality gives the meat-like texture to the products prepared with wheat gluten (5).
Wheat gluten is used to make seitan, which is a popular gluten-free alternative to bread. Yes, it’s the stuff your edgy pals are allergic to. Due to certain people’s sensitivity to gluten and the existence of a condition known as celiac disease, where individuals have a significant allergic response, gluten has gotten a poor reputation. A gluten-free diet is currently the only known effective treatment for celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that occurs in genetically predisposed individuals who develop an immune reaction to gluten (6).
However, even in big quantities, it’s not a problem for the majority of us. Gluten-free seitan is made by scrubbing wheat flour to remove starch granules, then cooking and prepping the resulting glutinous material to resemble meat.
Jackfruit is a kind of tropical fruit. When I think about jackfruit, I see it as a terrific substitute for pulled pork. It may also be used to manufacture several meat substitutes, including chicken. Among vegetarian fried chicken ingredients, this is perhaps the most prevalent. There are several recipes for fried jackfruit available online.
The jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus Lam.) is a fruit that is mostly consumed when it is fully ripe; the proximate composition of immature raw jackfruit indicates lower fat (0.1%–0.6%,) fiber content (2.6%–3.6%) and protein content (2.0%–2.6%). In a study, vegan chicken sausage was prepared with jackfruit, banana floret, flaxseed, chickpea flour, green gram flour, sunflower oil, chili powder, mixed herbs, onion, garlic, salt, oats, pea protein isolate, potato starch, carrageenan and nutritional yeast. The sensory analysis for the product, compared to commercial chicken sausage showed no significant difference between the attributes like color, taste, chewiness, and overall acceptability for developed vegan sausage. The flavor of the vegan sausage and control sample had no significant difference (8).
It’s correct, you did read that correctly. Cauliflower is a common vegetarian substitute for buffalo wings. I can’t testify to the taste or texture of these small wings, but they look very identical to the genuine thing. I’ve never eaten any of them before.
Vegetable crops such as potato, cauliflower, eggplant, and jackfruit are rich in protein on a dry-weight basis. These make the savory dishes a good meat substitute, ultimately impacting human dietary habits (7).
Choose a vegetarian-friendly sauce, of course. If you’re interested, check out this piece on buffalo sauce’s vegetarian friendliness.
Commercial vegetarian chickens
The chicken substitute is made from vegetarian products. I’m referring to commercial vegetarian chicken substitutes when I say “vegetarian chicken.” It is sold under the label “vegetarian chicken.” Textured plant protein or, as previously said, gluten are also possibilities. Plant-based proteins are the most common ingredients used to prepare meat alternatives. Soy, wheat gluten and mushrooms are the main ingredients used. Soy is used for its high nutritional quality to prepare protein rich products, such as tofu, obtained from coagulating and pressing soy curds into a compact block (5).
However, several other brands make crispy tenders and chicken nuggets that you like.
In supermarket shops like Walmart and Target, you can get vegetarian chicken, which is great news.
Other FAQs about Vegetarian that you may be interested in.
In this brief guide, we answered the query, “Can vegetarians eat chicken?” and discussed vegetarian alternatives for chicken.
- Šmugović, Stefan, et al. Vegetarian diet: Perceptions and attitudes of hospitality management. Zbornik radova Departmana za geografiju, turizam I hotelijerstvo, 2021, 50, 70-77.
- Rocha, Jason P., et al. Multiple health benefits and minimal risks associated with vegetarian diets. Curr nutr rep, 2019, 8, 374-381.
- Bernstein, Adam M., et al. Major dietary protein sources and risk of coronary heart disease in women. Circulation, 2010, 122, 876-883.
- van der Kooi, Merle E. The inconsistent vegetarian. Soc Anim, 2010, 18, 291-305.
- Alcorta, Alexandra, et al. Foods for plant-based diets: Challenges and innovations. Foods, 2021, 10, 293.
- Lerner, Benjamin A., Peter HR Green, and Benjamin Lebwohl. Going against the grains: gluten-free diets in patients without celiac disease—worthwhile or not?. Digest dis sci, 2019, 64, 1740-1747.
- Singh, M., Trivedi, N., Enamala, M.K. et al. Plant-based meat analogue (PBMA) as a sustainable food: a concise review. Eur Food Res Technol, 2021, 247, 2499–2526.
- Keerthana Priya, Ravichandran, et al. Development of vegan sausage using banana floret (Musa paradisiaca) and jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus Lam.) as a meat substitute: Evaluation of textural, physico‐chemical and sensory characteristics. J Food Process Preserv, 2022, 46, e16118.