I would like to try and imitate the flavor of lamb in a plant based dish.

Googling "why does lamb taste like lamb" I found that the most common explanation is that lamb fat is comprised of, but not only, branched-chain fatty acid, which give it the distinctive taste.

Is there a plant based source for branched-chain fatty acid?

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    Unless you know what lamb tastes like, you will not be able to test and work out whether your version is right. And there are many different tastes in lamb, depending on how (and how much) it is cooked. The mouth-feel have to go with the taste to convince people who know lamb, even harder to do.
    – Willeke
    Commented Dec 26, 2020 at 10:50
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    I used to eat meat and so I remember
    – noamt
    Commented Dec 26, 2020 at 12:13
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    A search for ‘imitation lamb meat’ found something: bettafoods.com/products/imitation-lamb-flavored-chunks-tvp I don’t know if you can get ahold of the things in the ingredient list to try to see which give the characteristic ‘lamb’ flavor. (Or maybe try their product first to see if it’s worth trying to recreate on your own)
    – Joe
    Commented Dec 26, 2020 at 13:08
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    As an ex-meat eater, “Crucials Yogurt & Mint Dressing Sauce” on a slice of soft white bread really makes me think I’m eating sliced lamb…I suspect the fat in the yogurt, the association with mint, and the slight chew of the bread all contribute. I’ve not tried replicating lamb in a dish though.
    – forquare
    Commented Dec 26, 2020 at 23:50

5 Answers 5


Imitating the flavor of the lamb itself will probably be much more difficult (if not impossible) than manipulating the other ingredients in the dish. That way, the brain is tricked into thinking it is eating lamb, when it is not. For example, let's say you want to make a meatless lamb biryani. If you can get the texture of a meatless lamb substitute close enough (for example, by using seitan or some other substitute), then use the proper technique, and ingredients for making a biryani, it will "feel like" you are eating a lamb biryani.

I realize this doesn't directly answer your question, but I think that creating imitation lamb (or any meat) flavor is a difficult problem that challenges food scientists and companies trying to create meatless "meat." It would be pretty impressive (and possibly lucrative) if you could easily do that at home, but it would surprise me if it is easy or straight-forward. Brached chain fatty acids could be important, but my hunch is there is a lot more going into how we experience those (or any) flavors.

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    I think this is an excellent and insightful answer. My final goal would be "lamb" in mint sauce so I can see how this would apply
    – noamt
    Commented Dec 26, 2020 at 13:09

I assume you already are familiar with the basics of plant-based cuisine, but just in case, many meaty dishes taste like meat because of the MSG in them.

Thus, to imitate meatiness, you'll want to cook the plant-based meat alternatives such as TVP, seitan, tempeh or tofu with a dash of soy sauce (and/or MSG powder, but soy sauce should suffice!) that will add that "meaty kick" to your plant-based dish.

On the other hand, I somewhat doubt that the somewhat different fatty acid content is really the main reason lamb tastes like lamb. I just use olive oil in most of my plant-based meat dishes and it works wonders every time.


I wonder whether I could make a general point please: more than a comment, but I'm not expecting this to be appreciated as an answer.

All animals contain fatty acids: they're a basic building block of flesh.

However, even without the cues of texture etc. a meat-eater will be able to distinguish between lamb, venison, beef, turkey, chicken etc., the distinguishing feature being the precise structure of the particular fatty acids in the species being consumed.

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fatty_acids and consider that two fatty acids which differ only in the placement of one of the side chains are likely to be distinguished by our sensory apparatus.

Just as the flavouring and fragrance industries have worked out how to synthesise the essence of just about every fruit and flower, I am sure that at some point in the future one will be able to buy "essence of lamb" etc. which could be added to a bland protein base. Whether that is more ethical than simply eating meat is debatable (elsewhere).


I am not sure why you would want to. As an omnivore, I thoroughly enjoy cooking and eating quality and flavorsome vegetarian and vegan dishes, but just as French cuisine does not include turmeric, plant-based cuisine does not include fatty acids. Good lamb done well is a heavenly experience, but bad lamb is really quite unattractive and fake lamb is never going to be much better then bad lamb.

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    There can be many reasons why they wish to, but personally, I remember meat tasting really good. I used to dream of meat for several years after I gave up eating it. I'm definitely going to be trying vat grown meat when it is available where I am. I appreciate you say they won't achieve great success so there is no point in trying but (1) maybe a pale imitation is better than nothing, at least once in a while; (2) maybe they have low standards (apparently I do as I think some meat substitutes taste like meat but meat eating friends just shake their heads at me).
    – user133831
    Commented Dec 27, 2020 at 22:39
  • This is of course for curiosity and general experimentation. I'm fully aware that the result won't be a convincing replacement
    – noamt
    Commented Dec 28, 2020 at 12:07

I have been a vegetarian for many years. When I was a meat eater, my favorite meat was lamb. I made a delicious lamb stew. I later found products to mimic chicken and beef flavors, but thought I was unlikely to find a way to reproduce lamb flavor, as it is quite distinctive. However, one day my daughter's boss gave her a gift of truffle flavored cheese. I wish I had written down the company that made it. I was really amazed that the flavor tasted like lamb! I recently discovered a vegan "lamb flavored" soup base on the internet, but it was only sold to restaurants. I am from the USA. Perhaps,vegetarian fake lamb products are more available in countries where sheep are more a staple of the cuisine.

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