There are two types of vegan meals that meat-eaters will also enjoy: vegan foods that resemble meat in texture and/or flavor, and vegan food that highlights the natural flavors in vegetables and whole grains and does not attempt to be like meat. Whatever your preference, there are plenty of options that you may be surprised to find are as enjoyable as any meat-based dish you are used to. Some people may associate a vegan diet with a bland taste or cuisine that includes only salads and greens. By definition, vegan diets exclude animal products such as meat, poultry or fish, eggs, and dairy, but that does not mean that it cannot taste good. Vegan food consists of a variety of grains, vegetables, fruits, plant-based proteins and fats that, when prepared and flavored correctly, can taste delicious – just like any type of cuisine you love.
When looking for these products at your regular grocery store, you many need to ask where they are kept at first. Prepared vegan foods may be easier to find at a natural grocery store where you will also have more variety to choose from. Another option is ordering a vegan dish when you eat out, especially if you are at a restaurant specializing in this type of cuisine. Check Happy Cow for places near you. If you’ve ever been intrigued by incorporating more healthy, plant-based foods into your diet, you will be happy to find that there are some vegan dishes you will really enjoy.
Vegan dishes that mimic meat:
- Tempeh (pronunciation TEMP-ay): fermented soybeans products have a firmer texture for those who have issues with the softness of regular tofu. The denseness of this plant-based product resembles meat and tempeh takes on the flavor of whatever you put on it. Tempeh sandwiches, chili or tacos are often successful dishes. Try it with barbeque sauce!
- Seitan (pronunciation: SAY-tan): a wheat gluten product often used to replace chicken. It has a slightly chewy, dense texture that takes on whichever flavor you add. Try a seitan wrap or sandwich or as crumbles in pasta sauce or a stir-fry.
- Beyond Meat products are made with soy or pea protein and amaranth (an ancient grain) and are designed to resemble the texture and flavor of meat which maintaining vegan status. Try the “chicken” strips or “beef” crumbles.
- Black bean burgers: are very easy to make on your own. You create them similarly to a regular burger but with smashed beans instead of meat. You may be surprised how flavorful a bean burger can be. Engine2 brand is now selling some delicious and healthy frozen “burgers” at Whole Foods.
- Trader Joe’s veggie chorizo: try it in tacos, burritos or chili as a flavorful meat substitute.
Vegan food that highlights plant-based dishes
- Tofu: grill it, bake it, or stick it in a stir-fry. Tofu takes on whichever flavor you add to it so be sure to utilize seasonings. Tofu scrambles are popular for breakfast and many people find this a very acceptable replacement for eggs.
- Beans and lentils: any type of bean counts (kidney, black, pinto, chickpea). Again, beans and lentils do not have a strong innate taste on their own so incorporate into a recipe with herbs, spices and sauce can be your key to success. Bean-based chili, burritos, tacos, soups and salads can be as filling and satisfying as any similar dish made with meat.
- Pesto: make the sauce with nutritional yeast instead of parmesan for a dairy-free flavor on pasta or pizza. Nutritional yeast has a savory, cheesy flavor great for subing into recipes.
- Indian: any dish without meat or cream can be appropriate for vegans. Indian meals often incorporate beans, rice and vegetables and are loaded with herbs and spices for a delicious taste.
- Mexican: try veggie burrito or tacos without cheese (load up on the salsa for flavor!). Guacamole is vegan as long as no dairy has been added.
- Asian: try a curry with tofu, which soaks up any flavor added to it. Coconut milk-based dishes are rich, savory and pair perfectly with vegetables and rice. Stir-fry dishes highlight veggies and are satisfying without meat.
Ginger Hultin, MS, RD, LDN is a Chicago-based dietitian who specializes in integrative oncology. With a Master’s degree from naturopathic Bastyr University, she practices plant-based nutrition and specializes in lab interpretation and appropriate supplementation. Ginger also had a passion for fitness and maintains both group fitness and personal training certifications.