As more and more people choose to reduce or eliminate animal products in their diet, the culinary industry has been booming with vegetarian and vegan trends. To appeal to a broad member base, clubs are offering more plant-based options on their menus. And with increasing innovations in vegan and vegetarian cuisines, offering diners more creative options has never been easier.
Finding a vegan cheese with a similar taste and texture to the real thing can be challenging. However, vegan cheese options available today have become more sophisticated and advanced. With innovations in coconut-based cheeses as well as nut and plant-based cheeses, these varieties are gaining popularity over soy-based cheeses. Using plant milks made from nuts, seeds and even oats with traditional dairy-making techniques, advancements in food technology have given these cheeses an edge over dairy and enables vegan cheese to melt, bubble and stretch like dairy. The technology that can create vegan whey and casein, the primary proteins found in dairy products, is more accessible than ever. It uses a fungi that’s particularly good at growing animal proteins to make realistic-tasting plant-based dairy products. While egg substitutes are still limited, there has also been significant advancement in plant-based egg replacements.
The plant-based meat industry continues to gain popularity due to the creation and distribution of meat substitutes that taste like the originals. Due to their availability and low cost, soy and wheat are the most common sources of plant protein for making plant-based meat today. However, these ingredients have properties that are non-optimal for making plant-based meat, including being common food allergens. Alternative protein sources now include chickpea, algae and fungi. Fermentation with fungi, koji, bacteria, mycelium and mircoalgae is believed to solve many challenges in the alternative protein industry. Fermentation can produce proteins that match the taste, texture and nutritional qualities of animal-based proteins. Extrusion, which is the process of subjecting food to thermal and mechanical stress, is also a common method of replicating the texture of meat with plant-based material.
So far, most plant-based innovations have been replicating chicken, beef and cheese. However, companies are now investing in replacing pork and seafood with more sustainable options. Plant-based pork can be made from peas, soy and shiitake mushrooms and comes in many varieties. Jackfruit has also been seen as a plant-based substitute for pulled pork and has now become one of the most versatile meat alternatives available. More and more brands and chefs are including jackfruit in their recipes, as it is relatively cheap and easy to use and can replicate a vast number of animal products such as seafood, pork and even chicken.
With an industry full of diverse alternatives to meat, cheese and other foods, vegan and vegetarian menu options are no longer restricted to fruits and vegetables. Demand for innovative vegan and vegetarian products has dramatically increased, giving chefs the opportunity to create new choices for members with dietary restrictions as well as for members looking to try something new.