Food & Drink | June 4, 2021 9:17 am

I Ate Plant-Based Vegan Ribs and Lived to Talk About It

Brooklyn-based Louie’s Plant-Based is now selling 24-ounce racks of Pig Savin’ Ribs

Pig Savin' Ribs
Pig Savin' Ribs from Louie's Plant-Based in Brooklyn.
Adam Friedlander

While there’s been a steady stream of quality plant-based beef products hitting store shelves in recent years, fans of the other white meat were left having to wait for some decent plant-based pork options to arrive on the scene.

Well, rejoice all ye vegans and vegetarians who’ve been subsisting on imitation corned beef — because plant-based little piggies have come to market in the form of Pig Savin’ Ribs.

The brainchild of Louie Catizone of Brooklyn-based vegan meat company Louie’s Plant-Based, the recently released ribs are sold as a full rack that tips the scales at 24 ounces and is capable of serving four hungry human herbivores.

The pre-cooked ribs, which you reheat in the oven or on a grill in approximately 30 minutes, come coated in Louie’s house-blended BBQ sauce and pack a whopping 13 grams of protein per serving due to their nutrient-dense base of vital wheat gluten and chickpea flour.

I recently prepared the ribs in the oven (baked at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, rotate after 15 minutes) with an extra layer of BBQ sauce. They were salty, smoky and sweet thanks to the BBQ sauce, with a decent mouthfeel and a bit of a skin-like snap upon biting. They were a little denser than the real thing and lacking some of the fatty taste but otherwise not that far off.

Pig Savin Ribs
A big old plate of plant-based Pig Savin’ Ribs.
Adam Friedlander

“There’s obviously going to be a difference, but they’re certainly closer than most people would expect them to be on a textural level,” Catizone tells Insidehook. “Some of that density is because they’re consistent throughout there aren’t any close-to-the-bone parts. I think for a meat-eater, the hardest thing to wrap your head around is that it doesn’t shred. Of course it’s going to have some differences, but I’ve had some vegans say to me, ‘Wow, it’s almost so meat-like that it makes me comfortable.’”

From a carnivore’s perspective, the taste of the plant-based ribs was perfectly fine, but concerns over how they’re made loomed large. Catizone set my mind at ease.

“Folks who generally might be against plant-based meat think about it as being super-processed and made in a lab,” he says. “This is actually a very chef-driven process that was literally developed in my kitchen in Carroll Gardens. It wasn’t developed by scientists in a lab. There’s nothing scary or artificial going into it. It’s actually, truly plants … I feel the term plant-based has become a little bit synonymous with venture capitalists and labs. This wasn’t grown anywhere. These were ingredients, herbs and spices that we spent a lot of time sourcing very carefully to make this a real human-being-driven product. We didn’t have an algorithm to create it. We had a base recipe that we redid hundreds and hundreds of times until we felt like we had every part right from flavor to density to texture to moisture and all of that. Just like a chef would have developed a dish for the guests dining at their restaurant.”

Just as a chef would have before adding something new to a menu, there was a taste-testing process.

“Some members of our staff are Colombian and they are huge pork consumers. They were the first test subjects,” Catizone says. “I was blown away by how excited they were to eat them. The main response from folks was, ‘It’s a similar sensation, but I don’t feel like I’m going to be sick to my stomach from eating this much pork because it’s no longer pork.’ They fell in love and noted there wasn’t anything like it on the market. There’s no one making true ribs that are grillable and readily available. It felt like there was an opportunity to kind of expand upon the grillable options for the vegan community and the vegetarian community.”

Pig Savin’ Ribs from Louie’s Plant-Based in Brooklyn.
Adam Friedlander

In addition to the taste-tester-approved flavor and texture, Catizone notes the ribs contain enough protein that any vegans or vegetarians should feel quite comfortable bringing the Pig Savin’ Ribs to a meat-and-greet with card-carrying carnivores.

“There’s this weird fear that vegans and vegetarians are lacking protein because they’re not getting it from their chicken, beef, pork or fish,” Catizone says. “There’s something to be said about the amount of protein — 150 grams in 24 ounces — offered in something like the ribs being a way to offer vegans and vegetarians an option when someone who’s not vegan or vegetarian is hosting. They can cook it the same way they would cook a piece of meat too.”

Somewhere, Wilbur just got his wings.