What Are Plant-Based “Meats”?

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It seems like every month there's a new plant-based meat alternative on the market. In 2020 the world-wide plant-based meat market was $5.6 billion and is expected to grow by 15% through 2027.

Since 2015, plant-based meat substitutes that mimic the taste, texture, and appearance of animal products have exceeded 4400 products worldwide. Veggie burgers have been around for years – since 1982 when London-based natural foods restaurant owner Gregory Sams introduced the "VegeBurger." The first veggie burgers were made from lentils, a variety of vegetables, nuts, and seeds and didn’t taste anything like a beef burger.

Today the focus is on replicating the taste and texture of meat using plants plus the latest technology, moving away from the traditional veggie burger and toward highly-processed foods.

What Ingredients are in Plant-Based "Meats"?

Manufacturers use a variety of ingredients to make plant-based "meats," including:

  • Wheat gluten
  • Wheat seitan
  • Soy
  • Pea protein
  • Potato starch
  • Various types of oils
  • Different types of starches (these act as binders to hold everything together)
  • Vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Commercial flavoring and colors
  • Fermented, genetically engineered yeast

But are these meat alternatives better for your health than actual meat? Find out in the post Are Plant-Based "Meats" Healthier than Meats?

By Lynn Grieger, RDN, CDCES, CPT, CHWC


  1. Research and Markets. Global Plant-Based Meat Market Report 2021-2027. https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2021/04/02/2203833/28124/en/Global-Plant-Based-Meat-Market-Report-2021-2027-Market-is-Forecast-to-Reach-14-9-Billion-Opportunities-in-Innovation-New-Product-Launches-Partnership-and-Merger-Acquisition.html  published 4-2-21; accessed 9-27-21
  2. Smithsonian Magazine. The history of the veggie burger. K. Annabelle Smith. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/history-veggie-burger-180950163/ published 3-19-14. Accessed 9-25-21
  3. Medical News Today. Is Plant-based meat healthy? Louisa Richards https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/is-plant-based-meat-healthy#what-is-it  published 8-24-21; accessed 9-25-21 
  4. Curtain F, Grafenauer S. Plant-Based Meat Substitutes in the Flexitarian Age: An Audit of Products on Supermarket Shelves. Nutrients. 2019;11(11):2603. Published 2019 Oct 30. doi:10.3390/nu11112603
  5. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The Nutrition Source. Fiber. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/fiber/  accessed 9-27-21
  6. American Heart Association. The American Heart Association Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/aha-diet-and-lifestyle-recommendations?uid=1908  last reviewed 8-15-17; accessed 9-27-21
  7. Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems. Willett W, Rockström J, Loken B, Springmann M, Lang T, Vermeulen S, Garnett T, Tilman D, DeClerck F, Wood A, Jonell M, Clark M, Gordon LJ, Fanzo J, Hawkes C, Zurayk R, Rivera JA, De Vries W, Majele Sibanda L, Afshin A, Chaudhary A, Herrero M, Agustina R, Branca F, Lartey A, Fan S, Crona B, Fox E, Bignet V, Troell M, Lindahl T, Singh S, Cornell SE, Srinath Reddy K, Narain S, Nishtar S, Murray CJL. Lancet. 2019 Feb 2; 393(10170):447-492.
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