Tofu has been a standby in vegetarian diets for decades. Picture: Ella Olsson
Tofu has been a standby in vegetarian diets for decades. Picture: Ella Olsson

The 8 best meat substitutes for vegetarian and vegan dishes

By Lutho Pasiya Time of article published Sep 3, 2021

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The last year has been an extraordinary one for a niche industry: alternative meats.

Meat alternatives are clearly having a moment – and it’s offering us a glimpse into a different future for meat.

Whether you’re trying to go vegetarian or just looking to incorporate more plant-based foods into your diet, finding “meaty” alternatives may require a little thinking outside the box.

Below is a list of some of the best meat substitutes for vegetarian and vegan dishes.

If you’re new to trying faux meats or packaged meat substitutes, you will need to keep in mind that all vary in how closely they resemble meat in flavours, textures, and certainly appearance.

Veggie burgers

Whether you’re making them from scratch or buying pre-made, veggie burgers are a great meatless option for a simple dinner.


The wide variety of mushrooms available makes this vegetable a favourite meat substitute.

Many mushrooms are thick enough that they seem to have the same meatiness as beef.

Easily seasoned with spices and herbs as a baked dish or sautéed in your favourite oil you may just be mistaken for thinking you’re eating meat.


Health experts reveal that the texture of jackfruit is very similar to that of stewed meat, and will take on the flavour of whatever you cook it in. Some ways you can use jackfruit include BBQ “pulled pork” sandwiches, tacos, chillies, stews, and Asian-inspired dishes like curries.


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.


Take a whole head of cauliflower, season well, and put in the oven like a roast or slice and cook like you would a steak.

Cauliflower can also be a delicious substitute.

Beyond Meat

Beyond Meat is one of the newer companies for meat substitutes.

Their Beyond Burger is said to look, cook and taste just like meat. Their products are vegan and free of GMOs, gluten, and soy. The Beyond Burger is made from pea protein, canola oil, coconut oil, potato starch, and other ingredients.

It also makes sausages, chicken substitutes, and meat crumbles.


Tofu has been a standby in vegetarian diets for decades.

While lacking flavour on its own, it takes on flavours of the other ingredients in a dish.

It makes for a delicious meat substitute in most meals.

Another one that absorbs flavours easily, you can leave the tofu to marinate for a while before you make a stir-fry or a grill.


Lentils are a staple of vegetarian diets due to their versatility; they come in many different colours, including green, black, red, yellow, and brown.

You can typically find them in the dry goods section, but if your grocery store has a bulk aisle, they might be there as well.

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