If there’s one thing Mark Thompson (known as Sauce Stache on social media) wants his fellow food lovers to do, it’s experiment. To him, the kitchen is all about creativity, a fact which comes to light in his new cookbook, Making Vegan Meat: The Plant Based Food Science Cookbook, available July 20.
A self-taught food scientist, Thompson has put thousands of hours into studying how food — specifically meat — works.
From mouthfeel to bite to savory vs. sweet, he’s immersed himself in the minute detail of meat’s mechanics, including poring over scientific studies and ingredient lists to better understand what he’s working with.
Thompson’s energetic, creative approach to cooking has earned him a loyal and engaged fan base. He now boasts a hefty 375,000 subscribers on YouTube and 125,000 on Facebook, with a growing following on Instagram and TikTok.
His mock meat creations have inspired thousands to try grapefruit peel chicken, burdock root shrimp, and daikon radish steak.
The new cookbook is the culmination of his years of experimentation — and it features the kind of recipes you won’t find elsewhere, utilizing fruits, veggies, fungi and other plant-based ingredients to make incredibly realistic vegan meats—everything from fried chicken to roast beef to hot dogs.
The Journey to Sauce Stache Success
Formerly an IT technician and app developer (also self-taught in both arenas), Thompson has spent his lifetime tinkering with things. As a child, he’d take apart and put back together everything he could get his hands on — much to the chagrin of his parents.
Figuring things out is what he does best, and whatever the subject matter, he throws himself in head on.
“Even before I went plant-based I was trying to figure out the science of how meat was cooked,” he says
“Why do things cook the way they do? Why does restaurant food always taste better?”
But when Thompson started his YouTube channel in 2016, plant-based meat wasn’t the first thing on his mind.
At the time, his now-fiancee (then friend) Monica suggested he share his sauce recipes with the world. She was a yoga blogger, and her success intrigued Thompson.
So, he started by making 30-second sauce videos. But before long, the channel evolved into something more elaborate, aimed at a very specific subject: plant-based meat.
“It slowly and quickly morphed into what it is today. Making the plant-based meats … it just landed on that was where I could absolutely be my most creative,” he says “I was like, this is a blank canvas, I can really have a ton of fun with this. And I love it.”
The ultimate creative culinarian, Thompson uses an array of unique and interesting ingredients like wheat gluten and rice paper to make bacon-wrapped filet mignon, or rice paper and tofu to make plant based pork rind puffed tofu tacos.
Back in the beginning, his very first foray into mock meats was a king oyster mushroom bacon recipe. “It tasted like bacon and it really blew my mind,” he says.
Then, when smoked watermelon ham went viral, he spent weeks trying to figure out how it was made. “When I really nailed down that recipe, that’s when I kind of thought, wow, wait a minute I can actually just try and figure out how these companies are doing this.”
While he has mimicked some of the mainstream meats, the majority of Thompson’s creations use more creative ingredients. He often scoured Asian markets in search of new finds to use in his recipes, picking up things like vegetarian flake (a textured soy similar to pork floss), daikon radish, king oyster mushroom, dried lion’s mane mushroom, canned seitan, and wheat meat, among other items.
“I probably looked crazy because I would go to the Asian markets and I would walk around for two hours picking things up and eyeing them and I’d buy something and break it open.”
His initial trials led to a lot of errors, too. Many of his creations were not worthy of posting on social media, he says.
But as time went on, his technique became more sophisticated — all with the help of science.
He began delving into subjects like how proteins are separated and what methylcellulose is used for (as a thickener and emulsifier, FYI). He scoured academic papers and talked to lab tech family members, all in an attempt to better understand meat, in order to make accurate plant-based versions.
His cookbook is the culmination of all that effort. And while he and his fiancee are primarily pescetarians, he feels that vegan meats are where his skills (and appetite) really shine. “I still enjoy plant-based foods the absolute most,” he says.
Vegan Meats from A to Z
Thompson’s cookbook is primarily designed to provide a baseline of options from which home cooks can explore their culinary creativity and start making vegan meat at home.
On his list of must-have ingredients are an array of veggies and fungi. Mushrooms lead the pack and include king oyster mushrooms, pink oyster mushrooms, lion’s mane mushrooms, chicken of the woods mushrooms, and lobster mushrooms. He also touts the meatiness of daikon radish, watermelon radish, and young green jackfruit.
Thompson’s favorite recipes include the fried jackfruit chicken (nuggets or patties), and the wheat starch pepperoni. And fiancee Monica loves the hibiscus meat tacos, which utilize dried, boiled hibiscus flowers and an array of herbs and spices to create a savory finish.
The recipes are designed, in essence, to be foundations from which to build upon. Thompson sees himself as building on the work of others — and wants his audience to build on his work in the same way.
“I think a lot of times things are built with ladders,” he says. “Somebody took the first step and maybe I take the second or third step. Then people take the step that I took and they make really good food out of it. They take the jackfruit chicken and make an awesome dish … they took the next step.”
More than anything, Thompson wants home cooks to take his recipes and run with them, adapting his ideas and making vegan meat creations that are unique to them. And he hopes his book widens the scope of what’s possible for people who are delving into the plant-based world. Whether vegan, vegetarian, or flexitarian, Making Vegan Meat: The Plant Based Food Science Cookbook, is designed to help you along your journey.
In Thompson’s words: “Just that little bit of extra effort is going to make a difference.”