As one of our tasters said, "It's not horrible", and it does taste approximately like chicken – although most tasters said it tasted like dry, overcooked chicken breast. Nine out of ten tasters, which included a mix of vegans, vegetarians and omnivores, said they'd eat it again. It’s certainly not cheap (costing more than organic chicken breast fillets), but if you're looking for an easy way to add texture and a bit of added interest to your meat-free meals, it's worth a try.
Price: $11 for 300g ($3.67/100g)
Meat is off the menu for an increasing number of people: more of us are choosing to go vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian (meat-free several days of the week). Nearly 2.5 million Australians (12.1% of the population) are now mostly or completely meat-free, up from 9.7% in 2012.
More meat-alternative products are gracing our supermarket shelves than ever before and even fast-food outlets such as Hungry Jacks and KFC are trialling vegan products on their menus. It seems that plant-based diets are truly going mainstream.
We put a new plant-based product, Sunfed's Chicken Free Chicken (available at Coles), to the test to find out whether it's something you'd actually want to put in your mouth. Ten CHOICE staffers (a mix of vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians, omnivores and meat lovers) volunteered to put their tastebuds on the line to give you their verdicts.
We cooked up the Chicken Free Chicken (which we'll now call CFC for short) and asked them to assess it based on appearance, smell and taste, and tell us what they thought of it and whether they'd eat it again.
Trust us, Sunfed Chicken Free Chicken looks a lot more appetising once you've cooked it.
So, does it taste like chicken?
According to our testers – kind of. The general consensus was that it tasted like overcooked chicken breast or chicken nuggets, and that it was quite dry. The vegans in the group commented that it had a stronger, more 'chicken-y' flavour than other similar vegan alternatives they've tried.
Did our testers think it was finger-licking good? Here's what they had to say:
- "It's not horrible. It reminds me of cardboard" – Bex (pescatarian)
- "It tastes like chicken that is a little bit overcooked then reheated" – Amira (pescatarian)
- "Tastes quite chicken-y" – Steve (vegan)
- "DRY. Not like a succulent piece of chicken at all! It sucks up my saliva. Lots of chewing necessary to get it down. Needs sauce. Chicken-ish flavour stays throughout the long chewing endeavour" – Christina (vegetarian)
- "I like it. Similar to a chicken nugget. Tastes somewhat like chicken but quite dry and overcooked. Chicken should be juicy. But I would be happy with this in my burger" – Eleanor (omnivore)
- "It reminds me of crispy chicken" – Brendan (vegan).
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's Chicken Free Chicken, which staffer Brendan is about to try.
Would you eat it again?
Nine out of our 10 taste testers said they'd eat Sunfed's CFC again, despite any misgivings they may have had about it. Generally, people felt that it would be better as part of a stir-fry, curry, or burger, than eaten by itself, particularly as it doesn't hold its shape well during cooking.
Here's what they said when we asked them whether they'd eat it again:
- "I think so. I couldn't imagine roasting it, or making a stir-fry with it, but it's all right. I would miss the tasty chicken skin, though. But yeah, it is tasty and I would eat it again" – Marianna (meat lover)
- "Yes. I like that no chicken was harmed in the making of this meal" – Eleanor (omnivore)
- "Yes. It's actually quite nice! It would be nice in the context of a whole meal like a burger or Mexican food" – Linda (pescatarian)
- "Yes, but cut up into small pieces, not as a chicken fillet or thigh replacement for meat eaters" – Christina (vegetarian)
- "Sure. Not if I was looking forward to a roast chicken dinner, but as an addition to a stir-fry or some other dish that calls for chicken, then no problem" – Scott (omnivore)
- "Probably not" – Amy (omnivore).
Birds of a feather? Chicken Free Chicken in the background, regular chicken in the foreground.
So what's in it?
Based on yellow pea protein, CFC is gluten-free, soy-free and GMO-free. It's made in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients.
It's 36.1% protein. By comparison, cooked skinless chicken breast is about 29% protein.
Here's what it's made up of:
- Pea protein (43%)
- Rice bran oil
- Pea fibre
- Natural yeast extract
- Maize starch.
Where can I get my hands on some?
You can find it in the chilled meat section of Coles supermarkets.
At $11 for 300g, it's quite a bit more expensive than conventional chicken – and more expensive even than organic chicken. Some taste testers thought the price was a bit high.
"You might as well just eat a whole bunch of veggies. It'd be half the cost," said Bex.
However, Brendan commented: "As a vegan, you don't just want to eat a plate of veggies all the time – sometimes you want a bit of added texture and flavour. This is better than other meat substitutes I have tried."