My husband is vegetarian; I am not. When we first started dating, I was constantly at a loss for what to cook. All of my go-to dishes were meat-based. I felt intimidated even going down the natural foods aisle of the grocery store. On top of that, the only vegetarian protein substitute I’d tried was tofu, and I really didn’t like it.
Over time, Peter patiently taught me some of his tricks. As I learned more about the available options, I realized I didn’t need to ditch my old cookbooks; many of my recipes could be adapted into vegetarian versions. Here’s a quick guide to help you think beyond tofu:
- Instead of ground beef or turkey, try vegetarian crumbles.
Vege crumbles are really adaptable and have a very mild flavor. They are definitely drier than ground meat would be, so I add a little water as I’m browning them. Try using these in chili or for tacos.
- Instead of sausage, try vegetarian sausage.
There are countless flavors and varieties of vegetarian sausage, making it really versatile. I use vegetarian breakfast sausage links for my Savory Breakfast Muffins or on a breakfast sandwich. For Biscuits and Gravy, Peter likes the vege sausage that comes in a log. I use Field Roast chipotle flavor sausage in lieu of shrimp for Peter’s serving of my Shrimp & Grits recipe.
- Instead of chicken or beef stock, use Better than Bullion vegetable paste.
I have tried just about every brand and variety of packaged vegetable stock, and this stuff has by far the best flavor. It can be strong, so I use only about half as much as the package recommends.
- Instead of deli meat, try Tempeh.
Tempeh comes in a number of forms. You can get it sliced and seasoned, much like you find deli meat. Peter likes to make “cold cut” sandwiches with it. You can also get tempeh in a block and use it much like seitan, as a substitute for diced meat. It looks like beans pressed together and has a nutty flavor. You can cut it into cubes and sauté it with seasonings; add a little water when you’re cooking it to steam and soften the pieces.
- Instead of diced chicken, beef or pork, try Seitan.
This is where things get a little more adventurous. Seitan is a decent meat substitute, but it has a unique texture, and the flavor can be strong. I would try it first in stirfry or Fried Rice, as it seems to lend itself well to Asian flavors.
- Instead of bacon, try SmartBacon.
Tread carefully here: vegetarian bacons are not all created equal. I would not recommend the frozen varieties, nor will I say you should expect this to taste anything like real bacon. Rather, think Bac-os: sort of a bacon-esque flavor, but without all the grease! Again, these can be on the dry side, so I spray my pan with cooking spray before frying it up. I like to make “B”LTs with it.
Have you tried any of these or other vegetarian protein substitutes? Give us your tips for success in the comments below!