As a typical Tuscan born and raised person, meat has always been part of my culinary experiences. Specifically, as an Italian-Brazilian, meat and protein in general play a huge role in both the Mediterranean and Latino cuisines.  

A couple of weeks ago I've been to Sweet Chick in Long Island City for a birthday party and I've tried something that on the menu was labeled as Vegetarian Fried Chicken. When I read those words I got instantly skeptical: how can chicken be vegetarian? How does that work? Is it just a fancy-hipstery name for some kind of chicken?

The waiter who served my friend and I didn't really explain the ingredients or the nature of this chicken. All he said was that it was a vegan option, a slice of meat that was not meat but tasted like meat. I gave it a try and it was indeed a good move.

The most famous alternatives to meat

In Nature, there are several foods that taste and smell like meat, but are in fact vegetables, legumes or soy derivates. The most famous ones are:


The most common among the meat-alternatives, seitan is basically processed wheat gluten and it is a great source of protein that can be grilled, fried, or boiled. For this reason, seitan is the most popular ingredient chosen when looking for a meat substitute.


dairy product, milk, cheese, dairy, tofu, goats cheese
Helena Lin

Usually put in salads or noodles, tofu is the most common ingredient a vegan or vegetarian might be familiar with. 


Different from seitan or tofu, tempeh is mostly used when it's a substitute for ground beef. 

Is It Healthy?

An omnivore diet is the most efficient and natural one that human beings are biologically used to practice. However, for moral and pure personal reasons, going vegetarian or vegan is an option that many people nowadays tend to go for. Being vegetarian means to eat everything but meat or fish - no animals involved in your diet. Going vegetarian is a good choice to make, even though you got to make more effort in selecting proteins that are essential for your body. On the other hand, as an exclusive-plant-based regimen, veganism has its ups and downs when it comes to health. Usually, it is way harder to find proteins or fibers or very energetic food when you're vegan. Plus, vegan food is known to be expensive and not very popular among multiple communities.

The choice to be vegan or vegetarian is purely personal and it should be done with a previous study of what both of the diets consist of, by taking into consideration also your body conditions and all the knowledge that you can afford this lifestyle.

Would I Eat It Again?

Yes, I would. Even if I can't maintain a regular vegan or vegetarian diet, I would consume this type of meal one more time. It is a great alternative to meat and many people can really benefit from it. Vegetarian chicken has a peculiar taste, worth the try - no matter the alternatives the cook choose to prepare your chicken. I can't wait to go and try other vegetarian or vegan spots in New York. Not only I want to taste the different menus those places offer, but I also would like to compare their prices and locations.