Veganism might seem like just the latest dieting trend, but the truth is that there are purer reasons behind going vegan than just doing it to lose weight. Many people become vegan for the health benefits, since eating whole foods as often as possible is great for your body (and soul), but even more people choose veganism as a refusal to be a part of the animal cruelty that goes into all aspects animal-based foods.
Though choosing to go vegan might seem easy, there is a lot of work that goes into it, and preparing to eliminate meat and dairy from your diet is harder than anything. That’s why this list provides many options to choose from, in case you’re less into tofu and more into beans, for example. Of course, these options work for vegetarians as well, but the focus is on people living a vegan lifestyle. Take a look below, especially if you’re looking to become vegan or wondering what to cook on Meatless Mondays.
1. Tofu, Tempeh, Seitan, and TVP
Tofu and tempeh might not seem like vegetables, but they are made from soybeans, which is also what TVP (texturized vegetable protein) is made from, and the perfect alternatives to meat. Seitan is wheat-gluten, so tread lightly if you’re also gluten-intolerant. Tofu is basically the end-all-be-all when it comes to meat alternatives because you can use it to make all kinds of meat-like meals. For example, you can make everything from crispy tofu nuggets to Kung Pao tofu. Tempeh is good for fish recipes because it mimics the flaky texture, so look up recipes like “Crab” Cakes or Breaded “Fish” Fillets. It can also be ground up for tempeh meatballs or tacos. TVP comes in all shapes and textures and can be used to replace any meat, including ground beef. Try it in a “chicken” salad or in tacos. Seitan can be flavored to taste just like beef or pork and is surprisingly decadent when made into dishes like barbecue “ribs.”
Mushrooms have gained popularity as a substitute in burgers recently, even amongst people that aren’t vegetarian or vegan. They offer a meaty taste but are much healthier, and the most popular ones are cremini and Portobello. Popular ways to cook mushrooms are to saute them in (vegan) butter and add thyme, black pepper, and balsamic vinegar. Put them over polenta or put them in a roll for a French dip sandwich. You can also use them for recipes like “beef” stroganoff or burgers.
This is a fruit which isn’t that common in the U.S. simply because it’s not well-known, but for those that know it they can attest to its flavor being odd because it’s a fruit. It’s actually perfect for substituting meat because it’s savory and can be used in dishes such as barbecue sandwiches, stir-fries, or any dish that uses beef, pork, or chicken.
Eggplant is touted as an option for meatless people, but most people can’t think of anything other than parmigiana to use eggplant for. It has a rich, meaty taste and is very versatile. Try eggplant burgers if you think you’re not a fan of eggplant, and then once you realize you love it (we know you will), go ahead and try things like vegan mozzarella-stuffed eggplant meatballs or crispy eggplant fries with marinara dipping sauce.
Lentils also have a reputation as being a good source for vegetarian people, since it provides some of the protein and vitamins that people lose when they suddenly stop eating meat. They are hardy, can replace ground beef easily, and are often made it into burger patties. They come in a variety of colors, but you can use any color to make your dish meatless. Try red lentil burgers with kale pesto or lentil tacos.
6. Beans and Legumes
These are not only delicious, but they’re also inexpensive and healthy for you in comparison to red meat. You can choose from black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, aduki beans, chickpeas and black-eyed peas, to name just a few. Beans make for hearty soups, stews, and chilis. Try white bean and kale soup, black bean burgers, or black-eyed pea Italian sausages.
This vegetable has been long overlooked as a substitute but it’s slowly coming to the light as a good substitute for meat, bread, and cheese. When you season and cook it right, cauliflower can become the star in a dish like Cauliflower Manchurian or Piccata. Look up a recipe for cauliflower pizza crust if you’re interested in what else the vegetable can do.
Potatoes are usually treated as a side piece but can actually shine as the main squeeze in a variety of dishes. You can roast, boil, bake, mash, or fry them and easily make creamy potato and cauliflower soup, potato samosas, or a Moussaka burger with cheese sauce.
Most people don’t know what to do with beets and don’t make the effort because of the signature red hands you end up with. However, beets are like nature’s candy and are perfectly sweet for salads but deliciously savory as a meat substitute. You can appreciate them in roasted beet burgers or beet carpaccio, and even make a dessert like beetroot chocolate cupcakes to wow your guests.
Nuts are like a vegan’s savior because they can be used to make important dairy alternatives like vegan cheese and milk. Nuts are actually surprisingly “meaty” and can easily make a rich “meat”loaf or kidney bean/walnut burgers.
Are you ready to try any of these alternatives? Did you see any options that you didn’t know about before? Let us know in the comments!