Chef Diana Stavaridis And Beyond Meat On Chicken Tenders And Plant-Based Cooking - Exclusive Interview

Beyond Meat's Beyond Burger is a wildly popular option for customers interested in plant-based meat. Now, the company is expanding its plant-based poultry options by offering Beyond Chicken Tenders to 8,000 new locations nationwide. Between Beyond Meat's Beyond The Original Orange Chicken offering at Panda Express and the Beyond Meat Nuggets available at A&W locations in Canada, plant-based meat fans can enjoy the company's unique innovations all over.

The tenders are pre-cooked for a swift cooking experience, and Beyond Meat Chef Diana Stavaridis has been hard at work filling up the company's recipe page. The site offers a step-by-step guide for customers who enjoy following recipes and inspiration for consumers who want to put their own Beyond Meat spin on some of their favorite dishes.

Mashed spoke to Chef D. and a Beyond Meat spokesperson about the Beyond Chicken Tender expansion — covering everything from cooking tips, city hacks, kid-friendly recipes, and instructions on finding the nearest location that offers Beyond Meat products. They also explained how Beyond Meat products help combat climate change and offer a healthier alternative to meat-based products.

Creating the perfect Beyond Chicken Tender crisp

Everyone knows that the key to a good tender is the perfect crisp. What cooking method and for how long will achieve the best Beyond Chicken Tenders crisp?

Chef D: Beyond Chicken Tenders come pre-cooked, ready to heat in the air fryer, oven, or microwave. When cooking in the oven, preheat the oven to 425 on a baking sheet with wired racks for eight minutes, and be sure to flip halfway through. When you're cooking in the air fryer, consumers can place the tenders in the air fryer, heat at 360 Fahrenheit, and cook for five minutes. 

While the oven and air fryer produce the crispiest tenders, customers can also put [them] in the microwave on high for one minute to one minute and 25 seconds per serving. You let the tender rest for about a minute after it comes out of the microwave before you eat it. Certain tips and tricks that I've actually learned from working with these tenders, having the awesome experience to be able to cook and eat them all the time, is honestly to adhere [to] and follow these guidelines.

If you stay within these [guidelines] and you cook with one of these methods, you [can] treat it just like its animal counterpart. It's very much the same as its animal counterpart and how you cook it, and yet you get the benefits of it being more nutritious and better for you. You can use it and cook it within these guidelines, and then I would definitely stick to using the wire rack. 

My mother has recently been doing it in the microwave — making chicken parmesan sandwiches and everything, and we've tested it here. It does work pretty well in the microwave, but the short answer is [to] stick to the guidelines. Have fun with it and play with all of these cooking instructions, and you'll have the crispiest chicken tender to be able to put into whatever you'd like to eat it with.

A whole new world of plant-based tenders

I was looking at some of the Beyond Chicken Tenders recipe suggestions on the site and came across dishes like the Beyond Chicken and Waffle Sandwich, Crispy Chicken Tacos, and Beyond Chicken Sliders. I am particularly excited about the chicken and waffles. Do you have any tips for these recipes?

Chef D: Especially in the breakfast component of Beyond Chicken and Waffle, we've recently started doing Beyond Chicken and Pancakes. You can get those little silver dollar pancakes in the freezer aisle, or you can make them at home. The savory notes and the salty notes of the chicken tender work really well with maple syrup.

In fact, actually, a good tip is if you're a family of four, [to] six, and you're having a breakfast for the weekend, once they all come out of the oven, you could toss them all in a bowl with the maple syrup and the kids can grab a fork and pop it right in their pancake, [folding it] over, or put it on their waffle and eat it within five to ten minutes. It stays really crispy, and the sweetness goes very well with the savory notes ... relax, have fun, and cook it like you would a chicken tender. Put it into any build that sounds good to you and stick within the cooking guidelines and have fun with it.

The most delicious Beyond Chicken Tenders flavor combos

Are there any additional recipes or sauce combos that would be fun to try with the tenders?

Chef D: Most definitely. Lately, we've been purchasing slider buns. Vegan slider buns or burger buns [or] you could also use regular burger buns [with] the size of the chicken tender being small. We've been doing mini Nashville hot chicken sandwiches and fried chicken sandwiches with lettuce and mayonnaise and pickles. [We use] very simple ingredients that you would have in your home fridge, [and you can use any] hot sauce that you prefer.

Dump the tenders in a bowl as you would with maple syrup, toss it with the sauce, and then put them in your sandwich and enjoy them. Personally, I eat like a rabbit sometimes, so I chop it up and put it on a salad. I make Caesar salads, vegan Caesar or animal-based Caesar dairy dressing. With crispy chicken tenders chopped up on top, [you can] make Buffalo chicken sandwiches. What I like to do, if I'm really busy or running to a meeting, I take a flour tortilla wrap or a gluten-free wrap, and I wrap up the tender with the salad. Chop it up, and it travels very well, too. Those are some things we've been doing when we're playing with the product in particular. Also, very successful now, is the chicken parm sandwich and chicken parm over pasta, which could easily be done at home.

Making the most of small city kitchens

In places like cities, fresh vegetables are harder to come by and typically more expensive. What are some cheap, easy options and recipes that someone who doesn't have a full kitchen or access to a lot of fresh veggies can use to make delicious meals with Beyond Chicken Tenders or other Beyond Meat products?

Chef D: Short cooking time is very needed in some of these areas. Being able to do something fast in a small kitchen, especially in cities like New York, where the apartments are small, or overseas and so forth. Looking at using, for example, a chicken tender — things I mentioned [like] doing a wrap [are] very easy. Getting a bag of lettuce [in] the markets in the past ten years, you can get chopped organic lettuce that's triple washed. That's the same. It works very well in a wrap. You could get a bottle of vinaigrette [and] grab a bag of nice quality lettuce. It happens to be in a bag, which is more accessible for some of these areas [and has] a longer shelf life. Wrap it up, toss it with some dressing and chicken, and hit the road.

Also, [the] breakfast patty is pretty fun to play with, too. Our breakfast sausage patties scramble up really well with an egg. They have, in the market, a lot of these medley grain mixes that you can microwave — shelf stable, which works really well in a small apartment or a home. You can microwave these bags of grains and/or veggies that are already pre-mixed, and you could scramble your breakfast patty with an egg and put it right on top. That would serve a family for breakfast or for a dinner option.

Breakfast for dinner [is something] I love to eat. [With] Beyond Ground Beef, [there are] ten million recipes you could do, but something really simple and fun, especially for kids, is a quesadilla. Buy some [seasonings], scramble it up, [and] pick some veggies if you can. If you can buy some carrots or something that comes in a bag if it's easier for these areas, [add] a little bit of cheese, and fold it up. You could obviously add an egg for breakfast. Those are some fun, quick things that you can do from the cupboard.

The best city hacks

Definitely. I actually live in New York, and I get the breakfast sausages and get a croissant and some cheese [and an egg], and that's my breakfast.

Chef D: I lived in Paris for quite some time, and it's tight quarters. It really changes the game, so we need to have them fixed.

I was visiting my mom last year and mentioned that I missed her meatloaf because I've been a vegetarian for a decade. She concocted a Beyond Beef version of it on the fly, and I was really surprised at how good it ended up turning out because it was a very experimental thing that we did on a whim. What are some of your tips to transform people's favorite dishes or childhood staples from Beyond Meat products, and what sort of classics have you enjoyed playing with yourself?

Chef D: Some good ones are Beyond Chicken Tender tacos — pretty simple — Beyond Beef zucchini boats or Beyond Meatball pita wraps, and things like that. They're great meals for kids that come together pretty quickly [in] 30 minutes or less. They're also easy to assemble and packed with protein. Some things [are] from my childhood that I've tried to do [with] my nephew — he's five and eats a lot of plant-based products as well. I know how he eats very well, and he's a good cook for being a five-year-old. They do nachos with veggies on top. He loves vegetables. They've started doing seasoned beef, a simple taco spice, scramble up the Beyond [Beef] 3.0, and then it can go on top of nachos with lettuce and tomato. He [sometimes] puts everything on there.

The beauty of veggies

He puts carrots and cherry tomatoes and all the vegetables that he loves after they come out of the oven, and they sit down and eat a giant plate of nachos, which is definitely what my mom used to do when I was a good girl when I was a kid. [The] other thing that I like, which is actually trending with the times and I see young kids doing it now, especially farmers market kids and some of my family members, [are] those veggie noodles that now come in bags. You can get the zucchini noodles, and you can get the little butternut squash. They're calling them noodles. I mean a vegetable cut as the shape [of] a noodle. [These are] major cities for sure, and this cooks up really quick, and they do have organic options for this.

[Start with] a nice pizza sauce or spaghetti sauce or pasta sauce with chopped up Beyond Meat Beef scrambled up, or the chicken tenders can [be sliced] and go right on top. You could use some cauliflower rice in a bag or some veggie noodles, [and] I know kids love the shapes because my nephew is picky. The veggie noodles [pair well] with a nice beef bolognese sauce that you could make, or cook up the tenders, chop them up, put them on top of some sauce and [sprinkle with] little nutritional yeast flakes. Some Abbaye cheese works well with these types of veggie noodles.

Switching out meat with Beyond Meat

Many people who typically eat meat are often turned off by the idea of plant-based meat. What benefits are there to switching out meat with Beyond Meat products every now and then, and what are some cooking tips that might fool even the most discerning meat lover into mistaking it for the real thing?

Chef D: [Beyond Meat is] lower in saturated fat, better for you, and [we're also] thinking of climate change, being lower on greenhouse gas emissions, less water use, less land use. There [are] these huge factors that come into play around the ethos of Beyond Meat and the company itself, which we all take great pride in. I know a lot of people that do eat it take great pride in it as well, but in particular, breaking it down to the health benefits ... the benefits of eating a product that [has] less saturated fat but does have equal or more protein at times, is something very important to think about. 

We play around with the chicken a lot, and lately, we've been pretending they're boneless chicken wings. We cook them up, and then we toss some buffalo sauce, barbecue sauce, agave butter, or honey butter — whatever you can eat. We eat them like wings and dump them in blue cheese sauce and stuff. That's actually pretty fun for a game or for kids as they're behaving or watching a TV show. Cook it, follow the instructions, [and] treat it like you'd be cooking a boneless wing, so to speak. It works pretty well for that.

The Beyond Chicken Tenders expansion

I have a couple of questions for [the rest of Beyond Meat as a company]. Can you tell me more about the Beyond Chicken Tenders expansion and what locations and eateries you are targeting? How can people find the nearest location that sells or serves the product?

Beyond Meat Spokesperson:  We're super excited about this expansion. As you may know, we launched, last year, Beyond Chicken Tenders initially in foodservice and in retail. Now, we're expanding to over 8,000 new stores. It's really about accessibility. We want to be everywhere that our consumers are shopping [and] dining out. With this expansion, you can now find Beyond Chicken Tenders at your local Whole Foods, CVS, select Costco locations, [and] Sprouts, in addition to Walmart and some of the other retailers that have it. 

[We're] really excited to get this out there in a bigger way. We've been seeing a tremendous response from consumers who are really excited about our plant-based chicken. We've racked up a couple [of] awards since we launched, which has been really exciting and a validation of how great this product is. It's crispy, it's tender, it's juicy, and it delivers what everyone's looking for.

The best Beyond Meat fast food locations

A bulk of the release primarily targets grocery stores, but there's a great need for plant-based chicken at fast-food restaurants and other eateries. Are there any plans to expand into more locations like that? Are there any currently available?

Beyond Meat Spokesperson: We're always looking to expand our distribution. We launched last year in several hundred restaurants, and we also have our broader chicken platform outside of Beyond Chicken Tenders. You may have seen announcements from us. We launched Beyond Fried Chicken at KFC nationwide earlier this year. We had some [limited time] Beyond Original Orange Chicken at Panda Express, which was so delicious. We've even had Beyond Meat Nuggets at A&W up in Canada. We're definitely looking at different ways to bring this to life for consumers and make it accessible at all their favorite places.

I really miss the Dunkin' Beyond Meat breakfast sausage sandwich. Are there any plans to bring that back or release similar versions at other breakfast spots? I know that Starbucks has one now, which is super exciting.

Beyond Meat Spokesperson: Our breakfast sausage is at a lot of coffee shops. It's been really popular. I think you have Peet's near you in New York, which is one of my favorites. They do it on this everything bagel with plant-based egg and cheese, and it's absolutely delicious. We're also with Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Caribou, [and] Gregory's, which I know is also a popular chain in New York, actually just added an additional Beyond Sausage offering to their menu. [We're] definitely bringing it to more and more coffee shops in different neighborhoods across the country.

Tips for getting kids to eat plant-based food

Chef D., parents are always looking for healthier options for their kids. What are some ways that parents can make Beyond Chicken Tenders and other Beyond Meat products fun for kids to eat? What are some great kid-friendly food combos on that front?

Chef D: Looking at playing with the chicken tenders [and] going back to the zucchini noodles and the butternut squash noodles, those are really fun for kids. Kids like to play with their hands. I work with doing culinary lessons for our children over the years, and I really enjoy working with kids. I know they like to work with their hands mostly and play with their hands.

[They love] wraps and tacos and quesadillas and roll-ups, all those types of things, pitas and gyros. All that type of stuff works really well. When I do these cooking classes, with whatever the product is, it's nice to have a bowl of chopped-up veggies and sauces and things. The kids can get down and have the product prepared for them, cooked according to the instructions, and then roll things up and fold them up and eat them with their hands.

Where to get Beyond Meat in Texas?

What are some of your favorite restaurant or fast food picks that carry Beyond Meat products?

Chef D: You mentioned Peet's Coffee already. We're fortunate enough to have a Peet's right down the street from the lab. We order Peet's Coffee a lot. Sometimes, we do a trial to see how the sausage patty comes out, [and it] comes out amazing every single time. My favorite part is, when I eat at random places around the country, I get to see the Beyond Burger offered as a replacement, and that makes me so excited.

I get pictures from so many family members and friends from Maryland to Michigan, down to Texas, up in Sacramento — all over the place. I'll get a picture a week saying, "Hey, look. They have Beyond burger here. I can swap out a Beyond Burger patty." It's really exciting how big and vast the Beyond Burger is reaching. I look forward to seeing it in many more restaurants.

I actually went to Texas recently, and I couldn't find many places that offered anything like that. Can you name any that are in Texas? Any chains or restaurants?

Beyond Meat Spokesperson: I can jump in there. Hopdoddy, which is a very popular chain that started in Texas and now has expanded to several states, they have the Beyond Burger on the menu and they do a really great build with it. There's Plow Burger, which is a more regional chain, they have it. We're at TGI Fridays, which is [popular] in Dallas. There's definitely lots of love in Texas. Whole Foods is headquartered in Texas, so there's a lot of Beyond love down in Texas.

Chef D: It's funny you mentioned it. Right next to Peet's coffee, there's a Hopdoddy here, and I was with my friend, and her son ordered the Beyond Burger a couple weeks ago. It's right in Manhattan, so that's pretty cool. 

Beyond Meat Spokesperson: Torchy's Tacos carries us. You were talking about different things — they do Tex-Mex food, and they do an awesome taco with our beef, so [we have to] give them some love.

Experimenting with DIY recipes

Chef D, what is your process when it comes to creating new recipes with Beyond Meat products? How can customers replicate that process at home to mix and match and come up with their own dishes that match their own palates?

Chef D: That's a great question. Going back to cooking instructions, you always start there. Follow the guidelines on the package, whether you microwave or air fry or cook it on the rack. From there, it's [all about], "What do you like to eat?" It's nothing complicated. It's very simple. Treat it as you would treat a chicken tender or a crispy chicken filet. We play with it, we have a lot of fun things. One thing I've done with a lot of our products is work with seasoning the 3.0 Ground Beef. I like to eat a lot of Middle Eastern food. I've done a Middle Eastern kabob or kofta, and we eat that here in wraps with buckwheat tabbouleh and things like that, which is pretty fun.

We do some beef teriyaki [and] black pepper beef. A lot of Asian builds we do, too. Playing with the beef is pretty fun. It's a nice way to start. Pick an area that you like, whether it's Italian or Thai or Japanese or Korean, and find an area that you like to cook [and] stick with what you know. Just like when anybody starts to cook, you start with one recipe, and then you can swap out and pop in the product and play with it and season it up and learn as you go. It's just like cooking.

The sustainability of plant-based products

You touched on this a little bit, but not only are Beyond Meat products healthier than meat products, but they're also a more sustainable option. Can you talk about some of the ways that switching from meat to plant-based meat, even if it's just once a week, can help the environment?

Beyond Meat Spokesperson: It's a very topical question with Earth Day [recently happening. We've been] talking about it a lot. We actually did a study with the University of Michigan that looked at all the inputs in producing our burger versus producing a beef burger. The results were pretty incredible. Creating the original Beyond Burger generates 90% pure greenhouse gas emissions, and Chef D. talked about less resources: 99% less water, 93% less land, [and] nearly 50% less energy. It's really impactful. Three times a day, right? You're thinking about the protein at the center of the plate, and even swapping it out a few times a week can have a really amazing impact. 

When we say things like "99% less water," what does that really mean? With the water in an average size swimming pool, you could make around 300 beef burgers or more than 60,000 Beyond burgers. With us being based here in California, we're very conscientious of our water use. It's amazing that we can have this delicious option and do so in a way that's better for us and better for the planet.

How to search for Beyond Meat products in your area

Is there a comprehensive list of places that someone can put their address in and find all of the places, restaurants, or food chains? Where could they find the nearest places that serve or sell Beyond Meat by themselves?

Beyond Meat Spokesperson: Head over to the website,, and then we have a store locator at the top where it says "Buy." You can find grocery stores near you as well as restaurants. [It's] super easy.

Do either of you have anything to add? Anything you want to talk about regarding the release or any of the other products?

Chef D: There's nothing to be daunted with, [regarding Beyond meats]. It works like its animal counterpart, and it's so fun to play with. It's really exciting what it does for the planet and what it does for your body. My mom recently converted from almost 80%. She eats Beyond Meat products now, and she's outside of Boston in a big meat-eating town and community. She's pretty much switched over, and she says she feels better. She digests better. It's blowing my mind. She's a great cook, and she's doing all the dishes I did when I was a kid [that] she does now with Beyond Meat. It's time to jump in and think about the planet and enjoy the products and start cooking.

To find the nearest location that offers Beyond Chicken Tenders, select the product on the drop down menu here, and enter your location in the search tool.

This interview has been edited for clarity.