How is vegetarian chicken made?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “How is vegetarian chicken made?” and will discuss challenges in making vegetarian chicken.

How is vegetarian chicken made?

Vegetarian chicken is made by using soy proteins as a primary ingredient. Soy proteins are obtained by manufacturing the plant-derived soybeans, With no need for animals.

After growing tremendously between 2017 and2019, the US plant-based meat alternatives category was worth US$939 million in 2019, accounting for 2% of all dollar sales of retail packaged meat and around 1% of total dollar sales of all retail meat sales (4).

To produce whole muscle meat, such as chicken breast, a process called extrusion is used. Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) can be either produced by low-moisture extrusion (dry TVP) or high-moisture extrusion (wet TVP). Dry TVP is generally processed using low-moisture twin-screw extrusion technology. Dry TVP is composed of pre-combined dry ingredients and water, and does not generally include fats during extrusion. Post-extrusion, it is passed through a dryer, packaged, and sold as a finished ingredient. The TVP is generally processed using high-moisture twin-screw extrusion technology. Wet TVP differs from dry TVP in the amount of water introduced during the extrusion process, the absence of a dryer post-extrusion, and the incorporation of fats alongside dry ingredients and water during extrusion (1). 

The Plant Slager

‘De Vegetarische Slager’ is a company that makes vegetarian chicken. The founder of this Dutch enterprise was a farmer who intended to give up meat but was unable to give up his cravings. To avoid eating meat, he sought to create a vegetarian meat substitute. His goal was to replicate the flavor and texture of meat without the use of any animals.

It’s one of the greatest vegetarian chickens I’ve had the pleasure of eating. The flavor is quite similar to that of chicken. Their brand’s success (which has grown significantly in the last year) is more evidence of this. However, they are no longer the only ones out there. Is it possible for so many distinct companies to do the same thing?

The difficulties of developing a meat substitute for chicken

Meat is a delicacy that should not be taken for granted. While the animal is alive, the muscles that we like eating must perform. Their flavor and texture are affected by this (can be positive & negative). They are composed of well-coordinated and tightly packed muscle fibers. Meat’s distinct bite and texture are a result of this structural feature. When it’s juicy and soft, it’s still firm. While vegetables and fruit have similar textures, meat has a distinct feel of its own. This is also the reason why it is so difficult to accurately reproduce flesh.

The core of developing plant-based alternatives is protein. Various functional ingredients are also required to create and mimic the type of texture, appearance, flavor, and mouthfeel of animal protein-based products. The formation of meat-like fibrous structures entails intensive processing, for example, thermos-extrusion, shear, spinning, and crosslinking. These processes enable the transformation of protein native structures into an unfolded, denatured form to promote the interaction between proteins and carbohydrate polymers. On the other hand, red pigments are added to impart meat-like aesthetics, and various vitamins and minerals are supplemented to establish a nutritive level comparable to meat (2).

Getting the taste of meat into a vegetarian chicken is another issue, as well. When you cook meat, the flavor molecules that make up the flesh continue to evolve. Rather than just one flavor molecule, it’s a whole slew of them that may be substituted. Savory yeast extract, nucleotides, sugar, and other taste-eliciting ingredients are commonly used in plant-based alternatives. The intense and complex aroma of meat products is mimicked by using combined spices and herbs, which not only produce a complex processed meat flavor profile, but also mask beany off-flavor of certain legume proteins (2).

In addition, animal fat is a major contributor of flavor, texture, juiciness, and mouthfeel in meat and to develop the texture and mouthfeel resembling animal fat, solid fats extracted from tropical fruits, such as coconut and cocoa beans, are blended with liquid oils that contain more unsaturated fatty acids, such as sunflower oil and canola oil. To give plant-based “burgers” and “sausages” the marbling appearance of regular ground beef and pork sausage patties, blends of saturated and unsaturated oils are whipped into small globules of white fat (2).

You also want the customer to feel the cooking of the ‘chicken’ in the ‘correct’ manner, in addition to the sensory sensations. You want your customers to be able to cook the product in a manner that is almost identical to that of meat. This may seem simple, but the vast majority of the chemical changes that occur throughout the cooking process of meat take place within a relatively small range of time and temperature. Trying to find proteins and other items that can be used in the same manner as raw chicken isn’t a simple process.

Pre-cooked vs. raw vegetarian chicken

Vegetarian chicken may be prepared in two different ways. Second, you may make the vegetarian chicken product in advance and concentrate on making it appear like the “genuine” thing. These products can be made without the trouble of making something that acts like “raw” chicken.

However, you may also use raw ingredients to create something like chicken that can be served as either a raw product or cooked product. This is a more difficult task since both the raw and cooked products must fulfill the high standards set by the customer.

As a result, vegetarian chicken tends to use a lot of pre-cooked items. They still need to be heated up, but the main alterations have already occurred. Cooked chicken products are simpler to manufacture than products that mimic both raw and cooked chicken.

Vegetarian burgers, on the other hand, tend to look and feel more like their meat counterparts. They take considerably more science to manufacture because of this.

Common ingredients of vegetarian chicken

The pre-cooked chicken will be the focus of our attention moving forward. First, let’s look at how to make a chicken-like texture. Proteins make up the bulk of the muscle’s texture, with some fat and water thrown in for good measure. So, you should expect to see a lot of substitute proteins being used to simulate this feeling.

Scientists observed that textured soy protein isolate formulations with either 20% or 30% wheat gluten could resemble chicken meat texture relatively well in terms of measured hardness and chewiness. However, the sensory hardness and chewiness of these products were significantly higher than those of cooked chicken breast. The sensory profile of meat analogues may not be easily explained by specific textural attributes, and to develop higher-quality meat analogues, more knowledge is required to identify possible relationships between structural characteristics and specific sensory attributes (5).

Vegetarian chicken made with soy

For the vast majority of vegetarian chickens, soy proteins serve as the primary building block. Vegetable protein often comes from soy. Manufacturers can separate the plant-derived proteins found in soybeans, which are naturally abundant in protein. With no need for animals,

Known for their high protein content, soybeans grow on plants. So, the protein deficiency in the vegetarian chicken is compensated for. However, since soy is a vegetable rather than meat, its structure is quite different. Those of you who have eaten soybeans know what I mean. Therefore, to turn these soy proteins into muscle fibers, you will need to further process the proteins.

These emerging processes, such as high-temperature conical shear cell (HTSC), have been developed to prepare plant-based meat analogues. The HTSC is a cone-in-cone device with the bottom cone being rotatable. The cavity between the two cones is closed to prevent steam escape during heating at temperatures of 95–140 °C. It has been applied to produce plant-based chicken meat.  Mechanically, the pea protein-gluten fibers produced at 110 and 120°C are comparable to chicken meat processed at 50–100 kPa in mechanical strength (2).

Quorn

Quorn, a popular substitute for chicken, is another prominent component. Mycoprotein is the primary ingredient in Quorn products. As the name suggests, mycoprotein is made from fungi, thus it’s closely connected to mold and yeast. Fusarium venenatum is the fungus that Quorn grows in big fermentation tanks. As long as the correct nutrients are given to this fungus, it will grow well and maybe be harvested to produce the mycoprotein that is needed.

It took 20 years of research and development to produce the mycoprotein, via the continuous fermentation of Fusarium venenatum, a filamentous microfungus found originally in a field in Buckinghamshire, UK, followed by steaming, chilling, and freezing of the RNA-reduced biomass. This process results in a high-protein and high-fiber food with a high degree of fibrosity through fiber assembly.When examined under a microscope mycoprotein that has been prepared in this way has a texture similar to that of chicken breast. By dry weight, mycoprotein is typically 45% protein and 25% fiber (3).

When the mycoprotein is steamed for a long period, it may be transformed into vegetarian meats. Because of the combination of heat and moisture, it will develop a robust texture. The binding is further improved by freezing it, and it is ready for sale after that.

Other FAQs about Vegetarian that you may be interested in.

Is calcimax vegetarian?

Is caldikind plus vegetarian?

Is Celin 500 vegetarian?

How is vegetarian mayonnaise made?

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we answered the query, “How is vegetarian chicken made?” and discussed challenges in making vegetarian chicken.

References

  1. Kinney, M., Zak Weston, and J. Bauman. Plant‐based meat manufacturing by extrusion. The Good Food Institute. 2019. https://gfi.org/images/uploads/2019/11/Plant-Based-Meat-Manufacturing-Guide-_GFI. pdf)
  2. Sha, Lei, and Youling L. Xiong. Plant protein-based alternatives of reconstructed meat: Science, technology, and challenges. Trend Food Sci Technol, 2020, 102, 51-61.
  3. Finnigan, Tim JA, et al. Mycoprotein: the future of nutritious nonmeat protein, a symposium review. Curr develop nutr, 2019, 3, nzz021.
  4. Choudhury, Deepak, et al. Commercialization of plant-based meat alternatives. Trend Plant sci, 2020, 25, 1055-1058.
  5. Godschalk-Broers, Layla, Guido Sala, and Elke Scholten. Meat Analogues: Relating Structure to Texture and Sensory Perception. Foods, 2022, 11, 2227.