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How can meat-flavoured crisps be vegetarian? © Getty Images

How can meat-flavoured crisps be vegetarian?

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It’s true people. Meat-flavoured, crunchy snacks can be veggie if amino acids from plants are used to replicate the meaty taste.

Asked by: Tom Leonard, Letchworth


Many meat-flavoured crisps are vegetarian. In 2013, crisps giant Walkers sparked outrage when they added real meat extracts to their smoky bacon and roast chicken flavour crisps. They reverted back to vegetarian flavourings in 2016.

Cooked meat’s flavour mainly comes from the browning process, when amino acids in the meat protein react with naturally occurring sugars to give a host of flavour chemicals. Vegetarian meat flavourings can be made in the lab by replicating this so-called ‘Maillard reaction’, using amino acids from plants, such as L-cysteine.

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Dr Emma Davies is a science writer and editor with a PhD in food chemistry from the University of Leeds. She writes about all aspects of chemistry, from food and the environment to toxicology and regulatory science.


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