What is in plant-based meat?

Tuesday, 20 April, 2021

Plant-based meat products are designed to both look and taste like real meat and are made from ingredients like soy, mushrooms, peas, coconut oil and vegetable concentrates like beetroot. These products can easily substitute meat in existing recipes and are an excellent way to cater to a broader range of customers who cannot or choose not to eat meat from animals.

plant-based meat patties cooking on grill

What is plant-based meat made from?

soya protein mince with green beans

Plant-based meat products need to not only look and taste like real meat, but they also need to behave in the same way when being cooked. Let’s take a look at each element of plant-based meat and see which ingredients are used to mimic real meat.


There are a wide variety of sources from which plant-based burgers can derive protein, such as soya, wheat, mushrooms, peas, brown rice, and potatoes. Soy protein is a popular foundation for plant-based meat as it is a complete protein that is easily digested and contains essential amino acids that the human body can’t produce on its own.


To replicate the natural colouring of red meat, vegetable extracts like beetroot and spirulina may be used. These extracts are chosen not just for their red hues but because they will also brown when cooked, making them almost indistinguishable from genuine beef or pork.

Flavour and Texture

Small, solid chunks of plant oils like coconut oil are included in plant-based meat products to help mimic the juicy texture and flavour of animal fat. Yeast extract can also be used to enhance the savoury flavour.


While egg whites are a reliable binding agent, for a plant-based meat product to be vegan, it must use an alternative. Binders made from vegetable fibre like methyl cellulose are an effective alternative to egg whites.


Plant-based meat products use vegetables, nuts, and seeds containing vitamins, minerals, and fibre. Plant-based meat often has significantly more fibre than the animal product it’s designed to mimic. Some plant-based products have added nutrients found in animal meat, such as iron and zinc.


Incorporating plant-based meat into your menu

plant-based burger cut in half, served with beer

More and more food service businesses are incorporating plant-based meat into their menus, giving vegans, vegetarians, flexitarians, and those who wish to reduce the amount of meat they eat, tasty menu options. The increasing rollout of plant-based menu offerings has increased the expectation consumers have on cafes and restaurants to offer vegan and vegetarian friendly dishes. When creating a plant-based menu option, make an effort to offer something unique that’s on par with the rest of your offerings rather than something that merely substitutes ingredients. This mushroom burger recipe using the delicious Harvest Gourmet patty is an example of a truly great vegan burger that directly competes with animal-based menu offerings.

Keep in mind; many of your customers who order plant-based dishes won’t be fully-fledged vegans or vegetarians. A lot of diners enjoy plant-based meat as a part of their diet or are eager to try it for the first time at your establishment. This reinforces why your plant-based dishes should be distinct and exciting on their own, rather than being contrived to fill a gap in your menu.


What’s healthier, plant-based meat or real meat?

plant-based meat being cut on plate

For plant-based meat to compete with animal meat, it needs to offer a comparable level of nutrition. Because plant-based products can vary greatly between producers, it’s hard to lump them together and definitively say that plant-based meat is healthier than real meat. The most important thing to remember about plant-based meat is that it’s designed to mimic real meat, not necessarily to create something that is nutritionally superior. With that said, many plant-based products will have higher levels of some nutrients, with higher fibre content being a chief example. The soy-based Harvest Gourmet patty has a comparable level of protein as real beef while having significantly higher fibre as well as less carbs, sodium, and saturated fat. It’s an excellent choice to base your plant-based menu offerings around, providing a meat-free alternative without compromising on flavour.