It’s called Just Egg, and the company wants consumers to think it tastes just like one — even performing taste tests in a promotional company video in which surprised people ask, “Are you kidding? It’s not egg?”
Nope, it’s not. The scrambled-egg substitute is made from the mung bean, a legume cultivated in Asia. Mung beans are “loaded with nutrients such as folic acid, potassium, magnesium, zinc and vitamins A, C, D, E, K and the B’s,” Casey Seidenberg wrote for The Washington Post. The company, Just, uses mung bean protein, and, according to Food Navigator, its process for extracting the protein is pretty scientific: The raw mung beans are “de-hulled and milled to produce flour, which is mixed with water and a food-grade defoaming agent to form a slurry, the pH of which is adjusted with a food-grade sodium hydroxide solution for solubization of the target protein into the aqueous solution.” Because nothing whets your appetite like the word “solubization.”
The product comes from Just, the company that used to be called Hampton Creek, which had been plagued by scandal in recent years. The company’s eggless mayonnaise was pulled from Target shelves after “unsubstantiated allegations of contamination and false labeling,” according to the Los Angeles Times. A Bloomberg News report alleged that the company ran a scheme to buy its own product back from stores, over which the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice launched an inquiry, which was later dropped.
Just’s products are vegan, but they’re not just for vegans. In fact, cooking instructions sent by the company suggest scrambling Just Egg with milk or butter. If you have mung bean “eggs,” you don’t have to worry about them being cage- or cruelty-free. The company says that the production “requires less water and fewer carbon emissions,” and that the product has no cholesterol. Those who might not have any interest in a vegan lifestyle can still make occasional substitutions, and that could have a positive effect on our food systems and on individual health.
Just has gotten several chefs on board: José Andrés has endorsed the product. In the District, chef Todd Gray of Equinox has incorporated it into his popular vegan brunch. Washingtonian magazine wondered whether Just Egg could be the next Impossible Burger, the plant-based burger that is showing up in more and more restaurants. And the chain Veggie Grill just adopted the product for its meatless breakfast burritos. The company debuted the product last year at the San Francisco restaurant Flore. Just Egg is beginning to be available in stores, and it will soon be available for online purchase from Jet.com. The suggested retail price for a 12-ounce bottle is $7.99.
Okay, so the product doesn’t taste exactly like eggs. In our blind taste test, it was immediately obvious which plate of scrambled eggs was the real deal and which was the Just Egg. Naturally, the mung bean egg lacks a bit of the richness and fat that you get from a real yolk. The flavor is more akin to a tofu scramble — not bad, just different. The product can also be used in other recipes, both sweet and savory, that call for eggs. The texture is slightly denser than a soft-scrambled egg, but it’s not wildly unfamiliar. Definitely close enough to fool your taste buds into eating a more plant-based diet, if you’re trying to cut back on animal proteins. You could scramble it with some veggies or herbs to pump up the flavor. Or, uh, some cheese.
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