Last January, the Herbivorous Butcher in northeast Minneapolis opened its doors, and took the world by storm. The brother and sister duo of Aubry and Kale Walch have taken mock meats and cheese to a whole new level. Thanks to diligent work on making their mock-meat recipes more appealing than most commercial faux products, and a tireless stint of sampling at Minneapolis farmers markets, Herbivorous Butcher has taken off.

If you are wondering what’s in their “ribs” and “chicken,” rest assured. “It’s all ingredients you can buy at the co-op,” said Kale Walch. “We make every small batch by hand, tasting each one. We could easily become a big manufacturer, but we would rather put our butcher shops in other cities and let them have the same experience we have here.”

The Herbivorous Butcher has struck such a chord that it’s planning to open more outposts. While they cannot announce anything yet, California may be next.

The Herbivorous Butcher sold 3,627 pounds of mock meat in December, and is poised to keep growing.

“People like the familiar butcher case — maybe they grew up buying sliced meat by the pound. Our customers are probably 60 percent omnivorous, coming in either to try to switch or just to swap out for Meatless Monday. Young people get their parents to try it; lactose-intolerant people come for the cheese,” said Kale Walch.

The meats, made from high-gluten wheat flour, beans, grains and seasonings, are just as protein-rich as meat. A single Korean rib, their most popular meat, has 280 calories and 30 grams of protein.

Those omnivores don’t have to learn any new tricks to make a meatless meal. “For the most part, you can directly swap out our products for any animal food. It’s our intention to make it very easy,” said Aubry Walch.

For today’s easy pasta recipe, I used the Italian sausage links from Herbivorous Butcher, though you can find mock sausages in most grocery stores. (Field Roast is one of the better ones.)

Sliced and sizzled in olive oil, the spicy sausage is a chewy counterpoint to tender pasta and veggies. If you want to sprinkle it with some nutritional yeast, breadcrumbs, or even Parmesan cheese, you can.

Who knows, you may just win over that meat lover in your family.

Cavatappi With Kale and Italian Sausage

Serves 4 (about 6 cups).

Note: This easy recipe is a great way to showcase your tasty vegan sausage. Don’t be tempted to use less olive oil; it’s the key to carrying the flavor of sausage, garlic and lemon throughout the dish. Blanching and drying the kale leaves serves two purposes: It tenderizes the kale and keeps it from adding water to the sauce, which would dilute the flavor. If you want to add a sprinkling of vegan or regular Parmesan, that would be delicious, too. From Robin Asbell.

• Salt

• 1 bunch Tuscan kale

• 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil

• 2 garlic cloves

• 2 tsp. fresh lemon zest

• 2 links vegan Italian Sausage (about 7 oz. or more)

• 1 c. grape tomatoes, halved

• 8 oz. cavatappi pasta or rotini

• Freshly cracked black pepper


Put on a big pot of water to boil, and salt it generously.

Strip the leaves from the stems of the kale and reserve the stems for another use or discard.

When the water boils, drop the kale leaves into the water and stir with tongs for 60 seconds, then use the tongs to remove them to a colander. Drain and rinse with cold water. When cool, squeeze out the liquid and spread the kale on a clean towel, then roll up into a tube shape so the towel can absorb any remaining water. Let stand for about 5 minutes, then unroll the towel and chop the kale into small bite-sized pieces.

In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir, then add the lemon zest. Stir for a minute, until the garlic is fragrant, don’t let it brown. Add the sausage pieces, tomato halves and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and raise the heat to medium-high, and stir until the tomatoes have puckered and shrunk a bit, about 4 minutes.

Cook the pasta and toss with the contents of the pan and crack black pepper over it to taste, turning the pasta over medium heat until all the pasta is coated with oil. Taste and correct seasoning, if desired. Serve warm.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 465 Fat 18 g Sodium 830 mg

Carbohydrates 57 g Saturated fat 3 g Total sugars 4 g

Protein 20 g Cholesterol 0 mg Dietary fiber 5 g

Exchanges per serving: 1 vegetable, 3 starch, ½ carb, 1 ½ lean protein, 2 ½ fat.

Robin Asbell is a cooking instructor and author of “Big Vegan,” “The Whole Grain Promise” and “Great Bowls of Food.” Find her at