Fake Meat 101: Four Alternatives to Veg-Friendly

Fake Meat 101: Four Alternatives to Veg-Friendly
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In early 2013, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study correlating vegetarian diets with a reduced risk of heart disease. Luckily for us, it’s easier than ever to live without meat, thanks to the popularity of Meatless Mondays, the increased public interest in the vegetarian lifestyle, and the abundance of tasty meat alternatives at our disposal. Omnivores and vegetarians alike will enjoy these protein-rich fake meats — and the delicious (and nutritious!) vegetarian recipes that go with them.

  • 1 Tofu

    Tofu, is a spongy block of solidified soybean milk curds, is one of the best meat substitutes around. Plain bean curd is bland, but it easily soaks up other flavors, making it a great addition to savory dishes. Plus, if you press tofu (or just buy the extra-firm variety), it has a chewier texture that’s similar to chicken or turkey. Tofu on its own is also less caloric than some other soy-based fake meats, such as tempeh. Recipe to Try: Lemon Cucumber Tofu Salad

  • 2 Tempeh

    Another member of the nutrient-rich soy family is tempeh, which is made from fermented soybeans. Tempeh has a firmer, nuttier taste than tofu, but still boasts the high protein and lower fat content (compared to real meats) commonly found in soy products. Tempeh’s flavor and naturally firm texture stand out more in dishes than tofu. It crumbles easily, making it a great substitute for ground beef in chili and sauces, though baked or grilled tempeh adds a delightfully smoky touch to stir-fries and sandwiches. Recipe to Try: Barbecue Tempeh Sandwiches

  • 3 Seitan

    Also known as wheat gluten (which sounds about as appetizing as “solidified soybean milk curds”), seitan is the meatiest of the fake meats. It’s a tender, especially chewy product made from wheat protein. Seitan is commonly used as a replacement for chicken, duck, and beef in Asian cuisine, though it also holds up well to the rich, complex flavors in Mexican dishes like fajitas and tacos. Recipe to Try: Seitan Satay with Peanut Sauce


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  • 4 Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)

    TVP is a highly processed soy product that contains “soy protein isolate” rather than whole soybeans. Fake chicken nuggets, meatless meatballs, and other popular faux-meat items found in the supermarket often have TVP as a base. The dry granules, once reconstituted with broth or water, are like tasteless ground meat. Season liberally when cooking and use them in spaghetti sauces, stews, burgers, burritos, or any other dish that calls for ground meat. Recipe to Try: Spectacular Vegan Spaghetti with TVP