Have you ever thought that giving up meat means giving up those hearty flavors and textures that you’re used to? Maybe you’ve heard that old vegetarian stereotype about “rabbit food” and wonder “How am I ever supposed to fill up on lettuce and celery?”
Well, we’ve got good news for you: Fruits, veggies, lentils and legumes can be just as hearty and meaty as … well, meat! In fact, many of them can be made to look and taste like meat — only without the cruelty, clogged arteries, and climate change.
So, for those looking to re-create any meaty tastes they might miss, here are five mouthwatering, plant-based options:
Jackfruit (see our recipe for Jackfruit Tacos)
This miracle fruit was the year’s the “it” ingredient. With a texture similar to pulled pork or shredded chicken, it lends itself to BBQ sandwiches, stir-fry dishes, and Philly cheesesteaks. Upton’s Naturals and several other companies sell the stuff pre-packaged and pre-flavored. Alternatively, you can snag it in a can or buy it fresh and do the prep yourself.
A portobello steak might sound less than appealing to a die-hard beef eater, but mushrooms makes surprisingly satisfying substitutes. Thanks to their thickness, chewy texture, and versatility, they’re great on the grill, as a “burger,” or in an enchilada. And portobellos aren’t the only option — all mushrooms offer that savory “umami” flavor that makes meat obsolete.
It’s pretty amazing how this cruciferous veggie can cook up in so many different ways. Cauliflower is great sliced and wood-grilled (some steakhouses even serve it this way); ground up with other ingredients (like walnuts) to make “meat;” and even fried up a la buffalo wings. Honestly, it’s the Justin Timberlake of veggies — what CAN’T it do?!
Hearts of Palm
These tangy delicacies can make a mean seafood-free lobster salad (yes, seriously). Just sauté them with some celery, peppers, onions, and oil a la this recipe; add some seafood-style seasonings (Old Bay!) and vegan mayo; and even your New England relatives won’t know the difference. Who knew swamp cabbage was so multi-talented?
Thanks to their hearty texture, lentils make an awesome substitute for meat in all kinds of entrees. Cook them (but don’t overcook — they need to stay a little bit firm), then pulse them in the food processor for a few seconds and they’ll start to resemble ground beef. Add ’em to patties, tacos, or stews, and no one will ever know the difference.
Need more ideas for meat replacements or hearty veg meals? Check out our recipe section for tips, tricks, and delicious dishes.