Is Plant-Based Seafood Worth The Hype?

It wasn't so long ago that vegans had to jump through hoops to find a proper meal, especially something other than a salad in a restaurant. That really isn't the case anymore, as vegan food sales rose by 27% in 2020 while the United States' total food retail only increased by 15%, per Vox. This is more than enough proof that plant-based food products are here to stay, and their popularity has also encouraged businesses to hop on the plant-based bandwagon, releasing meatless burgers, sausages, chicken, and even seafood.

Companies such as Plant Based Seafood Co. sell vegan renditions of coconut shrimp, scallops, and crab cakes. According to the company, which used to sell "real" seafood for around 20 years, the decision to switch to plant-based seafood was made due to the problems with overfishing. It also boasts the opportunity for those with seafood allergies to enjoy different types of products. Per Friend of the Sea, many vegan versions of traditional seafood are made of soy, seaweed, legumes, yeast, and vegetable oils. But the real question is, are these items actually good?

The texture is harder to recreate than other vegan meats

There are many pros and cons to vegan seafood. For one, the traditional fish smell is absent from plant-based versions, and there is no risk of mercury poisoning or micro-plastics (via Forbes). However, per Special Broadcasting Service, Dieticians Australia spokesperson Nicole Dynan claims that these alternatives are highly processed and don't contain omega-3's. According to Dynan, vegan substitutes for fish are harder to replicate than other meat varieties in order to get the right texture. "They have to go through a number of processes to be able to get a final product that resembles the original food. That's why plant-based seafood alternatives are highly processed," she says. Dynan recommends eating the vegan seafood alternative as an occasional part of a whole-food plant-based diet. 

The taste is one of the most important things, as it's what keeps consumers coming back for more. On Reddit, plant-based dieters discussed how they felt about the products. "I tried the Good Catch [brand] tuna and it tastes like what I imagine cat food tastes like LOL," one user wrote. Another enjoys Quorn's fishless sticks, claiming they are "pretty good" compared to the traditional variety. Like many vegan alternatives, seafood is also a hit or a miss, leaving plant-based eaters to ultimately decide for themselves.