Lightlife Mexican crumbles are a meat substitute made by Lightlife Foods, a division of Greenleaf Foods, SPC. They are designed to mimic the texture of ground beef and are often used in place of meat in Mexican dishes like tacos, burritos, nachos, etc. Lightlife Mexican crumbles are made from a variety of plant-based ingredients that come together to create the meaty texture.
The main ingredients in Lightlife Mexican crumbles are:
Textured Pea Protein
This is the primary ingredient that gives the crumbles their meaty texture. Pea protein is extracted from yellow split peas and is a great source of protein for vegetarians and vegans. It has a neutral flavor that takes on the tastes of other ingredients. When processed correctly, it can take on a fibrous, shredded texture very similar to ground beef.
Textured Wheat Gluten
Also called seitan, wheat gluten helps reinforce the meaty, chewy texture of the crumbles. Gluten itself has little flavor, so it takes on the tastes of spices and seasonings added to the mix. Vital wheat gluten is what gives seitan its elasticity and ability to stretch.
Water is necessary to hydrate the pea protein and wheat gluten, allowing them to take on the appropriate texture for the crumbles. Without proper hydration, the proteins would be dry, gritty, and wouldn’t achieve the right shredded beef consistency.
A small amount of canola oil assists with flavor and texture development in Lightlife Mexican crumbles. The smooth, mild flavor of canola oil helps make the crumbles taste rich. The oil evenly coats the pea protein and wheat gluten, keeping the mixture from drying out. This helps maintain moistness.
Spices and Flavors
To give Lightlife Mexican crumbles their signature taco taste, a blend of spices and natural flavors is added. Though Lightlife doesn’t disclose the exact seasonings used, the ingredients list indicates chili pepper, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, and sea salt are likely included. Additional natural flavors, perhaps derived from yeast or soybeans, help round out the taco taste.
Methylcellulose is a plant-based binder and emulsifier that helps hold the ingredients together in Lightlife Mexican crumbles. It creates a matrix that prevents separation and improves the texture of the crumbles. Methylcellulose is derived from cellulose and dissolves in hot water. It sets into a gel again upon cooling.
Calcium lactate is added to improve the nutritional profile of Lightlife Mexican crumbles. This ingredient provides an additional source of calcium, which is especially important for vegans who avoid dairy products. Calcium lactate has no noticeable taste or texture.
Complete Ingredients List
Now that we’ve covered the major players, here is the full list of ingredients contained in Lightlife Mexican crumbles, in order:
– Textured Pea Protein
– Textured Wheat Gluten
– Canola Oil
– Calcium Lactate
– Chili Pepper
– Onion Powder
– Garlic Powder
– Natural Flavors
– Sea Salt
As you can see, Lightlife Mexican crumbles contain a relatively short list of plant-based ingredients. The combination of pea protein, wheat gluten, spices, and natural flavors allows Lightlife to create a product that can stand in for ground beef in Mexican dishes.
Lightlife Mexican crumbles are an excellent source of protein and fiber, while being low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Here is the nutritional information for a 1/4 cup (28g) serving:
As you can see, Lightlife Mexican crumbles provide an impressive 12g of protein per serving, along with 3g of fiber. This combines to make a very satisfying meat substitute. The zero cholesterol and saturated fat reflects the heart-healthy plant-based ingredient list.
Vitamins and Minerals
Lightlife Mexican crumbles contain a variety of vitamins and minerals derived from the pea protein, wheat gluten, and added calcium lactate:
The 60mg of calcium per serving combined with the protein content makes these crumbles a beneficial choice for vegans and vegetarians looking to get enough of this important mineral from non-dairy sources. The product also provides small amounts of iron and potassium.
It’s worth noting the sodium content is a bit high at 260mg per serving. This reflects the seasoning used to give the crumbles their taco flavor profile. Those on low-sodium diets may want to account for this.
Benefits of Lightlife Mexican Crumbles
There are many benefits to using Lightlife Mexican crumbles rather than ground beef:
– Plant-based: Made entirely from plants, Lightlife crumbles are free of animal products, hormones, and antibiotics found in real ground beef. This makes them ideal for vegans/vegetarians.
– Low saturated fat and zero cholesterol: Beef is high in unhealthy saturated fat and cholesterol, major risk factors for heart disease. Lightlife crumbles contain no cholesterol and negligible saturated fat.
– High in protein and fiber: With 12g protein and 3g fiber per serving, these crumbles provide nutrition on par with ground beef. The protein keeps you full and satisfied.
– Calcium: The added calcium helps vegans meet their recommended daily intake of calcium from non-dairy sources. Real ground beef contains no calcium.
– More resource efficient than beef: It takes far fewer resources to produce the peas, wheat, and other plants that go into Lightlife crumbles compared to raising cattle. This puts less strain on the environment.
– Lower greenhouse gas emissions: Livestock produce high levels of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Plant-based products like Lightlife have a much smaller carbon footprint.
– Less water usage: It can take over 1,800 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. Lightlife crumbles require just a small fraction of that water usage.
– Promotes sustainable farming: The plants used in Lightlife Mexican crumbles can be part of an eco-friendly crop rotation, enhancing soil health versus cattle grazing which can lead to overgrazing.
– Long shelf life: Unopened packages of Lightlife crumbles keep for 12-18 months in the freezer. Ground beef has a much shorter shelf life.
– No thawing required: Lightlife crumbles can go straight from freezer to pan with no thawing. Ground beef must be thawed first for safety.
– Easy to cook: Lightlife crumbles cook up fast in the pan or oven. You can use them anywhere you’d use ground beef.
– Versatile ingredient: The mild flavor takes on any seasoning, making these crumbles highly adaptable to Mexican dishes, pasta sauces, etc.
How Lightlife Creates the Crumbles
Lightlife uses a patent-pending process to craft their meat-like texture in the Mexican crumbles:
The first step is to blend the dry ingredients, namely the pea protein, wheat gluten, and spices. These are thoroughly mixed together in their dry form.
Next, the dry blend gets combined with the wet ingredients – water, oil, and methylcellulose. These get mixed to form a dough-like consistency.
The dough mixture is then fed into a high-heat extruder that cooks the ingredients while shaping them into the crumbly texture. As the dough passes through, the high pressure causes the proteins to take on a fibrous, meaty texture.
Cooling and Drying
After exiting the extruder, the crumbles are spread out and allowed to cool and dry. Proper moisture levels are maintained to achieve the right consistency.
In the final step, additional seasonings and flavors are tossed with the crumbles to give them their signature Mexican taste. The crumbles are then packaged for distribution and sale.
Where to Buy Lightlife Mexican Crumbles
Lightlife Mexican crumbles are sold in the refrigerated vegetarian meat section at many major grocery stores in the United States and Canada. Stores that carry the product include:
– Whole Foods
– Harris Teeter
– Whole Foods
Lightlife Mexican crumbles typically come in 12 oz packages. Prices range from $3.49 – $4.99 per package depending on the retailer.
The crumbles can also be purchased online through sites like Amazon, Instacart, Walmart, and Vitacost if you have difficulty finding them locally. Check the Lightlife website for more purchasing options.
How to Cook with Lightlife Mexican Crumbles
Lightlife Mexican crumbles cook up fast in the pan or oven. Here are some tips for using them in recipes:
– Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add desired amount of crumbles and sauté for 3-5 minutes, breaking them apart with a spatula as they cook. Season as desired.
– Pan fry in taco seasoning for tacos, burritos, nachos, etc. Or Italian seasoning for pasta sauces.
– Spread crumbles on a baking sheet and bake at 350°F for 10 minutes. Toss halfway for even browning.
– Can go straight from freezer to oven, no thawing required. Just add 2-3 extra minutes to baking time.
– For a juicier texture in sauces or fillings, cover crumbles with boiling water in a bowl. Let sit for 5 minutes to rehydrate, then drain well before using.
– Be careful not to overcook the crumbles, as they can dry out. Cook just until heated through and lightly browned.
– Store unopened packages of Lightlife Mexican crumbles in the freezer up to 18 months.
– Once opened, use within 5 days. Seal package and refrigerate.
Recipes Using Lightlife Mexican Crumbles
Here are some delicious recipes that use Lightlife Mexican crumbles in place of ground beef:
– 1 package Lightlife Mexican crumbles
– 1 packet taco seasoning
– 6 taco shells
– Toppings: lettuce, tomato, cheese, salsa
1. Cook crumbles in a skillet with taco seasoning following package directions.
2. Warm taco shells according to package instructions.
3. Fill shells with crumbles, then top with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and salsa.
Southwest Chopped Salad
– 1 package Lightlife Mexican crumbles
– 3 cups chopped romaine lettuce
– 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
– 1 cup corn
– 1 avocado, diced
– 2 tbsp Southwest dressing
1. Cook crumbles according to package instructions. Let cool.
2. In a bowl, mix together lettuce, black beans, corn, crumbles and dressing.
3. Top with diced avocado just before serving.
Cheesy Nacho Bake
– 1 package Lightlife Mexican crumbles
– 15 oz can refried beans
– 375g nacho cheese sauce
– 150g tortilla chips
– Sliced jalapeños and green onion (for garnish)
1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. In an oven-safe dish, spread the refried beans evenly on the bottom.
3. Top with Lightlife crumbles, then nacho cheese sauce.
4. Bake 15 minutes until hot and bubbly.
5. Remove from oven, top with crushed tortilla chips, jalapeños and green onion.
Lightlife Mexican Crumbles receive high praise in customer reviews online. Here are some examples:
– “These crumbles are amazing! I use them for tacos all the time. The texture is perfect.”
– “I never would have known this wasn’t ground beef. So flavorful and makes delicious Mexican dishes.”
– “These have become a pantry staple. They make meal prep so easy – I just add taco seasoning for quick tacos, or use in burritos, salads, nachos, etc.”
– “Thefiber and protein in these crumbles keeps me full. And it’s so convenient to go from freezer right to pan.”
– “The texture was a little softer than I’d like. I had to pan fry quite a while to get a nice crispy texture.”
– “The flavor is good but was a little bland on its own. Definitely needs taco seasoning or other spices added.”
– “I wish these weren’t so high in sodium. It limits how often I can eat them.”
– “These get dried out very quickly if you aren’t careful cooking them. You have to be gentle and keep an eye on them.”
Lightlife Mexican Crumbles provide an excellent plant-based substitute for ground beef in Mexican recipes and beyond. They deliver on protein, fiber, and important nutrients like calcium, while being low in saturated fat and completely cholesterol-free. Their convenience, versatility, and meaty texture make them a smart choice for vegetarians, vegans, and anyone looking to cut back on meat. While they may not satisfy all hardcore meat-lovers, most reviews indicate Lightlife crumbles cook up deliciously in tacos, burritos, nachos, and more – proving you don’t need meat to enjoy flavorful Mexican cuisine. Give them a try the next time a recipe calls for ground beef!