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What are the Different Types of Meat Alternatives?

By Bethany Keene
Updated May 16, 2024
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People who choose to be vegans or vegetarians will need meat alternatives in their diets in order to satisfy their recommended daily protein amounts. Fortunately, there are a number of options for meat alternatives, many of which can taste similar to the real thing. If one is vegetarian, they can find protein in their diet from sources such as fish OR dairy foods, including eggs, milk, yogurt, and cheese, all of which are very high in protein. Vegans, however, refrain from consuming animal products entirely, and will need to look elsewhere for protein replacements.

Some of the most basic and common options for meat alternatives are tofu, tempeh, seitan, whole grains, and legumes. Tofu and tempeh are both made from soybeans, though tempeh is slightly denser. There are a number of different varieties of tofu for use in various recipes; for instance, firm or extra-firm tofu can be great when grilled or sauteed, while silken tofu, which is much softer, can be a great choice for baking. Tofu tends to take on the flavors of the food with which it is cooked, meaning it can be quite flavorful and delicious when marinated.

Seitan, or wheat gluten, naturally comes from wheat. Whole grains and legumes can be a great source of protein as well as fiber; legumes include various types of beans, such as kidney beans, garbanzo beans, lentils, and navy beans, among others, as well as split peas and peanuts. Aside from these basic meat alternatives, which are typically used in recipes and not just eaten alone, there are other types of meat replacements that are designed to be very simple and quick.

Nearly any grocery store will have meat alternatives in the form of veggie burgers, soy hot dogs and bacon, imitation chicken nuggets, and imitation cheese, just to name a few. These products are typically made with a combination of vegetables, mushrooms, and soy; they contain no meat, and are intended to taste just like the real thing. These are often frozen, and just need to be thawed and baked, or microwaved before eating. Veggie burgers or soy hot dogs can be served on buns just like those made with meat, and dressed with condiments such as ketchup, mustard, or pickle relish.

Search online for thousands of meatless vegetarian recipes. It is entirely possible to use meat alternatives in many recipes, and many of the meat replacements are very satisfying and healthy because they are lower in saturated fat. Even just replacing one meal a week with meat alternatives can make a big difference.

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Discussion Comments
By profess — On Jul 09, 2012
Mushrooms are a great meat alternative. The texture and flavor is similar to meat, or at least beef, and they can be substituted easily into most dishes.

I have a great recipe for veggie shepherd's pie that uses an assortment of mushrooms instead of ground beef.

By jonrss — On Jul 09, 2012

I have found that a lot of people go vegetarian and then eat a bunch of processed meat alternatives like pre-made veggie burgers, sausages and chicken fingers. If you like these things that is fine but it is important to understand how this contradicts the ethic of going vegetarian.

Being vegetarian is about eating natural, real, unprocessed foods. It is also about giving up meat. People who stop eating real sausage in favor of eating veggie sausage are like smokers who switch to chewing tobacco. It is only a little bit better and the constant reminder of meat only makes it harder to go without.

By whiteplane — On Jul 08, 2012

Lots of people think that tofu is gross but they have probably just had bad tofu. When it is marinated and prepared properly it can be delicious and also a healthy alternative to eating meat.

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