Vegetarian sausages are much healthier as they don’t contain animal fat or cholesterol. The amount of salt, oil and calories can be manipulated using the same rules that apply for making other healthy sausages. The hardest problem to solve is to duplicate the flavor of meat. No matter how well vegetarian sausages are made, they are not in the same class as regular or even reduced-fat sausages. The fact should be accepted that a sausage that is made without meat has a different flavor and cannot compete with a traditionally made meat product. However, it does have its own character and it does not need to imitate or compete with meat sausages. And... it is 100% healthy.
A veggie burger is a hamburger-style patty that does not contain meat. The patty of a veggie burger may be made, for example, from vegetables, textured vegetable protein (soy meat), legumes, nuts, dairy products, mushrooms, wheat, or eggs. It should be noted that a purist-vegan will not add milk caseinate or egg to his formulations as they are of animal origin. Nor will he use animal casings for stuffing sausages.
A vegetarian hot dog (sometimes referred to as a “veggie dog” or “not dog”) is a hot dog produced completely from non-meat products. Vegetarian hot dogs are sometimes eaten by non-vegetarians because they are lower in fat, calories, and contain no cholesterol compared to hot dogs from animal meats. Unlike traditional home-made meat sausages, the casing is not made of intestine but of synthetic ingredients. Vegetarian hot dogs are usually based on some sort of soy protein, for example tofu. Some contain egg whites, which would make them unacceptable to purist-vegans. Like ordinary hot dogs, vegetarian hot dogs contain little fiber.
Oil emulsion is used in many low-fat sausage recipes and is well suited for making veggie sausages. It contains pure protein (soy protein isolate), vegetable oil and water. Textured vegetable protein (TVP) is a great soy product that can be added as a protein extender (50 % protein) and filler material. Its granules mimic the feel of ground meat particles. TVP is rehydrated with 3 parts of water, so adding 6% of rehydrated TVP accounts for 24% of the sausage mass. There is no problem in creating products with plenty of protein as adding tofu, grains and flours will further increase the protein content of the sausage. The harder task is to create proper texture of the sausage but this can be accomplished with wheat gluten, starch and carrageenan. All flours can be used for making vegetarian sausages, although soy flour may impart a “beany taste” to the product.
Gram flour is a flour made from ground chickpeas. It is also known as chickpea flour, garbanzo flour, or besan. In comparison to other common flours such as wheat, potato, rice, corn, and semolina, it has a relatively high proportion of protein. Used in many countries, it is a staple ingredient in Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi cuisines, and in the form of a paste with water or yoghurt. Moreover, when mixed with an equal proportion of water it can be used as an egg-replacer in vegan cooking. Chila (or chilla), a pancake made with gram flour batter, is a popular street and fast food in India.
Tofu is a very nutritional product, unfortunately it has a very bland flavor and should rather be considered a filler material. This can be made up by adding natural flavors that have always been popular in baking industries such as apple, plum, strawberry, tomato, or vegetable dry powders. In addition some of them exhibit strong water binding properties, for example plum and apple powder.
Vital wheat gluten is the natural protein of grain and is separated from whole wheat with pure water. It is responsible for the stretchiness of dough and for the shapes that baked goods hold.
In vegetarian sausages we can use a true emulsion of vegetable oil, water and pure soy protein. Soy protein covers oil particles with a protein film and oil and water mix together becoming a true emulsion. Such emulsion looks, feels and tastes like fat, helps to achieve a better texture, provides plenty of protein and calories, but none of the cholesterol. And it mixes well with any ingredients.
Meat protein which are extracted from meat cells during cutting or grinding are “gluing” ground meat particles, fat, water and spices together. Many vegetarian sausages suffer from poor texture which is due to insufficient binding of the ingredients. It is not enough to throw a bunch of non-meat ingredients, mix them together and call it a sausage. The sausage must look and feel like a sausage. When it is cut across, each slice should keep together and hold its own. The casing should peel off easily. Would you buy sliced ham or bologna that would break into many individual pieces? A vegetarian sausage should also have a good texture and the sliced sausage should hold its form without breaking apart. This is very hard to accomplish with veggie sausages because traditionally used binders such as egg white, gelatin, or non fat dry milk will not be used by vegetarian purists as they are of animal origin.
Binding can be improved by using vital wheat gluten, starch, carrageenan and konjac flour. Konjac flour improves binding but makes the removal of the skin harder. Konjac flour binds plenty of water and provides a good mouthfeel. Upon contact with water, it becomes slippery and facilitates mixing and stuffing. However, it creates a texture that is not as firm as the one made with carrageenan. That is why it should be used together with carrageenan. Xanthan gum is made by fermenting sugars so it should be acceptable by vegetarians. In most cases it is used with konjac flour to provide an even stronger effect. In our tests the best results were obtained when vital wheat gluten and carrageenan were employed.
Adding carrageenan results in a firmer texture and improves sliceability. Carrageenan must be heated to 180° F (82° C) before it forms a gel. The gel remains stable when the sausage cools down.
Most commercially produced vegetarian sausages are of emulsified type, eg. veggie hot dogs. It is much easier to chop everything in a food processor, then stuff the resulting paste into a casing. However, emulsified sausages account for only part of a great variety of sausages. In the USA hot dogs, frankfurters and bologna account for 50% of all total sausage sales. In Europe this percentage is much smaller as Europeans consume many types of sausages.
Vegetarian sausages which are not emulsified in a food processor are harder to make. The difficulty lies in controlling texture, it is much harder to produce a vegetarian sausage that contains rice, barley or oats and to bind those materials with spices in such a way that they will not crumble when the sausage is sliced. When the texture is under control, the sausage can contain an infinite number of materials, some of which may be considered “show” pieces. For example, slices of rehydrated apples or plums, raisins, olives or nuts. Filler materials such as tofu, potatoes, barley, rice, oats, rusk, bread crumbs and soaked bread can be used. Potato flakes, potato flour, chickpea flour, semolina, rice flour, starches and textured vegetable protein can be added as well. Most people love bread pudding and bread pudding sausage can easily be made. There is no shortage of ingredients and hundreds of recipes can be created.
The leaner the meat, the more protein in it. About 20% is the upper limit and considering the fact that a sausage may contain 70% lean meat, its protein value will be 14%. About 14 g per 100 g serving. Most commercially produced meats are made with plenty of water so the number will be even lower.
Vegetarian sausages are made with soy derived products such as soy protein concentrate, soy protein isolate, textured vegetable protein and tofu, all of which are very rich in protein. Our recipes often call for oil emulsion which is soy protein isolate (92% protein) : oil : water at the ratio of 1:4:5. In 100 g serving there is 9.2 g of protein, 4 g (4%) of oil, the rest is water. Adding 20% oil emulsion provides more protein than a sausage made from meat, yet less calories and none of cholesterol. In addition to oil emulsion other ingredients that are rich in portein are added such as textured vegetable protein, flours and tofu.
Textured vegetable protein (TVP) is a great protein source, but its real value lies in its texture. When rehydrated it feels like small meat particles and its texture remains firm after cooking. To sum it all up, a vegetarian sausage can be protein loaded, calorie rich and still a healthy product.
In meat products the characteristic pink color is obtained by adding sodium nitrite. Sodium nitrite (cure #1) reacts with meat myoglobin and after heat treatment the meat remains pink. There is no myoglobin in vegetarian products, so adding nitrite leads us nowhere. However, the color can be adjusted by adding natural products such as beet powder, turmeric, annatto, saffron or paprika. One of the most popular natural colorings is carmine. It is used in the manufacture of artificial flowers, paints, crimson ink, rouge, and other cosmetics, and is routinely added to food products such as yogurt and certain brands of juice, most notably those of the ruby-red variety. However, it is made from little bugs and may not conform to the requirements of pure vegetarians. Food colorings may be obtained online or in food supermarkets.
In processed meats salt is needed at 1.8-2% to extract meat proteins, provide safety against spoilage and pathogenic bacteria in semi-dry sausages (2.5%, summer sausage), or at 3% in traditionally made salami. As vegetarian sausages do not contain meat, salt is added for flavoring mainly, although commercial producers will add it for preservation purposes. Home made vegetarian sausages can be made with very little salt (< 1%). If Morton® Lite Salt is used, 50% less sodium is introduced and the salt level drops to only 0.5%. That comes to 500 mg of sodium per 100 g serving. In addition, potassium chloride accounts for half of Morton® Lite Salt and carrageenan, which is usually added to vegetarian sausages and is known to react better in the presence of potassium chloride.
Recipes call for cooking sausages briefly in hot water. This is not done for safety reasons as all ingredients are safe to eat to begin with. The step is needed to activate carrageenan, which gelatinizes at 180° F (82° C). It can be easily noticed; a sausage that feels soft after stuffing will become firm and plump after 10 minutes of treatment in hot water.
Starches need to be heated as well in order to gelatinize. After stuffing, the sausage does not necessarily have to be cooked and may be placed in a refrigerator. Keep in mind that its texture will be softer as carrageenan or starch need to be thermally heated in order to gelatinize. Then when it is heated, the additives will set and the sausage will become firmer.
The amounts of water given in recipes are not fixed in stone. When trying a new recipe, the addition of water should be performed last. Adding too much water during mixing ingredients will result in a watery texture and the finished product may end up too soft. Many ingredients such as textured vegetable protein, bread crumbs, and pre-soaked oats contain much water. This water will be absorbed by soy protein isolate (if added), flour, starch, bread crumbs, potatoes, rice and carrageenan during mixing. It is recommended to mix all ingredients well together first, and then add water in small amounts until the mixture feels right.
Many tests were performed and some recipes were tried in five or six different versions. Test sausages were made in 100 g weight. It would be torture to wash, clean and dry grinder plates, stuffing tubes or stuffing cylinders all those times. A simple method was used, the same that has been in service for hundreds of years: stuffing sausages through a funnel. The grinder was not used at all, a small food processor took care of all our cutting and mixing needs. Mixing and stuffing were accomplished with a bowl, spoon, sausage casing and a funnel.
Smaller amounts of vegetarian, emulsified, liver, head cheese and blood sausages can be efficiently stuffed through a common funnel. It is an easy one man operation.