There are several different meat alternatives that are often used in vegetarian meals. Not everyone uses them. We generally do not. But for especially those who are new to vegetarianism, meat alternatives can help during the transition.
You can make your own meat alternatives or purchase prepared products. There are many brands and versions available. Look for organic and non GMO versions to be sure you are choosing the healthiest variety. You will find burgers, sausages, patties, bacon, and more in your health food store or sometimes the produce section of your local grocery store.
These are the most common meat alternatives. I have also included links to One Green Planet resources and recipes.
Tofu is the most well-known meat alternative. It originated in China thousands of years ago. Tofu is made from soybeans that are ground, mixed with water and then processed in a method similar to how cheese is made. It doesn’t have a lot of flavor on it’s own but does a great job of absorbing the flavors of your sauces or seasonings.
Tofu comes in different firmnesses. Use Extra-Firm and Firm for stir-frying or anytime you want the tofu to retain its shape. Silken and soft tofu are great for adding creaminess to soups, dips and sauces. They can replace cream cheese and other soft cheeses.
Tempeh originates from Indonesia. It is traditionally also made from soybeans, although other beans and grains can be used as well. Dehulled soybeans are soaked and cooked then are allowed to ferment.
Tempeh has a firm texture and an earthy flavor which becomes more pronounced as it ages. It has a very different taste than tofu. The tempeh cakes are sliceable and make a good meat alternative on sandwiches or in stir-fry. It will absorb the flavor of your sauces and seasonings, making it very versatile.
TVP/Textured Vegetable Protein
TVP or texturized vegetable protein, soy meat, or soya chunks is made from soy flour. It comes in a range of sizes from chunks to flakes. It is dehydrated and must be rehydrated with water. This makes it ideal to have on hand in your pantry.
TVP is often uses to replace ground meat in recipes such as chili, spaghetti and meatloaf. The chunks can replace cut up chicken. It doesn’t have a lot of flavor of its own and absorbs the flavor of your seasonings and sauces.
Seitan (say-tahn) also called wheat gluten, wheat meat, gluten meat, or simply gluten, is made from gluten, the main protein of wheat. It is made by mixing flour and water and forming a dough, washing the dough with water until all the starch has been removed. The sticky insoluble gluten that remains is then cooked before being eaten. The result is similar to the look and texture of meat when cooked.
Wheat gluten is an alternative to soybean-based meat substitutes but may be a problem of those avoiding gluten. Wheat gluten is often used instead of meat in vegetarian Asian dishes. As with the other meat alternatives, seitan will absorb the flavors of your sauces and seasoning.
That’s the basics of vegan meat substitutes. Do you use them? If so what are your favorites?