5 Vegetables That Can Substitute for Meat

In an ideal world, meat substitutes would not exist. But clearly, the majority of us grew up with meat. My transition into a plant-based diet would not have been as smooth if there weren’t meat substitutes or meat-like dishes that helped me with my cravings.

There are so many pre-made plant-based meat substitutes on the market today. I know there are many people who are against them but I personally don’t mind them. I love trying out new things and seeing if it is fit for my diet, taste buds and of course, my wallet!

But I also tend to agree that sometimes these pre-made meat substitutes are highly processed. You’d be amazed at how many (read: excessive) ingredients there are in a supposedly ‘plant-based’ patty.

So here is a list of 5 vegetables that are excellent as meat substitutes! Definitely give them a go for your next meal.

1. Eggplant

The consistency of eggplant makes it an excellent meat substitute. It’s chewy, hearty and is highly versatile.

Many people dislike the taste of eggplant, mainly due to its slight bitterness. However, the eggplant has a spongy texture which allows flavours to absorb well. So if you don’t like eggplant as a side vegetable, try it as a meat substitute, coated with lots of flavour – I’m sure you’ll start loving it!

I often use eggplant to substitute for chicken cutlets (for example, Japanese Katsu curry) or meatballs. But they’re also great for hamburgers and even as a bacon substitute!

Source: Wouter Meijering (Unsplash)

2. Mushroom

Mushrooms are pretty standard in a plant-based diet. They are a fantastic vegetable to include as sides and toppings. But take them one step further and use them as a meat substitute for your next dish!

Mushrooms provide an earthy, umami-rich flavour that is perfect for savoury dishes. They absorb flavouring extremely well so will soak up all your spices, herbs and sauces. Their texture is also chewy and hearty.

There are many types of mushrooms. Try to experiment with different types of mushrooms and see which one suits your dishes best.

I like to use large portobello mushrooms as a patty in burgers. Oyster and shiitake mushrooms are perfect as meat substitutes in hot-pot. Enoki mushrooms have the best texture and shape for french fries.

SOURCE: Lisanto 李奕良 (Unsplash)

3. Jackfruit

This tropical fruit is one of mother nature’s wonders.

It’s texture is similar to chicken and pork as it can shred into individual fibre-like strands. Many pulled pork recipes use jackfruit as their meat substitute but you can definitely use it for any chicken, pork or even beef recipes.

Make sure to buy young jackfruit though. Young jackfruit has a milder taste compared to mature jackfruit (more sweet). Other than this, it absorbs herbs, spices and sauces very well so is perfect for your marinade. Young jackfruit is available in cans or frozen – you can buy them fresh but it’s harder to prepare them.

SOURCE: Thedeliciouslife (flickr)

4. Lentils

Lentils are a dense nutritional powerhouse. Studies have shown its anti-oxidant properties as well as possible role in weight management.

Thankfully, lentils are a good meat substitute. They are often used to to create burger patties. I love using lentils as a ‘filling’ for many recipes that use minced or ground meats or smaller meat chunks. Because of their size, lentils have a high surface area for absorbing spices and aromatics.

For example, I use it in my Vietnamese steamed pork buns, dumplings and they are perfect for tacos and pies!

SOURCE: Deryn Macey (Unsplash)

5. Cauliflower

You have probably seen a cauliflower buffalo wing recipe floating around!

Cauliflower has a shred-like texture and because they are dense yet crumbly when cooked, they are the perfect meat substitute.

Owing to their complex structure, their high surface area means that flavour can be embedded in every cook and cranny of the vegetable, bringing you so much flavour to your dish!

My favourite cauliflower recipes include ‘tuna’ pasta bake and cauliflower steak!

SOURCE: Jennifer Schmidt (Unsplash)

I hope you found this list useful for your next dish! When I was in the step of transitioning to a plant-based diet, I was so lost in my meat-dish cravings yet didn’t know how to cook vegan dishes very well! So when I learnt and experimented with these meat substitutes, my life changed!

Let me know in the comments what meat substitutes (pre-made or not) you’ve tried!

Karen ⚘

  • Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (VI)
  • Certified Personal Trainer (Cert III and IV)
  • Fellowship of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine (Pathway)

By Karen (MBBS VI, PT)

Thank you for visiting my blog! I'm a certified personal trainer and medical student with one more year (finally!) of study until I'm a doctor. I believe in a preventative and holistic approach to medicine which means I love sharing my passion for fitness and nutrition with you guys! I hope that we all can strive to be a better version of ourselves everyday.

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