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10 Vegetables That Can Substitute for Meat

The good news is that you have gone veg! The bad news is that you’re thinking how much you will miss all your old favorite foods. Well, guess what? The better news is that going veg doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the dishes you love most. Pretty much anything you used to eat can be made with plant-based ingredients – even really meaty dishes like burgers, meatballs, and Buffalo wings. It just takes a little imagination, a bit of creativity, and the benefit of some tips and guidelines to help you create delicious vegan versions of those recipes. Soon you will be making delicious, satisfying meals that will satisfy your cravings, and before you know it, you will realize you don’t even miss the meat at all. Get your veg on with these 10 substitutes:

  1. Tofu, Tempeh, Seitan, and TVP

    You may not think of tofu or tempeh as vegetables, but they are plant-based and made from soybeans. TVP, or texturized vegetable protein, is also made from soy. Seitan is made from wheat gluten. The meat in any recipe can be replaced with one of these plant-based options. Tofu makes the perfect swap-out for chicken whether you want Crispy Tofu NuggetsMoroccan Cutlets in a Lemon-Olive Sauce, or chunks for Chinese food like Kung Pao TofuTempeh is wonderful for fish dishes because it has a flaky texture. Try it in “Crab” Cakes or to make Breaded “Fish” Fillets. It can also be ground up to act as ground beef for Tempeh Meatballs or tacosTVP comes in all shapes and sizes and it can replace any meat including ground beef. Try it in this Chik’n Salad with Cranberries and Pistachios or in Tacos Sin Carne. Seitan can be flavored to taste exactly like beef or pork. You won’t believe the decadence you will get in a plate of Balsamic BBQ Seitan Ribs or a thick, juicy Seitan Steak in Beurre Blanc Sauce.

  2. Mushrooms

    When you want that meaty taste, that umami, mushrooms are the way to go. Their flavor is rich, earthy, and meaty, especially cremini or Portobello mushrooms. They are healthy and filling and can replace meat in any recipe. My favorite way to eat mushrooms is to saute them in vegan butter and add thyme, black pepper, and balsamic vinegar. Then I serve them over polenta unless I’m piling them up on a crispy roll to make a French Dip sandwich. Try mushrooms in this Mushroom Stroganoff or as a vegan “Lamb” Burger. Impress your dinner guests by serving them Stuffed Mushrooms with Pecans and  Portobello Wellington .

  3. Jackfruit

    If you have not yet tried jackfruit, you need to go out and get some. Technically, jackfruit is a fruit but incredibly, it can stand in for meat in savory dishes. You can buy it raw or already cut up in a can. Jackfruit has a very slight sweet taste but not so much that you can’t use it to make a decadent, satisfying Philly Cheesesteak. Jackfruit is perfect for barbecue sandwiches, stir-fries, or any dish that uses beef, chicken, or pork.

  4. Eggplant

    When anyone goes veg, eggplant is probably the first vegetable that comes to mind, but you can do so much more with it than just make parmigiana. Eggplant has a rich, meaty taste and it’s very versatile. If you think you’re not a fan of eggplant, try it in these Eggplant Burgers and you will change your mind. Other delicious ways to eat eggplant include Vegan Mozzarella-Stuffed Eggplant Meatballs, crispy Eggplant Fries with Marinara Dipping Sauce, and spiralized Eggplant Noodles.

  5. Lentils

    Lentils have always been a stand-in for meat since the beginning of veganism. Lentils are hearty and can replace ground beef easily. Lentils come in a variety of colors such as green, red, brown, and black. They cook up quickly, are inexpensive, and a small amount goes a long way. Definite recipes to try are Red Lentil Burgers with Kale PestoLentil MeatballsDouble Decker Lentil Tacos, and South Indian Lentil Stew.

  6. Beans and Legumes

    Beans and legumes are amazing. They are inexpensive, healthy, filling, and there are so many to choose from: black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, aduki beans, chickpeas and black-eyed peas, to name just a few. Beans make for hearty soups, stews, and chilis. How about a White Bean and Kale Soup or a Tamale-Inspired Bowl with Beans? Beans and legumes can replace the meat to make incredible Hoisin Black Bean BurgersBlack-Eyed Pea Italian Sausages, or Chickpea “Tuna” Salad.

  7. Cauliflower

    Right now I bet you’re thinking, “How can cauliflower replace meat? It’s so white and bland.” Well, it can. When you season it and cook it up right, cauliflower can be the star of any dish. I like to use cauliflower to replace the chicken in Asian dishes like Cauliflower Manchurian and even Buffalo wings. You can slice the cauliflower into steaks and make an incredible Cauliflower Piccata. You can even make a pizza crust out of cauliflower. See? Cauliflower doesn’t seem so boring anymore, does it?

  8. Potatoes

    Potatoes are not just for side dishes. They can be the main ingredient in so many dishes. Whether you roast them, boil them, bake them, mash them, or fry them, potatoes are always a favorite. Start your meal with a Creamy Potato and Cauliflower Soup.  Potato Samosas with Coconut-Mint Chutney are spicy and delicious. Add potatoes to your burgers like in this Moussaka Burger with Béchamel Cheese Sauce and this Spicy Potato Cauliflower Burger. Don’t forget potatoes when it comes to dessert – that’s right. You will be blown away by this Chocolate Potato Cake.

  9. Beets

    Beets are nature’s candy. They are sweet and delicious and perfect for salads, but they have another side to them. Beets are also earthy and work well in savory dishes especially when roasted as in this Sesame Roasted Beets and Greens Dish. Amaze your guests with a beautiful platter of Beet Carpaccio and then treat them to Roasted Beet Burgers with Cumin-Scented Ketchup. Finish the meal with Beetroot Chocolate Frosted Cupcakes.

  10. Nuts

    Ok, technically, nuts are not vegetables but they can be used to make vegan cheese and to replace meat in your cooking. Nuts can be incredibly “meaty” and can make a hearty and rich “meat” loaf for dinner. Nuts are often added to vegan burgers for added “meatiness.” Try these Kidney Bean –Walnut Burgers with Mississippi Comeback Sauce.

    As you can see, when it comes to replacing meat in your meals, your options are practically limitless. Stop thinking of vegetables as side dishes and move them to the front of your plate. With all the hearty, “meaty” recipes you can create, there is no way you will miss the meat.

    Lead image source: Vegan Jackfruit Philly Cheesesteak

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99 comments on “10 Vegetables That Can Substitute for Meat”

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Sista Chris
8 Days ago

Thanks for this. A few years back I lost over 80lbs on a vegetarian/gluten/dairy free diet. I have since gained some of it back but it is post like this that motivate me to get back to treating my body like my temple and sticking to a plant based plan. Thanks for the motivation.

22 Days ago

The Jackfruit option is great, but I thought it had to be unripe to be a good candidate for meat substitute? I still drool over the Jackfruit curry I had in India a few years back.

Stephen M Albers
3 Months Ago

My favorite meat substitute is portobello mushroom sliced, marinated and cooked to be like meat.

4 Months Ago

#1 - ground-soybean balls also sold under the brand \'Nutrella\' in Indian Groceries in US. This tastes, looks and feels exactly like meat balls

07 Sep 2014

You are right Dino. We call that soy bean cake and present it in the form of Khebarb.

Jeanette Whiteman
5 Months Ago

Most tofu is made with GMO and I refuse to eat that junk. You may want to check this out. I did.

09 Sep 2014

Yes most but not all. You can buy organic you know.

12 Nov 2014

There is organic non-GMO tofu. I know because it\'s the only kind I buy! Most corn is also GMO!

7 Months Ago

Please use Coconut Oil...It is good for You!

7 Months Ago

Please use Coconut Oil...It is good for You!

7 Months Ago

OK now I am really hungry!

7 Months Ago

I picked up a couple ideas, but overall the foods that are being shown are worse than if I was eating grass-fed beef. Refined white sugar and white wheat flour are at the top of the obesity epidemic sweeping the globe. Then a lot of these dishes fat-fry the once healthy option. Another major contributor to obesity is more calories than calories out. One tablespoon of olive oil has 120 calories. How many did it take to fry all those foods? Then melt cheese on them if the frying was not enough. I suppose some people would be surprised if they switched to eating vegetarian, ate these dishes and wondered why they didn\'t lose weight and feel better...still heading to their grave at an early age, battling diabetes. --hope you see the light. I know it is harsh and blunt. So is contributing to the problem and misleading people for the sake of readership. I really hope this is not true it is why I am writing. Is it possible to turn one ship one degree?

14 Jun 2014

You are correct. For those who choose vegetarianism for health reasons may want to avoid the fat, calories, etc.... But many vegetarians and vegans choose our diet in order to avoid animal cruelty. I will enjoy trying some of these options for a festive meal, and some even regularly.

15 Jun 2014

I don\'t agree. Plant-based diets are proven time and again to be the health winners. I appreciate that you like eating beef. But to insinuate that this author is being misleading for the sake of readership is an irresponsible and defensive one. She is.being factual. The amount if oil or flour that the reader chooses to adjust their recipe by is wholey up to them. The author merely was pointing out plant-based ingredients that would provide a meaty texture in a dish.

17 Jul 2014

Oil and refined sugar is not necessary for any of these dishes. I am vegan and don\'t use any oil or sugar or gluten and still have plenty to eat. It\'s true that vegans also need to watch what they eat. But do you really think beef has no fat?? It\'s chockful of artery-clogging fat, grass-fed or not.

09 Sep 2014

Wait a second...where did you see white sugar and white bread in these recipes? I didn\'t find them. And it\'s very easy to find whole wheat buns, you know. That is not a big deal.
I eat a whole foods, no sugar, no wheat vegan diet. It\'s not a big deal.

12 Nov 2014

You are so wrong. Meat is not healthy for anyone to eat even if it is grass-fed beef. As far as the sugar and wheat it easy to replace or eliminate them, but if you are only having them once in a while for most people it isn\'t an issue. Now onto oil and calories....you do realize that there are good healthy fats like olive oil that your body and brain need right? If one is eating a plant based diet that is mostly or all real foods and not junk vegan foods then the calories in oil isn\'t going to be a concern.

02 Dec 2014

Please take your rant elsewhere. Theres are just ideas. And great ones. Creative ways to maybe use leftover ingredients once in a while. This isnt a fixed diet plan. Half the things you said are irrelevant to this post. And please dont blame obesity on a food. Its a combination of lifestyle choices that leads to the result of obesity. Ive never eaten ONE greasy fatty meal and gained 50 lbs.

Kim Riccardi
7 Months Ago

Joshua Moses


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