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Meat Replacements

Don’t know what to use in place of meat in your favorite recipes? There are now widely available alternatives to just about every type of meat, including chicken-, pork-, fish-, and beef-style products. Plant-based meat substitutes have come a long way in both taste and texture since the days of the first veggie burger, thanks to the growing popularity of vegetarian diets. Faux meats are most often made from soy or wheat protein and are available fresh, dried, or frozen.

Check out our vegan shopping guide for a list of vegan meat alternatives that can give you the flavors you grew up with minus the cruelty to animals, and try the following meat substitutes for mouth-watering, cruelty-free, and heart-healthy meals.

Tofu: First used in China around 200 B.C., tofu has long been a staple of Asian cuisine. Tofu soaks up flavors and is best when marinated for at least 30 minutes or served with a flavorful sauce.

There are two types of tofu that you’ll want to try: fresh, water-packed tofu (always refrigerated) for when you want the tofu to hold its shape, such as when baking or grilling, and silken tofu, which is packed in aseptic boxes and usually not refrigerated, for pureing. Try firm or extra-firm tofu for baking, grilling, sautéing, and frying and soft or silken tofu for creamy sauces, desserts, and dressings. Silken tofu is used for making a heavenly chocolate cream pie but will fall apart if you try to make it into shish kebab. When baking tofu, cook it in a marinade so it will soak up more flavor. To give tofu a meatier texture, try freezing it for two to 24 hours and then defrosting it.

Press the water out of the tofu prior to preparing it. Wrap the tofu in a towel and set something heavy on top of it for at least 20 minutes, and it will be ready for marinades, sauces, freezing, and cooking.

Tempeh: This traditional Indonesian food is made from fermented soybeans and other grains. Unlike tofu, which is made from soybean milk, tempeh contains whole soybeans, making it denser. Because of its density, tempeh should be braised in a flavorful liquid (see recipe below) for at least one hour prior to cooking. This softens it up and makes the flavor milder.

After braising, you can dredge the tempeh in flour, corn meal, or a mixture of ground nuts and flour and panfry it. Then try adding it to a sauce and continue cooking it for an enhanced flavor. PETA’s famous Tempeh Creole recipe is an example of how satisfying tempeh can be.

Seitan: Also known as wheat gluten, seitan is derived from wheat and is a great source of protein. Try seitan as a chicken substitute in your favorite recipes. We recommend trying Seitan Piccata or Macadamia-Encrusted Seitan With Mango Broccoli Slaw. You can find seitan at most health food stores—but if you are feeling adventurous, you can make it at home.

Recipe: Homemade Seitan  

Whole Grains and Legumes

Whole grains are an excellent source of fiber, protein, B vitamins, and zinc. Legumes include pinto beans, navy beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, lentils, peanuts, and black-eyed and split peas. Use beans as a protein source in salads, soups, stews, and rice dishes. Check out our recipe section for delicious whole grain and legume recipes.

Don’t forget to check out our vegan shopping guide.

You may have been thinking about a vegan lifestyle for a while but didn’t know where to start. Well, it’s as easy as one, two, three! Here you can find out how to go vegan in three simple steps.

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  • Neeraj Kulkarni says:

    I think being a vegan is one of the best things we could do to our bodies in the recent years. As evolution took place our bodies went a gradual change from an animal metabolism to a human metabolism. Unlike animals, we humans are more adaptable to the vegan meals. Eating non-veg meals only means we are forcing our system to over-clock. In other words we are forcing our bodies to burn that fuel which is not meant to be filled in the first place.
    Thanks for the post.

  • Michele says:

    Thank you hon it was my first time with raw kale and it kinda tasted a liltte too much like parsley for my liking. I will try massaging it next time. If I can stop laughing long enough to do it (massaging your food wtf!!??!) xx

  • Ashie says:

    I was a big time non-vegetarian untill I came across few videos that showed how animals and birds are cruelly tortured and killed-they go through horrible pain… its a shame that people dont realize this. But this reality changed me completely – now I am vegan and my family including my dog is also vegan! And we all are healthier than ever. We need to stop these heartless murders of innocent animals…

  • phil lapp says:

    http://www.eatneat.com – a new healthy replacement for meat.

  • Chris says:

    I haven’t had meat or fowl for 35 years now. One day in my early 20′s I was eating a hamburger at work for lunch…..after I ate half of it a lightbulb went off and I thought to myself “how can I say I love animals when I kill them by eating them?”. Now….WHAT to do with the other half of sandwich? I ate it since the animal died for it anyway and to trash it would have meant that animal died for nothing. Ever since that moment, I have never eaten meat or fowl again. People ask me “what do you eat?” I answer them this way: “if you woke up tomorrow and there were no animals left on this planet to eat, would you starve to death?” And they say “no”….to which I reply “THAT’S what I eat”. Oh, I miss a few things but guess what? Hardly! Now when I see people eat meat or smell it cooking, it repulses me. But I don’t say anything to anyone else about it unless they ask me….their knowing about me being a a nonmeat eater I think is “enough” said. I have a vegetarian cousin who never could eat meat because it makes him sick.

  • Drake says:

    I have been vegetarian for about 20 years.(Want to go vegan soon)
    I eat meat replacements once in a while. Most of them out there are so unhealthy. They have MSG, dyes, and other harmful chemicals that I would rather eat a piece of steak. if you are going to eat meat substitute,look for one that is healthy, tasty and ready to eat out of the package.

  • Sexy Jellyfish says:

    Krissy going vegetarian is easy if you really want to do it. I tried once when I was your age, but was doing it just because I wanted to. I failed and was back on meat after 3 months. I have always been an animal advocate and I got older and learned more about the food industry and health benefits my internal drive became stronger and I just decided one day I was done. And I was. That is the same way I was able to become vegan… more knowledge = more power. I suggest going and researching some of the reason behind why you want to be a vegetarianism. Research how the farm industry works, the health benefits of less meat and how unsustainable farming is. Movies are easy so take a look at Hunger for Change (about processed foods), Food Inc (about the industrialization about farming) and Vegication (this movie is a little more extremist so be aware their are graphic images and it’s views are pretty one sided, but it gets you to think twice). Once you start with these movies you will find your passion for becoming a veggie/vegan and give you more motivation to move forward. I also suggest making a plan as to what you are going to give up and when. Doing the transition gradually makes things easier. It has taken me 3 years to be full vegan and had you asked me three years ago if I can do it, I would have laughed at you! Anyone can do it :)

  • Naama says:

    Becoming a vegetarian is the greatest choice I have ever made. I did it for the animals, they’re lives are more important than my eating habits. To be honest, I LOVE LOVE LOVE vegetarian food! Thank God! I love black beans with rice burrito. I LOVE light life (vegan) deli cuts. Fresh cut salad with soy feta cheese. I crave it! Now meat makes me sick, just looking at it. It’s TERRIBLE and murder to eat meat. Have strong will power and become a vegetarian. Save lifes, live well :)

    -Vegetarian of 1 year,2 months and counting!

  • Bob says:

    @Krissy

    You wont be depriving yourself of anything, I have been vegetarian for just under a year and to be honest I am healthier for it. All you have to do is it proper food. Veg stir fries, curries, roast vegetable pasta (with halloumi cheese if you aren’t going vegan), vegetable pies, veggie burgers, veggie sausage baguettes/rolls. Most if not all restaurants and takeaways offer vegetarian stuff, a lot of cakes, snacks and chocolate is vegetarian (but not vegan of course). The only thing you CANT eat is meat, literally eveything else you can find as a vegetarian alternative.

  • Krissy says:

    Iwant to be veqetarian . Im 16 & ijus . . . Im tired of eatinq meat . My cousins were watchnq the huntinq channel and it jus chanqes somethinq in me . Idnt know what to do . Meat is really startnq to make me sick on the stomach but idnt wanna jus stop eatnq meat & then be deprivinq my self if certain . . . Nutritions ? Idk , any tips ?

  • Animal Lover says:

    I am vegetarian (faithfully for 5 years now), however I am trying to find a way to be a complete vegan. I will not eat soy products because, the truth is, soy is NOT a health food. Soy (except tempeh), causes hormone imbalances. Something to do with estrogen production. At any rate, I want to stop eating eggs. Anyone know how to derive the B-12 naturally (not a pill), from another food? I would sure appreciate any sound advice.

  • Jim Jackson says:

    When in doubt about the value of removing meat from your diet, think of this observable fact of Nature: FIRE ONLY OCCURS IN ONLY 2 PLACES ON EARTH, NATURALLY: 1)Next to an active volcano, and 2)An occasional forest or grass fire caused by lightening… WE ARE NOT DESIGNED TO COOK OUR FUEL!

  • janis says:

    Morning Star and Bacco are vegeterian foods but I find a lot of these products have a lot of sodium that I don’t need. Any suggestion what else to look for in this catagory ?

  • Joel says:

    I have found a few recipes for meat replacements that allow you to control the sodium…. or in essence every aspect of your meat replacement…. to suit your needs 1 is 2 cups red beans blended smooth with 1.5 cups water 1T each garlic, onion powder mix with 2 cups of Wheat gluetin in a bowl, knead a few minutes, shape into a 3 inch loaf, bake at 350′ for 60-90 minutes till golden brown, remove from oven cool and slice to use as a meat replacement virtually no sodium.

  • MoBlues says:

    I am a manly man. I like guns, Harleys, and survival camping. However, I am older now and have health issues. The idea of eating just things that grow from the ground is not new to me. But, I just can’t get into the thing about “eating nothing that has a mother” or the bad treating of animals for food. And I don’t want my wife telling people that we are “vegans.” I do this diet for my health and it has radically changed my health issues and I am almost over the meat withdrawals. But, everything is to fresh and light, I feel wonderful after every meal…as I did in the jungles and wilderness. However, killing only what you eat is not a bad thing, WHEN you are in a survival situation. I don’t agree with the weekend, drunken tree sitters that shoot animals that wander up on a trash pile they set as a trap. To me that is BS. Hope you understand and it’s a pleasure to be able to comment.

  • Nora Lynch says:

    My own take is that these fake meats aren’t very good for you, as a rule. I suppose they’re okay for transitioning to a meatless diet, but people are much better off in the long run to simply change the foods you eat so that your pallet changes, too. Using mushrooms in place of meat in certain recipes can work as many mushrooms are “meaty” in texture, if not flavor. For protein, beans, hemp seeds, etc. are great resources. Learning to make delicious, meatless meals isn’t difficult.

  • Meg says:

    I have a question…I am a vegetarian and I eat meat substitues such as gardein, morningstar, boca, etc…but what I would like to know is…how do they make the fake meat tastes like meat. what is it flavored with to get the subtle meat like taste? I’ve checked out many websites and all I have found is how it is made and that it is “flavored”…flavored with what?

  • Kalindi says:

    I have recently committed to eat vegan and I have found that in many ways the transition is easy. Unfortunately, I am on a VERY sodium restricted diet and most meat replacement products (like fakin bacon and tofurkey) are too high in sodium for me to use. I tried making my own tempeh bacon from a recipe I found online and it didn’t turn out so well. Can anyone recommend a meat alternative that is not high in sodium? Or, does anyone have or know of a recipe to make your own substitutes? I’ve got the recipe for homemade seitan from this website, but what about deli meats and breakfast sausages? Any suggestions would be helpful…

  • sinisterroommate says:

    @huuhuu I’ve always thought about that as well. Although it’s doing no harm to animals per se, it makes our means of achieving so questionable. However, I do highlight how they mention “alternatives that can give you the flavors you grew up with minus the cruelty to animals”. I don’t speak for all, but for years people have grown up associating wholesome food satisfaction with non-plant products, and while they’ve been living like this since a very young age, this association is extremely difficult to change. In that saying, if toddlers were introduced to human flavoured solid foods real early, it wouldn’t be any different.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that there ought to be more taken into consideration regarding what is ethical about taste and satisfaction. Veganism today tries to build itself on top of society’s omnivorism, and those who are of decent maturity trying to enter veganism shouldn’t dismiss their past, but embrace it as a part of humanity and accept the status quo of society.

  • huuhuu says:

    I know this is really weird, but, is it ethically right to enjoy the taste of dead animals? Would it be right to enjoy the taste of human-flavoured veggie-based meat substitute if such a thing existed? Please don’t hate me. I’ve been a vegetarian for a couple of weeks now, and to me it seems weird, and I always think of this when I see meat substitute which ‘tastes like the real thing!’ YAY!

  • Let's tryout says:

    Jannine you are so right! Love the comment

  • The Whyte MaN says:

    @Not Billy Joel

    Transitioning from eating flesh to eating plant based proteins takes discipline. Making the product have cooked meat properties makes it easier for someone who has been conditioned to eat flesh.

  • Jannine says:

    Not Billy Joel,

    Vegans and vegetarians usually do not stop eating meat because they dislike the taste of meat.
    It has more to do with animal welfare, environmental concerns etc.

    As many as there are vegans there are reasons to opt out of eating animals or using products containing animal derivates and/er being tested on animals.

    My family for example, simply cannot find a meatproduct that is produced/raised in an animal friendly way and than killed humanely without stress,pain and horrible circumstances during transport.
    We find that, being christians, we should not consume the product of such cruelty.
    For the same reason we do not buy products that contain animal derived ingredients and/or are tested on animals.

    This meant we had to give up on favorite shampoos as well as much liked chickenburgers and minced beef.

    Finding vegetarian meat alternatives is very welcome to us as you would,no doubt, understand.

  • One Banana says:

    I will like to know about the replacements which I can make available at the shop in NZ. I am willling to substitute my meat unitt with vegetraian meat. Please send me more details and items as ssubbstitute for meat.

  • Not Billy Joel says:

    You know, for people who don’t eat meat… Vegetarians seem to be obsessed with meat shaped food.

  • Diane says:

    Hello friends: I’m allergic to beans, nuts, bananas, chocolate, mangoes, and oatmeal. The only sources of protein I can eat are garbanzo beans, quinoa, and brewer’s yeast. I live in Puerto Rico and we have almost no agriculture.

  • KingVidiot says:

    Don’t forget stir-fried chopped Jackfruit. It can make fake carnitas or pulled pork with the right sauce.

  • Ashley-P says:

    Joanna: My favorites include the frozen Gardein and Tofurky deli slices. They’re both available at Ralph’s grocery stores in Southern California.

  • Joanna says:

    I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 5 months and i’ve tried the fake meat from trader joes and other places and i cant seem to find the right veggie “meat” that tastes good. Plus i also use public transportation and Im tired of looking everywhere. Any tips? i live in San Ysidro, Ca

  • cathy says:

    @Eileen: Try Gardein products. Available at Earthfare & Lowe’s Grocery in my area. They have a website. All of their products are NON-GMO!!!! Please do as I did. I emailed Morningstar Farms & Boca urging them to switch ALL of their products to NON-GMO’S.

  • Sarah says:

    Gluten is actually in wheat, barley, rye and on oats (depending on where it is processed). Bulgar would have gluten, because it is made from Wheat. You will have to find other sources of protein (like the many other beans there are, as well as nuts and vegetables). Just remember, foods will not say just wheat gluten, if it says wheat/barley/rye, it contains gluten, even if it says may contain gluten.

  • Huntress says:

    I also have problems with soy and wheat gluten. The wheat gluten problem was a recent discovery (had a severe reaction when I made seitan for the first time). Now I’m more carefully reading the ingredients on my vegetarian meat analogues and discovering almost all of them have either soy or gluten or both.

    If this is of any help–while gardenburgers contain bulgur,they don’t contain either tvp (soy protein) or wheat gluten. I am also looking into Quorn–at least the Quorn crumbles (which do not list either tvp or gluten as an ingredient–note: although there is a gluten warning, gluten is not listed as an ingredient, so I assume the warning is there because it is processed along with other products containing gluten).

  • cedarlakedirect says:

    There are some great vegan meat substitutes offered at cedarlakedirect.com. I have had friends who eat meat tell me that they wouldn’t have known the burger is vegetarian, when in a spaghetti sauce.

  • Eileen says:

    We eat organic and I’m having trouble finding meat substitute products that have no GMOs or pesticides/herbicides.

  • s trader says:

    I am allergic to soy and wheat glutten. Are there any other alternatives?

  • Purple Turnips says:

    Please enjoy my Thanksgiving Hymn. To the tune of traditional tune ‘For the beauty of the earth”

    For the beauty of the Beasts
    They don’t want to be our Feasts
    For the beauty of the Fowl
    In the woods not in our Bowel
    Tofu, Tempeh and Seitan
    Let us fry it in our Pan
    Amen
    Happy Thanksgiving To All Creatures

  • Diana Weihs says:

    I am allergic to wheat, and am having a difficult time finding vegan products without this ingredient. I also cannot tolerate corn starch. As a cook, I have been experimenting with arrowroot and find it quite pleasing. I love tempeh, and all soy products, but don’t understand why so many vegan products are filled with wheat ingredients, when wheat is listed as one of the top five allergies.

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