What are the best options for meat alternatives? Is there such a thing as inexpensive plant-based or vegan meat? How do I swap out meat if I hate the taste of tofu, can’t do soy, or am gluten-free?
These are just a few of the questions that may arise if you’re dipping your toes into the world of plant-based meat alternatives.
There are many meat substitutes out there, and this article explores seven options that will please any palate, dietary needs, and preferences!
But First, Why Should You Be Paying Attention to Plant-Based Meat Alternatives?
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were plenty of reasons to consume less meat and fewer animal products in general.
The undeniable health perks of eating less animal products, the way it helps out climate crisis, and concerns over animal rights have all contributed to the rise in popularity of eating plant-based and looking for meat substitutes regardless of whether you’re vegan or not.
But isn’t it still just a fringe movement? Actually, a whopping quarter of millennials now identify as either vegetarian or vegan, so things are changing fast.
How COVID-19 Changed Things
The pandemic brought up new issues for the meat industry as some of the worst outbreaks occurred in meat plants, where workers faced (and continue to face) unsafe conditions.
And as many meat plants have been forced to shut down, the resulting meat shortage has prompted many to explore alternative meat. In the last week of April, plant-based meat sales were up 200 percent compared to the same period last year.
Thinking you could never go vegan? The good news is, you don’t have to! Even inching your way toward incorporating more alternative meat and reducing your consumption of meat makes a difference!
Here Are 7 Meat Alternatives to Try:
Because eating plant-based meat alternatives should be easy and totally delicious!
1. Beyond and Impossible Burgers
Perfect for when you’re craving that juicy hamburger, Beyond Meat burgers and Impossible burgers are widely regarded as the pick when you’re craving the real deal (and both have comparable amounts of protein with a way smaller carbon footprint to boot).
Dietary Information: Impossible burger patties are fully gluten-free, and Beyond burgers (as well as their other products) are both soy- and gluten-free (and still as high or higher in protein than a traditional burger – win win!).
2. Seitan Products
Gluten, the protein in wheat, happens to be extremely high in protein. When you combine it with broth, spices, and flavoring and either steam or bake it, it turns into a loaf-like meat alternative that can stand in for chicken, steak, sandwich meat, etc.
There are also many store bought options for seitan meat alternative if you’d rather not make your own.
Dietary Information: Seitan mock meats have that chewy, hearty bite similar to actual meat plus tend to be even higher in protein than soy-based options. It’s a great option if you can’t have soy products, but skip it if you don’t do gluten.
Seitan recipe to try: Sensational Smokey Seitan Kebabs With Peanut Sauce
Craving a pulled pork sandwich? This fruit is basically meat alternative magic. Jackfruit is just what it sounds like – a fruit – but it has a strangely pulled-pork texture when cooked and shredded.
Dietary Information: Much like tofu, jackfruit takes on the flavor of anything you cook it in, so it’s great, for example, slow-cooked in teriyaki or BBQ sauce for hours and scooped into tacos or sliders. Jackfruit is soy and gluten free since the only ingredient it contains is the fruit itself.
You’re definitely going to want to try this recipe: Gluten-Free, Vegan BBQ Jackfruit Tacos
4. Other Vegetables (Carrots, Mushrooms, etc.)
As they say, necessity is the mother of invention! Carrot bacon anyone? Banana blossom “fish?” Mushrooms sautéed into a meaty crumble? The sky’s the limit when it comes to turning veggies into plant-based meat alternatives!
Dietary Information: Veggies provide healthy, minimally-processed, allergen-free options. They tend to be cheaper and lower in calories than more processed meat alternative AND many pack a surprising amount of protein per serving!
Looking for veggie meat alternative inspo? This Vegan Chickpea “Chicken” Salad Recipe Is About to Be Your New Favorite Lunch
We couldn’t not mention the classic plant-based protein – tofu! If you’ve never tried tofu or had a bad experience in the past, the secret is in the seasoning, which can transform the bland-on-it’s-own fermented soybean block into literally anything. This is why tofu is so versatile to cook with!
Dietary Information: Tofu contains protein, calcium, essential amino acids and much more, making it a nutrient-dense meat substitute. While there are many health benefits of tofu, there are also some concerns around it’s hormonal effects for some people when consumed in large amounts.
Tempeh is the slightly cooler, funkier cousin of tofu. Also made from fermented soybeans, tempeh has a nuttier, slightly sharper taste and denser texture.
Dietary Information: Tempeh requires none of the prep of pressing out liquid that tofu needs and has more of a bite to it. Like tofu, it’s easy to find, inexpensive, very high in protein, and versatile – great in tacos, as bacon, or in salads or soups.
7. Plant-Based Meat Alternatives
Dietary Information: There is an ever-increasing amount of plant-based meat substitutes on the grocery store shelves. You can grab lunch “meat” slices, frozen “meatballs,” “fish” fillets, “chicken” strips or “burger” patties when you need a quick plant-based meal. Note that these tend to be more heavily processed.
Here’s to Eating More Plants as Meat Substitutes!
Regardless of your taste or dietary needs, with all these delicious, affordable, and protein-packed plant-based and vegan meat alternatives, don’t be surprised if you enjoy Meatless Mondays so much that you turn it into a regular thing!
Leave us a comment and let us know your favorite meat substitute!