Today’s vegan diets look a lot different than they once did. In the past, if you wanted to be vegan, you had to say goodbye to any meat-based meals, like sandwiches, hamburgers and tacos. However, with the recent invention of vegan meats, vegan cuisine has expanded greatly and plant-based eaters now have more meal options than ever before.
Tofu and black bean burgers have been around for quite some time, but vegans now have the option to cook and enjoy meat replacements like barbecue jackfruit and Beyond Meat burgers. These products contain no animal products but are surprisingly similar in taste and texture to real meat.
Vegan meats open up a whole new world of possibilities for vegans and vegetarians, meaning you no longer have to settle for boring meal ideas if you want to enjoy the health benefits of eating a plant-based diet. Below, we’re sharing more about vegan meat products and some creative plant-based meal ideas that you can try.
What Is Vegan Meat?
Vegan meat is a plant-based food that can be used in place of real meat. It provides a similar flavor and texture to real meat while remaining completely free from animal-based ingredients. So, if it looks and tastes like meat but isn’t, then what is it?
Plant-based meat alternatives are available with a wide variety of ingredients. Common ingredients used for vegan meat include the following:
- Textured vegetable protein (TVP)
- Pea protein
Vegan meat offers a healthier alternative to traditional meat, allowing plant-based eaters to enjoy dishes that would typically include animal products. Without access to these substitutes, vegan diets would become boring quickly. However, by incorporating vegan meats into your daily recipes, you can unlock a world of new and exciting possibilities for plant-based cooking. To get you started, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite recipes that incorporate these versatile substitutes.
6 Ways to Enjoy Vegan Meats
Enjoying the benefits of a plant-based diet doesn’t have to be boring. Here are some of our favorite recipes that incorporate vegan meat:
- Vegan meatball subs
- Sriracha aioli on top of crispy air-fried tofu fries
- BBQ jackfruit sandwiches
- Mushroom jerky
- Seitan sausages
- Tofurky sausages
You don’t have to be a vegan to enjoy plant-based cuisine. Whether you just want to eat plant-based meat on occasion to lighten up your diet or you are a devoted vegan, these recipes are healthy and delicious for anyone.
1. Vegan Meatball Subs
A meatball sub is a hearty and satisfying meal. You can purchase vegan meatballs pre-made or make them yourself. Pre-made vegan meatballs are usually made with ingredients like soy protein and a mix of seasonings. Or you can make your own by following a recipe. One vegan meatball recipe uses quinoa and black beans as the main ingredients.
To make a vegan meatball sub, follow these steps:
- Select store-bought or homemade vegan meatballs.
- Prepare the meatballs by following the recipe or instructions on the packaging if you’re doing pre-made.
- Mix the meatballs with some marinara sauce (or a different sauce of your choice if desired).
- Toast a sub roll.
- Place the meatballs on the sub roll.
- Optional: top with additional sauce and melted vegan cheese.
2. Sriracha Aioli on Top of Crispy Air-fried Tofu Fries
A vegan rendition of sriracha aioli over tofu fries is a delicious and crunchy snack for any time of the day. Since a typical aioli is made with egg-based mayonnaise, you’ll need to make sure to purchase a vegan-friendly mayonnaise for this recipe.
To make this snack, follow these steps:
- Start with a vegan mayonnaise, and mix it with sriracha sauce to make your sriracha aioli.
- Slice tofu into thin strips.
- Use an air fryer to turn them into crispy fries.
- Remove the tofu fries from the air fryer and top with the sriracha aioli sauce.
This vegan snack offers a mix of different flavors and textures for an exciting and satisfying plant-based treat.
3. BBQ Jackfruit Sandwiches
Jackfruit is a hearty fruit that has a texture similar to shredded chicken. It works great as a meat alternative for meals like barbeque jackfruit sandwiches.
To make a BBQ jackfruit sandwich, follow these steps:
- Marinate jackfruit with your favorite BBQ sauce.
- Cook jackfruit on the stove or grill until it is soft and tender.
- Cool the jackfruit and then layer it with onions, red peppers, lettuce, tomatoes and avocados.
- Sandwich the jackfruit between two buns.
BBQ jackfruit can also be purchased at some grocery stores as a pre-made food to make life easier. This is a delicious whole-food meal that is fully plant-based.
4. Mushroom Jerky
Mushroom jerky is a vegan alternative to beef jerky, using nutrient-dense mushrooms in place of meat. There are a number of different brands of packaged mushroom jerky, making this snack accessible and easy to obtain. You can also try making it on your own by marinating and baking mushrooms in the oven.
Mushrooms offer many health benefits, including being packed with macronutrients that help to boost the immune system and support overall health. If you’re on a vegan diet, then mushrooms are a great food to eat frequently since they’re full of nutrients and they’re one of the only vegan sources of vitamin D.
5. Seitan Sausages
Seitan sausages are a popular vegan alternative made from gluten and water, resembling the texture of real sausages and similar to tofu and tempeh. With a wide range of natural flavors and various cooking methods, seitan sausages offer an exciting option for vegans to experiment with different toppings and sauces, making it a fun and versatile meal choice.
Seitan sausages can be enjoyed on their own as a main entrée by simply cooking them in the oven, but it is recommended to fry them a little extra in a pan on the stove to give them some extra crispiness on the outside. You can also prepare these sausages on bread as a sandwich or chopped up over rice or sautéed veggies.
6. Tofurky Sausages
Tofurky is one of the original vegan meat brands, dating back to 1995. Tofurky is more commonly known for their vegan turkey-alternative deli meat slices that you can use for sandwiches and wraps. The brand has now branched out to making other products, including vegan sausages. You can use Tofurkey sausages to make many different vegan meals, and some of our favorite ways to use Tofurky sausages include:
- Chop up and sauté the sausages with some chopped potatoes and vegetables for a vegan sausage hash.
- Place the sausages on a bun with sautéed peppers and onions, and top with your favorite savory sauce.
- Slice them and put them on a homemade pizza in place of pepperoni.
What Is Heme? The Key to Making Vegan Meats Taste Real
You may have noticed that some modern vegan meats are tasting more and more similar to real meat. This is because of an ingredient called heme. Heme has changed the game for vegan meats, leading to alternative meats like the Beyond Burger and the Impossible Burger. These vegan burgers taste surprisingly similar to a standard beef burger. Heme is a molecule that contains iron and is found in large quantities in human and animal blood. It is what gives meat its hardy, satiating flavor.
Heme is also found in plants, which allows vegan meat brands to extract it from plant-based sources and use it in their vegan meat products. If you’re someone who chooses to eat a vegan or vegetarian diet but sometimes misses the flavor and texture of real meat, then you may be in luck. Look for vegan meats from Impossible or Beyond to find a strikingly similar alternative.
What Are the Benefits of Vegan Diets?
Even with delicious meat alternatives, sticking to a plant-based diet can be challenging, leading many people to wonder, is it really worth it? There are many positive reasons why you may choose to eat a vegan diet. Some benefits of vegan diets include the following:
- More sustainable. Animal products like meat and dairy leave a major carbon footprint because factory farming creates a large amount of greenhouse gas emissions. For this reason, many people choose a vegan diet in an effort to help sustain the life of our planet, since plant-based foods aren’t nearly as bad for the earth.
- Better for you. Plant-based foods are packed with nutrients and antioxidants. Eating a vegan diet requires a person to eat a large amount of vegetables and fruit, since you’re not able to eat much else. This can naturally help improve your overall health.
- Weight loss success. Many people have been able to achieve weight loss success by switching to a plant-based, healthy diet. Many vegan foods are naturally lower in calories and fat than those that are animal-based.
- Chronic disease management. Vegan diets may help with managing and preventing chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes since they are naturally higher in fiber and lower in cholesterol.
Are Vegan Diets Safe for Everyone?
The perfect diet will vary from person to person. A fully vegan diet is surely not the best choice for everyone, but it could be a good option for you. If you’re unsure about whether you should try a vegan diet, talk with your doctor about whether it’s the right choice for you. Some people who might not do well on a vegan diet include those who have a soy allergy, nut allergy or gluten allergy, since this would greatly limit the foods you would be able to eat, making it hard to meet your body’s caloric needs.
Vegan meats have opened up a world of possibilities for vegetarians and vegans alike. These plant-based meat alternatives make it possible for you to enjoy traditional meals like sandwiches, sausages and more, without having to make a nutritional compromise.
If you choose to eat a vegan diet, then familiarizing yourself with some of the vegan meat alternatives will help you spice up your everyday vegan meals. Vegan diets offer plenty of health benefits, but they may not be the best choice for everyone. Talk with your doctor about whether a vegan diet is the best choice for you.