10 Tasty Plant-Based Meat Alternatives
Can meat alternatives ever truly match the real deals? From plant-based chicken to tofu alternatives, we look at the tastiest options.
A relative of the fig that's long been popular in Indian and South Asian dishes, jackfruit has a meat-like consistency that's often compared to pulled pork. So, it's a great substitute for dishes that use pulled meat, such as tacos, chili, stews, and soups. It may lack the protein you get with meat, but jackfruit makes up for it with plenty of potassium, vitamin C, and fiber. If you can't find the whole fruit at your local market you can try Trader Joe's, which has canned jackfruit.
Made from whole fermented soybeans, tempeh gets some toughness and some tang from the fermentation process. Its nutty flavor and firm texture have its fans and a few detractors. But all agree that tempeh is good for frying and grilling, sliced thick for a meatier meal or thin for a more bacon-like bite. Tempeh is a particularly good substitute for meat because it's good at absorbing flavors; marinated tempeh can give a true meat-like experience. Plus, tempeh has protein, vitamin B, fiber, and other nutrients.
Easily the best-known meat substitute, tofu is made from curdled soybeans and available at different levels of firmness: usually silken, soft, medium, firm, and extra firm. Softer tofu is good for dishes such as egg scrambles while harder tofu works well as a ground meat substitute. Tofu is rather bland, without much flavor on its own, but it does soak up the flavor of what it's cooked with, making it good for stir-fries and taco mixes in which you might normally add meat.
Made from wheat gluten and commonly referred to as "wheat meat," seitan is the opposite of what you want to eat if you have a gluten-free diet. Everyone else can enjoy this great meat substitute that has a texture that's similar to chicken. That firmness makes seitan work great on the grill, while ground and shredded seitan work well with tacos. What flavor seitan does have is similar to earthy mushrooms, but seitan mostly gets its flavor from what it absorbs and what it's seasoned with.
Cauliflower as a meat substitute? If you have your doubts you've probably only had cauliflower in salads or on a vegetable plate. You've probably never tried cauliflower buffalo wings. Of course, cauliflower can't entirely replace or replicate the meaty grease-tastic sensation of sinking your teeth into a deep-fried chicken wing. But the cauliflower versions stand on their own. Battered, baked, slathered in tangy hot sauce, and served with blue cheese dressing for dipping, cauliflower wings might make you a convert.
There are lots of commercial plant-based meat substitutes out there, and seemingly more every day. But Impossible Burgers, which first went on sale in supermarkets in 2016, have shown they have staying power. The company's investors Serena Williams and Jay-Z didn't hurt the hype! If you want a burger that smells, sizzles, and savors like real meat, Impossible will deliver. And in a healthy way, as they're made mostly with soy.
While they may lack the sizzle of plant-based burgers, lentils get points for overall versatility; you can get brown, red, yellow, black, or green lentils. With an earthy texture, lentils go anywhere ground meat does, in meatballs, pasta sauce, stir-fries, salads, chili, tacos, wraps, and many more dishes. And yes, you can mash lentils into patties to make lentil burgers.
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Beyond Meat Sausage
Similar to Impossible Burger, Beyond Meat is known for its beef-like burger patties. But the sausages may be the best Beyond Meat offerings, plump, juicy links available in varieties including the Brat Original, Hot Italian, and Sweet Italian. Plus, Beyond's breakfast sausages in classic and spicy selections. One bite of any of these spiced-to-perfection plant-based sausages and you may never go back to meat versions.
Gardein Chicken Tenders
Gardein is a great brand for lots of plant-based meat alternatives, from jerky and fish substitutes to beef and pork options. But perhaps none offer the meaty experience as well as their moist, crispy, and crunchy chicken tenders. Made from mostly whey protein and wheat gluten, Gardein tenders may not have the full flavor of chicken. But with the right dipping sauce, you may not notice the difference.
Sure, chickpeas aren't all that sexy. They don't have the crispiness of chicken tenders or the juicy goodness of Impossible burgers. But chickpeas bring utility. These little wonders can go into almost any dish, in soups, stews, salads, and much more. Mush them to make burgers or blend them into hummus. Or enjoy them solo; roasted chickpeas make a great crunchy snack!
Are you ready to give mock meat a try? You just might find that vegan meat substitutes and other plant-based meats can satisfy your craving for choice cuts.
Written by William McCleary for Knockaround.