Texture, appearance and flavor: These are the elements of meat that the new vegan alternatives from Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are trying to capture, with varying degrees of success. Here’s how they do it:
To put it simply, plants are crunchy, and meat is chewy. This is why veggie burgers can often feel crumbly or mushy in texture …. To solve this problem, researchers have spent years isolating and cataloging a wide variety of plant-based protein sources. As a result, the texture of modern vegan meat — provided by wheat or pea proteins, among others — can be fantastic.
The other major factor in beef’s texture is animal fat, which provides mouth-coating richness and juiciness.
That’s very hard to capture with plant-based fats, because …. [t]he melting point of a fat is linked to its level of saturation — the number of single bonds versus double bonds in its fatty-acid chain. Animal fats tend to be more highly saturated than vegetable fats ….
There are a few exceptions, notably palm and coconut oils, which are highly saturated …. Both Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat use coconut oil as their primary fat, producing a mouth-coating texture similar to animal fat.