How To Assemble a Vegan Plate

Enjoy the fruits of capitalism with The Goods, a regular series highlighting products that can make life a little bit better.

We live in boom times for vegan alternatives, with new plant-based meat and dairy products seemingly constantly cropping up at grocery stores nationwide. While the momentum around particularly ambitious meat alternatives has cooled in the past year or so, there’s still steady growth in the market for vegan protein and dairy alternatives, and even a moderately stocked grocery store is likely to have dozens of plant-based goodies.

The ability to enjoy delightfully creamy ice cream or savory meat dishes without animal cruelty is a boon for my conscience—and my appetite. Capitalism wins again! In my experimental vegan household, we’ve tried just about every exciting (and weird) vegan product you can name. Here are my favorites.

Guilt-Free Tuna

It might sound weird, but the food I’ve missed the most since giving up meat three years ago has been tuna melt sandwiches. The only thing that comes close (chickpea tuna salad doesn’t cut it) is the tuna pouches from Good Catch. While they’re a little pricey, they still manage to regularly sneak their way into my grocery cart.

(Illustration: Galich Ws/Fiverr)

Lab-Grown Chicken

In August, I got to try lab-grown chicken at D.C.’s China Chilcano restaurant. While GOOD Meat’s chicken is definitely better than any other plant-based meat I’ve tried, the texture is noticeably spongier than actual meat—and it certainly won’t fool any devoted meat eaters.

(Illustration: Galich Ws/Fiverr)

Plant-Based Cream Cheese

Oatly cream cheese is the only good plant-based cream cheese I’ve ever had. While the plain flavor has a slightly sweet aftertaste, the chive version is absolute perfection that’s almost indistinguishable from the real thing.

(Illustration: Galich Ws/Fiverr)

Mushroom Steak

I’m normally not a huge mock-meat fan (I prefer tempeh and tofu), but I make an exception for Meati’s plant-based steaks, which are made from mushrooms. The filets are delightful when smothered in gravy or plopped on a sandwich.

(Illustration: Galich Ws/Fiverr)

Vegan Mac and Cheese

Gal Gadot’s boxed mac-and-cheese brand, Goodles, is the only vegan mac worth your money. The powdered cheese goodness is scarily similar to cult favorite Annie’s Shells and White Cheddar and free of any funky aftertastes or textural wonkiness.

(Illustration: Galich Ws/Fiverr)

Lab-Grown Ice Cream

Every time I visit Cincinnati, I get Perfect Indulgence ice cream at Graeter’s, a regional ice cream chain. The ice cream—made of lab-grown, “animal-free” dairy—stands out in a sea of icy, overly sweet vegan ice cream options.

(Illustration: Galich Ws/Fiverr)

Veggie Protein

Textured vegetable protein has got to be the most prepper-ish protein source out there. “TVP,” as it is lovingly called in the vegan community, is made from soy flour and has a vaguely ground chicken–like texture. It’s the perfect way to sneak extra protein into soups, pasta sauce, and—in my favorite preparation—well-seasoned and shallow-fried polenta cakes.

(Illustration: Galich Ws/Fiverr)

Animal-Free Milk

Even before going vegan, I wasn’t a big milk drinker—the price tag on Bored Cow’s animal-free dairy milk makes me hesitant to ditch my beloved soy milk anytime soon. Bored Cow uses the same tech as Perfect Indulgence to create real milk protein, but in a lab instead of in a cow. For this reason, it rivals most vegan milk varieties as a coffee creamer, and it’s great for baking, making it a nice occasional treat.

(Illustration: Galich Ws/Fiverr)

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