The maker of the "bleeding" Beyond Burger is testing the new product at Whole Foods.
The thick, cased links looked like sausage. They smelled like sausage. They even sizzled like real sausage, their juices crackling on the griddle with the same pop and sputter as grease.
But could these plant-based meat impostors taste like the real deal? In fact, they really can.
The Bratwurst had what one might guess was a hint of nutmeg and coriander, much like a traditional ballpark Brat. The Sweet Italian had just enough heat, with a sweet, citrus finish. The Hot Italian—the last flavor variety in the new lineup—is just shy of making you sweat.
They’re not identical to the pork variety you’ll find at the grocery store. CEO Ethan Brown admits as much in a phone interview with Food & Wine. “It’s not perfect yet,” he says. “It’s a good product—I think it’s the best sausage on the market. But it is not perfect. We will keep working … to make the product that is launching [today] obsolete with a better one.”
But that doesn’t mean the product Beyond Meat is putting on the menu of a Whole Foods location in Boulder, Colorado today aren’t as satisfying as a pork link—with more protein, less sodium, and less saturated fat to boot. (You’ll get 16 grams of protein in each Beyond Meat link.)
Beyond Meat has replicated the familiar texture of meat sausage with ingredients we won’t be afraid to name—think: pea proteins, fava beans, rice, apple fiber, potato starch, and coconut oil, to start.
The casing on these new links—made from algae—replaces those typically made from intestines. But like the meat-variety casing, these plant-based casings have been specially created to allow just the right amount of juice to bleed through—causing that crackle and pop we all expect to hear when we’re cooking sausage on the grill or in a pan. It’s also an area Brown says his team will continue to work on to make even better in future iterations.
“If you think about the animal’s intestine, it’s kind of the perfect material for holding sausage together, because it’s semi-permeable and has just the right amount of veracity,” he describes. “It also gives that [curved] look to sausage, because the intestine is trying to curve back into its natural position. For us to try to mimic all of those things with plant material was really, really hard, and that’s an area we will want to continue to work on.”
The product that is being released today took a year to develop, Brown says, although the company’s nine years of research—and production of other products, such as its chicken facsimile and its popular burger—went into creating the sausage. “I think [the sausage] builds all the way from our beginning to what we do with our burger and then takes it a step further to deliver the taste profile, the distribution of fat and protein—all those things are so much more nuanced in what we have done with the sausage,” Brown explains.
The Beyond Sausage is available today on the menu of Boulder’s Whole Foods location at 2905 Pearl Street, with a wider distribution expected in 2018.
This story originally appeared on Foodandwine.com.