Missing Links: Keys to Great Vegetarian Sausage
There can be negative connotations with the phrase “how the sausage gets made” when we talk about business or politics, but when it comes to actual sausage, the process of refining a spice mix and nailing the flavor in a delicious sausage is a complex and fascinating process.
A lot of time, effort, and energy can go into making regular meat sausage. For meat-free patties and links, though, the process is even more involved. With a base of lentils or chickpeas instead of savory, meaty pork, you need to do more work up front to ensure the final product is going to stand out on grocery store shelves and in customers’ minds.
What is Vegetarian Sausage Made of?
Many ingredients go into making meat-free sausage. Some common base ingredients in successful vegetarian sausage recipes are chickpeas, lentils, and tofu, all of which are often mixed with other ingredients such as breadcrumbs. Added to this base are other vegetables and grains like quinoa.
To top it all off, a mixture of herbs and spices are added to turn the flavor of a particular sausage in the directions we have come to expect from breakfast sausages or specific regional cuisines. From a nutritional perspective, additives like pea protein can be mixed in to increase the protein content of meatless sausage recipes.
When making traditional sausage, the mixture of herbs and spices is one primary driver of flavor that differentiates a savory breakfast patty from a fennel-laden sweet Italian sausage. With plant-based alternatives, there are more options available to you.
As is the case with veggie burgers, the individual vegetables used to add bulk and texture to a vegetarian sausage can not only create unique flavors, but the mushrooms, sweet potatoes, beets, and other vegetables used can also help bolster the marketing appeal of nutritionally conscious customers who may be keying in on the specific veggies they are looking to get more of in their diets.
If you are choosing vegetables carefully to craft the specific flavor you are looking for, you want to be sure you are going to get the consistency and quality you need. This is where Silva comes into the picture. Our ingredients are sourced from trusted growers around the globe, and our commitment to every step of our process means you get the products you need every time.
Is it Hard to Make Vegetarian Sausage?
Getting the taste and texture right in a vegetarian sausage is no easy task. Vegetarian sausage is an inherently difficult product to make, though perhaps not as much as a good meatless burger. While mixing herbs and spices allows you to add flavor and punch to a vegetarian or vegan sausage, and there are meatless sausage casings available, getting a mixture that will hold together during cooking, and have a delightful texture while being eaten can be hard. The high temperatures and rough handling involved in BBQ grilling can put the loose mixtures of some meatless sausages to the test.
Getting the casing of a vegetarian sausage right is one of the trickiest parts of the process. Animal intestines are traditionally used to keep sausages together, but without a meat-based casing to rely on, food producers and vegetarian home chefs have to get more creative. Most vegetarian sausage casings are made of combinations of water, vegetable glycerin, sugars, and starches. Water-soluble polysaccharide casings are one option that closely mimics the carbohydrate cellulose, which is sometimes used in sausage production.
Creating gluten-free sausage alternatives that are also gluten-free can be a challenge. The inclusion of breadcrumbs or vital wheat gluten to help create the familiar structure of a sausage is common practice. This is not to say that gluten-free vegetarian sausages are impossible to find, but the challenges of making a sausage without gluten products can mean balancing tradeoffs in flavor, texture, and consistency.
Is Vegetarian Sausage Healthy?
When compared to a hot dog, it doesn’t take much for a vegetarian sausage to be considered healthy. With that said, the question remains whether veggie or even vegan sausage is healthy compared to meat sausages. In general, vegetarian sausages, burgers, or other meatless protein alternative foods are quite healthy.
You should be careful about selecting your meatless alternatives if you need to maintain a diet with strict limits on cholesterol and salt intake, and some people have trouble with products containing large amounts of soy protein. For the gluten intolerant or those with a gluten sensitivity, the vital wheat gluten used in many products trying to replicate the flavor and structure of meat can be a problem.
Secrets to Great Meat-Free Sausage and Burgers
With products like the Impossible Burger and Beyond Sausage taking people beyond their expectations about eating a meat-free diet, the market is only set to grow for all kinds of meatless sausage patties and links for the former carnivores among us.
Vegan sausage may sound like a contradiction in terms, but creating a delicious breakfast sausage that carries all the savory goodness of its meaty alternative is still possible. Without traditional animal fats and lean meat to hide behind, you will need to be sure that each and every spice, herb, and vegetable included in your mixture is as fresh and potent as possible.
Cut sizes for vegetables also matter immensely in sausages, where the size of each ingredient matters in keeping the overall mixture consistent. That is why at Silva we offer the products in our extensive line of ingredients in powders and multiple cut sizes.
The Beyond Burger may have gotten a lot of media attention over the last few years, but it is far from the only stand-out product in a growing market. Moreover, it shows the possibility of how consumers can be enticed to try previously unexpected vegetarian or vegan alternatives to their beloved meat dishes.
For many food producers, looking into alternative burger and sausage products will not be about replacing existing offerings, but a new way to create line extensions of existing successful products. As trends shift and consumer sentiments change, keeping up with new demands is going to mean building on the success of established products with new recipes. While this might mean reaching into unfamiliar territory, Silva can help ensure your new products have the familiar great taste your customers love.
If you are ready to see what partnering with Silva can mean for your product lines, contact a member of our customer relationship team today.