Plant-Based Meat, Yay Or Nay?
If you’re considering transitioning to a plant-based diet, there is something you should know: it is possible to be a vegan without actually eating vegetables. With numerous meat-substitute products on the market—frozen burgers, bacon, ‘meat-y’ pizza, you name it, you can keep eating your favorite meals with fabricated meats—although it’s not advisable.
These meat-substitutes aren’t always healthy. And many come packaged in layer upon layer of plastic. While it may feel like you’re doing a service to your body and the planet by choosing these products, they are not always better.
Our first choice when choosing meat substitutes is to go the source. Our earth gives us an abundance of plant-based ingredients for making delicious and nutrient-dense recipes, and we’ve listed a few of our favorite natural meat alternatives below.
We’ve also listed a couple of products from brands we trust, ones that are using minimal and natural ingredients to create foods impossible to replicate otherwise. We recommend giving them a try and voicing your support for their meatless products. We hope the future looks like many more brands creating meat-free products with minimal ingredients and packaging. If you know of a company doing this that we haven’t listed, please share it in the comments below!
Plant-Based Meat Alternatives
Already In Your Cupboard
There are meat alternatives when transitioning to a vegan lifestyle that aren’t processed or packaged, but come directly from mother nature herself. Legumes, for example, are an excellent substitute for recipes that call for meat; they are also high in protein. Chickpeas, which have 39 grams of protein per cup, are always a favorite in the plant-based community. They work well in curry dishes, on salads, or as a substitute for eggs in egg salad sandwiches.
Potatoes are hearty and affordable; they are perfect subs for meat in soups and stews, as well as in casseroles and Buddha bowls. With plenty of variants to choose from, we love keeping these on hand to make plant-based dishes extra filling.
Of course, there is tofu and tempeh—both soy-based meat substitutes—as well as seitan, a wheat gluten product that’s been used in Asian cuisine for thousands of years. All of these work well in dishes where meat is the main ingredient (think sandwiches, burgers, tacos, stir fries). They can be found in the vegan section or with Asian foods at most major grocery stores.
And finally, lentils. Technically these are legumes too, but we will give them a few lines of their own because they are truly the saving grace for vegans. Lentils sub well in almost any recipe, giving every dish an extra oomph of texture and heartiness. They go great in lasagna and casseroles and in dips and spreads. You can use lentils in literally everything, including as the base for homemade vegan burgers. And it doesn’t hurt that they are one of the most affordable and nutritious grains on the market.
Prepared Vegan Meat Substitutes
1. The Jackfruit Company
Ingredients | The ingredients vary, but all products are made of mostly jackfruit, alongside natural and organic spices and oils
Recipes to Try | Vegan Jackfruit Burrito Bowl; Vegan BBQ Jackfruit Pulled ‘Pork’ Sandwiches
Jackfruit is—you guessed it—a fruit. It grows on trees in tropical areas of Southeast Asia, Africa, and South America. Environmental conservationists love it because it is incredibly easy to farm and good for the planet (it’s drought and pest resistant, so it doesn’t need anything artificial to grow). Jackfruit is also good for you; it’s packed with fiber, potassium, and other good-for-your-heart nutrients. With a texture similar to shredded pork or chicken, it’s a favorite meat substitute for tacos and pulled ‘pork' sandwiches.
Jackfruit can be purchased and prepared on its own, although it’s may be difficult to find depending on where you live in the world. You won’t see this fruit stacked near apples and bananas at your grocery store. Instead, try one of our favorite brands, The Jackfruit Company. A Colorado-based business, they work with farmers in India to offer ready-to-go Jackfruit products. Try the smoked pulled jackfruit or the enchilada jackfruit bowl.
Available In | Whole Foods, King Soopers, Target, Vons, Safeway. See all available stores here.
Price | Varies
Ingredients | Carrots, Rapeseed Oil, Apple Cider Vinegar, Liquid Smoke, Sea Salt
Recipes to Try | No Fuss Sushi
Mourning the loss of sushi night? How about warm bagels with a schmear and smoked salmon? We’ve got good news for our UK readers. F-ish, a London-based company, is passionate about saving the ocean and your taste buds. The founder used to be an avid seafoodie before going vegan. You can bet this herbaceous plant-based salmon alternative tastes just like the real dill.
While F-ish is only available at select stockists and online in the UK, they’ve done a few collaborations while traveling abroad. Keep your eyes peeled, we’re hoping these tiny jars of goodness will be on U.S. shelves soon.
Available In | London. View stockists here.
3. JUST Eggs
Ingredients | Water, Mung Bean Protein Isolate, Expeller-Pressed Canola Oil, Less than 2% of spices and natural additives (read the full ingredient list here)
Recipes to Try | French Toast; Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich
It’s long been debated whether eggs are meat or dairy. We’re still not sure, but we do know this: most people, when first switching to a more plant-based diet, continue eating eggs. It’s not uncommon to hear someone say “I'm vegan, except for eggs.” Eggs are one of those weird in-between foods, often surrendered at the same time as butter and cheese. It could be because of the taste (more people seem to like the texture and flavor of eggs more so than meat), or it could be because people fear lacking a source of protein in their diet. Regardless, eggs can be difficult to replace. When you go vegan, you agree to a future without omelets and breakfast scrambles. Or so you think.
JUST, a California-based company, is the maker of a few plant-based products, including mayonnaise, dressing, cookie dough, and they even have a cultured beef product in the works. They also make plant-based, non-GMO eggs, ‘fluffy and filling’ ones. Perfect for breakfast and baking and making vegan fried rice, JUST Eggs scramble batter lives up to the hype.
Available In | Most major grocery stores in the USA including Sprouts, Whole Foods, King Soopers, and Walmart. See all available stores here.
Kayti Christian, a staff writer for The Good Trade, is a storyteller, creator, activist, and avid traveler hailing from Colorado, now living in London. With 30+ stamps in her passport, she is passionate about responsible tourism and is always looking for new ways to be a more conscious traveler. She is currently pursuing her MA in Creative Nonfiction Writing at City, University of London.