Curbing your meat habit can be very daunting. Having spent most of my life on a meat-heavy diet, it certainly did not come to me naturally. I found that going meat-free once a week is easy enough. But when I decided to step it up and go meat-free several times a week, I found myself at times craving the texture and juiciness of meat.
Around 6 years ago, when I first became flexitarian, the choice of meat substitutes was scarce: Quorn and Linda Mc Cartney were the two main brands out there. What a difference 6 years have made! A flurry of innovative brands are now available, some even being sold in the meat aisles of supermarkets.
Some meat substitutes look and taste so much like the real thing that many seasoned vegetarians or vegans can find the idea repulsive. But for the ones who have not lost the taste for meat yet, meat substitutes can be a great solution when trying to follow a plant-based diet.
What are meat substitutes made of?
Meat alternatives are generally made of soya, pea protein, jackfruit or mycoprotein (fungi) blended with other ingredients to enhance flavours and colours.
Are meat substitutes healthy?
Meat substitutes are a good source of plant-based proteins and fibre and are an invaluable option for anyone who is trying to reduce their meat consumption. However, they are processed food and as such might contain preservatives, salt, colourings etc..
I personally find them very useful, especially when I am cooking a vegetarian or vegan meal for meat-eaters. Also if I am having a crazy busy day with no time to cook, they do come handy for a quick and easy dinner. However, like most things it is good to keep a balance. Enjoy them from time to time, but don’t make them the bulk of your diet, prioritising fresh and unprocessed food instead.
What do meat substitutes taste like?
Meat substitutes are designed to feel and taste like meat and most of them come very close to the real thing.
How do you cook them?
Meat substitutes are easy to prepare so you can enjoy them whatever your cooking skills. Some come pre-flavoured, so you just have to fry them in a bit of oil. Others which are plain, will generally blend in with whatever else you are cooking them with. They are generally quite versatile and suit many world cuisines.
Even products such as sausages and burgers can also be transformed into completely brand new recipes such as these innovative 3 Recipe Twists With Linda McCartney’s Veggie Kitchen.
Here is a list of some of my favourites with some recipe examples of what you can prepare with them.
Quorn is the oldest and biggest-selling meat-free range in the world. It is made of mycoprotein, a unique fungus growing in Buckinghamshire. Through fermentation, the fungus is transformed into a meat-like product. Mycoprotein is a source of protein that is high in fibre and low in saturated fat.
Quorn products are either vegetarian or vegan. They are available as chicken-style pieces, nuggets, fillets; beef-like steaks, strips, meatballs, mince (that I use for this quorn chilli recipe) or pork-like sausages as well as many different prepared meal options. Versatile, they are very easy to use like in these 15-Min Quorn Vegan Recipes.
One downside is that Quorn does not contain iron so it is best to serve it with plant-based iron sources such as dark greens or pulses. I always keep a few bags of Quorn in my freezer. My kids enjoy it too and through the years I have made recipes such as these:
Quorn Lentil Casserole [vegetarian] [gluten free]
Recovery Protein Bowl with QUORN + Creamy Chipotle Avocado Dressing [vegetarian]
Moroccan Quorn Meatloaf with Creamy Harissa Dressing [vegetarian]
Quorn Chicken Style Pieces and Leek Pie [vegetarian]
Naturli made history by becoming the first meat substitute to be sold in a UK supermarket meat aisle. You will find two types of Naturli mince, one made from soya and the other from pea protein. Both are mixed with almonds, coconut, wheat, mushrooms and tomatoes with a dash of beetroot for colour. Naturli has a hearty texture that is very similar to meat. You can use the mince for burgers, bolognese, meatloaf or stuffed vegetables like in the recipe below.
Oumph! is a soy-based meat analogue that has taken Scandinavia by storm. Its meat-like texture which, depending on the product, resembles chicken, beef or pork, is amazing. Made from soy, the range is completely plant-based, free from gluten, dairy and nuts.
Sold in pre-seasoned bags, you simply fry Oumph! chunks in a pan and have a tasty meal ready in no time. It is really versatile so you can prepare a wide range of world cuisine dishes such as Taco, Kebabs, Curry, Sandwiches etc.. Oumph! The Chunk is unseasoned and I have used it to make the salad below.
Kebabs, Chicken Pieces, Burgers, Fish Burgers and even Steaks, Vivera vegetarian and vegan products made from soya as well as lupin, chickpeas, vegetarian cheese, fresh vegetables and beans. The range is versatile and can be used in a wide range of dishes
Following the success of its No Bull Burger, Iceland went on to launch the UK’s largest frozen vegan range last year. Soya-based mince, sausages, veggie balls, No Chick Fillets and No Chick Chunks … there are 13 different plant-based foods to choose from and Iceland offers meal ideas on what to cook with them on its website.