A guide to meat substitutes

There are lots of packaged vegan meats and meat substitutes you can buy but this guide is about using less processed foods to substitute for meat.

Here is the ultimate guide to vegan meats and meat substitutes.

1. Tofu

Tofu is a great substitute for meats including pork, chicken, beef, and seafood in recipes. It’s made from soybeans and is high in protein and calcium. Tofu has been a staple of Asian cuisine for ages, but most people think of tofu when they hear the words “vegetarian” and “vegan.” Tofu gets a bad rap as being soft, spongy, bland, and tasteless, but that doesn’t have to be true. Buy extra-firm tofu and press the heck out of it. Or, freeze it and then press it. Tofu can be as firm and chewy as meat. It also has an amazing ability to absorb flavours through spices and marinades, so be liberal with seasoning before cooking it.

2. Tempeh

Tempeh is firmer than tofu and has a more grainy texture. It is made from fermented soybeans and has a nutty flavour. It’s packed with protein as well as fibre, calcium, and vitamins. One of the advantages to cooking with tempeh is that you don’t have to press it. Just slice it, dice it, or grind it up in a food processor. Tempeh can be a bit bitter, however, try steaming it for a few minutes before using it. I find tempeh to be the perfect texture to emulate fish in recipes. It also is a great substitute for ground beef in chillies and other dishes.

3. Seitan (wheat Gluten)

If gluten is not an issue for you, turn to Seitan for the most meat-like texture. Seitan is processed wheat gluten and it is a great source of protein and can easily be made at home. Depending on how you flavour it, Seitan can be similar to chicken, beef, or pork. Seitan has a dense, chewy texture that can hold up to grilling, frying, braising, or anything else you want to do with it.

4. Textured Vegetable Protein

TVP or texturized vegetable protein is an inexpensive, easy to use ingredient. It’s dehydrated soy, and once you rehydrate it, you can do just about anything with it. It comes in granules or chunks. You can use it for ground beef dishes, to make cutlets, or delicious burgers and meatloaves. It is also listed sometimes as TSP or texturized soy protein.

5. Jackfruit

Yes, a fruit.  Jackfruit may be a healthy tropical fruit, but its texture and mild taste make it a wonderful stand-in for meat. If you want the jackfruit to be chewier, just roast it on a baking sheet for 15 minutes. Other than a slight sweet taste, almost like pineapple, the jackfruit is pretty much a blank canvas, so you can use whatever spice and flavours you like best – Indian, Mexican, Chinese, etc. It can be used to make pulled “pork” or BBQ jackfruit.

6. Mushrooms

When you want that savoury, meaty taste, that Umami, mushrooms are the way to go. Their flavour is rich, earthy, and meaty, especially Portobello or Chestnut mushrooms. They are healthy and filling and can replace meat in any recipe.

7. Lentils

Lentils have always been a stand-in for meat since the beginning of veganism. Lentils are hearty and can replace ground beef easily. Lentils come in a variety of colours such as green, red, brown, and black. They cook up quickly, are inexpensive, and a small amount goes a long way.

8. Beans and Legumes

Beans and legumes are inexpensive, healthy, filling, and there are so many to choose from: black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, adzuki beans, chickpeas, split peas, peanuts and black-eyed peas, to name just a few. Beans make hearty soups, stews, and chillies that will taste meaty without the meat.

9. Quorn

Is type of protein-rich food made from an edible fungus and used as a meat substitute called Mycoprotein. It is great as a direct substitute for mince and chicken fillets, as well as the full range of products such as sausages that is available. Quorn is probably the easiest ingredient for someone to use when cooking a vegetarian meal when they are unsure of what to do.

Beware most Quorn products are not suitable for vegans as they contain small amounts of egg and dairy products.

10. Other Foods

Other foods that can substitute for meat include aubergine, cauliflower, potatoes, beets and coconut. Aubergine has a rich, meaty taste and it’s very versatile. Cauliflower is highly underrated even as a vegetable but amazingly, it can also stand-in for meat. Beets are nature’s sweeties. They are sweet and delicious and perfect for salads, but they have another side to them. Beets are also earthy and work well in savoury dishes that usually have meat. Potatoes are hearty, satisfying and versatile. You can mash them, fry them, boil them, bake them, or roast them.

Claire Edwards