Review: Gardein Golden Fishless Filets

Gardein Golden Fishless FiletsIt seems like there’s always one vegan specialty product or another that is on my “scavenger hunt” list.  In my pre-vegan days I might have heard about a new food item by way of TV advertising; however, most vegan foods don’t have that kind of advertising budget.  (Sorry, kale.)  Nowadays I hear about new products through blogs.  Once enough people have Instagrammed it, tweeted it, or written long prose for it, I am often pretty curious to try it for myself.

Only one problem – living in the middle of small town America means that it takes a long while before the newest vegan burgers, chips, cheeses, and spreads make their way here (if they ever do).  For things I’m particularly curious about or have tried and loved in other places, I’ll put in a request at one of my local grocery stores.  Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t.

So I compile an ongoing list in my head of things that I want to keep an eye out for when I’m visiting one of those stores or if I’m in another bigger city where vegan specialty products arrive more quickly.  (If only every city had a Viva La Vegan, Artichoke Red, or Nooch.)

One item that I’ve been eager to try since last spring when blogger after blogger raved about them at Expo West is Gardein Golden Fishless Filets.  I’ve written about Gardein’s beefless burgers before, and David is in love with their 7 Grain Crispy Tenders.  They make a tasty dinner plate centerpiece on evenings when we’re not in the mood to cook.  Add some baked fries or steamed broccoli and dinner is ready.

Gardein Golden Fishless Filets - all veganAgain and again people kept comparing the Fishless Filets to Long John Silvers.  Admittedly, that may not sound like high praise.  However, when I was in junior high if you’d asked my favorite restaurant, I would have said Long John Silvers.  I was a fan of all manner of their strips, planks, and hushpuppies, and in love with their malt vinegar.  (It’s just ordinary malt vinegar, but that was the only place in my realm that had it.)  As an appetizer to a meal of fried, fried, and fried, I always added an order of crispies, the fried batter remnants that were sold for 25 cents per box.  So the 7th grader inside of me was very curious to try these new filets for myself.

I finally found the Gardein Golden Fishless Filets in Omaha through a tip from The Laziest Vegans in the World.  (Good and bad news: I later learned after babysitting three packages in the cooler for hours that one of our local stores where I’d requested them was now carrying them.)

We’ve made them a couple of different ways – first by baking them the entire time listed on the bag.  They were tasty but not quite as crisp on the outside as I was hoping.  The subsequent times we baked them for ten minutes and then shallow fried them in oil in a pan for 2 or 3 minutes on each side.  Perfection.

Supposedly there are 3 servings worth in each bag, but who are we kidding?  David and I split the bag (3 pieces per person), and that was a satisfying amount.  The filets aren’t too fishy in taste, and the batter has a terrific flavor.  With malt vinegar and a squeeze of lemon, it totally takes me back and no fish were harmed in the process.


  1. Kris says

    I think we are living parallel lives! I also live in Iowa and like you gave an ongoing iso list. Finally found a bag in Chicago last week but haven’t had the opportunity to try. Too busy eating my fresh purchases from Chicago Raw, (which is awesome by the way). Thanks for the review I can’t wait to try perhaps with my coveted box of Earth Balance white cheddar mac and cheese perhaps: )

    • says

      That is so funny, Kris! I’m glad you were able to nab a bag in Chicago. I haven’t been to Chicago Raw. I’ll try to squeeze it in the next time I’m in Chicago! I still haven’t tried the Earth Balance mac and cheese. The next item on my list of things to find is the burger from Field Roast. It seems to be universally loved!

      • Kris says

        So I am adding Field roast burgers to my list. I just picked up their deli meats which have been on my list since I had a great sandwich at Comet in Milwaukee .

      • Niki says

        Field roast burgers are worth the hype. I live Canada and often miss out on premade vegan awesomeness here too but found those in a store last week nearly died. Worth a road trip to find them!

        • says

          That’s good to know, Niki! I have been looking all over for them whenever I travel. I have to admit, I was kind of relieved when I didn’t find them in NYC last week. They would have been tricky to travel with for a long distance without anything to keep them cool on a long plane ride. I may have to suck it up and just order them!

  2. Paula says

    I love these, too! After ordering them first from VeganEssentials, I luckily now have the local Hy-Vee grocery store carrying them.

  3. Shell says

    I’m excited you had a link in the post for how to make frech fries! I know that sounds like a simple thing to make, but I wanted a tried and true method. I’m excited to give it a try.

    • says

      We make them all the time! Parchment paper is the key. David prefers sweet potato fries, and so we usually do a baking sheet of each, rotating levels half-way through.

  4. says

    I had not heard of these! When I was growing up decidedly unvegetarian, fish anything was my preferred route over beef any time. I will keep an eye out for these at our local stores. I’m blessed with stores around me with lots of options. The only difficulty is just finding something wonderful and then having the store discontinue it to bring in something newer.

    • says

      Yes, that’s always disappointing when you get hooked on a product only to have your store do away with it. Locally the least expensive place to buy Gardein products is Target. However, I’ve noticed that the last several times I’ve been there, their stock has been going lower and lower. Now there’s just one or two packages. I’m hoping that they aren’t discontinuing them!

  5. says

    I have an ongoing list (actually on paper!) of American products I just have to try when I’m visiting. These have been on there for a while along with the new Earth Balance cheese crackers and boxed mac and cheese and the Tofurky hot pockets and quiche. I think I need to rent somewhere with a kitchen next time I’m in the US because there’s no way the majority of the list will make it home in one piece.

    • says

      Yes, the boxed mac and cheese would definitely be easier to transport back to England than frozen fishless filets! Good luck with your private vegan food export business! 😉

  6. Amber says

    Oh, the side of crispies! That was my favorite thing of LJS’s. I’m going back to my childhood now. :]

    I have loved every gardein product I have tried now, so I look forward to finding these. And your husband is not alone in his love for the 7-grain tenders. They are just perfect!!

    • says

      They really are so good! We recently went to Manhattan for a week. Before we left, we stocked the freezer with those tenders, so that we’d have something easy and delicious to eat when we got home late from our return flight. You’ve got to love a no fuss meal that’s ready in 20 minutes after a long day of traveling!

  7. says

    I ordered my first bag from Vegan Essentials, the week before Memorial Day, and of course UPS messed up and left my order sitting in the warehouse over the long weekend so the ice packs were useless. There was much sadness when I opened that first box – what a waste (it also contained Upton’s seitan bacon and Follow Your Heart’s High Omega Blue Cheese dressing). I think I may have cried. Vegan Essential re-sent the order and (FINALLY!) I received everything in two days. Once I actually got to try them, oh my gosh, it was awesome. I have missed fish sandwiches over the past 2+ years, and these make for incredibly tasty ones! I’m now on my third bag (fourth, if you count the one that arrived all puffed up and warm in that first shipment) as I managed to snag some on a trip to Whole Foods and then discovered them at my local Giant Eagle.

    • says

      Oh, no! How sad to open a box of deliciousness that’s all gone bad! I’m glad that Vegan Essentials re-sent the order and that it all arrived okay the next time around.

  8. jill332 says

    I have been wanting to try these for a long time too! I’ve seen them advertised and on blogs but have not found them yet ……I live just outside of Portland, Oregon. They looks so good! I remember when Daiya cheese was first introduced I checked so many stores and couldn’t find it and now its everywhere….guess I need patience LOL…

    • says

      You’re so right! I remember that Daiya craze too. I was living in LA at the time, and I couldn’t get to one of the restaurants featuring it on their pizzas fast enough. It was a huge deal when they finally started selling it in blocks at Whole Foods. (That was before it was packaged and sold in shreds everywhere.) We’ve come a long way in a short amount of time! There are so many more vegan specialty products available now, and there seem to be more and more arriving every day.

      I hope your wait for the filets isn’t too long! 😀

  9. says

    I’ve been eyeballing these guys whenever I go to Whole Foods…but I have this fishy ice factor. Back in the day, seriously, your Long John Silvers’s story is mine. Right down to the stupid, delicious crunches. Now that you gave the hint about finishing them up in oil and said they weren’t too fishy-wishy I’m diving in. (Pun intended, of course) Thanks for sharing.

    And Target better not be getting rid of Gardein. That was a happy day when I found that glass case of deliciousness. My Council Bluffs store shouldn’t be too concerned with inventory since I snatch 2 or 3 boxes or bags nearly every time I darken the doors.

    • says

      I called my local Target about the lack of Gardein, and apparently it was just a warehouse issue. Phew! That’s the cheapest place locally to find it. (It’s over a dollar more at other stores.) So I’m glad it’s not going anywhere!

      If you end up trying the filets, let me know what you think!

  10. says

    I’m pretty sure I’ve seen Gardein products at my local veggie store, but I haven’t tried them yet. I’ve been a fish fan all my life, and living here on Maui where fresh fish is abundant, I’ve been mostly vegan for a while except for the occasional fresh fish. These Gardein “fish” look mighty tasty, and I was a fan of Long John Silvers as a kid, too. I’ll definitely have to pick up these next time I’m at the store. Thanks for the review.

  11. says

    Oooooh we love love love these in our house! We split the bag too, and serve with fries. We even bought a bottle of malt vinegar for these occasions. I think they are my favorite Gardein product. I certainly crave them more than the others!

    • says

      Malt vinegar is a total necessity! I was running a little low, and so I bought another bottle as back-up. I’d hate to be caught with none on hand! 😀

  12. Shauna says

    Oh man I am dying to try these. I have been looking all over Des Moines for months, and no luck! Crossing my fingers…

    • says

      I looked for them while I was in Des Moines, just out of habit. They didn’t have them at Whole Foods, Gateway Market, or the Hy-Vee by Valley West. I wonder if they’d have them at Campbell’s. They seem to get a lot of vegan specialty products. (They’re the one place in Iowa that carries my favorite sauerkraut – the garlic kraut from Gold Mine.) If not, you should ask your regular grocery store to carry them! Good luck and let me know if you find them!

      • Shauna says

        I found them! Campbell’s has them…along with a ton of other amazing vegan things that I can’t find anywhere else in town! I live by Trader Joe’s, so Campbell’s is a ways away…but now I know it’s worth it. They also have Treeline cheese, and coconut bacon!

        • says

          That is so awesome that Campbell’s has Treeline! According to the Treeline website, it’s available at New City Market; however, when I called New City, they said that they don’t actually carry it. I’m glad that Treeline is available somewhere in Iowa. I love the stuff! Do you know what flavors they have of it at Campbell’s?

          • Shauna says

            From what I remember, they have the classic and cracked black pepper in the hard cheese, and the scallion and herb-garlic soft cheese. Which now that I think it, I’m pretty sure that’s all the Flavors. Ha!

            • says

              Fantastic! I have been wanting to try their hard cheeses for a long time now, but I haven’t had a chance yet. I’ll definitely stop by the next time I’m in Des Moines! Thanks, Shauna!

  13. says

    I LOVE these! We don’t have a long john silvers (or it wasn’t a thing my family ever did), and I never really liked fish sticks or the like, but when I had the opportunity to try these at ExpoWest I was blown away.

    It’s actually funny (to me) that one of the few things we manage to get before y’all in the south is Gardein products (I always forget they are Canadian.) But I too have an ongoing list of products I want to try whenever I visit down here – and it’s often shocking to me how many things I can find in small town america vs my supposedly vegan-friendly Toronto.

    Have you tried these with tartar sauce? (so good) I think Follow Your Heart has one in the states, but I’m sure you could probably just make some too!

    • says

      I haven’t tried them yet with tartar sauce – only malt vinegar and lemon. Good call! I’ll have to pick up a jar of the one from FYH when I pick up a bag of the filets next time!

  14. says

    There’s something similar over here made by VBites, but I found it too fishy – this one sounds like it was more mild, so I’d be up for giving it a go. Bonus points to the clever person above who said tartar sauce. There’s no vegan one over here, but I bet it can’t be too hard to make.

  15. says

    Oh wow I didn’t know they made “fish fillets.” I’ve tried their “beef” tips, but I’ll have to keep an eye out for these. I used to love fried fish sticks and fries:)

    • says

      I haven’t tried their “beef” tips, but my parents (who aren’t vegan or vegetarian) loved them! I’ll have to buy a bag and try those sometime.

  16. says

    I have mixed feelings about these fishless fillets. On the one hand, I am the woman to survived on McDonald’s Filet O Fish sandwiches during her first pregnancy (confession time!), and like your love of Long John Silver’s, simply wanted to bring back that experience. On the other hand, the idea of a fishy taste and smell makes my vegan tummy lurch a little.

    I actually like them. I just don’t want them very often. Though next time I am going to try your fried version.

    • says

      That’s interesting, Debbie! I have foods like that too – where they’re just on the cusp of me liking them. I feel that way about chia pudding. I kind of like it, but I don’t need it terribly often.

  17. teri says

    Maybe I am missing something but I thought being vegan or vegetarian was about consuming clean, whole, healthful foods. Yet again and again I hear about all these fake foods that are designed to ‘sub’ for meat. First of all if you choose to no longer eat meat I encourage you to embrace it and actually focus on enjoying a totally plant based diet and stop trying to find fake meat. Secondly, products like this Garden Fishless junk is just that… junk … filled with soy, wheat, sugar, canola, and corn starch to name a few ingredeints. Not. Healthy. Whole. Clean. Food. What is the point? It is simply the same as any other junk food in a box. Same goes for Vegantoona and all the other man made foods out there. If you are craving meat, fish, or fowl so much that you would put this type of stuff in your body — maybe you should listen to your body and eat the real thing — grass fed, free range, organically raised meat, fish, or fowl is way better for you. Your body will thank you.

    • says

      Hi Teri,

      I didn’t go vegan because I wanted to eat “clean.” I went vegan, because I didn’t want to cause suffering to others when I had the choice to do otherwise. Like I said in the last sentence of this post, “With malt vinegar and a squeeze of lemon, it totally takes me back and no fish were harmed in the process.”

      The vast majority of my diet is whole foods-based, but on the occasions that I want something with a chewy bite, battered, fried, salty, or fatty, then something like these filets has the nostalgic quality without harming fish for it. I think of it as a bit of fun and a novelty. Like most vegans, I didn’t grow up eating a vegan diet. It was a change that I made when I learned about the animal agriculture industry and discovered that I didn’t want to take part in that. I didn’t go vegan because I never wanted to eat a cupcake or potato chips or because I was against the soy, wheat, sugar, canola, or corn starch that you mentioned. I am not interested in attaining some pie-in-the-sky, “perfect” diet. I am interested in saving the lives of cows, pigs, chickens, and fish.

      I have written about criticisms like the ones you noted in depth on my blog, because they are complaints that I see come up regularly in social media. If you’re interested in finding out more, you can find those posts here:

      If vegans don’t want to eat animals, why would they eat something that tastes like meat?
      My take on fake: Plant-based milks & meats
      My take on fake: Sausages & other shapes

      Ginna Messina, a registered dietitian, also wrote a post recently that covered this topic and I found interesting. She noted that there’s no evidence that health-focused vegans, who would avoid products like those above, have better health than ethical vegans, who might not. It’s called Pinto Beans or Tofurky: How food choices and motivations affect vegan health

      • says

        Thank you for your reply. I did read all of the articles you provided in your reply. I appreciate your position and obviously we should all eat what we choose. I became a vegetarian in 1983 as a senior in college. I transitioned to vegan when i read John Robbin’s book, “Diet for a New America” in 1987. I also forayed into Macrobiotics for a few years in the early ’90s. I choose this approach for both ethical, environmental, and health reasons. I grow many of my own vegetables organically and eschew some foods that are plant based as new research emerges based on my own pursuit of what is valid. For example, soy, which is far to often gmo, and is a phytoestrogen that acts as a hormone disruptor. The wheat that is available today is far removed from that our ancestors consumed and the increasing evidence that a heavily grain based diet is connected to Alzheimer’s causes me to limit my intake of wheat and other grains. I also avoid products that rely on corn syrup to give it flavor. I avoid consuming sugar except very occasionally as I believe it is for a treat and not daily consumption. Sugar in large quantities is also linked to Alzheimer’s. Just as there are deeply entrenched problems with the unethical treatment of animals there are serious problems with factory farming in this country. Not all food is equal. I do not claim to be perfect in my diet nor that I am healthier than people who chose food from a box or can. I do also take supplements and exercise regularly. I am 62 years old and have not been sick since I was a child, I do not take any prescription or over the counter medicines, I do not suffer from any allergies, my weight, cholesterol, blood pressure etc are all well without the ranges to demonstrate good health. I credit my vigilance on what I put in and on my body for these results. I do enjoy an occasional glass of wine! Namaste

    • Shauna says

      The term vegan means “no animal products” and vegetarian means “no meat”. It is not about eating clean. Obviously people can eat that way on a vegan or vegetarian diet, but that’s not implied. Plant-based implies healthy. I didn’t go vegan for health, and I didn’t give up meat and dairy because I didn’t like the taste. I eat healthy a lot of the time, but sometimes an indulgence is nice. That is great if you choose to avoid faux meats and processed food, but you can’t assume that everyone is the same as you.

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