The 15 Best Vegetarian And Vegan Meat Substitutes

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Just because someone goes veg, doesn’t mean they’ve lost their taste for juicy burgers or bacon (because, OMG those are delish.)

The good news: Vegan and vegetarian meat alternatives have come a longgg way from sad veggie burgers or tofu cubes. Now, there are so many options available—from savory tempeh bacon to vegan burgers that look (almost eerily) like beef.

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If you hate veggie burgers, try pea protein products

Why it’s great: It’s tough to mimic the texture and mouthfeel of ground beef, but pea protein isolate or textured pea protein nails it pretty well. According to Desiree Nielsen, R.D., some brands use beets as food coloring to give pea protein isolate that medium-rare ground beef look. Nielsen also notes it’s gluten free, soy free, GMO-free, and contains tons of protein. One of the most popular brands out there now the Beyond Meat Burger.

Keep in mind: While vegan, it can be loaded with coloring and textural additives. “Eating hyper-processed meat substitutes like this once or twice a week as a treat would be fine within a healthy diet, but I wouldn’t make them a mainstay over simpler options like beans and high-protein veggies,” she says.

If you’re sick of tofu, try tempeh

Why it’s great: “One of my favorite vegetarian meat options,” says Amy Shapiro, R.D., founder of Real Nutrition. Not to be confused with tofu, tempeh is made of fermented soybeans. The result is a thick, loaf-like substance that tastes delicious sliced in sandwiches, cubed in salads, or sizzled and smoked on a pan in place of bacon strips.

It’s a complete protein, and the fact that it’s fermented helps maintain healthy gut bacteria. It’s high in calcium, which promotes strong bones, and contains antioxidants, which helps ward off a variety of diseases. The isoflavones may also help fight certain cancers, Shapiro says, while its high manganese levels might help regulate blood sugar and, again, promote bone health.

Keep in mind: Tempeh is extremely high in fiber, so introduce it into your diet slowly to avoid bloating. Since store-bought versions can be high in sodium and other additives, you can also buy your own tempeh starter kit for a healthier DIY version.

If you really miss meat, try seitan

Why it’s great: This meat alternative made from wheat gluten acts as the star of many Buddha bowls—and thanks to its dense texture, it’s eerily similar to duck, but works well sliced in sandwiches or topped on pizza. If you have a soy allergy or prefer to avoid it for other reasons, seitan isn’t soy-based, so this is a safe bet. Shapiro adds that it’s high in protein, which can help promote weight loss and muscle maintenance.

Keep in mind: Since it’s made of wheat proteins, those with gluten sensitivities, intolerances, allergies, or Celiac disease should stay far away from seitan. You also have to be careful about what you’re buying. “Quick store-bought varieties are often full of preservatives, seasonings and additives like soy sauce, sodium and stabilizers to help it taste better,” says Shapiro.

Unlike other meat alternatives, seitan is not considered a complete protein (one that contains all nine amino acids), so Shapiro recommends pairing it with other sources of plant-based protein like beans to balance it out.

If you still eat meat, you’ll also like jackfruit

Why it’s great: Jackfruit mimics the texture of pulled pork. The India-native fruit has a slightly sweet flavor, but if you braise it in the right savory sauces, you’ll…

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