Plant-based seafood alternatives are hitting the market in a big way, offering a sustainable, vegan way to satisfy cravings for tuna, shrimp, fish fillets, crab cakes, smoked salmon, and more. Habits are hard to break, and we love the foods we love. That’s why more plant-based seafood products are popping up, allowing seafood fans to continue enjoying favorite fare, guilt-free.
We’re starting to learn why animal agriculture is unsustainable, and as a result, the marketplace is embracing plant-based meat alternatives. But seafood? Don’t the oceans have plenty to spare? It turns out that the fish and seafood industry is causing a lot of harm, which is why entrepreneurs are creating plant-based seafood alternatives that are almost too good to be true.
Seaspiracy, the 2020 film that’s got environmentally conscious folks talking demonstrates how fragile the earth’s oceans are. The perils of overfishing — to the living creatures, the ecosystems, and the exploited humans in the fishing industry — are drawn in no uncertain terms. And the garbage and plastics being dumped into the oceans might leave the viewer with a dim view of humanity.
Here’s a sampling of what you’ll find in this roundup:
- BeLeaf: Plant-based shrimp
- Gardein: Fish-less filets and mini crab-less cakes
- Good Catch: Fish-free tuna, crab cakes, fish-free fillets & burgers
- Jinka: Plant-based tuna
- Loma Linda: Plant-based tuna
- New Wave: Plant-based shrimp
- Ocean Hugger Foods: Plant-based “raw” ahi
- Quorn: Fish-less sticks
- Sophie’s Kitchen: Plant-based shrimp, smoked salmon, crab cakes, fish fillet
Here are a few good reasons to avoid actual seafood:
- Bycatch: Industrial fisheries use large commercial machinery to sift through the ocean floor causing numerous sea animals, including whales, dolphins, turtles, and many more to get trapped and killed in nets – known as bycatch.
- Overfishing is catastrophic. According to a report by Nature Communications in 2016, overfishing has become extremely catastrophic to the ocean’s wildlife. The report found that more fish have been caught globally between 1950 and 2010, leading to a sharp decline in the number of fish in the sea.
- Slave labor is a big part of the global fishing industry. It’s particularly common in the shrimp industry.
- Fish and crustaceans are sentient beings. According to scientific evidence, fish and crustaceans are sentient and feel both physical and emotional pain, just as other species do.
Thankfully, brands are stepping up to end animal cruelty among sea creatures by creating plant-based alternatives to popular seafood items, such as squid, shrimp, and more. Here are some plant-based seafood brands that you can find in your local supermarket if you are in the mood for a delicious seafood dinner minus the cruelty!
BeLeaf Plant-Based Shrimp
Be Leaf offers an uncanny plant-based shrimp. Its primary ingredient is konjac powder, which comes from a starchy root. The sturdy vegan shrimp can be pan-fried, stir-fried, or grilled in your favorite dishes. Learn more about this company’s plant-based shrimp here. While you’re on the site, check out the vegan fried egg! Wow, I’d love to try that, too.
Gardein has changed the game, not only when it comes to vegan meats, but now vegan fish. If you’re seeking a fish filet substitute that looks and tastes much like the real thing, try Gardein’s Golden Fishless Filet and Mini Crabless Cakes.
Both products can be baked or fried and are ready in as little as ten minutes. When paired with a side of tartar sauce, they might just win over omnivores after their first bite.
You can find these products in the frozen or refrigerated section of your local natural foods store or supermarket. Follow this link to find a store that sells Gardein products near you.
Good Catch is a Pennsylvania-based company founded in 2016 by Chris Kerr and Eric Schnell. Inspired by their love for the sea and its creatures, the brand’s goal is to “make plant-based foods for everyone, from vegan to omnivore and everything in between.” The versatility of their products is demonstrated in their generous array of plant-based recipes.
Good Catch creates a variety of plant-based tuna that come in flavors including original, Mediterranean, and Oil and Herbs. The brand has expanded to include crab cakes, fish fillets, and fish burgers. Search here for a Thrive Market, Whole Foods, and FreshDirect, as well as local retailers that sells Good Catch products near you.
Jinka Vegan Tuna Spread
Jinka offers three varieties of plant-based tuna — Original, Lemon-Dill, and Spicy. Use it in any way you’d use tuna — as a spread, in salads, or even formed into burgers as shown above. From the website:
“Jinka is a convenient and ready-to-eat spread that is the perfect companion to any recipe you create! Whether you pack it for lunch as a sandwich for your kids, pair it with some crackers as a healthy pick-me-up snack during work, or add to vegetables as a high-protein snack for your next hiking trip.
We’re on a mission to show that a plant-based diet can be delicious without compromise. We offer a sustainable, plant-based tuna spread for those looking for a healthy and tasty alternative to tuna … Even if it’s just one meal a day, we consider it a win and a step towards a greener future.” Learn more about Jinka and its vegan tuna products here.
Loma Linda Foods
Founded in 1905, Loma Linda Foods is presently an active brand of vegetarian and vegan food products produced by Atlantic Natural Foods Company of Nashville, Carolina.
In addition to a wide selection of plant-based meat products, the brand has also started to dabble in the creation of plant-based seafood alternatives. As of now, their new seafood alternative line offers three flavors (lemon pepper, sesame ginger, sriracha, and Thai sweet chili) of TUNO, a plant-based tuna alternative made with soy, yeast, and sunflower oil that is said to taste like the real thing.
Julie Nealon from Raise Vegan agrees with the company as she says the product has a “light, flaky texture of seafood and is packed with nutritious omega 3s.” Loma Linda Foods’ TUNO products are sold on Amazon along with other online retailers and a select supermarkets. Here’s where you can find a location that sells TUNO near you.
Photo: New Wave Foods
New Wave Foods
In the fall of 2015, Dominique Barnes and Michelle Wolf co-founded New Wave Foods and have been working in the Bay Area to perfect their first product – algae and plant-based shrimp. The company launched its vegan shrimp in July 2018 in restaurants throughout New York City, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Long Island, and Connecticut.
The plant-based shrimp is made from plant proteins as well as the same algae that shrimp eat, which gives crustaceans their color and flavor. According to Ariel Schwartz, a Tech Insider from Business Insider, the “lab-made shrimp had that springiness and mixture of crunch and chew that you’d expect from the real thing.”
Next year, the company plans on launching their product in retail stores, but for now, they are only available in restaurants. A list of locations that sell New Wave Food’s vegan shrimp can be found here. Be on the lookout this year for Gardein’s release of more vegan seafood products such as plant-based crab meats, lobster, tuna, salmon, and more.
Ocean Hugger Foods
Created by Certified Master Chef James Corwell, Ocean Hugger Foods offers sustainable, mouthwatering plant-based alternatives to popular seafood dishes for sushi.
The brand currently offers a few fish alternatives such as Ahimi, a plant-based raw Ahi minus the tuna. Their mouthwatering Ahimi is made from Roma tomatoes, soy sauce, water, sugar, and sesame oil that is sure to make “picky eaters, vegetarians and vegans rejoice,” according to the Huffington Post.
In November 2017, Ocean Hugger Foods launched their products with their first customer — Whole Foods. As of now, they are currently in the works of creating Sakimi ‘salmon’ made with carrots and Unami ‘eel’ made of eggplants. You can find their product in Whole Foods and various restaurants near you here.
Quorn Fishless Sticks
Quorn, a long-standing brand in the meat alternative protein field, offers a fish alternative as well. Their fish-less sticks are based on rice and wheat flour, are soy-free and non-GMO. Low in fat and calories, they’re a decent source of fiber and protein. Use these fish-less sticks just as they are, served with a simple sauce, or in this site’s vegan fish tacos. Learn more about this product here.
Sophie’s Kitchen is a U.S.-based company that creates gourmet vegan seafood with the mission to “make plant-based seafood accessible and delicious to everyone,” according to the company’s website.
Sophie’s Kitchen has a wide selection of vegan seafood alternatives such as crab cakes, fish fillets, shrimp, scallops, salmon, seafood jambalaya, and more. Those at The Celiathlete claim that the “taste is sometimes even better” than regular seafood and the “texture is spot on.”
The brand’s website says that lobster mac ‘n cheese, glazed salmon bacon, and smoked salmon pastrami will be coming soon, so be on the lookout. Explore here to find a location that carries products by Sophie’s Kitchen near you.
A few more mentions
- Tuna Fysh was acquired by vegan food distributor Earthy Gourmet since this article first appeared. Their most popular product seems to be Vegan Fysh Sauce.
- All Vegetarian is a long established company that offers plant-based shrimp in 6-packs and plant-based tuna in 4-packs, so it’s a bit of a wholesale purchase, or food service. The products may be more challenging to find at retailers. However, they offer an amazing array of plant-based meat substitutes in addition to the aforementioned products, great for those who have large freezers.
- Cavi-art® makes seaweed-based “caviar” but I was reluctant to feature it here because the photos and recipes on their site show this product in conjunction with what looks like actual seafood; so I was reluctant to give them a full shout-out.
If you enjoyed this round-up of plant-based seafood alternatives, you might also like:
- Plant-Based Meat Alternatives: What’s New and What’s Hot
- Vegan Egg Substitutes for Baking & Cooking
- 12 Plant-Based Chicken Alternatives
- A Quick Guide to Plant-Based Milk Options
- 12 Vegan Cheese Brands to Look For
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Skyler Isabella Gomez is a 2019 SUNY New Paltz graduate with a degree in Public Relations and a minor in Black Studies. Her passions include learning about the ethical and environmental benefits of veganism to create a better world for generations to come.