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Whether you want to be entirely vegan, eat less meat, or try new recipes, there are many benefits and reasons to introduce meat substitutes to your diet.
You can try new flavors & ingredients and get creative by making nutritious, high-protein meatless meals using different plants, vegetables, seeds, and fruits.
What’s more, meat substitutes provide fantastic health benefits and are a unique source of healthy nutrients.
Without further ado, here are some of the best meat substitutes you can enjoy!
1. Legumes → 5 – 17g of protein
Legumes are an inexpensive and significant protein source rich in fiber, carbohydrates, minerals, and antioxidants.
They are incredibly versatile, and you can add them to soups, salads, and burgers.
Per 100g of cooked legumes, you can get between 5-17g of protein:
- Green peas – 5g of protein
- Fava beans – 7g of protein
- Edamame – 12g of protein
- Soybeans – 17g of protein
- Kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, lentils & chickpeas – 8 – 9g of protein
While different legumes provide varying amounts of nutrients, they all contain a similar balance of essential amino acids.
2. Mushrooms → 3g of protein
While they don’t contain much protein, they have a high composition profile; you can count on mushrooms due to their texture, umami flavor, and nutritional value.
Furthermore, mushrooms are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals and low in calories, fat, and sodium.
They are also a great meat substitute if you want to reduce excessive processed food intake.
3. Jackfruit → 3g of protein
Jackfruit is a tropical fruit grown in Asia, South America, and Africa. It is the largest fruit in the world and can grow up to 40 pounds.
When ripe, it has a sweet taste, but unripe jackfruit (green jackfruit) has a mild flavor, and hearty texture, making it a versatile vegan meat substitute.
When cooked, jackfruit has a flavor and texture similar to pulled pork. The best way to season it is with savory, potent flavors, spices, and sauces.
Jackfruit is packed with nutrients, phytochemicals, and fiber, plus it is low in calories. Best of all, its naturally meaty texture makes it a healthier meat alternative that you don’t have to over-process.
It contains about 3 grams of protein per cup. So while it is not a high-protein source, it is still relatively high compared to any other fruit.
4. Tofu → 8g of protein
In English, tofu means bean curd, and it has been classic nutrition in Asia for ages.
It is high in protein and low in calories – 100g of tofu has about 8g of protein and 84 calories.
The lack of flavor makes it versatile and adaptable to be mixed easily with other ingredients.
Moreover, it has this unique quality of soaking up different spices and marinades, and it’s available in different versions – smoked, aromatic, and marinated with different flavors and herbs.
You can buy it already made, but you can also easily make it at home. To do that, you must curd soy milk with an acidic agent such as lemon juice.
Then, you must apply pressure to the thickened curd to separate the hard pieces from the liquid substance. After that, the tofu is ready for consumption.
5. Tempeh → 18g of protein
Tempeh is a traditional Indonesian food made from fermented soybeans. It is a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids.
Tempeh has no cholesterol and is a good source of B vitamins, fiber, iron, calcium, and other minerals.
It is a high-protein source and a great vegan substitute for meat – 100 grams have over 18 g of protein and 193 calories.
It can be the base for almost any dish and fits with nearly anything because of its earthy flavor.
6. Seitan → 22g of protein
Seitan is a great vegan substitute for meat, made by kneading wheat flour with water to develop sticky strips of gluten protein. In the end, you will be left with pure gluten protein.
Seitan, or “wheat meat,” is rich in iron, selenium, and phosphorus. It is high in protein while low in carbs, making it a top option for low-carb diets. 100g has about 22g of protein and 118 calories.
Seitan’s flavor is the closest to chicken or portobello mushroom. It has a mild taste and can stand on its own or take on other flavors. Because of its meaty texture, putting it on the grill is good.
Not to mention that seitan is soy free, making it an excellent alternative for those with soy allergies. However, it is not an option for those with gluten intolerance.
7. Protein Powders → 15 – 27g per serving
Plant-based and vegan protein powders are a fantastic and straightforward way to increase your protein intake and get essential vitamins and minerals for optimal health.
A serving usually provides between 15 – 27g of plant protein.
You have a wide list of options; you can choose between pea protein, soy protein, rice protein, hemp protein, flaxseed protein, pumpkin protein, quinoa protein, or a mix.
I have an article with my favorite 14 plant-based & plastic-free protein powders that you can check out.
8. Green Powders → 6g per serving
Organic green powders such as Spirulina and Chlorella are great ways to get more protein. They are easy to incorporate into your diet while ensuring you get your essential nutritional needs.
Spirulina is a type of algae powder that is considered a superfood because:
- It is packed with antioxidants and is an excellent source of high-quality plant-based protein. 100g has 57g of plant protein.
- It contains linolenic fatty acid that can only be found in the mother’s milk and other vital amino acids.
- It is rich in anti-inflammatory, which makes it suitable for detoxifying and cleansing the body.
On the other hand, Chlorella offers a plant-based source of protein (60g of protein per 100g) that you can digest easily.
It is a source of minerals like zinc, and magnesium, vitamins such as A, B12, and C, and antioxidants. In addition, it has a large amount of chlorophyll, which also offers various health benefits.
9. Textured Vegetable Protein → 51g of protein
Soy protein, also known as textured vegetable protein, soy chunks, or soy meat, is defatted soy flour.
They are affordable, high in protein, and easy to cook. 100g offers 51g of plant protein.
The texture makes it ideal for preparing all sorts of recipes, from meatballs and vegan burgers to pasta sauce.
It is commonly sold as balls or minced and is usually used as a meat extender in any vegan meal.
10. Oats → 12g of protein
Oats are an incredibly nutritious whole grain rich in fiber, antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins.
Oats are often used to make porridge, but there are many other ways to incorporate them into your diet. 100g has 12.5g of protein.
Some beneficial nutritional values of oats include being rich in copper, iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium, folate, vitamin B1, B3, B5, B6, calcium, and potassium.
It also contains beta-glucan, a water-soluble fiber that keeps you full for a longer and enhances the number of good bacteria in your gut, reducing LDL cholesterol levels.
11. Green Spelt → 14.5g of protein
Green spelt is a high-in-protein grain that contains fiber, magnesium, iron, folic acid, B vitamins, and zinc. 100g has 14.5g of protein.
You can easily incorporate it into your diet, whether whole or crushed, as a side dish for soups, patties, or stews.
Combining these hearty grains with pulses or nuts is best to get a good mixture of all essential amino acids.
12. Nuts & Seeds → 15 – 31g of protein
Nuts & seeds are super nutritious and packed with healthy fats, fibers, vitamins, and minerals.
They are also good protein sources and easy to add to your diet. Some of the high-protein nuts and seeds include:
- Hemp seeds – 31g per 100g
- Pumpkin seeds – 29.8g of protein per 100g
- Peanuts – 24.4g of protein per 100g
- Almonds – 21.2g of protein per 100g
- Flax seeds – 18g of protein per 100g
- Chia seeds – 16g of protein per 100g
- Cashews – 15g of protein per 100g
- Walnuts & Hazelnuts – 15g of protein per 100g
You can sprinkle your meals with your favorite nuts and seeds (or nut butter!) or make recipes, for example, tasty vegan burger patties, when you combine nuts, like walnuts, with black beans.
13. Vegan Deli Slices → 14 – 18g of protein
Plant-based deli slices are a special option for those who want to avoid meat but still crave things like ham, turkey, pepperoni, etc.
The ingredients and protein content vary, but it is often between 14 – 18g of protein per 100g.
It is a processed source of protein, and while some have added flavors and high sodium, there are also options with more natural ingredients like lentils, wheat protein, and tofu.
Some better, more healthy options include:
More high-protein vegan sources:
- Wild rice – Cooked wild rice provides over 6g of protein per 100g.
- Quinoa – A complete source of protein, providing 5g of protein per 100g.
- Soy milk – A cup (250ml) provides 10g of protein.
- Nutritional yeast – A deactivated yeast with a cheesy flavor, often added as a topping to various savory dishes. A 16-gram serving provides 8 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber.
- Vegetables – Protein-rich veggies that contain 4 – 5g of protein per cup (~150g) include broccoli, spinach, asparagus, artichokes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and Brussels sprouts.
Why do vegans replace meat?
Most vegans who adopt a plant-based diet do so for ethical reasons, not because they dislike the flavor of the meat. Because of this, vegans oppose the cruelty and slaughtering of animals by choosing plant-based alternatives.
Can you replace meat with plants?
You can easily replace and recreate recipes made with meat by using plant-based alternatives, like beans, mushrooms, chickpeas, etc. These foods are tasty and nutritious; some can recreate the meaty texture of various meals.
Can tofu completely replace meat?
Yes. Tofu includes all 9 amino acids humans require, making it a complete protein. You can get enough protein from tofu and other plant-based options.
Is tofu healthier than meat?
Tofu is a healthy meat alternative made from soybeans. It contains protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals without meat’s cholesterol and saturated fats.
Nowadays, a wide variety of meat substitutes are available on the market.
While some people become vegans from a moral point of view, others take this approach because they want a healthier lifestyle away from meat and all relevant products.
What about you – why are you considering adding meat substitutes to your diet?