Contrary to popular belief, going vegan doesn’t mean you have to miss out on your favourite meat-containing meals - you just need to ~veganify~ them by swapping out those no go ingredients for plant-based alternatives. But before you hit up the mock-meat section of your local supermarket (which is prime real estate for potentially nasty additives that definitely don’t belong in your body), allow us to tote the amazingness of 5 meat alternatives you should totally consider first.
Jackfruit is a massive, spiky fruit that originates from South India and grows in tropical regions of the world. It has a slightly-sweet but mostly neutral taste when un-ripened, making it a super versatile meat alternative that absorbs whatever flavour you choose to cook it with. Jackfruit is the perfect substitute for pulled pork or literally any other kind of shredded meat, ideal to use in stir fries and barbeque sandwiches.
Jackfruit has a solid nutrition profile which makes us love it even more. 92% of its calories come from carbohydrates, with the rest coming from protein and a little fat. This exotic fruit is also a great source of fibre and contains a portion of almost every vitamin and mineral the body needs. On top of that, jackfruit contains plenty of protein, providing more than 3g per cup, as well as an abundance of antioxidants which is just the cherry on top.
Lentils are the edible seeds of the legume family. They come in an array of colours (red, green, yellow, brown and black) and, believe it or not, were once looked down upon as nothing but a cheap pulse. We beg to differ! Lentils are like tiny little balls of potato but offer waaay more benefits than the humble spud. They are cost-efficient, quick to cook and offer a great replacement for ground beef. Lentils are a great way to bulk up stews and also go well in meatballs and burger patties. Seriously, what’s not to love?
Lentils are also a great way to nourish the body with a wide range of nutrients, offering an abundance of B vitamins, magnesium, zinc and potassium. And if they weren’t already a great meat alternative thanks to their texture, they are also made up of over 25% protein (score!) and are a substantial source of iron (something many vegos are deficient in). What’s more, they are also high in fibre and offer a broad range of beneficial plant compounds.
Now, you know how much we love mushrooms here at Knowrish Well so you may think we’re a little biased but please, hear us out. Mushrooms are LITERALLY one of the best meat alternatives out there, and here’s why. They offer a robust, earthy, umami flavour, are super juicy (great for former steak lovers) and work well in pretty much any recipe you can think of. Dice them up and use them as a vegan version of ground beef (just like lentils!) or grill up one of the larger varieties for a succulent burger patty alternative, the options are endless.
Taking a look at their nutritional profile, mushrooms are completely free of fat and cholesterol, and are low in calories and sodium. They are rich in fibre, vitamins, and minerals, and are a good source of antioxidants, beta glucan, B vitamins, copper and potassium.
It might come as a surprise to some that plain old cauliflower has made it onto this list, but believe us when we say this run-of-the-mill veggie has a tonne of potential. Possibly the tastiest way to enjoy cauliflower is to break into florets, coat in your favourite spices and fry it up for some - wait for it - vegan popcorn chicken! That’s right, you can still enjoy those little golden nuggets of heaven even on a vegan diet! Other ways to enjoy cauliflower are to marinate it as a plant-based substitute for wings, cut it up thick and enjoy it as a steak, and even use it to create a nutritious pizza base.
Cauliflower is considerably low in calories yet high in vitamins (gotta love that) and contains a wide array of vitamins and minerals. It is also good source of fibre, antioxidants, choline, sulforaphane.
Last but not least we have our good friend, the eggplant. You may be thinking, how can eggplant possibly replace meat when it’s so bland? Well, with the help of a little creativity and a bangin’ bread crumb coating, you can turn an ordinary ol’ eggplant into the most extraordinary vegan parmigiana. Drool. This wonderful fruit (yes, fruit) can also be made into meatballs or, like mushrooms, grilled up and added to burgers in place of traditional patties.
Eggplant is incredibly nutrient-dense, containing a substantial amount of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre, along with small amounts of niacin, magnesium and copper. That said, it’s clear to see eggplant isn’t just a cheeky emoji but a beneficial and versatile addition to a vegan diet.
Give these meat-substitutes a shot and continue to enjoy the recipes you love thanks to the power of plants. Of course, mock meats are a great option for those transitioning to veganism and can also be enjoyed as a sometimes food on special occasions, but for the most part we recommend turning to Mother Nature before anything else.