There’s a new plant-based meat alternative in town.
While chains like A&W have championed the Beyond Burger and other futuristic meat creations in Canada, one beloved animal product has remained largely untouched. Until now.
Ikea, the Swedish build-it-yourself furniture chain known for wordless instructions and 99-cent frozen yogurt is also well-known for its Swedish meatballs. According to the chain, they sell over one billion meatballs a year worldwide.
The furniture giant recently rolled out a new “plant ball” meatball alternative in the U.S. and Europe, and as of March 1 Canadian stores are now onboard.
The chain has boasted a “veggie ball” for sale in its food section and on its in-store restaurant menu since 2015, but the “plant ball” promises to be different in both name, contents and taste. Plants and veggies are very different things, apparently.
The plant ball also promises to produce only 4 per cent of the carbon footprint as the original meatballs.
“With the new plant ball, we are proud to offer a healthy, delicious, affordable and sustainable alternative to the traditional meatball – at only four per cent of the climate footprint,” Danielle Beauchesne, Country Ikea Food Manager said in a statement this week.
“We are confident that the plant ball will convince even the most skeptical meat eaters to enjoy plant-based alternatives.”
But what will satisfy you after a long day spent browsing pretend apartments you’ll never have while really just there to pick up some dish scrubbing brushes? Only a true taste test will find out.
Ikea sent us a fancy blue little cooler bag with each of the three genres of ball — meat, veggie and plant — along with some classic Swedish sides in order to see which ball reigns supreme.
I popped ’em in the oven, fried up some potato pancakes and scooped on the lingonberry jam so I can give you the truest take on what differentiates between a plant ball, a veggie ball and a meatball. The only things missing were directional arrows, an “As-Is” section and imagining my perfect life, “500 Days of Summer” style.
You know it, you love it, it’s literally a ball of meat. Hard to go wrong. The meatballs roasted up nicely in the oven and left my apartment smelling like a Swedish paradise.
Major ingredients: Beef, pork, breadcrumbs, onion.
Taste: Classically meaty.
Mouthfeel: The mix of meat, onion and binding agents breaks apart pleasantly in the mouth. While the Ikea meatball is usually paired with potatoes, cream sauce and lingonberry jam, it’s easy to imagine these slotting into any ball-requiring recipe.
Ballsiness: Definitely balls.
Rating: 5 out of 5 balls
Ikea’s existing plant-based offering, the millennial side-part to the plant ball Gen Z middle part. Veggie balls were introduced in 2015 as a more eco-friendly alternative to the meatball, boasting a carbon footprint 20 times smaller than the meatball.
Major ingredients: Chickpeas, carrots, peas, red pepper, carrots.
Taste: Very veggie-forward. The veggie ball is not trying to be meat. It’s something else entirely.
Mouthfeel: Much like many veggie meat alternatives, the veggie ball falls apart pretty quickly. With visible chunks of corn and red pepper, its component parts quickly separate in the mouth.
Ballsiness: They lose their ball shape pretty quickly. Imagine a bunch of veggies smashed together into a ball, and that’s the veggie ball.
Rating: 2 out of 5 balls
Ikea’s newest offering claims to be as good as the original iconic meatball with only 4 per cent of the carbon footprint. But is it?
Ingredients: Pea protein, potatoes, oat bran, various binding mixes
Taste: Like many meat alternatives, the plant balls have a familiar smoky flavour as a way to trick your mind into thinking it’s meat. And to be honest, it does a pretty good job of that.
Mouthfeel: Very similar to the original meatballs, though a touch more grainy.
Ballsiness: Oh yeah, those are balls.
Rating: 4 out of 5 balls
The plant balls stack up. Much like Beyond Meat products, whatever smokey flavour they have in the plant balls mimics “real” meat nicely. My girlfriend was able to differentiate the meatballs from the plant balls easily, but we both agreed they are suitably tasty.
If you are looking to be more eco-conscious with your Ikea ball consumption, give the plant ball a shot. Plant balls are available at the restaurants and freezer sections of all currently open Ikea stores in Canada.