What is Vegetarian Chicken?

JP Moor

Many people are curious about just what vegetarian chicken — as in non-meat chicken — is made of. There are two main sources for vegetarian "meat." One is tofu, a gluten product of soybeans, and the other is seitan, a product made from wheat gluten. Various seasonings that normally are used to flavor chicken can be used to flavor the tofu or seitan, making it so that many people can't tell the difference between the actual meat and the vegetarian chicken.

Tofu is a popular vegetarian substitute for chicken.
Tofu is a popular vegetarian substitute for chicken.

Substitute meat products have allowed many people to enjoy the benefits of a healthy vegetarian menu without feeling deprived of meat. There are vegetarian recipes to satisfy many tastes. Vegetarian snacks with veggie chicken are available to keep hunger at bay between meals.

Sometimes vital gluten made from wheat is used in place of chicken in vegetarian dishes.
Sometimes vital gluten made from wheat is used in place of chicken in vegetarian dishes.

Tofu has been used in Asian recipes for many centuries, and it has become increasingly popular as a meat substitute. There also are vegetarian broths that claim to have a chicken flavor. Marinating tofu in a good broth for an hour will permeate the flavor throughout the tofu, creating a tasty soy chicken. These broths vary in quality and “real chicken” flavor, but the best of them have satisfied many converted carnivores who sometimes feel like they just have to sink their teeth into a real piece of meat.

Seitan is the other choice for a vegetarian chicken substitute. It can be purchased prepared and ready to flavor, or recipes are available online to allow the “meat” to be made right in the kitchen. Wheat flour can be processed easily to remove the starch, or vital wheat gluten can be purchased already cleaned and ready to cook. This is considered the best method of creating a tasty meat substitute. With the right broth for flavor, a satisfying product can be created at little expense.

Many people think that seitan's texture is superior to that of tofu. Other characteristics are roughly equal, such as their ability to take on flavors. These factors have contributed to the rapid rise in popularity of seitan in both residential kitchens and commercial food processing centers. A vegetarian restaurant in the United States is more likely to use seitan as a meat substitute.

Seitan and tofu are very rich in vegetarian protein, but neither will provide the full complement of proteins that a meat diet does. People who are contemplating a vegetarian diet should search all of the literature they can. This will help them make sure to get all of the required proteins in their diet.

An alternate definition of vegetarian chicken is a chickens that has been raised on a strict vegetarian diet. This is not as common as one might believe, because animal feeds routinely add meat byproducts as well as growth hormones to increase growth weight. This type of product is available on the market but might be hard to find in some areas.

Vegetarian chicken can be added to any dish that contains normal chicken.
Vegetarian chicken can be added to any dish that contains normal chicken.

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Discussion Comments


People have this impression that vegetarian diets aren’t healthy, like we’re depriving our bodies of important vitamins and minerals. But this is not true. Eliminating meats and fats from ones diet does not constitute them as unhealthy.

For anyone who wants to become a vegetarian, you should do as the article suggests and educate yourself first. Going slow and substituting one meat or dairy product at time lets your body adjust to the new changes.

I started out by removing red meat from my diet and replacing it with tofu. The first few weeks I continued to eat poultry, eggs and fish. Vegetarian cookbooks and websites have helped me create some very delicious meals along the way.

One of the first recipes I tried and still enjoy is vegetarian chicken noodle soup. Even my meat loving friends can’t tell the difference in it.


Meat substitutes have improved considerably in the last 10 years. I can remember sampling a few in the past that tasted more like chewing on Styrofoam than any meat I have ever known.

The chicken substitutes were always the worst because chicken has such a light flavor and distinctive texture it can be really hard to imitate. In the last few years I've tried a few dishes that use vegetarian chicken and I've been pleasantly surprised by how much better it has gotten.

My friend made a vegetarian chicken and dumplings dish that was delicious. It's still not exactly like the real thing, but it is getting closer in both taste and texture. Long time vegetarians might not be able to tell the difference at all.

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