Eating healthy nowadays does not have to be a debate between eating delicious food or eating what is good for you. There are plenty of ways to get amazing flavor and meat like texture from vegetables and meat substitute foods like tofu! There can be plenty of reasons to make vegan or vegetarian dishes, even if you are not vegan or vegetarian. Diversifying your diet and having days when you exclude meat could provide numerous health benefits. A lower red meat intake can have health benefits like lower blood-pressure, lower cholesterol, and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Luckily, you do not have to waste time researching the best meat alternatives. The food researchers here at Machika have come up with some of the best meat substitutes for making vegan or vegetables dishes!
Best Vegetable / Fruit Replacements for Meat
Meat replacements and substitutes typically come in two categories. One includes processed plant-based meat, and the other contains vegetables that can be cooked to taste like meat. The one thing that sort of breaks the mold is tofu because it is minimally processed from soybeans and not really meant to replace meat like an impossible burger. However, the first category we will be focusing on are vegetables that can serve as replacements. Some of the best vegetables you can cook to get similar nutritional value and taste of meat protein include:
- Black Beans
- Garbanzo Beans
While we can’t go over all the different types of vegetables you can use, the listed above are some of the most popular. Below, I’ll go into more detail about some of these vegetables the exclusive fruit on the list. Not only can all the foods listed above serve as delicious food on their own, each can be customized to taste meatier.
Jackfruit is a fruit in the same species as mulberries and figs. It is popular worldwide, but not as well known as the other vegetables on this list. This could have to do with its savory flavor. Many people expect fruit to be very sweet so a large, spiny, savory fruit is not exactly what most people expect. However, because of its unique flavor, it is perfect for replacing meat in dishes. Vegetarian and vegan dishes often use jackfruit to simulate meatier flavors and tones like chicken or beef! For example, you can find jackfruit recipes that make vegetarian butter chicken!
The fruit if prepared by splitting the hard shell like exterior and getting at the gooey insides. The fruit consistency is very similar to the sinewy texture of beef. Depending on how you cook it, you can achieve many types of textures with jack fruit making it a very versatile fruit for cooking vegetarian and vegan recipes.
Lentils, Black Beans, Chickpeas, and Garbanzo Beans
These beans all have varying flavors, textures, and uses in vegetarian cooking but all function similarly. Beans are a fantastic choice for replacing meat. Not only because beans can be made into numerous types of food like vegan burger patties, they are also a great source of protein. Combined with other sources of plant-based protein, you can get complete proteins without eating any meat.
Some of the common dishes you can cook with lentils include lentil soup. Rather than making a beef or chicken soup, lentils provide a creamy and thick soup similar to a meaty stew. You can serve nutritious and delicious lentil soups with a side of rice and bread topped with greens for a complete meal.
Chickpeas and garbanzo beans have similar taste and texture so they are often interchangeable when making vegan or vegetarian dishes. If you like pasta, then you will enjoy using these beans as meat substitutes in your dishes. Chickpeas and garbanzo beans can make meatless meatballs that go perfectly with pasta like spaghetti.
Eggplant is another versatile vegetable that can replace meat in many recipes to make vegan or vegetarian dishes. As a meat alternative, it is a great choice that can fit various cooking methods. For example, you can stir-fry eggplant in a pan with seasoning like soy sauce and teriyaki sauce to make a delicious entrée. You could even bread the eggplant after cutting into strips to get a something closer to the taste of friend teriyaki chicken.
You can also grill eggplant outside with some barbecue sauce to get a barbecue vegan dish. The natural smoke flavor will do a lot of the work and make it taste closer to real meat barbecue. You can grill and shred the eggplant to get something closer in texture and flavor to a shredded pork. With meat alternative vegetables, you get the advantage of being able to cook the veggies in different ways for the specific dish you want to make.
Processed Plant Based Meat Alternatives
The second category on this list includes the meat alternatives most people are used to seeing. Since it can be difficult to cook vegetables to taste like meat, why not just buy foods already made into meat alternatives. For example, black bean burgers are a popular vegetarian alternative to beef burgers. However, turning beans into patties can be time consuming. Instead, you could buy plant-based patties at your local grocery store! Many different brands make black bean beef patties so the choice is up to your preferences. Some popular brands include Morningstar, and Gardein. Some of the most popular types of processed plant-based meat alternatives include:
- Beyond Meat
- Plant-based sausages
Many brands make tofu, so the specific source does not matter as much as the type. Tofu comes in varying firmness and flavors. Some tofu comes with no flavor besides the natural taste of the product. What makes tofu unique is that it takes on a lot of the flavor of whatever it is cooked in. You can make tofu taste similar to meats simply by cooking it in the same spices and sauces. Tofu can also come in already made flavors like tofurkey. This is mostly a mix of tofu, herbs, spices, and wheat protein. The result is a tofu like product that tastes like turkey without having to add additional spices.
Beyond Meat and Plant Based Sausages
Probably the most well-known meat alternative next to tofu, Beyond Meat is a rather new invention compared to meat alternative vegetables or tofu. Beyond Meat is simply the brand name. What they sell are premade meat alternatives already in the form that you need it to cook a recipe. For example, if you are making burgers, then you can buy Beyond Meat premade plant-based patties! This takes a lot of the hassle of eating healthy and lowering your intake of meat since most of the work is already done for you. Beyond Meat also makes plant-based sausages, like many other companies, that can make for great pasta dishes, soups, omelettes, and more.
A lesser known meat alternative is tempeh. It is similar to tofu in that it is a product of soybean fermentation but is different in how it is processed. Tempeh is minimally processed, so you get the whole bean rather than a solid congealed product like tofu. It also has arguably a stronger flavor. However, just like tofu, it often takes on most of the smell and flavor of the spices used. Tempeh is popular friend and has a nutty like taste. When friend in sauce, it can look like chicken or cuts of beef.
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As you can see, eating healthy can come in more ways than black beans and rice or scarfing down only broccoli with every meal. You can develop a delicious and diverse diet by incorporating more vegan or vegetarian dishes in your diet. At Machika, we believe living a happy and healthy life also means eating healthy! Sharing delicious foods with your family and friends are moments you will want to cherish forever. You can click here to check out our other cooking hacks articles to familiarize yourself with new foods and get tips to help you around the kitchen.