I'm not usually one to load my grocery cart with frozen meals, mostly because they're typically sub-par for the price. I wouldn't mind paying a premium for an amazing frozen dish, but most are just meh. But when I first started seeing PlantMade by Matthew Kenney
pop up in my Instagram feed, I was intrigued. Matthew Kinney is among the most celebrated chefs on the vegan scene, and if he was willing to put his name on a frozen meal, it HAD to be good.
reached out to ask if I'd be willing to review of a few of those meals, and I do not regret that choice! Y'ALL. These are light-years beyond any other frozen meal I've had. The flavor, the textures, the serving sizes. Everything is perfect. I'll go through each dish I tried and let you know what I thought, but here's a round-up of everything they sent me to review.
One note before I go on: You can bake these or microwave them, but as we all know, the oven yields best results. So I baked all of these rather than prepare them in the microwave. I'm sure that had some effect on texture, so just keep that in mind as you read the reviews. You may have different results when microwaving! Since I'm still working from home, it just made sense to use the oven since I'm in no rush to prepare my lunch.
It's hard to pick a favorite because I loved everything, but the most impressive among these was probably the Grilled Cauliflower Steak. This golden cauliflower steak is served atop a bed of wild rice and topped with garlicky chimichurri and mojo marinade. I've been served a cauli-steak in actual steakhouse that was on par with this. Seriously, you could serve someone this dish, and they'd have no idea it was a frozen meal. I loved how the edges were toasted, even though the dish was baked with its plastic wrapping in place.
It was obvious that a lot of care went into preparing these dishes. They weren't just some convenience food after-thought. These are restaurant-quality meals that just happen to be convenient. My second favorite was the Cacio e Pepe Mac & Cheeze. The creamy cashew cheese boasted so much complex flavor. I noticed the ingredients included rice wine vinegar and cane sugar, and I think that tangy salty sweetness all played very well together. And it was so creamy!
I honestly wasn't expecting too much from the Chickpea Curry. Not that I thought it would be bad, but I didn't expect it to blow me away. I make chickpea dishes from scratch quite often, so I figured it would be as good as something I would make. But I didn't think it would be better. Well, I would be wrong, because this was dish was better than anything I've ever made! With flavors of curry, coconut, tomato, Spanish onion, and garlic, this dish was fantastic. I served it with a slice of LuLu's Country Loaf for sopping up all the juices.
I also wasn't expecting much from the Jackfruit Carnitas Over Grain Medley Trio, because I don't love jackfruit (This was the first of the meals I tried, so my expectations weren't as high). I don't hate jackfruit, but I'm not usually impressed with it. It's often too soggy and not flavorful enough. But this dish was the furthest thing from "not flavorful enough." The jackfruit is marinated in tomatoes, thyme, garlic, and other spices, and it was outstanding. The jackfruit is served over a quinoa and rice blend, which was also quite tasty. I was really hungry, so I opted to serve some of the jackfruit in corn tortillas (with the rest on the side) and added some cashew sour cream and fresh avocado. A perfect meal!
Besides the single-serving entrees, PlantMade also offers a few patties (like salmon-less burgers and crab-less cakes), snacks (buffalo cauliflower), and desserts (vegan cheesecake). They didn't send me any cheesecake to sample, but these Buffalo Cauliflower Bites were pure magic. I baked these in the oven, and they were crisp and just as perfect as if I hand-battered and fried them in oil. I served with some Imagine Vegan Cafe ranch for dipping! You get quite a few servings in a bag, so these will last awhile.
Finally, they also sent me the Crab-less Cakes to try. I should preface this by saying that I've never had an actual crab cake, and when I ate meat, I didn't like seafood. So, I have no idea how these flaky cakes compare with real crab, but these were good. The best part to me was that they weren't at all fishy-tasting. They're made with artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, and pea fiber, and while there is a little seaweed in the ingredient list, it's not at all overpowering. I made some remoulade (with Vegenaise) to serve with these, and I had curried mashed potatoes and steamed kale on the side. Felt very fancy.
And there ya go! My overall consensus — PlantMade
are best frozen meals on the market! It's clear with every bite that a professional vegan chef designed these recipes, and his integrity shows shines through in the quality. I haven't been to Whole Foods or Sprouts here in awhile (thanks pandemic, for ruining grocery shopping), so I'm not sure if these are available in my area yet. I've been dreaming of that cauli-steak and mac and cheese ever since I finished the last bites!