Say Hej To Your New Meat Alternative: IKEA’s Plant Balls

Say Hej To Your New Meat Alternative: IKEA’s Plant Balls

Are these plant-based morsels tasty enough to change our carnivorous minds?

I got one thing right when I ordered IKEA's Plant Balls: going for the big boy plate of 16. Served very much like the beef-pork meatballs that (strangely) made the Swedish furniture store such a mainstay in our diets - with overflowing gravy, lingonberry jam, broccoli and mashed potatoes - I daresay these plant-based morsels taste just as good or even better.

Not a Moo-t Point

IKEA's plant balls. Photo: IKEA

IKEA goes through some 1 billion of its iconic meatballs annually, be it from its food court or in frozen packs. And that makes for a pretty huge climate bill. Turns out, rearing cows (or ruminant animals, in general) requires 20 times more land and amounts to 20 times more greenhouse gas emissions per gram than that of common plant proteins, such as beans (via World Resources Institute). Scary statistics aside, higher percentages of saturated fat in red meat isn't that great for your body either.

But are we going to stop? Not when it tastes so good.

A pack of IKEA's plant balls. Photo: IKEA

IKEA knows that well, and instead of pushing their underwhelming falafel-esque veggie balls (launched in 2015) down our throats, they’ve made their own plant-based and vegan alternative with a proprietary mix of pea protein, oats, apples, potatoes, roasted vegetables, mushrooms, tomatoes, lemons, black pepper and other seasonings. Bonus: It’s only 4% of the carbon footprint necessary to make its meaty counterpart.

Sharla Halvorson, health & sustainability manager for the IKEA food business globally, even made this bold claim that “if IKEA could convert about 20% of its meatball sales to plant balls, that would result in an 8% reduction of the shop’s climate footprint for its food business.” She would have to, considering the company aims to become climate positive by 2030.

Not a Big Missed Steak

A plate of IKEA's plant balls with mashed potatoes, peas and gravy. Photo: IKEA

Guilt tripping us carnivores notwithstanding, how do these plant balls stand up to their iconic sibling? Having tasted Impossible Meat and Beyond Meat, my expectations were high. But - guess what - these Plant Balls a.k.a. Huvudroll (from $6.50/8 pieces) can give them all a run for their money.

Let me preface this that this is not sponsored, and I did the usual food court ritual of queuing up in the snaking line and grabbing the plate from a fatigued but smiley server who, by the way, appeared a little taken back by my order of 16 plant balls. You could see the wheels turning in his head trying to remember just where the Huvudroll were placed. I’m guessing no one really orders them - yet.

With pure research in mind, I grabbed a plate of the iconic beef-pork ones as comparison. (And in case I needed to wash down my disappointment with sweet nostalgic memories of what meat should taste like.)

Related: Vegetarian Recipes

 

An IKEA plant ball. Photo: IKEA

You already know my verdict, but here is the breakdown. The texture is similar, albeit a little more packed due to it being plant-based. Taste-wise, it is what would happen if a Chinese beef and pork dumpling with mushrooms migrated to Sweden, and decided to embrace its new Nordic identity. The classic combination of lingonberry and creamy gravy soothes the transition from meat, but you’ll definitely get a distinct burst of mushrooms. And, if you’re a fungi enthusiast like me, this would win you over instantly.

I don’t even pretend to have the willpower to resist a plate of beefy meatballs, slathered in a thickened gravy and a hefty side of lingonberry jam coming this close to Christmas. I’m all for going for a fresh plate of greens rather than a lookalike, but if it tastes this close to the real thing with the added bonus of being a little friendlier to our climate - why the heck not? 

Note: The plant balls are vegan but the gravy has milk and eggs. 

The Plant Ball is now served at all IKEA restaurants in Singapore & also sold frozen at IKEA’s Swedish Food Market.

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