One of the biggest challenges for the aspiring vegetarian is giving up the taste and texture of meat

In spite of the best intentions for good health, the environment or animal welfare, it’s the smokey flavor of bacon, the meatiness of ground beef or the convenience of grilled hot dogs that tempts us the most.

There are ways, however, to impart meat like tastes and textures without meat and create more than reasonable meat substitutes. Take a thick textured ingredient, season it with flavorings associated with a particular type of meat, add fat if appropriate and use the substitute in the recipe that usually includes meat.

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You will be surprised by the results!

Meat without the meat

Though most meat substitutes are high in protein, cholestrol-free and much lower in fat than meat, do read labels for preservatives, fat and sodium content.

Meat substitutes or vegetarian meat as I call it, easily replaces beef, sausage and chicken dishes. No secret to long time vegetarians, these products often referred to as meat analogs are appearing at stores in growing number.

Like most convenience foods, meat substitutes can be quite pricey and if they are too hard on your pocket book try working with their versatile predecessors TVP, Tofu, Tempeh, Seitan and Mushrooms.

1. Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)

Long used as a meat extender: non-meat substances with substantial protein content are primarily used with the objective of making meat products low-cost.

TVP is a processed soy product that has a meaty texture to begin with and often fortified with vitamins and other nutrients.

substitutes for meat_4You can buy it dry (it has as much as 50% protein when dry). All you need to do is soak it in hot stock or almost any savory sauce. It can soak up as much as three times its weight in liquids hence quite satiating. Works well in dishes like chili and sloppy joes.

2. Tofu

Tofu is also known as bean curd is a food made by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting curds into soft white blocks. It has a low calorie count and relatively large amounts of protein.

It is high in iron depending on the kind of coagulant used in manufacturing.

Tofu is available in both soft and firm styles. To make Tofu work try using the extra firm variety, drain it for a long duration, wrap in cheesecloth or paper towel and set in colander over bowl. Putting weight like jars and cans on tofu helps draining it better.

How to cook it

You can marinate Tofu before cooking or cook the tofu until it’s slightly browned. Even better if you have time drain it, freeze it for at least 48 hours (up to 6 months) and let it defrost first before hand or for expediency pour boiling water over it. This process will give you even more meaty texture.

Sliced or cubed thawed tofu tastes like a chicken whereas thawed crumbled has the texture of ground beef.

– Saute Tofu, simmer in liquid dishes and stir fry it or bake it.

– You can also deep fry tofu although you will be taking in more vegetable oil and calories than other cooking methods.

Another point to remember, even though tofu and its cousins are rather bland unadorned, they readily absorb seasonings and marinades which makes them very versatile.

Any of these make your mouth water? Discover 3 more substitutes to help you curb your meet cravings in Part 2 of my article tomorrow.

Connect with Expert Harmeet Sehgal

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