If you’re hosting Thanksgiving, odds are at least one of your guests (or maybe even you!) doesn’t eat meat. That means you have to find something to stand in for the holiday’s traditional piece de resistance: the turkey.
Of course you could just have your meat-free guests make a meal from sides (my personal preference). Or you could also try to make a stand-in protein with one of the plant-based substitutes on the market.
When it comes to meatless turkey offerings, Tofurky is, unsurprisingly, the first name that comes to mind. The company has been making its portmanteau tofu turkey for 25 years. However, if you’ve ever tried a tofurky, you know that, while tasty, it doesn’t for a moment fool you into thinking you’re eating the real bird.
Tofurky would tell you that that’s the point; their products are made for vegetarians and aren’t trying to fool anyone into thinking they’re meat. But for the growing number of flexitarians out there, there’s a market for a more realistic turkey alternative.
Protein companies are trying to fill that need. Impossible Foods has stated that it’s developing its own plant-based turkey product. Big Turkey is also entering the race. According to Reuters, Butterball, Perdue and Tyson are all developing vegetarian turkey options, though none have committed to a timeline for release.
It’ll probably be a while yet before we see a whole plant-based bird on grocery shelves. Unlike burgers or chicken nuggets, which are one type of “meat,” turkeys are structurally complex and have different cuts of meat — plus bones — to deal with. It’s more likely that we’d first see a plant-based turkey breast or drumstick first before someone comes out with the whole bird.
Most of us only eat turkey on the third Thursday of November, so there’s not really a huge market for realistic plant-based turkey year-round. That could mean that it’s relatively low on the R&D totem pole for alternative protein companies. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t be surprised that if by next year there’s an Impossible Turkey Leg or Tyson Turkey Breast offering available in your supermarket.
For now, though, vegeterians and flexitarians can get their plant-based turkey fix with Quorn’s Turk’y Roast, Gardein’s Holiday Roast, or Field Roast’s Celebration Roast. Or just stick with the classic: Tofurky.