Best Meat Substitutes for a Vegan Diet

Spaghetti and meatballs without the meat? Hakka noodles without chicken or shrimp? Roast turkey without turkey meat? Can certain foods act as replacements to raw meat, in taste and nutritional value? For those following a vegan way of life, such meat substitutes do exist, scroll below to learn which are they.
NutriNeat Staff
Meat, be it egg, chicken, pork, beef, lamb, or fish, it's not for everyone. Various religious and cultural beliefs around the globe prevent its consumption in some communities. Then there is the vegan way of life. Vegans do not eat any animal products or by-products and this includes eggs and dairy products as well. But the nutritional value of meat, such as a high protein content and presence of minerals like iron should be made up in a vegan's diet.

In addition to vegans, individuals looking to cut down on their meat intake for health or those with meat allergies require the nutrients of meat as well. So are there food items that can replace meat in recipes or dishes but still retain all meat's nutritional benefits? Yes, they are vegan meat substitutes, specially designed to suit a vegan diet plan, with no compromise on the presence of nutrients.

Top Meat Substitutes

Tofu

Preparation
Trust the Chinese to come up with one of the most popular meat substitutes known today, that is perfect for a vegan lifestyle. First you need soy milk. It should be coagulated and then pressed and processed to form a thick curd. The finished tofu product is a result of different pressing techniques, based on what type of tofu is to be made. The 2 main variants of tofu is fresh tofu, made from soy milk only and processed tofu, which is processed of fresh tofu. From them, stem the sweet, salted, soft silken and firm dry tofu varieties.

Nutrition & Yumminess
What's not to love about tofu's nutritional values? Less calories, little or no fat and power-packed with protein and iron. Tofu is an ideal protein-rich vegetarian food source. A lovely, firm white block of tofu is a very versatile ingredient to use in all your vegan recipes. Tofu has no odor or taste on its own but will catch any sauce or spice or flavor, bind firmly to it and easily blend into the dish. It has a nice firm consistency and reacts well to hot and low cooking temperatures.

How Is It Used
A better question is where can it not be used. Tofu can be cut up into cubes or strips and added to stir-fry dishes, noodles and rice. It can be cooked with gravy as a curry or thick pasta sauce or added to soup. Use it grated or crumbled in salads, enchiladas and pizzas. It retains its shape during and after cooking, so you can make burgers, kebabs and shape it into any style you desire. Tofu can be used in sweet dishes (opt for the silken, sweet variety). A by-product of tofu production, tofu skin is similar in composition to thin, yellowish or creamy sheets. It has the easily adaptable taste of tofu and a rubbery texture, so it is also used as a vegan meat substitute, especially for chicken recipes.

Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)

Preparation
This product is also known as soy meat or soya meat. TVP is usually made from soy flour or concentrate with a high protein value. The proteins are heated to a high temperature, where they form a fibrous molten mass. This is performed at high pressure and on coming into contact with air, the mass puffs up into a solid dry substance. TVP is very cheap to make and in lesser-developed countries, is an ideal meat supplement or replacement for those who can't afford to eat meat. It is preserved and packed in a dehydrated form.

Nutrition & Yumminess
This vegan product is also low in fat and cholesterol. It has a very high protein content, equivalent to that of meat. When dehydrated, it has a long shelf life and can be preserved. On adding water, it must be consumed within 7 days. Soy meat can be flavored or unflavored. It is very versatile and will adapt well to your seasoning and spicing process, even if pre-flavored.

How Is It Used
TVP is delicious when used in minced or ground meat recipes like burritos, lasagna, fajitas and bolognese. Such rich, flavorful dishes are just enhanced by the soft yet firm feel of this soy product. It picks up flavors and taste and can be molded into different forms easily. So whether you want to make spaghetti and meat balls or chili, soy meat is the right choice.

Wheat Gluten

Preparation
This is also known as wheat meat, seitan or gluten. Instead of soybean, wheat is the primary constituent. Wheat flour dough is washed thoroughly, removing all starch and leaving the gluten or protein composite behind. This thick mass should be cooked first and then used in food.

Nutrition & Yumminess
High in protein, low in fat are seitan's main nutrient points but its real highlight is in its taste. The true stringy and tough texture of meat is present in seitan, through texture and its natural flavor.

How Is It Used
Due to its thick texture, seitan is ideal for simulated meat recipes such as roast turkey, chicken or duck. It is also precooked and packed as quick protein-rich snacks. With added ingredients and items, seitan acts as a great binder, just like meat in salads, slaws and sandwiches.

Tempeh

Preparation
This Indonesian product has quickly gained standing and kudos from the vegan community for being an ideal meat substitute. Whole soybeans are dehulled, soaked for a long time to make them soft and cooked for a little while. The beans are fermented at 30ยบ C and then a thick, cake like mass is formed.

Nutrition & Yumminess
The presence of the whole soybean as opposed to tofu made from soy milk, results in tempeh being a more nutritious product than tofu. It is rich in vitamins like Vitamin B12, has a very high protein content and is fibrous in texture. It is also easily digestible and reduces the occurrence of gas or stomach upsets. Tempeh has a unique taste and texture on its own and adds this quality to dishes, even when mixed with other ingredients. It is described as being thick, nutty and earthy, with a firm texture. You can marinate or braise tempeh prior to cooking, to infuse it with flavor.

How Is It Used
Cut it up into strips for stir-fry or noodles or sizzlers, make thick slices for sandwiches and subs or cook tempeh in a gravy form. It is ideal for ground meat recipes like tacos and lasagna. You can even coat it in batter and deep-fry it for a delicious tempeh fritter.

A vegetable used in most dishes to simulate the taste of beef, is the Portobello mushroom, which is very nutritious as well. The above listed vegan substitutes for meat are used to make a variety of pre-made products such as vegan sausages, burgers, deli meats and nuggets, to name a few. In summation, using such alternative foods means one can stick to one's diet and way of life, without any deficiency, nutrient-wise.