The first time I heard about Neat was just a few weeks ago, when it was featured in an article on Food Navigator. I immediately popped over to Neat’s website to find out all I could and then started following them on social media. We don’t consume a lot of meat substitutes around here, but Neat seemed right up my alley: a “healthy replacement for meat”, made without soy or gluten. The ingredients list is incredibly short, unlike many frozen meat substitutes available at the supermarket, and it’s super easy to prepare. I was thrilled when the wonderful people at Neat offered to send me some of their product to try and I’m just as excited to tell you all about it.
My samples couldn’t have come at a better time. For a variety of reasons (the Olympics, my sister visiting, grad school, work deadlines, the tiredness that comes with returning from break, the continued cold, etc), I didn’t have a lot of time for cooking over the past week. The three samples I received (original mix, Mexican mix and Italian mix) made my menu planning and cooking incredibly easy.
I confess, I wasn’t creative with my first Neat experience. Basically, I made the meals shown on the fronts of the packages. Last Saturday night, I made a batch of Neat burgers with the original mix for my sister, my husband and myself. On Tuesday, Brian made a batch of spaghetti and Neat balls with the Italian mix while I grabbed my pre-grad class nap (I am just not meant to be in class until 9 pm). Yesterday, I used the Mexican mix to make tacos.
Preparing Neat is incredibly easy, which is why I loved it for this busy week. Following the directions, I combined the powdered Neat mixture with a little water and a couple eggs (you can also use an egg substitute), stirred to combine and used it like ground beef. In the case of the burgers, I shaped 4 patties with my hands, placed them in a non-stick skillet and cooked them for around 3 minutes on each side, as per the package instructions. For the Neat balls, Brian used my cookie scoop to create 6 balls of the mixture and baked them on a Silpat-lined cookie sheet. This allowed Brian to avoid covering his hands in the rather sticky Neat mixture and I’m convinced he’s a genius for thinking to use my cookie scoop. I was thrilled with how well the burgers and Neat balls held together; generally when I try to make homemade veggie burgers or bean balls they fall apart immediately. When I made the taco filling, I added whole batch of the Neat mixture to a non-stick skillet, added a 4 ounce can of diced chili peppers like I usually do for tacos, and cooked it on medium, stirring occasionally, until it was cooked through. The spice level in the Mexican and Italian mixed seemed pretty understated, but the flavor overall was good. As all three of these recipes require very little other prep (opening hamburger buns, cooking pasta, getting taco shells ready and coming up with some sort of side), they’re perfect for a weeknight meal. I think with more practice, I could probably come up with some recipes in which Neat works really well, but this week it was all about the convenience. I can definitely see myself keeping some packages on hand for those evenings when cooking from scratch just isn’t going to happen.
As with all meat replacements, Neat isn’t perfect. We found the burgers and Neat balls to be rather dry, though breaking up the balls and mixing them with the pasta and tomato sauce helped. I suspect that cooking the food for a shorter period of time may help with this. Each package only makes four servings, which works pretty well for us, but doesn’t leave much in the way of leftovers. And, obviously, Neat is not the right product for you if you have nut allergies.
Neat can be purchased from their website by the individual package or in packs of 6. It’s also available on Amazon. In addition to the three varieties I tried, they’ve apparently also developed a breakfast mix, which I’m going to need to purchase when it becomes available.
Lastly, I just received an email from Neat announcing their “The Neat-est Dish” recipe contest. The creator of the best recipe that utilizes Neat will get a free Neat for a year and a $500 visa gift card. Sounds like a good opportunity to me!
Disclaimer: I received 3 free packages of Neat meat substitute from Neat. As always, my opinions are my own