Tofu is probably the most popular vegan meat substitute and has been a staple in many Asian cuisines for hundreds of years. One of the reasons its popularity has endured is that it’s incredibly versatile: it absorbs all the flavours and fragrances of the ingredients you cook it with. You can also prepare it in multiple ways, from frying it to smoking it. Best of all, it’s filled with essential amino acids, as well as being a source of calcium and iron. Try tofu as crispy nuggets, as ‘scallops’, deep-fried ‘chicken’, or go traditional and serve it up in ramen or in a stir fry.
"Tofu is probably the most popular vegan meat substitute."
Tempeh is another soy-based vegan alternative, but it’s generally a lot firmer than tofu, and because it’s also been fermented, it has a nuttier flavour. Along with being packed with protein, tempeh also comes with essential amino acids and a host or probiotics, so your gut will thank you. Tempeh works especially well as a fish substitute, but it’s also a great sub for chorizo, meatballs, and BBQ ‘ribs’.
Seitan is a wheat-based protein, containing both iron and selenium, and is often used as a vegan meat alternative to chicken. It’s great if you’re craving a chicken stir fry or barbequed skewers. It’s an especially good option if you cannot eat soy-based products such as tofu and tempeh.
Quorn is another good protein source and is very versatile. Made from mycoprotein, this product has been used to make sausages, mince, scampi, and chicken nuggets. You will need to make sure this product is listed as vegan because sometimes the binding agent used contains egg. They have vegan alternatives on many of their products which use potato protein as a binder instead.
When it comes to the world of vegetables, they don’t get meatier than mushrooms. The mighty portobello mushroom has graced many a burger bun as a vegan meat substitute, but mushrooms can do more. They have that indefinable ‘umami’ flavour and work well as a sub for beef in a stroganoff, as the main filling in enchiladas, or served steak-style with chimichurri.
"When it comes to the world of vegetables, they don’t get meatier than mushrooms."
Missing pulled pork? Jackfruit is eerily similar to this popular North American dish, and it’s pretty much impossible to tell the difference between the two. For a protein source it’s not great, so it’s advisable not to use this as your main vegan meat substitute, but what it lacks in protein it makes up for in fibre and potassium. It’s also low in calories if you want a lighter option for dinner.
Cauliflower is the king of substitutions – not only is it used as a vegan meat alternative, but it has also been used as a sub for rice, egg, pizza dough and even potatoes! However, it is at its best as a meat substitute, because this versatile veggie is delicious when served as deep-fried buffalo bites, as ‘meatballs’, in a curry, or as a steak.
"Cauliflower is the king of substitutions!"
Chickpeas, beans and lentils are high in protein, versatile to cook with, and extremely hearty. Lentils can be used in a stew, or as a mince substitute in pies or in burgers. Beans make for delicious chilis and as the main ingredient in tacos or enchiladas. The humble chickpea has a high calcium content, tons of fibre, and is a huge staple in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine: think falafels and hummus.
Ethical eating doesn’t have to be boring or tasteless. Thanks to the growing popularity of vegan diets, there’s a whole world of delicious vegan meat alternatives out there to try. Have fun in the kitchen and experiment to find your new favourite!