And should you be buying, making, and eating them?

By Bridget Shirvell
May 13, 2020
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beef and barley burgers
Credit: Justin Walker

We know we should be eating less meat both for our health and the health of the planet, and we're trying, but sometimes we really want a juicy burger with all the fixings. Enter the blended burger. You've probably heard rumblings of the health-conscious, eco-friendly blended burger. The Mushroom Council and the Culinary Institute of America first coined the phrase back in 2011 to describe a burger made with mushrooms, but we're pretty confident generations of home cooks have been making their own versions for much longer. Blended meats are no longer only about burgers, though; there are also meatballs, lasagna, and more.

Between meat shortages from the coronavirus pandemic, the desire to reduce our meat consumption, and new retail offerings, blended meat dishes are letting us have our cake—er, burger—and eat it, too. Here's what you need to know about them.

What Are Blended Meats?

If you think of a blended burger as a cross between a beef burger and an old-school veggie burger, then apply that same concept to other traditional ground meat products. Think: Items like meatballs, taco fillings, and Bolognese sauce that blend vegetables with ground meat for a dish that requires less meat overall, but isn't meat-free.

How Are Blended Meats Made?

Mostly, beef, turkey, or pork is blended with chopped up vegetables or grains and then cooked. When the James Beard Foundation launched the Blended Burger Project in 2014, it defined the burgers as with at least 25 percent mushrooms. Mushrooms tend to be one of the most popular options for blended burgers but a wide variety of vegetables and grains will work. Applegate, which just released a line of blended meats, has an organic grass-fed beef burger blended with cauliflower, lentils, butternut squash, and spinach and an organic turkey burger blended with sweet potato, great northern beans, kale, and roasted onion. "Just as important as the flavor is texture," said Applegate CEO John Ghingo. The company spent about two years working on its blended meat line, Well Carved, which also includes two styles of organic meatballs. "We started with dozens and dozens of potential ingredients that we reviewed and worked with, making more than 20 different versions that we narrowed down."

Why Make Blended Meats?

Blended meats are designed for people who love eating meat but want to reduce their overall consumption of meat, whether for health, environmental, or other reasons. Applegate sees their new line as a responsible alternative to either not eating meat at all or to many of the highly-processed lab-grown meats that have popped up in recent years. The company commissioned research firm HowGood to study the environmental impact of its blended grass-fed beef burger and found that the burger creates 51 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than a conventional hamburger.

While blended meats products, whether purchased or made at home, are likely better for you and the planet than a classic meat dish, just how much better depends on a variety of factors—including how the meat is produced, how the vegetables are farmed, and serving size—so it can be hard to measure adequately.

What Do Blended Meats Taste Like?

Blended meats aren't going to fool your carnivore loving dad. He'll know he's not eating a pure beef burger, but when made well, the texture and taste of a blended meat dish are similar to the conventional. If anything, the meal will likely have less grease and might even seem a little richer in taste thanks to added vegetables.

Where to Find Blended Meats, and How to Make Them at Home

In addition to Applegate's new line of products, you'll find other blended meat products in supermarket aisles frozen aisle such as Grateful Burger's line of blended beef and chicken burgers. If you're lucky enough to have a neighborhood butcher shop, you may even see them as an option there. Plus, you can make them at home pretty quickly, try our Beef and Barley Burger or Chickpea Burger. Once you have the blended meat mixture you want, you can use it to replace virtually any ground meat dish from breakfast burritos and spaghetti and meatballs to tacos.

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