How to replace meat
VARIED, NUTRITIOUS AND TASTY ALTERNATIVES
Traditionally, meat has been considered a source of protein and iron. Fortunately, there are many plant-based foods with great amounts of these nutrients. It’s been scientifically proven by multiple professional health organizations that a balanced plant-based diet is good for our health in any stage of the life cycle.
Meat alternatives, such as plant-based meats, are more and more common in supermarkets and can replace products as appreciated as chicken nuggets, meat skewers, hot-dogs, etc.
Finally, a plant-based diet offers delicious, healthy and surprising possibilities, and is much simpler and tastier than we think. Vegan gastronomy, currently on the rise, is proof of it!
PROTEIN AND IRON IN A PLANT-BASED DIET? EASY!
By simply eating in sufficient amounts to satisfy our hunger, our protein intake is guaranteed. Grains (wheat, oats, rice…), legumes, nuts and seeds are common foods that provide us with more than enough protein to meet our requirements. Tofu, seitan and vegan burgers are also rich sources of protein. Actually, protein deficiency is merely a popular belief: the only people with protein deficiency in Western countries are those who don’t eat in sufficient amounts and have an unbalanced diet. Animal protein is known for being more “complete” than plant protein, but this difference is negligible if we eat a varied diet.
Legumes, whole grains, tofu and some vegetables provide about as much iron as red meat! Heme iron, found in meat, is usually more easily absorbed in comparison with non-heme iron from plants, but this isn’t necessarily positive, since it’s suspected that heme iron is one of the reasons why red meat consumption poses multiple health problems, such as the increase in colorectal cancer risk. To make the most out of iron-rich plant-based foods, eat them together with a food rich in vitamin C: a fruit, a bit of lemon juice to make the dish tastier…
Rich in protein and in iron, soy is found in many plant-based recipes and can be used as an alternative to meat in the form of tofu, textured soy protein or a vegan burger. Soy is among the most scientifically studied foods, and it’s been proved that isoflavones, often called “phytoestrogens”, don’t have any harmful effect on our hormonal system. Moreover, soy has been a staple food in the traditional diet of several Asian countries for thousands of years.
TASTES AND FLAVORS
There are plant-based foods and vegan recipes with intense flavors. Some of these foods provide the appreciated “umami” flavor, which is similar to the one we find in meat and is one of the five basic tastes together with sweet, bitter, salty and acid. This taste allows to boost the flavor of our recipes. Don’t hesitate to use and combine these foods to give this taste to your dishes!
Discover umami flavors:
– Soy, miso and tamari sauces
– Vegetable broth cubes
– Nutritional yeast
– Garlic, onion, leek
– Tomato paste, ketchup, very ripe tomatoes
– Grape juice, wine (to cook)
– Balsamic vinegar
– Algae: nori, kombu, wakame
– Mushrooms, especially shiitake
WHERE TO FIND MEAT ALTERNATIVES?
We can find most plant-based meats (nuggets, burgers, meatballs, kebabs, sausages, pâtés, salami, chicken, etc.) in supermarkets. These products are found in the fresh food aisle, usually in its own sector but sometimes next to cold meats and ready-made foods as well. These meat alternatives include Beyond Meat burgers, which mimic the taste of meat to perfection, or Quorn “chicken” strips, a real treat!
Organic stores often offer a wide variety of plant-based meats, as well as multiple varieties of tofu and texturized soy protein. We can also find firm and silken tofu in Asian stores. Moreover, more and more restaurants are offering vegetable meats on their menus. We can already find vegan burgers even at McDonald’s, Burger King, Pans & Company…
As for legumes, we can find them easily in supermarkets, organic stores or regular grocery stores. In organic stores, they can be found in different formats: in their whole form or as flakes, flour, pasta… Finally, vegan stores are spreading and they also offer multiple alternatives to animal products.
TEXTURIZED SOY PROTEIN: NOTHING BUT BENEFITS!
Texturized soy protein (or “TSP”) is very rich in protein. Just like pasta, we buy it dried. Its subtle taste gives us many opportunities, since it absorbs our recipe’s taste. We can find it in the form of small pellets, chunks of different sizes and even true “steaks”. Since its volume gets multiplied by 3 by hydrating them, 25 grams of dry weight are enough for someone to get a satisfactory protein intake from a meal. In addition, they aren’t expensive at all!
To hydrate it, you have to soak it in warm or hot water, vegetable broth or soy milk for about 15 minutes. Then you just have to strain it and add it to your recipe. You can also strain it, dry it and then fry it with oil and soy sauce, spices, tomato sauce, etc. You can use it as a replacement for minced meat in any recipe, and it’s ideal to prepare chili, steaks and sauces such as bolognese.
PLANT-BASED MEATS, READY TO BE COOKED!
Convenient and tasty, plant-based meats are usually very rich in protein and are a very interesting source of it. They’re ideal for when we don’t have much time to cook or for when we want to veganize meals such as a barbecue or a shepherd’s pie.
Smoked tofu and vegan sausages, cut in small pieces in pies, quiches or salads, or stir-fried with vegetables or rice, add a smoked flavor similar to bacon’s.
Their tastes, textures and prices can vary a lot between different brands; don’t hesitate to try several ones if you’re not satisfied with the first.
TOFU, AN UNENDING VARIETY
Standard tofu’s neutral taste allows it to absorb many different flavors and to be part of a myriad of salty and sweet recipes! It’s also becoming easier to find tofu that has already been seasoned, smoked or flavored with herbs or spices, making it a tasty and convenient food to eat in sandwiches, salads, etc. Cooking firm tofu is very quick and simple. You just have to cut it in cubes or sticks of the desired size or to mash it coarsely and then marinate it in soy sauce, mustard or spices before stir-frying it for a few minutes. Roasted, stir-fried, with bell peppers and tomatoes, vegetables stuffed with tofu, tofu blended with mustard or soy cream to make sauces… the only limit is our imagination!
Silken tofu, soft and smooth, can be used in recipes such as cheesecake, pâtés, puddings, etc.
SEITAN, SIMPLY AMAZING
It’s for a reason that it’s also called “plant-based meat”! Its texture is similar to that of meat and makes it a perfect replacement for it in a plethora of recipes. Many plant-based meats are made with seitan, since its taste, rather neutral, makes it possible to season or smoke it to impregnate it with the taste we want. Seitan is also very rich in protein, since it’s made out of wheat protein. Traditionally used in Asia for centuries, nowadays it can be found in supermarkets under different forms, and we can even make it at home.
Nutritious, healthy, cheap, varied
Rich in protein, iron and fiber, cheap, nutritious: the health benefits of legumes make them a top-tier food! Kidney beans, navy beans, black beans, fava beans, chickpeas, split peas, green peas, green lentils, red lentils… hundreds of varieties have been cultivated and eaten for thousands of years, and they’ve given us very popular recipes: falafel, hummus, couscous, tempeh, dahl, tacos, etc.
Legumes can easily be found in cans or jars, already cooked and ready to eat, perfect to make some delicious hummus in just a few minutes.
Chickpea and lentil flours are very convenient to prepare pâtés, blinis or pancakes or to add them in pie doughs. Green peas, chickpeas and soy can also be added to many recipes in the form of dried flakes: soups, pancakes, gratins… 10 minutes of cooking are enough.
“Pasta” made out of lentils, chickpeas or green peas is an exellent way of eating legumes as well. We can cook it in 3 minutes and use it just like regular pasta.
*Page based on original content by L214