Which Imitation Products Do You Keep In Your Kitchen?

There are a lot of imitation foods out there. Do you prefer any over the real thing?

The other day I was thinking about my love of imitation crab. In fact, there's some in my freezer right now; I should probably defrost it for a snack later. But then that got me thinking about the fact that crab isn't the only food out there with a delicious and widely available imitation. There are all sorts of great options, like imitation cheese and imitation vanilla, non-dairy creamer, and really interesting things like mock duck.

Obviously, I understand the appeal of things like imitation crab, since actual crab is quite expensive. We've even gotten to a point with fake crab where it's highly prized as a dish in and of itself, and that's cool as hell. In some cases, the imitation version of a product, like vanilla, creates an end result that is nearly indistinguishable from the real thing, depending on how you use it. (Though thankfully, there are no beaver butts involved these days.)

It's time to stop thinking of "imitation" as inferior. Many times, the imitation comes about for good reason, whether that reason is related cost (imitations are cheaper), allergens (they can be made from whatever doesn't make you sick), animal welfare (save the cattle!), shelf stability (that canned nacho cheese has a long life ahead of it in your pantry), or any number of other factors.

Do you regularly keep imitation products in your kitchen, and if so, what are they? Let us know in the comments. I'll be over here snacking on some partially defrosted crab stick.