Best meat substitutes for vegans and vegetarians

A meat substitute or meat alternative is a food that may have a taste, texture, or appearance similar to meat but does not contain meat.

People eat meat substitutes for a variety of reasons. Some people choose not to eat meat at all for ethical reasons or due to other personal beliefs. Others may choose meat substitutes for health reasons.

Meat can cause digestive symptoms such as diarrhea or constipation in some people. In fact, some evidence suggests that eating red meat can increase the risk of a gastrointestinal condition called diverticulitis.

Evidence also suggests that eating less meat could be better for the environment and overall health.

Whatever the reason for choosing a meat substitute, it is vital to know which ones provide the nutrients a person needs. In this article, learn about a variety of meat substitutes and their nutritional content.

The following are some of the foods and products that people use in place of meat, either for texture, flavor, or added nutrients.

Some vegetarian and vegan products may contain these meat alternatives along with other ingredients.


Breaded tofu which is a popular meat substituteShare on Pinterest Tofu is high in protein and a healthful meat substitute.

Tofu is condensed soy milk that manufacturers press into blocks of varying firmness, similar to how dairy milk becomes cheese.

Tofu is a good source of protein and contains all the essential amino acids a person needs for good health.

Tofu is also versatile and has a very mild flavor, so people can try marinating it to give it the flavor they desire. Some people use it as a substitute for eggs or mix it into hot dishes such as soups and stir-fries.

Many companies produce and sell tofu, so the nutritional content may vary between products.

Typically, 1 cup of tofu contains:

  • calories: 188.4
  • protein: 20 grams (g)
  • fat: 11.86 g
  • calcium: 868 milligrams (mg)
  • iron: 13.3 mg
  • fiber: 0.744 g

Should a person want to avoid genetically modified (GM) foods, they may wish to look for a tofu product that is certified organic or listed as non-GM.

According to some 2016 research, 82% of the world’s soybean farms have genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.


Tempeh is a traditional Indonesian soy based meat substitute. It has a few key differences from tofu.

Manufacturers make tempeh from the whole soybean, not soy milk, and they use a fermentation process. Tempeh has a drier texture, and some tempeh products contain a mixture of other beans or grains.

Because it contains the whole bean, tempeh may also contain more fiber and protein than tofu. It also contains gut-friendly prebiotics and probiotics as a result of the fermentation process.

Tempeh may not have the same versatility as tofu, as its flavor is stronger. People can sauté or stir-fry tempeh and add it to salads or sandwiches. It is also suitable to use as a barbeque meat substitute.

One cup of tempeh contains:

  • calories: 319
  • protein: 33.7 g
  • fat: 17.9 g
  • calcium: 184 mg
  • iron: 4.48 mg

Tempeh is also a good source of magnesium and vitamin B-6.


Seitan burger which is a good meat substituteShare on Pinterest Seitan is similar in texture to chicken and is an ingredient in many mock meat products.

Seitan comes from wheat gluten. The production process removes the starch from the wheat, usually by rinsing it with water. This process leaves behind a protein dense food that has a texture similar to that of chicken and a mild taste.

Seitan, or “vital wheat gluten,” is an ingredient in many mock meat products.

Although it is nutritious, it…


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