Don’t you love when a new vegan product comes onto the market?!
I know I do! 😃
So when I saw a post somewhere on Facebook a couple of weeks ago regarding Denny bringing out some new mushroom-based products, I got really excited and knew I had to try them.
Denny are well-known as a large supplier of fresh mushrooms in South Africa with their fresh mushroom produce found in most large retailers in the country. As their website states, they have been around for 40 years, so it’s good to see them moving with the times, and keeping up with changing demand by creating these alternative products.
Denny brought out some similar products not too long ago, that didn’t seem to stick around on the shelves for too long. They had mushroom-based patties, both plain and crumbed, as well as mushroom nuggets and cheesy mushroom ‘bites’. I remember buying the burgers once or twice and really enjoying them, so I have no idea why they discontinued them. I have a feeling it may have to do with their main retailers’ not-too-great cold chain – if I remember correctly, there were complaints of finding the products completely mushed up inside the boxes, as if they had defrosted and then froze again in a big mushy clump. I feel this was probably a transport issue to do with the retailer, but whatever the reason, they didn’t last long.
I have much higher hopes for their new range!! 🤞🏼
South Africa is quite behind the rest of the world as far as the amount of vegan products available in regular shops and grocery stores goes, so any new products that make their way onto the shelves show that that company is trying to meet a perceived demand. This alone excites me, but it’s also great when a company steps up to the plate and gets it right.
Initial responses I have noticed…
It seems there are mixed reactions to this one, judging by various comments I have seen on vegan groups I am part of on Facebook.
It seems some people do not like this at all, or only like some of the products. Texture seems to be a big reason for this. I have seen people say that they found the texture too soft.
Also, there has been resistance to supporting large companies like Denny, with the perception that it may take business away from small local businesses (who are trying very hard to stay afloat right now in the current circumstances of covid chaos).
My opinion (let’s emphasise that) is that Denny, or any other company, is creating these products because they have done market research, or learned through various interactions with their market, that there is a demand for vegan products. That in and of itself is a good thing.
What would also be good is if they find that indeed there is a demand, with the product moving off the shelves. This would mean that perhaps the products will stick around, and that they may even create more vegan products, and potentially other companies will follow suit. This would be so exciting!
The fact that these are not exclusively vegan companies shouldn’t matter. There are very few solely vegan companies, and if vegans only wanted to support exclusively vegan companies it would make their choices very, very restricted.
Most large soya milk brands are in fact made by dairy companies, companies who sell tinned beans also sell tinned meat for example, grocers you buy these vegan products from sell meat and animal products. Breakfast cereals, chocolate, vegan margarine, so many things. Companies that sell you clothes may also sell wool garments. It is absolutely impossible to avoid supporting non-exclusively-vegan companies unless you live on a farm in the mountain and are entirely self sufficient. Even then, if you have a car the rubber in the tyres contain animal products. We live in a vegan-unfriendly world. This is just my opinion, as this is an objection I have seen spoken of about these specific Denny products too.
Also, buying vegan products from large companies does not need to come at the expense of the small companies. You can still buy your favourite vegan products from local small businesses most of the time. Certainly for me, these Denny products will be a once-in-a-while purchase.
As for the taste and texture of these products, that is completely subjective and I realise this. I will try to be objective, but obviously must state the obvious – that all opinions regarding these foods are exactly that – my opinions.
The new Denny mushroom-based vegan product range includes:
- Denny beef style patties
- Denny beef style sausages
- Denny beef style mince
- Denny mushroom biltong
- Denny shiitake mushroom chips
[On a side note: I refer in the review a lot to how ‘we’ enjoyed, or did not enjoy, the products. It is not a royal plural 😝 the other person is my fiancé who is also vegan, and tried these products out along with me.]
Denny beef style patties
The patties were the first product that we tried – I bought burger buns specifically for them, and allowed the patties to thaw overnight before frying.
I just used a small amount of olive oil in a well-heated frying pan, and cooked them about 4-5 minutes a side. They felt quite soft when they were raw, as I put them in the pan, so at that point I was sceptical as to how they would hold up on a braai/barbeque. On the packaging, under the cooking directions, they mention that the patties can be put on a braai/barbeque. I would like to put that to the test!
Taste and texture:
We really liked these patties!
The flavour is great, I really can’t fault it. It doesn’t really taste ‘mushroomy’, or heavily of mushroom. I think the mushroom just lends itself to a very savoury, umami flavour profile, which was delicious.
The texture was quite soft, albeit they crisped up quite nicely on the outside with the frying, the inside remained somewhat soft, but that didn’t bother us at all. A lot of vegan burgers created from beans and ingredients like mashed veggies are soft and verge on having a mushy texture, so we are quite used to this.
I think that there are people who may be more sensitive to textures who just will not enjoy these because of the soft texture, as I’ve picked up by comments online.
I put them on a soft bread roll with lettuce, gherkins (pickles), sliced tomato, and tomato sauce, with a smear of B-Well vegan mayonnaise on the inside of the bun. In my opinion, these were really good and tasty!
The diameter of the burger size was good, although perhaps the patty was a bit thin, although I imagine that making it thicker would not work too well due to the softer texture, and the patty may not hold its shape as well.
This wasn’t really an issue for us though, nor did it detract from the enjoyment of it.
As far as a convenience food goes, these really aren’t bad, in my opinion, nutritionally.
Made up mostly of mushrooms and oats, these are quite gentle on the digestive system and don’t contain huge amounts of gluten, nor soya, or other ingredients that I can’t pronounce. I did not keep the packaging for the patties and so don’t have the list of ingredients or nutritional information, but I think that the patties, sausage, and mince are all made out of very similar, if not the same, ingredients. As you will see in the other products reviewed below, I have typed out the ingredients and nutritional information, and this will be a good indication of what the patties would contain.
Ease of use/convenience:
These were quick to cook, and it took me all of 10 minutes to whip up some great tasting burgers, so really convenient on that front. I would still like to try them on the braai though! I will update this post when I do.
At R59.99 for 4 patties (at the time of writing), this equates to around R15 per patty, which is somewhat comparable in terms of convenience/pre-packaged foods, although not the cheapest vegan patty you can find. That being said, it is the only completely mushroom-based patty that I know of that is around at the moment, so quite novel (but not like the virus, hehe!🤪).
Denny beef style sausages
I cooked these once they had thawed, in the same way that I cooked the patties – with a dash of olive oil in a very warm pan, and continued turning them to brown all sides, for about 10 minutes.
Taste and texture:
These were very similar to the patties in taste and texture, although the obvious difference is that they are wrapped in a thin vegan sausage casing.
We really enjoyed these, although, since we were eating them on their own, unlike the patties which we had on a bun, the soft texture was more pronounced. This doesn’t bother us at all, and we had them with tomato sauce and mustard, alongside some steamed vegetables.
I liked the feeling of breaking through the thin casing to reveal this soft flavourful mushroom goodness inside. Again, as for the patties, I am sure there will be people that will really not like these due to the texture, but we loved them. I think they would be good on a hot dog roll (maybe 2 sausages on a bun) with some tomato sauce, mustard and sauerkraut or caramelised onions perhaps. Yum!
Similar, if not the same ingredients as is used for the patties, so really not bad from a health perspective. At 209 calories for half the package (3 sausages) it is lower in calories than a lot of competitor products.
Ease of use:
Similar to the patties, we had delicious sausages in a quick 10 minutes of frying in a pan. Easy peasy.
A package of 6 sausages cost R55.99 at the time of writing, so marginally cheaper than the patties. The patties, on the other hand would make 4 servings, since there are 4 patties in a pack, and you would use 1 patty per burger. With the sausages, you could maybe get 3 servings if you each had 2 sausages, but I felt half the package, at 3 sausages was a decent helping, so this would only make 2 meals, instead of the patties with 4.
Denny beef style mince
I prepared the mince initially by frying it in a hot pan with a dash of olive oil for about 10 minutes, until there were browned and slightly crispy parts. I wanted to taste it completely on it’s own first. My idea then was to add it to a homemade tomato based pasta sauce to create a bolognese type dish.
Taste and texture:
The mince must be the same or very similar to what the patties are made of and what is inside the sausages.
Very similar in taste and texture, it was really very tasty, and once fried to be slightly browned and crispy, it seemd to hold up in little clumps quite nicely. The taste and texture on it’s own, minus any sauce, was lovely. Similarly soft textured to the two previous products, but just as tasty, although I have seen opinions from people who do not like the texture much and say that it is mushy.
I then added the mince to a tomato based sauce I had already cooked. I made the sauce with tomato passata, along with some chopped onion, garlic and peppers, and added mediterranean herbs and a dash of red wine, along with a pinch of sugar to cut the tomatoes acidity. I cooked it down for at least half an hour, took it off the heat, and then added the already fried mushroom-based mince.
It added a lovely flavour to the sauce, and created quite an umami profile, similar to what I imagine beef mince would do. It did, however, soften slightly in the sauce, and lose any crispness that the frying had created. It released out into the sauce and out of the little clumps that had formed from frying. I don’t see this as a problem, as I’m sure this is what animal-based mince would do (I haven’t cooked with it in many, many years, but I think so).
We enjoyed the mince and found it very tasty. I would have preferred it if it had held together better in the sauce though.
There are other mince substitutes on the market which I think we prefer. For me, soya mince crumbles (also known as TVP – textured vegetable protein) are the closest thing to beef mince in texture, and possibly my very favourite way to create vegan mince. Therefore, I’m not sure if this product would make it onto my monthly shopping list because I use other mince which I prefer over this. That being said, this is not a bad product, and again, the taste is delicious.
As found on the label:
Mushrooms (57%), oats, onion, seasoning (yeast extract [garlic, sugar], salt, dextrose, caramel colour, silicon dioxide, herbs and spices), maize, vegetable fat (sunflower seed, palm kernel, TBHQ, sodium alginate, calcium sulphate, dextrose, phosphate, modified starch), psyllium husk, beetroot, ascorbic acid, flavouring, guar gum.
Average values per 100g serving size:
of which total sugar: 2.1 g
total fat: 2.8g
of which total unsaturated: 0.5g
of which trans fat: 0.0g
of which monounsaturated fat: 1.5g
of which polyunsaturated fat: 0.8g
dietary fibre: 4.5g
Ease of use:
I’m not sure how it would be if one had to cook it in the sauce instead of do what I did and fry it seperatly before adding. I would like to try it like that and see, although I would worry that it may become very mushy then, and perhaps disappear into the sauce. Only a trial will tell.
Otherwise, the way I did it was pretty quick and easy. I fried it for 10 minutes, just as I had done with the patties and sausages, mixing it around a bit in the pan.
The mince cost R55.99, the same as the sausages. It made one meal for us both (so 2 servings), although it was a very substantial lunch meal, which included the tomato pasta sauce that I had made, as well as some brown rice which I served it with.
Denny shiitake mushroom chips
These were probably my favourite product out of them all.
Taste and texture:
I had no idea mushrooms could taste like this!
They must be freeze-dried as they are completely dry and crisp. The flavour of these perfect, whole, dried mushroom chips is almost buttery, or biscuity even. They have a slight sweetness to them, that adds to the enjoyment. Super crispy and crunchy, but not hard, and so very more-ish!
I could snack on these all day…
As per the back of the packet:
Shiitake mushrooms, vegetable oil, salt, maltose.
Nutritional info, per 25g serving (1 packet):
energy: 286 kj
of which total sugar: 4.2g
Total fat: 3.6g
of which saturated fat: 1.8g
of which trans fat: 0.0g
of which monounsaturated fat: 0.5g
dietary fibre: 2.4g
As far as calories go, at 68 calories per bag, these are not bad at all. It feels like they should be higher in calories just because of how delicious they are, LOL.
The mushroom chips cost R22.99 per packet at the time of writing. Not the cheapest snack, certainly a lot more expensive than a bag of chips. I would have to argue, a lot tastier though, and a lot less processed, with no artificial or chemical ingredients etc. I would definitely get these as a once-in-a-while treat, or on the odd occasion that I am stuck somewhere away from home, and am getting hangry (this is a rare but unpleasant occurrence for everyone involved🤣). I would choose this as a snack over other snack foods found in a grocery store, if I had the option.
Denny mushroom biltong
This product may be my least favourite product out of the range. Not because I don’t like it, but because I like the other products more.
Taste and texture:
This is a salty and savoury snack, and is quite tasty. The pieces of mushroom are obviously coated in a marinade, similar to what would be used for meat biltong. I detect soya sauce, worcester sauce, saltiness, and whole coriander seed. They have got a good balance between salty, vinegary, and spice.
The texture of the mushroom itself is quite difficult to describe, but I would say it is more wet than dry and hard. The mushroom pieces are quite soft and slightly tacky feeling. The marinade has darkened the colour to a very dark brown, and some of the mushrooms stick together a little in clumps, which is actually quite nice. I love the taste of coriander seed and it is the essential spice ingredient that makes a typical biltong flavour, so that is nice. I’m just not sure if I am a lover of the worcester saucy kind of dried yet wet mushroom type thing. I would definitely eat them and enjoy them if someone bought them for me but I don’t know if I would go out of my way to buy them for myself.
I have found vegan biltong that is made of things other than mushrooms (seitan-based), which I find super similar to the meat-based biltong that I remember, and I do much prefer it to mushroom-based biltong. That being said, this is pretty good as far as the mushroom-based biltong I have tried goes, and it does hit a salty/umami spot if you are craving it.
As per the back of the packet:
Mushrooms, vinegar, worcester sauce [water, vinegar, molasses, sugar, salt, spice oils and extracts, starch (maize) colourant (E150)], spice [coriander, salt, sucrose, black pepper, flavour enhancer (E621), colourant (E150)].
Nutritional info, per 25g packet:
of which total sugar: 5g
total fat: 0.35g
of which saturated: 0.1g
of which trans fat: < 0.1g
of which monounsaturated fat: 0.0g
of which polyunsaturated fat: 0.1g
dietary fibre: 2.7g
The 25g packet cost R22.99, the same price as the shiitake chips. I found the portion in this packet to be pretty small though, and don’t really think this is a great value for money product. I do understand that the amount of mushrooms used to create just 25g of biltong is likely a lot more than it looks, considering it is dehydrated etc, but I feel like it is too small an amount for me to warrant purchasing a packet from the shops.
This is my opinion, and there are people who may absolutely love this particular product from their range and think that the serving in the packet is just the right amount. You can only know if you try it yourself I suppose!
It is unfortunate that these products were packaged in a fair amount of plastic.
The patties, sausages and mince were in plastic tubs covered by a plastic film. There were no clear instructions on the packaging as to what could be recycled or not, except for a ‘recycle’ logo.
Although, the recycle logo was on the cardboard sleeve surrounding the plastic packaging, so I hope it wasn’t only referring to that part of it as recyclable. I recycled the plastic trays for good measure, just incase.
The shiitake mushroom chips were in a standard foil ‘chip’ packet, also emblazoned with the recycle logo, so I recycled that too.
The mushroom biltong was in a foil and plastic sleeve typically used for biltong, and also had a recycle symbol on it. I am assuming then that they all can be recycled, which is a plus.
Overall product review:
I really enjoyed all of these products, and will definitely be using them from time to time in my kitchen, with the exception of the mince, as I have more preferable alternatives. I will definitely make use of the sausages and patties to make quick, convenient and tasty meals, as well as occasionally buying the shiitake chips as a treat and/or snack food. I am also really keen to try the sausages and patties on a braai/barbeque, because if they hold their shape on the braai/barbeque, it will take the flavour to another level.
It is apparent that Denny have worked hard to formulate quality products, while managing to keep ingredients as natural as is easily possible.
These products win on the convenience, flavour, health, and somewhat price scale for me.
For what they are, they are on the slightly higher side of reasonably priced, in my opinion. They will be occasional purchases for me.
Where can I buy them?
To sum up …
In my opinion, these products are:
Mushroom-based meat alternatives that have a great flavour, texture and colour, can be frozen, cooked quickly, and are made from mostly natural ingredients, that won’t break the bank.
There will be people that don’t appreciate the texture and prefer a firmer meat alternative, but for those that are OK with a softer textured product, I don’t see why you would not love these!
If you have tried them, I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions so please do leave me a comment.
If you are interested in making your own vegan burger patties, try out this easy recipe made with chickpeas:
If you are interested to learn more about soya mince crumbles/TVP and how/what to cook with it, check out this recipe: