The delicate balance of having been a meat eater for the first 10 years of my life, learning how to cook food that I love with only meat substitutes, and living with a meat eater that I sometimes have to feed has led to the existence of this list. I wouldn’t call myself a foodie, but I love food to the extent that I get sad when I smell bacon or BBQ or something else I know must have meat in it. So I’ve developed my arsenal of fake meats to compensate. The added bonus of having a meat eater in my house means I can test out new recipes and have someone to judge their passable-ness before I impose my vegetarian ways on others, so these items are, if I may, “tried and true.”
Originating in Indonesia centuries ago, tempeh is a fermented product made from soybeans and grains. It is most commonly found as a sandwich meat substitute (it makes a decent fake bacon) and as a filling for gyros.
I put tempeh at #10 because it’s my least favorite of the meat substitutes (I personally find the texture and flavor to be real gross), but it is very popular and has certainly stood the test of time.
I have an extremely complicated relationship with eggplant. It is usually prepared breaded and fried, which can turn horribly wrong if done improperly (sadly, this is most of the times I’ve had eggplant, hence the complicated feelings). That being said, if done well, breaded and fried eggplant can be super delicious and a great substitute for chicken cutlets.
I have a Pakistani friend whose fiancée once made me the most amazing dish with stewed eggplant. It had this awesome tender, chewy consistency, and it took on the flavor of the sauce she served. Thinking she had applied some passed-down Pakistani secret magic, I asked her how she prepared it. She replied with “I don’t know – this is the first time I’ve ever made eggplant.”
Again with the super complicated relationship. I, like many others, hate the taste and smell of mushrooms, but they make a great meat substitute if you season and prepare them well. Especially shiitakes. Oh my god, shiitakes. Fun fact – if you slice shiitakes, toss them in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast them for 45 minutes, they taste JUST like bacon. I had two bacon aficionados back me up on this.
One of my favorite quick dinners is noodles (Top Ramen or otherwise) tossed with sriracha and scrambled egg. The egg takes on the flavor of the sauce and becomes chewy and sturdy enough to hold it’s own weight when handled with chopsticks or dumped in soup.
You can find tons of recipes all over the internet using different nuts in place of meats. Cashews, especially, go very well in stews and curries. Raw food dieters love nuts since they’re high in protein and good fats, and you don’t have to cook them first.