Are meat-free alternatives actually any good?

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Tuesday, 5 February 2019, 8:19AM

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Sustainable living and eating are hot on people's minds in 2019, as they look to make better choices for their waistlines, as well as the environment.

Meat and animal-free products appear to be popping up everywhere. You'll likely recall Air New Zealand serving up meat-free Impossible Burgers on some flights last year.

But with so many more "meat-free" alternatives available to consumers, how many of them actually stack up?

Does "fince" (faux mince) have a shot at being more delicious than 100 per cent beef mince? Or will it leave a bad taste in our keen meat-eaters' mouths?

We took three meat-free minces, used them in a classic spaghetti bolognaise and challenged our taste testers to see if they could tell the difference between sustainable alternatives and beef mince.

The four mince options after being cooked with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Here's how our meat eaters, Gracie and Silke, went with our taste test:

The test

Gardein

The Gardein mince creation,

At first glance, Silke thought Gardein's offering looked like "real mince". Gracie noted while it did smell good, it didn't smell "meaty".

After taking their first bites, they were confident they weren't eating real mince. But Silke especially enjoyed the taste while Gracie found it didn't taste fatty or oily. She enjoyed it and deemed it a good dupe.

Both took a guess that maybe it was made from corn. In fact, Gardein mince is actually made from soy protein.

Quorn

The Quorn mince creation.

Despite its name this British favourite is actually made from a type of fungus culture.

The Quorn option was pleasing in appearance when set down on the table. Both our taster testers agreed it looked like mince and had more of mince smell.

However, on first bite it was clear this wasn't mince: the texture was "less chewy" and packed a lot less flavour than option one.

Would the "fince" stack up? Gracie and Silke found out.

Beef mince

The classic beef mince version.

It didn't take long for both testers to pick out the real meat option. Gracie exclaimed: "This is beef mince. From a cow!"

The pair agreed it was delicious and loved its "familiar" taste.

You can't get anything past these two. Option three was, of course, beef mince.

Vegie Delights

The Vegie Delights spaghetti.

The Vegie Delights mince is made of a mix of vegetable protein as well as tomato, garlic and onion.

It had a distinctly different look to the others, the texture more like refried beans than mince, and it appeared much darker in colour.

Neither the smell nor the taste were there for our panellists. Both agreed they would not choose this one as their first option when going meat-free.

The verdict

There was a clear winner in this mince-alternative taste test: Gardein came out as the top meat-free choice for both Silke and Gracie.

They liked the texture, taste and thought it could even fool a keen meat eater.

While Silke reckons she'd still tuck in to beef mince if given the choice, Gracie was converted: Gardein is her new number one.