In this helpful article I’m going to break down all of the different vegan meat substitutes you can make right at home. From Tofu, to Tempeh, TVP and Seitan-the world of vegan meat options is always evolving. Today I’ll walk you through step by step how you can choose healthy meat alternatives that taste delicious and are really easy to make.
Table of Contents
This list highlights the vegan meat substitutes we are discussing today. Use this table to jump to the specific part of the article that interests you most. Then come back and read the rest! I’ve ordered the meat substitutes from closest to whole foods right down to popular processed store brands.
Your shopping list is on it’s way! Don’t forget to check your junk folder (sometimes good stuff ends up in there!)
Why Do Vegan’s Eat Meat Substitutes?
Most people don’t wake up one day from a lifetime of eating the standard American diet and say to themselves, “Gee, I think today I’m going to go vegan because I don’t really like the taste of meat”.
Some people choose veganism for health reasons, some for the environmental aspects and even more people (like myself) are eating this way to reduce the amount of harm their diet causes to animals.
Vegan meat substitutes are an excellent way to keep your most favorite family meals in your life, while still eating vegan. They offer plenty of protein and nutrition to help round out a balanced plant based diet.
When you think of a vegan diet I have no doubt the above foods come to mind. Chickpeas, beans, lentils and legumes have been part of the human diet for over 10,000 year-since the beginning of agriculture.
They make up the backbone of cuisine around the world from Indian Dal to African Beans and Rice.
In our house chickpeas are our chicken and brown lentils are our ground beef. We enjoy other beans and legumes as well, but we tend to focus more on chickpeas and lentils.
The best way to start incorporating these foods into your diet is to simply replace the meat in your dish with your favorite legume.
Chickpeas, beans, lentils and legumes are incredibly convenient to use as you don’t need to spend extra time cooking if you prep them right!
Either use precooked varieties from a can if you’ve run out of time or simply cook them in a large batch at home from scratch. You are going to save so much money!
It’s really amazing what you can do with vegetables alone to create a delicious meal.
Cauliflower has been super popular lately as cauliflower rice. Well, that same cauliflower can be turned into a savory main dish as a cauliflower meat as well.
You’ll notice with plant based cooking as you get better at it that the main focus is always on textures and flavors. You can mimic any type of meaty dish with the right consistency and flavor profile.
Cauliflower meat is best suited as a ground beef substitute. Think taco meat, pasta sauce, even cauliflower meatballs!
Tempeh is a type of tofu, meaning that it comes from soybeans. It is a fermented soybean mixture. At first thought that may not sound too appetizing, but the fermentation process develops a delicious texture and umami flavor that is sensational!
You can purchase this in store, next to the tofu. It comes in many different flavor options or you can purchase it plain and marinate it yourself!
Use tempeh for sandwiches or even as a bacon substitute.
Seitan is what you would be eating when you purchase most faux meat products on the market today.
It comes from the gluten strands (protein) found in wheat and other grains. Gluten free fans beware-this might kill you hurt your tummy.
Seitan is my most favorite meat substitute because of the texture and amazing versatility it provides.
You can create a mock meat roast, cutlets, nuggets, burger, deli meat, shawarma and more!
You could even create a roast, then grind the finished product up into a ground round.
I love that I can inject whatever flavor profile I want and it comes out tasting better than the “real thing”.
Seitan is very high in protein and low in fat, which makes this a go to vegan meat replacement.
To cook seitan typically you knead the dough, wrap it tight then steam, simmer or bake it for 20-40 minutes. Every recipe is a little different, so be sure to follow the instructions of the one you will be using.
Lightlife: The Lightlife brand has been around for quite some time actually but lately it has gained popularity with the release of their plant based burger. I love their deli meats and veggie sausage. We tried it at Harvey’s and let me tell you-it’s a solid 5 out of 5! You can see what it looks like in this review we did.
Gardein: Gardein is one of my favorite go-to brands for chicken burgers, nuggets, chicken strips and turkey cutlets. Their veggie ground round and burgers are equally delicious. What sets Gardein apart is a lot of their meat substitutes are gluten free, so if that’s important to you definitely check them out.
Tofurky: Tofurky has been around since the 80’s and is probably best know for the Tofurky Roast. I personally really love their deli slices (mock turkey and chicken are the best!!!) and their sausages. Tofurky’s price point is competitive, and their products taste delicious!
Yves Veggie Cuisine: I love Yves products. They are my go-to brand for veggie burgers, veggie ham, hot dogs (for the kids), and veggie ground round. I love that they sell family packs at a very competitive rate. This really makes choosing veggie “meat” over traditional ground beef a no-brainer.
Of course, there are many more brands to choose from than what i have listed here. What’s even more exciting is that there are brand new products coming out all the time that cater to vegans and plant based eating.
There has never before been a better time to try vegan!
With the increase in market demand, brands will continue to lower their price points in order to stay competitive.
Deciding on what the best vegan meat substitute is for you will mean considering factors such as:
What type of meat you are replacing
How much nutrition you want your meal to have
How many calories you want your meal to have
For example, if you have recently transitioned to a vegan diet and you find that you are losing weight when you would rather be maintaining, perhaps choosing a nut based meat alternative such as walnuts would be better than mushrooms.
They would both taste equally as good, however the walnuts will contain more calories per serving then the mushrooms.
Another example would be trying to replace pulled pork with extra firm tofu. Could you use the right spices to make the tofu taste delicious-sure! But it definitely will not have the same string-like consistency as say jackfruit or seitan would.
If you are wanting to eat a more whole foods plant based diet, then you might want to consider replacing the meat on your plate with less processed vegan meat substitutes such as beans, chickpeas, lentils, nuts, vegetables and jackfruit.
This totally depends on the type of vegan meat substitute you are using.
Some vegan meat alternatives are closer to whole foods, such as beans, chickpeas, nuts, and vegetables. Other faux meats use plants to perfectly replicate the taste, texture, and nutritional profile of traditional meat-saturated fat included.
Although I am not a dietitian or physician I can tell you that the Canada Food Guide states we should,
“Choose foods that contain healthy fat instead of saturated fat…(and to) limit highly processed foods . If you choose these foods, eat them less often and in smaller amounts.”
Canada Food Guide, 2019
To me this means we should be eating the beans, chickpeas, lentils, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits, and whole grains much more often than the processed faux meats.
It’s important to remember that there are many ways to eat a vegan diet.
Tofu is interesting because although it is processed to a certain degree, I feel like it still maintains a lot of the high quality nutrition you would find in edamame (soy beans).
Foods like tofu, tempeh, seitan, and tvp are processed to a certain degree but not so much that it completely changes the nutritional profile of the food.
These foods often will not have any added sugar, salts or fats. Often, as is the case with tofu, there are extra vitamins and minerals added during fortification.
For example, tofu tends to contain extra calcium that wouldn’t normally be found in edamame.
Again, use your own judgement, and choose the vegan meat alternatives that best suit your lifestyle and needs at that time.
Keep in mind-this can change day to day! Just because you decide you want to eat as close to a whole foods plant based diet as possible does not necessarily mean you should always deny yourself a juicy veggie burger.
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Megan Kerry is a Vegan Lifestyle Educator and Licensed Practical Nurse. Her content focuses on vegan recipes and ethical living. She is a mom of four children, a long time vegan, and an even longer time foodie. She loves veganizing any and all dishes and sharing her recipes and lifestyle tips with all of you!