January 22, 2010

Trader Joe's Chicken-less Strips

I'd been having pretty good luck recently with the fake meat products I've been testing out, so it figures I was due for a disappointment. This came in the form of Trader Joe's Chicken-less Strips. I've never eaten anything from Trader Joe's before, but I'd heard good things. My wife recently took a trip there, and brought back all sorts of fake meat goodies, so keep an eye out for upcoming reviews of other stuff from there. In the meantime, let's talk about these strips.

First of all, these got put in the freezer, even though the box says keep refrigerated. This made them stick together like nobody's business, but I doubt it had any effect on the eating experience. My plan for these was a stir-fry, so I threw the frozen block of strips into a pan with some rice bran oil (very neutral flavor, and a high smoke point - check this out if you get a chance) and tried to get them to unstick from each other. This took a while. Finally, they were all separated. They looked great. I'd say they looked just like chicken.

While I waited for them to thaw out, I read some of the copy on the box. Wow - whoever wrote that stuff probably had never eaten chicken, and was definitely in love with these things. A few memorable quotes: "And they're tasty. Oh, they are," "they are as pleasing to the palate as their partial namesake," "Everything about these strips stirs up excitement." I knew right away that these strips could never live up to the hype the box was trying to whip up. I charged ahead anyway.

So, my rice was finally done cooking, my chicken-less strips were all nice and warm, the frozen asparagus stir-fry veggie mix was all toasty as well, and the sweet and sour sauce left over from a different day was mixed in, and I was ready to try these super-exciting chicken-less strips from Trader Joe's. I dug in, and was immediately slapped in the face with a truly horrifying flavor. I don't really know how to describe it. The sauce couldn't disguise it - the vegetables couldn't mask it - the rice couldn't even mellow it out. It was the flavor of disappointment.

I made myself eat a second piece, just to see if it was something I could get used to, but the second piece was even worse. Then I realized that I hadn't gotten a good read on the texture of it, so I had to put a third piece into my mouth just to chew it, trying not to let it touch my tongue (failed!) and then swallowing it as fast as I could, washing it down with some homemade hard cider. This product is gross. There's just no way around it. Maybe if I hadn't eaten meat in at least a decade and had forgotten what chicken was supposed to taste like, I could accept this. But that's not on my agenda. So there you go - it looked great, the texture actually was fairly chicken-y, but the flavor… oh, the flavor!

The experience:
Texture - actually not too bad - had a nice chewiness to it
Flavor - so terrible

Maybe some day I'll try these again with a more aggressively flavored sauce - like a BBQ sauce, or some taco seasoning, but don't hold your breath.

Final grade for this attempt: D-

32 comments:

  1. I was really disappointed by these. They look /amazing/ - probably the most realistic looking fake meat I've seen thus far, but it was an incredible unpleasant seitan explosion in my mouth.

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  2. As a committed vegan, I couldn't agree more. I just tried a "stuffed cutlet" version of this product, and it was a violation, abomination, and unnecessary disruption to an otherwise pleasant day!

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  3. I just ate these last week. I pan sauteed them with a plum sauce I made w/ wild plums and they were great. Maybe try them fresh next time.

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  4. Jason and Anonymous: we just went to TJ's yesterday and picked up some more chicken-less chicken products, including the stuffed cutlet. Eep! So stay tuned!

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  5. I sauted them with brown rice and thought they were pretty delicious. Also tried them cold in a wrap- not delicious, but stomachable. I prefer real chicken over it but would rather eat this stuff than a Boca burger (or a mushroom burger- eugh).

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  6. i sauted these up last night and put them in a vodka sauce and served with spaghetti noodles. they were okay. took on the flavor of the sauce so it was fine, and it had a decent texture.

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  7. I love these strips. You just need to mix with other things, do it chinese/japonese style and they are very tasty, My friend thought it was pork.

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  8. They are EXCELLENT on a pizza. Especially BBQ with Blue Cheese!

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    1. Definitely make a great pizza! I made a vegan pizza with these strips, some vegetables, and daiya cheese for lunch with a friend who is not vegan, and he loved it.

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  9. Maybe I've been vegan too long but I love these things!

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  10. I absolutely love these things! I put a few strips in the microwave for 30 seconds and add to pre-made pasta/veggies, salads, fajitas, etc. I go through a pack a week.

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  11. wow are you all vegans or just trying this out?

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  12. These are geared towards vegans that obviously hate flavor.

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  13. I'm a vegetarian who had tried just about every fake meat product, and these are pretty gross haha. I just bought Trader Joe's Chicken-less Mandarin Orange Morsels. Nervous since I thought the strips were so repulsive, but we'll see. In case anyone is wondering, Gardein makes much better stuff in my opinion.

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  14. Even my wife likes these. Great product, delicious taste and texture

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  15. This is the most disgusting taste I have ever had in my life. I wish I didn't buy these. I packed a sandwich for tomorrow's lunch with some strips on it and every time I thought about the prospect of having to eat it for lunch, my stomach churned. I finally just threw out the sandwich and the rest of the strips. It's such a relief not having to force myself to finish the bag.

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  16. Couldn't agree more with the posters that found it distasteful. I now have permission to throw the rest of the bag away. Gardein is much, much better.

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  17. At least TJ's has an awesome return policy! If you don't like something for WHATEVER reason, just take it back! They even take your empty box back. I did it with a pasta dish I tried last week!

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  18. I really enjoy these. I think the problem is that you froze them. I heat them in the microwave as the directions state to. I add them to wraps with humus and salads with olive oil and different seasoning. They are very similar to tofu.....they will take on the flavoring of the seasoning or marinade you add. I love tofu and I am used to bland foods though. I enjoy experimenting with different seasonings and marinades too. I also tried the Chicken-less pulled BBQ chicken. It has a lot of flavor. I love the nutritional content on both these products. High in protein but low in calorie. I don't eat red meat or pork but I still eat chicken and fish. I thought the texture was good considering its not a real meat product.

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  19. I have to wonder if they've changed the formula in the last couple of years, since I just tried these and I was surprised how much they resembled real chicken in texture and mouthfeel if not as much in the way of direct flavor, which is rather appropriate for a white meat. I've had much better luck with veggie meat products than veggie cheese products. Those can be hard to get down, and it makes all the difference in the world if you'll allow yourself the ones that actually do contain casein.

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  20. I just bought them, my son said it smells like the cat food. I tasted it...IT TASTES LIKE CAT FOOD!!! Awful!!!

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  21. These were inedible. They smelled and tasted like dog food. I couldn't even throw them away without gagging.

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  22. Um, does anybody use them with TJ teriyaki or soyaki sauce - its fantastic, and nobody is a tougher food critic than me, fer reel!

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  23. These are very good in stir-fries and stews. I use the beef ones in a mushroom stroganoff. Great texture!

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  24. You are not a true vegetarian or vegan if you have to eat something that looks like real meat. ANyways I am eating these right now and I put some fish sauce and sriracha sauce on it and its really goood (to me)

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  25. @Misou, completely untrue!! The definition of being a vegan or vegetarian is one who does not eat meat. Though these products resemble meat, they in fact are not. The meat substitutes are In fact protein that vegan/vegetarians also need considering that they get their protein sources from plants. Check your facts, really.

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  26. I actually like these. Sauteed real chicken in one skillet, sauteed all of the veggies in another, dumped half of those veggies into the skillet with real chicken, put these chickenless strips into my skillet, dumped half a jar of curry simmer sauce, half in the other, and made two chicken curry entrees. One with real chicken for my roommate, one for me.

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  27. I chopped them up more than how they come in the package and made a vegetarian buffalo quesadilla, I loved them. I'm not a vegetarian or a vegan I've just cut out about 50%+ meat from my diet and I even ate the stuff that fell out of my tortilla back onto the plate. I will admit that when I ate a piece out of the package it wasn't great but I attribute that to being cold and too chunky of a piece. Try a more shredded/chopped approach that could help.

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  28. These taste like cat food, if you still haven't been able to place the disgusting-ness.

    If you saute them up with some red pepper, garlic, onion, cumin, chili powder, cayenne and then put it into a cheese/daiya quesadilla, you'll find it to be tolerable.

    But until smothered with cheese, it tastes like cat food.

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