Time to Read: 8 minutes
There are so many reasons to choose a vegan lifestyle: a vegan diet gives you more energy, helps you sleep better and may even protect you from some forms of cancer.
If you have chosen to go vegan, your body still needs the protein and other nutrients that meat provides. You may even miss the taste of meat once in a while.
No reason to worry: there are many ways to get the protein you require and the taste you crave.
Vegan meats may sound like an oxymoron, but they are the answer! They provide taste, nutrition and many other health benefits.
Here is a list of some of the many options available for vegan meats. These soy and vegetable options can be cooked up and consumed in many ways so you can satisfy your taste buds and stay true to your vegan lifestyle.
Tofu is one of the most commonly eaten vegan meats. It has been a staple of Asian cooking for thousands of years.
Tofu is made by curdling the milk from soybeans and pressing the curds into blocks, similar to how cheese is made from milk.
It has many nutritional benefits:
- it is an excellent source of protein
- it contains all eight essential amino acids
- it’s a good source of calcium, iron
- it contains many essential minerals like phosphorous, copper, zinc and vitamin B1
Tofu can be fried, grilled, baked and pureed. Although it has a bland taste, it easily takes on the flavor of the seasonings and sauces you cook it with. It adapts well to many different styles of cuisine.
Many vegans enjoy making a stir-fry with tofu and vegetables or tossing grilled tofu in a salad.
Seitan is one of the most popular vegan meats because its dense consistency is closely similar to animal meat. It’s often called “wheat meat.”
Like tofu, seitan is versatile and can take on the taste of whatever it is cooked with. It can also be cooked in a variety of ways.
Seitan is a dough made from wheat gluten and water. It can be seasoned with many different kinds of spices. Try a vegetarian Worcestershire sauce for a meaty taste, or soy and hot chilis for a more exotic flavor.
If you are looking for a tasty vegan meat, you’ve got to try tempeh. It contains about 16 grams of protein in a 3-ounce serving, and also offers 8% of the recommended daily amount of both calcium and iron.
Tempeh originates from Indonesia. It is produced from the fermentation of soybeans.
Like tofu and seitan, tempeh absorbs other flavors easily. For great ways to enhance the nutty flavor of tempeh, check out some vegan cookbooks.
Because it is made through fermentation, tempeh has probiotics and thus is considered helpful for digestive health.
You love lentils in soups. Why not try them as a meat substitute?
Lentils are “pulses” – they are full of protein and fiber. They are also a great vegan meat in dishes like meatballs, meatloaf, chili, and tacos.
Nutrition experts agree that lentils are much healthier than meat. They are high in protein, they are full of iron and potassium, but they are low in sodium. Eating them regularly may help lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
Because they are tasty and fun to eat, edamame pods can be a great way to introduce vegan meats into your children’s diets. Who doesn’t love munching away on these bright green snacks?
Lots of people like to serve edamame roasted with some olive oil and sea salt. It can also be made into soups and tossed into salads or stir-fries.
Edamame is low in calories and cholesterol. It has healthy measures of iron and calcium. This vegan meat is also gluten-free.
As a soy-based product, it is considered helpful in the fight against heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer. It has also been cited as helpful for depression, osteoporosis, and age-related brain diseases.
Some studies have found a high rate of breast cancer in populations which consume large quantities of soy-based products like tofu or edamame, but doctors usually do not find any danger with moderate consumption.
Beans and legumes are not only excellent vegan meats, but they are economically attractive, too. People on limited budgets have always known that beans can be cooked in many ways for the nutritional value of meat without the cost.
There are so many different kinds of beans, from chickpeas to kidney beans. They all contain high quantities of protein and carbohydrates. They can go in soups and salads or be molded into burgers or faux meatloaves.
You can even whip up a tasty smoothie with beans!
Nuts are another favorite way to introduce kids to the ease and joy of vegan eating. They pack a nutritional punch with lots of protein and healthy fats, and they can be made into doughs, spreads or vegan meat.
Consider the vast variety of nuts available; here are only a few examples of what you can incorporate into your vegan diet.
- pine nuts
- macadamia nuts
- Brazil nuts
Nuts can be added to any main course or dessert. They can be roasted, crumbled, blended into shakes or butter, or eaten raw.
Just be careful that no one in your party has nut allergies.
Quinoa has become incredibly popular amongst vegans and meat-eaters alike. This miracle seed has numerous nutritional benefits: it is gluten-free, has lots of protein, and contains all of the essential amino acids.
Known as the “mother of all grains,” it has been grown in South America for thousands of years.
- vitamin E
- B vitamins
Besides vegans, quinoa is appealing to people with dietary issues because of its low sugar content and lack of gluten.
Quinoa is considered one of the healthiest vegan meats because it helps to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. It is also easy to prepare to serve in breakfast, lunch or dinner in everything from pancakes to salads.
8. Chia Seeds
Another one of the vegan meats that is growing in popularity are chia seeds, otherwise known as salvia hispanica from Central America.
Although claims that they assist in weight loss are not yet confirmed, they are known to suppress food cravings.
Fans claim that chia seeds help control dehydration and lower blood pressure. Some people say that eating them increases their energy levels and stamina.
Chia seeds do contain important Omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants in addition to many other essential nutrients.
Yes, it is a fruit, but it actually tastes like meat! Jackfruit is an unusual vegan meat, as it is actually a fruit grown in southeast Asia. They can grow to weigh over twenty pounds!
Like the best vegan meats, they are full of the necessary nutrients of protein, potassium, iron, and calcium.
Jackfruit can be cooked as an entree or a dessert: they have a similar flavor to pineapple. The latest trend is to use them as a vegan pulled pork.
Although not as exotic as some of the items on this list, mushrooms have always been a reliable vegan meat for those preferring a plant-based diet. The Greeks used to call mushroom “food of the Gods.”
Portobellos and other mushrooms have a hearty, earthy flavor and can be grilled and served like steaks!
Mushrooms are the only plant source of vitamin D. They are rich in vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and antimicrobial elements. They also have no fat or carbohydrates.
It is important to purchase fresh mushrooms from a reputable source because not all kinds are edible. You should also avoid eating them raw or consuming them if they look slimy or suspicious in any way.
Make sure you store mushrooms in a cool, dry place to keep them fresh: a paper bag is perfect.
Eggplant is another dependable standby if you like vegan meats: its flesh is hearty and flavorful for grilling, sauteing or roasting.
There are many ways to enjoy this vegetable beyond Eggplant Parmesan. Chopped up and sauteed with Asian spices makes a tasty Indian-style dish, or grilled with olive oil and herbs evokes Mediterranean cooking.
Known for its high quantities of potassium, eggplant eaters can also get high amounts of folate, manganese, and fiber from its consumption. It’s also good for vitamins B6, C, and K.
Studies have also found that eggplants are “antiangiogenic”, which means that they can actually inhibit the growth of cancerous tumors.
They also have antimicrobial and antiviral properties.
Hearty and brightly colored, beets are increasing in popularity as a meat substitute. They contain protein, fiber and iron like all of the best vegan meats.
They also are a great source of calcium, potassium, and vitamins B6 and C.
Beets add zest to any dish and are perfect for autumn salads. They are even used in some vegan “burgers” because their color simulates the “bleeding” of a rare piece of meat!
Vegan Meats: Great Taste for Great Health
Deciding to remove meat from your diet does not mean you have to sacrifice taste and variety. These grains, seeds, and fruits are all exciting alternatives to meat which will help you stay vegan by providing great nutrition and flavor.
For more information on maintaining your vegan lifestyle, check out our blog.