5 meat substitutes to try this vegetarian week
By BBC Maestro
Thinking of trying out a vegetarian diet for this year’s National Vegetarian Week? Check out these popular meat substitutes to use in all your favourite recipes.
National Vegetarian Week 2022 runs from 16-22 May and aims to encourage people to reduce their meat intake to help tackle climate change. Those taking part in the week can choose to go vegetarian for the entire week or simply to swap out one meal for a vegetarian option.
When meat is a staple of your regular diet, it can be daunting to try to think of vegetarian alternatives to add to your meals. However, with a couple of clever ingredient swaps, you can continue to eat all of your favourite dishes - with a veggie twist!
There are plenty of meat alternatives to try, from veggie burgers to other plant-based proteins like tofu and tempeh. Most are made from ingredients such as soy, wheat, beans, legumes, nuts or high-protein vegetables like peas or mushrooms. Many meat substitutes today offer the same taste and texture as real meat, so you can still enjoy a satisfying breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Let’s explore 5 of the most popular meat substitutes…
Starting the list is probably the most widely known meat substitute, and a staple of any vegan or vegetarian diet - tofu.
Tofu is made from soybeans and comes in a range of varieties, including silken (soft), firm and extra firm. Unflavoured tofu can be rather plain, so you’ll want to add flavour as you cook using herbs, spices and seasoning. You can also pick up flavoured tofu, such as smoked tofu or marinated tofu pieces.
High in protein and low in fat, tofu is an incredibly versatile food that can be stir-fried, deep-fried, baked and even scrambled. Try using crispy tofu as a meat replacement in your stir fry.
A close relative of tofu, but less well-known, is tempeh. Tempeh comes from Indonesia and is also made with soybeans, except they are fermented, which gives this plant-based protein its firm texture and almost nutty taste. It’s a great meat alternative to try if you want to eat less meat, as chunks of tempeh offer a satisfying, hearty bite.
Much like tofu, tempeh can be baked or fried and it can also be steamed or grilled. Tempeh is a good vegetarian replacement for chicken in dishes like stir-fries, curries, salads or even sandwiches.
Serve up some seitan in a stew and no one will know it’s actually meat-free. Seitan (pronounced say-tan) is made from wheat and has a surprisingly similar appearance to beef. This makes it a popular meat substitute for vegetarian burgers, kebabs or steaks.
You can make seitan yourself at home, or you can take a shortcut and buy strips or chunks of seitan in a jar or tin. Like other meat alternatives, seitan has a relatively mild flavour which can be enhanced through spices, herbs, marinades and seasoning. Liquid smoke and yeast extract can be combined in recipes with seitan to create a truly umami flavour.
Seitan can be grilled or fried, and is delicious in roasts, stews or even fajitas!
Similar in texture and appearance to pulled pork, jackfruit is becoming increasingly popular as a meat substitute. Jackfruit is grown on trees in Africa, Asia and South America and can usually be bought in tins or pre-marinaded in pouches.
By itself, jackfruit can taste rather sweet, so marinading is recommended to add more savoury flavours. Jackfruit works well in any recipes where you’d normally use pulled pork, so BBQ buns, curries or tacos.
5. Banana blossom
And finally, the lesser-known but no less delicious meat substitute - banana blossom. As you may have guessed, banana blossom grows on banana trees alongside the ubiquitous fruit. Fibrous, flaky and chunky in texture, banana blossom has become a trendy alternative to fish.
Despite its fish-like texture, banana blossom has a somewhat neutral flavour, so again marinating is recommended. Seaweed, lemon, salt, garlic and soy sauce can be used to add a distinctive ‘fishy’ flavour to banana blossom. If you’re a big fan of fish and chips, why not try out some battered banana blossom - the good news is chips are already vegetarian!
Interested in learning to cook more vegetarian dishes? Take a look at Michelin starred chef Marco Pierre White’s online vegetarian cooking course and get ready to elevate your meat-free meals.