Molecule of the Day

Quorn (Mold Meat)

I love this one. It’s not exactly a molecule. If you’ve heard of it, you’re nodding and smirking, if you haven’t, you’ll be surprised. Back in the 1960’s, people set out trying to make new meat substitutes. Apparently, it was suspected that there would be a worldwide shortage of protein by the 80’s. I like to think it’s because we were a lot keener to do weird things just because back then. One bizzare product of this search was Quorn. Amazing how much the image on that page looks like chicken stir-fry, eh? It is quite hypnotic to click through the Quorn website, looking at the crypto-chicken and beef. But that wasn’t chicken, it was mycoprotein.

Essentially processed fungus, Quorn is made from a mold (thanks, Steve), Fusarium venenatum. As far as protein goes, it’s really cheap. It is apparently wildly popular across the pond (the popularity boost no doubt hastened by concerns over beef’s safety, as the article notes).

This is really all I know about Quorn. I’ve never worked with mycobacteria, and, I’m embarassed to say, my scientific curiosity about tasting it hasn’t overcome squeamishness (and i’m not alone, apparently.). Every time I see it in the grocery, I pick it up, stare, set it down slowly, and walk away. Share your Quorn experiences below.


  1. #1 qetzal
    August 23, 2006

    I’ve never heard of Quorn before today. OTOH, Fusarium is on the front page of my local paper, in an article about the eye infections linked to Baush & Lomb’s ReNu contact lens cleaning solution.

    Maybe you should wash your hands after you put the Quorn back down? 😉

    P.S. I love the G-quartet pic! Rather an esoteric image, even for a science blog.

  2. #2 anon
    August 23, 2006

    I’ve had the breaded quorn patties and the breaded quorn nuggets and they are quite tasty… very similar to the breaded, pressed chicken meat that is sold in the same shape. Emboldened, I then sampled the unbreaded quorn tenders… BIG mistake. However, I would happily purchase the breaded chicken-like products again.

  3. #3 Evil Monkey
    August 23, 2006

    I didn’t think it was any grosser than soy protein the first time I tried it. Not particularly exciting, but then again eat to live, don’t live to eat.

  4. #4 Lab Cat
    August 23, 2006

    Being from over the pond and being vegetarian, I’m a Quorn fan. I was very excited when Quorn was finally approved for food over here. You have to eat the processed Quorn. As Anon states the unadulterated Quorn is quite unpleasant. One of the few times I prefer a processed food over cooking something myself.

    It makes a great chicken substitute – I once had (in England) a Quorn “chicken” pot pie. On eating it, I had to check the packaging as I was worried that I had bought a real chicken pie by mistake.

  5. #5 qvatlanta
    August 23, 2006

    The Quorn patties are excellent in sandwiches or by themselves. They have a nutty, chicken-like fresh flavor. I’m not even a vegetarian but I still eat them all the time.

  6. #6 Propter Doc
    August 23, 2006

    Quorn is freaky. We were taught (in the UK) at school about TVP – textured vegetable protein, also a meat substitute that gives me the wigginses. Perhaps the scariest meat substitute is synthetic bacon, coloured and shaped to look like a rasher of bacon, smoky flavoured and rather much like eating a flip flop. We used quorn (but a supermarket generic version) to make meat free chili. If you get the seasoning right you don’t noticed the mold food but.

  7. #7 JW Tan
    August 24, 2006

    Think of it as processed mushrooms.

    Aren’t mushrooms mycoprotein too?

  8. #8 Adam
    August 24, 2006

    Wait a minute, aren’t you the dude who licks neat MSG? Go back to that grocery store and show that Quorn who’s boss! :-)

    One time I was eating at a Vietnamese restaurant with my family and ordered mock duck, whereupon the following colloquy was had:

    Adam’s father: How do you mock a duck?
    Adam: Make it out of texturized wheat gluten. It’s good.
    [. . .]
    [The food arrived.]
    Adam’s family: [General uneasiness re. mock duck. The phrase “so, it’s stringy wheat?” was used.]
    Adam: Oh, come on, it’s not like it’s something disgusting or anything.
    Adam’s father: Adam, it’s mildly disgusting.
    Adam: Come on! It’s tasty!

  9. #9 Alan
    August 25, 2006

    I love Quorn! It tastes slightly different but the health benefits of lots of protein and fiber without the cholestorol make quorn a worthy alternative to most meats. I reckon the price should fall though, if only it was more popular…

  10. #10 motdm
    August 25, 2006

    I am a little embarassed that I have never heard of this. I’ll let you know if I decide to try it. They do appear to have the correct shape for a chicken nugget though, don’t they MOTD?

  11. #11 Steve
    September 1, 2006

    Mycobacterium are bacteria – gram postive rods, examples include Mycobacteria tuberculosis.

    Fusarium on the other hand is a fungus, quite different. Quorn is a mycoprotein, and study of fungi is mycology. Apparently more mould than mushroom too, although i just grow the stuff occasionally i’m not a taxonomist.

    Too many darned myco’s around in microbiology if you ask me.

  12. #12 New Dude
    February 4, 2009

    Quorn is super. I lift weights and boy the protein is really kicking in. Biceps, Triceps , and muscle all over the place. With non of the side affects..Whew!!

  13. #13 Mary Lee
    April 22, 2009

    My family loves the Quorn crumbles. We use them in tacos, chili, sloppy joes and more. I have 3 meat eaters in the family that could not tell the difference. I add a little oil when cooking them to avoid that dry texture. I really dislike soy meat substitute. It is squishy and has a nasty aftertaste. My granddaughter and I are vegetarians, so this is a product the whole family can share and enjoy. It is great to be able to eat our tacos again, which were sorely missed with the vegetarian switch!

  14. #14 Laurissa
    June 28, 2009

    I just had my first, and now probably last, box of Quorn. All I knew is that it was made of a fungus, so I assumed it was something like mushroom (which I love). The Quorn chicken cutlets were absolutely delicious and tasted so much like the real thing that I had to do some more research. Unfortunatey I read a bunch of articles about how it’s made of mold. I ate the rest of the box but I’m not sure I’m going to buy any more because it can’t be too healthy to eat mold all the time. I think I’ll stick with tofu and gardenburger from now on!

  15. #15 Fake Food
    February 21, 2010

    “Think of it as processed mushrooms.
    Aren’t mushrooms mycoprotein too?”

    Why not use regular mushrooms?
    Instead of eating meat substitutes, why not just eat other foods?

  16. #16 Paula Vaquero
    April 28, 2011

    I ate quorn for the first time a few months ago. It´s fantastic. I loved it. I wish I could have it here in Porto, north of Portugal, so that I might buy. I am a vegetarian and would love to have it here. Thank you for iluminating.

New comments have been temporarily disabled. Please check back soon.