Meat Alternatives for Your Favorite Recipes

With meat alternatives and proper substitutions, almost any dish can be successfully converted to veganism.


You might believe that giving up animal products means saying goodbye to your favorite recipes. This isn’t necessarily true. The good news is that nothing could be further from the truth. During my years of experience as a plant-based recipe developer and eater, I’ve discovered that almost any dish can be successfully veganized if you know how to make the appropriate substitutions.

Here’s a list of the most important ingredients to have on hand when converting any recipe to a plant-based diet..


Instead of Tuna, Try Chickpeas

Chickpeas, like lentils, are a great way to increase the nutritional value of a meal by substituting them for meat or poultry. It turns out that when coarsely mashed, they make an unexpectedly good substitute for tuna in the classic tuna salad sandwich.

They also make it simple to veganize a variety of chicken dishes, such as fried chicken. For example, in this cacciatore, begin with step 2 and work your way up. As soon as you get to step 4, you can substitute two 16-ounce cans of chickpeas for the chicken.

Instead of Beef, Try Mushrooms

As a result of their intense umami flavor and meaty texture, mushrooms are a popular meat substitute, especially when you think beyond the button. Large mushrooms or those that grow in dense clusters (such as maitake, lion’s mane, and chicken of the woods) can be transformed into steaks by searing them on a hot skillet coated with olive oil and a heavy object on top of them. As the water cooks out of the mushrooms and they compress, they become flat, dense, and distinctly steak-like in appearance.

Smaller mushrooms, such as cremini and shiitake, can be minced and substituted for ground beef in some recipes. For those who prefer not to use beef in their burgers, portobello mushrooms (grilled or baked) are the original stand-in for the meaty patty.

Instead of Braised Beef, Try Braised Seitan

Seitan is the most chewy and meaty of all the plant-based proteins. It is made from wheat protein that has been thoroughly rinsed to remove all of the starch. It’s typically found in the refrigerated case in the form of chunks or slabs that have been sealed in plastic to keep it fresh. It’s a great meat substitute in braises and stews because of its mild flavor. When thinly sliced, it can be used as a substitute for lunch meat.

Instead of Chicken Breast, Try Tofu

The world’s most versatile plant-based protein, like chicken breast, serves as a blank canvas for flavorings to be applied. Fish tacos can be recreated by breading and frying pieces of fish. It’s best served over rice after it’s been stir-fried with vegetables. Create brunch classics by crumbling it up and cooking it in the same way you would scrambled eggs. You could spend your entire life learning all of the different things you can do with tofu.

Instead of Ground Beef, Try Lentils

Lentils, which are low in fat, high in fiber, and a good source of protein, are the first choice of dieticians when it comes to substituting meat in your recipes. And they make a surprisingly good substitute for ground beef dishes such as tacos, lettuce wraps, and “meat” sauces, among other things.

If you want to step it up a notch, you can blend your cooked lentils with minced mushrooms and walnuts to create a dish that closely resembles meat in flavor. The mushrooms add a savory depth of flavor, while the walnuts add mouthfeel and fat to the dish.


Instead of Shredded Pork or Chicken, Try Jackfruit

Because of its neutral flavor and unusual texture, jackfruit has emerged as a popular plant-based ingredient in recent years. The fact that it shreds like pork or chicken makes it a good choice for vegan barbecuing. Green fruit in a can (such as the one available at Trader Joe’s) is what you’re looking for. The best texture is achieved by rinsing it thoroughly and then searing it until the moisture has been driven off before drenching it in sauce or spices.

It makes a good filling for tacos and barbecue sandwiches.

Instead of Ground Chicken or Pork, Try Soy Curls

Butler Soy Curls should be more well-known and well-liked than they currently are. They can be difficult to track down at times. Butler sells them in bulk, so I buy them in bulk from them. They only contain one ingredient: soybeans that are not genetically modified. When properly prepared, they have an uncanny resemblance to chicken in both appearance and texture when cooked.

You’ll want to soak them in a flavorful liquid (such as vegetarian chicken broth) and squeeze them dry before using them because they’re sold dry. Soy curls are an excellent addition to vegan fajitas and stir-fries. They can be fried in a bread crumb coating, similar to chicken fingers, if desired. If you pulse them in a food processor, they can be used as a substitute for ground chicken or ground pork.

Instead of Ground Beef, Try Plant-Based Ground Beef

This category has experienced a resurgence in recent years, thanks to the entry of high-tech newcomers such as Beyond Meat. These products have been designed to look, taste, and cook exactly like the real thing, and they do an outstanding job of it. Considering that they are more expensive than regular beef and typically contain almost as much saturated fat as regular beef, there are compelling reasons to consider alternatives to Beyond and Impossible. I gravitate toward the Hungry Planet, Lightlife, and Trader Joe’s versions of these products. Ground meat subs with zero grams of saturated fat have a great flavor and are low in calories.

Instead of Sausage, Try Plant-Based Sausage

There is a plethora of excellent plant-based sausage available on the market. Field Roast is my personal favorite, and I keep a supply in the freezer at all times. These products make it simple to veganize dishes such as sausage sandwiches, sausage and kale soup, and sausage-y pasta dishes, among other things. All it takes is switching to a plant-based version of the product.

Because of the vibrant spices, Soyrizo is particularly well suited for substituting for chorizo in a variety of dishes.

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