Some think that vegan eating, by definition, is very sparse, flavorless and limited because it eliminates such a wide variety of food available to choose from. However, with the increase in number of vegetarians and vegans alike, the market for meat substitutes has skyrocketed. You no longer have to cringe when you’re invited to a dinner party being thrown by your vegan friends.
The diversity of flavor in vegan-based meat substitutes is higher than it’s ever been. With the quality of the products available, there’s virtually no meat dish that can’t be adequately translated into its vegan equivalent. But what types of products are these, and how have we gotten to the point of such diversity?
Tofu is probably the most popular and widely-used meat alternative available. What makes tofu such a common choice is its malleability. It comes in a variety of forms and textures. The fresh, firm variety is perfect for marinades and can easily be fried, grilled or baked. It maintains its shape very well, which lends itself to serving as a viable meat substitute. The soft, silken variety isn’t as widely used as a meat substitute, but is the perfect thickening agent for creamy sauces and pie filling.
Seitan is a good substitute for chicken. It is made up of wheat gluten, which is an alternative to the typical soy-based meat substitutes such as tofu. The texture of seitan is also a bit more chewy and stringy than tofu and mimics the true texture of meat more accurately. It has been widely available in China and Japan for centuries and has grown in popularity in the US over the past several decades, though you’d probably be more likely to find it in a health food store than in your typical supermarket.
Textured Vegetable Protein
Textured vegetable protein is one of the newer meat alternatives to hit the market. This product is made from defatted soy flour and, like meat, is a great source of protein. It is used primarily as an alternative to ground meat, so it is perfect for use in chili, tacos, burgers and meatballs. It also very easy to cook as it cooks quite quickly. Its shelf-life is very long, so you can buy in bulk and have some on hand whenever you decide to use it. Its biggest advantage over other meat alternatives is that it provides such high protein content while limiting the amount of fat per serving.
Tempeh is a food that comes mainly from Indonesia. It is a lot like normal tofu, but since it is whole soybeans (as opposed to soybean milk, like tofu), it is much denser and more robust. Because of its density, it’s a good idea to marinade tempeh in some kind of sauce for at least an hour before cooking. It is very durable because it can be served in a number of different ways. You can cut it up and panfry it for inclusion in a stir fry, or you can use a cheese grater to ground it up and serve it in chili as an alternative to ground beef.
As you can see, the number of meat alternatives available are numerous and each offers a slightly different take on the typically meat-centered dishes. Picking one recipe and substituting each alternative will definitely allow you to find the best fit for all your vegan dishes.