What Makes a Great Vegetarian Chicken Patty?

Over the last few years, there’s been a quantum leap in the quality and availability of vegetarian patties. In fact, they now taste so good you could easily think you’re eating the real thing. Our chefs define a high-quality vegetarian chicken patty as having a golden brown color with moderate aroma intensity, which is defined as, “the relative strength of the aroma.” Vegetarian patties should look as much like an expertly grilled chicken patty as possible, and they should have an aroma that matches the kinds of spices you might use to prepare a chicken patty. A vegetarian chicken patty is in taste balance when moderate saltiness is the leading basic taste, followed by low sweetness, very low sourness and perhaps a little savory umami. There should be a moderate overall flavor intensity with no off notes. Hints of vegetables, seasonings, breading and oil should make the flavor complex. To create a proper flavor balance, none of these flavors should overwhelm the others. All of these elements should combine to create an overall flavor that is very similar to a savory chicken patty. The vegetarian patty itself should be tender and moist, not mealy, and it should have a firm consistency.

Tasting terms

  • aroma

    The smell that emanates from food. Along with appearance, texture, flavor and taste, aroma is one of the five dimensions used to evaluate a product. Example: Brownies should have an aroma that includes chocolate as well as egg, toasty and sweet notes.

  • flavor intensity

    A measurement of the strength of a flavor in a particular food. Example: High-quality chocolate will have high cocoa flavor intensity.

  • umami

    One of the basic tastes; the savory flavor in meat and broths; sometimes an additive (MSG). Example: Natural Parmesan cheese, meats, seaweed, fish sauce and sesame exhibit an umami taste.

  • off notes

    Inappropriate flavors, such as rancid or oxidized oils, freezer burn, plastic, metallic or other flavors acquired from a food’s packaging and storage. Example: Canned pineapple that picks up a metallic flavor from its can or stale flavors from freezer burn in a frozen entrée are types of off notes.

  • flavor

    A combination of a food's basic taste and its accompanying aroma, flavor is the distinctive taste of a food or ingredient while it is in the mouth. Along with aroma, appearance, texture and taste, flavor is one of the five dimensions considered by ChefsBest Master Tasters. Example: Chocolate chip cookies should have a moderate chocolate flavor accompanied by a slightly lower level of complex dough flavor that includes egg, flour, vanilla and brown sugar notes.

  • flavor balance

    A measurement of how well a food product matches the expected profile of flavors. Example: If there is too much garlic in a marinara sauce, the flavor of garlic will dominate the other flavors, making the overall flavor unbalanced.