Fake It Till You Make It

Beyond the Beyond Burger: Taste-Testing Plant-Based Seafood Substitutes

You can find vegan 'crab' cakes, 'fish' fillets and chunky 'tuna' in a number of local grocery stores.

By Cooper Levey-Baker September 22, 2021

Sandwiches made with Good Catch vegan "tuna."

I'd wager that, by now, you've likely tried one or more of the buzzy plant-based meat substitutes that have hit the market in recent years. Maybe an Impossible burger, or a Beyond Meat patty or sausage. But vegan substitutes for animal products don't end with red meat. Your local grocery probably carries plant-based "seafood," as well.

Fake fish? You bet.

The products come in a number of formats. Texas' Good Catch, for example, makes frozen "crab cakes," "fish sticks" and "fish fillets," as well as pouches of "plant-based tuna" that are kept at room temperature on the shelves at stores like Whole Foods Market, Publix, TargetEarth Origins Market and Sprouts Farmers Marketnear the canned sardines and other preserved fish products.

Good Catch "tuna" is made with a blend of pea, soy and bean proteins, and has the chunky texture of classic canned tuna. You can use the plain "Naked in Water" variety and incorporate it into your favorite tuna salad recipe, or opt for one of two flavors: Mediterranean or "Oil & Herbs."

The Good Catch substitute lacks the specific low-tide aroma of precooked and seasoned tuna, but packed into a sandwich, it tastes good in its own way—a healthy, satisfying alternative if you're bored with the same ol' turkey sandwich you've been making forever. (The company's website also offers a useful recipe guide to inspire you.)

Tacos made with Gardein vegan "fish" fillets.

Let's mosey on over to the frozen food section in Whole Foods, Publix, Winn-Dixie, Walmart, Earth Origins or The Fresh Market, near where you'll find frozen plant-based burger patties. Here, you'll find frozen "fish" fillets and "crab" cakes made by Gardein, part of Conagra Brands, which is based in Chicago. They're made with wheat and soy protein, and are meant to be either baked in the oven, sautéed in a pan or popped in an air fryer or a conventional fryer.

Few items smash my nostalgia button like a crispy breaded fish fillet glistening with oil, smeared with tartar sauce and spritzed with lemon juice, and Gardein's vegan version ably transports me back to my middle school years. The "crab" cakes, seasoned with the same spice mix that graces normal cakes, are also good, but, of course, nothing can recreate the bright, saline flavor that big hunks of freshly steamed crab meat possesses.

A bowl made with vegan "shrimp" from Sophie's Kitchen.

Sophie's Kitchen, which is based in California, also makes vegan "crab" cakes, but they're not as impressive as the company's vegan "shrimp." (Locally, you can find both at Earth Origins, Walmart and Sprouts.)

The "shrimp" are frozen, and, unlike the Gardein items, are intended to be thawed before cooking. Made with brown rice flakes and potato and pea starches and flavored with fenugreek, paprika and turmeric, the "shrimp" fry up nicely in just a few minutes on the stovetop. They're good on their own, but they're better when hit with some type of sauce and incorporated into a bowl or tacos.

Will any of the above subdue your hankering for, say, a grilled grouper sandwich or a raw hunk of sushi-grade tuna? No, but that's not the point. These products are intended as easy midweek dinner options for the fam, a way to break up the monotony of a Tuesday dinner without breaking a sweat.

Show Comments