When it comes to meat substitutes, tofu used to be one of the only shows in town. But these days, there are more options to choose from when it comes to feeling like you’re enjoying a substantial meal—even when it’s made of plants. Variety means you can also get more inventive with your recipe creations, enjoying foods typically off-limits for vegans, like tuna salad or carnitas. A lot of what makes meat substitutes such great stand-ins for the real thing is flavor. When jackfruit, for instance, is seasoned with chili and lime, it’s reminiscent of carnitas, and when tofu is puréed into a silky soup, it gives you an easy (and more nutritious) creamy-without-the-cream solution. Keep reading to discover some of our favorite meat substitutes, plus tips on how to use them.
Types of Meat Substitutes
Here are three of the most popular types of meat substitutes to incorporate into your diet.
- Tofu: Organic silken tofu is still a good bet for vegans. It’s a source of protein (6 grams per serving) and delivers other nutrients as well. You can pan-fry it, roast it, purée it into soups, or even blend it into smoothies. Tofu is mild in flavor, so it takes on the characteristics of whatever you’re cooking with.
- Jackfruit: Jackfruit is an exotic fruit native to India, and it just so happens to be the perfect gateway ingredient to embracing a vegan lifestyle. The texture is very similar to pulled pork, and delivers calcium, iron, and dietary fiber.
- Toona: Toona is just what it sounds like—a tuna alternative. Pea protein makes up the base of this product that gives you the illusion of enjoying canned seafood.
Top Meat Substitutes Brands
Here are some of the top meat substitute brands that are making waves in the world of plant-based eating.
Mori-Nu is short for Morinaga Nutritional Foods, a non-GMO soy products manufacturer based in Southern California. Its line of silken tofu is popular around the world, and its unique aseptic packaging helps protect the tofu from bacteria and light, which means you get a longer shelf life without needing refrigeration.
Since 2006, Upton’s Naturals has focused on offering the best meat alternatives to vegans and non-vegans alike. The ready-to-eat jackfruit comes seasoned in a range of flavors that’ll even make carnivores do a double-take. From tacos to salads, jackfruit is the plant-based protein you need in your life.
Sophie’s Kitchen is on a mission to make ready-to-eat vegan and vegetarian fare accessible to all. The key ingredient in its tuna alternative product—toona—is elephant yam root (aka konjac), a common ingredient in Asia. Mixed with traditional sea vegetables like nori, you’ll be sold after one bite.
Best Meat Substitutes
These three products are some of the best meat substitutes around.
Mori-Nu Extra Firm Silken Tofu
Made using non-GMO soybeans, this low-fat and plant-based protein is extra firm so it holds up well to grilling and stir-frying. Because it’s silken, the tofu is undrained and unpressed, giving it a custard-like texture. You can keep the box in your pantry until it’s opened, then refrigerate any leftovers.
Upton’s Naturals BBQ Jackfruit
Skip the pork and give jackfruit a try. Even carnivores will love the eerily similar texture to pulled pork, and the BBQ flavor with molasses, garlic, and paprika means your tacos, burrito bowls, and quesadillas will be extra special.
Sophie’s Kitchen Sea Salt Vegan Toona
Enjoy a taste of the sea, no seafood required. This plant-based tuna alternative is non-GMO and includes ingredients like Konjac root (an Asian superfood), pea protein, and spices like ginger and seaweed powder that make this can perfect for sandwiches, salads, and casseroles.
Meat Substitutes for Vegans
For vegan diets or plant-based eating plans, these top meat substitutes are your best bet.
Upton’s Naturals Sriracha Jackfruit
The chewy texture of this jackfruit works well in grain bowls, and sandwiches, while the kick of sriracha adds a little bit of spice. (Or a lot, depending on your heat tolerance.) Cooked and ready to eat, just heat the jackfruit on the stove for 1 to 2 minutes, until warmed through.
Sophie’s Kitchen Black Pepper Vegan Toona
This 6-ounce can of vegan toona has a base of pea protein that’s been seasoned with seaweed powder, apple cider vinegar, paprika, ginger, and the ancient superfood konjac. Each serving has 6 grams of protein.
Recipes Using Meat Substitutes, Plus Vegan Diet Tips
Vegan cooking has never tasted better. Get recipes, tips, and ideas to support your plant-based lifestyle.
Jackfruit Jambalaya Recipe
One-pot dinners are always a favorite, and this Louisiana dish will hit the spot. Instead of sausage, stir in jackfruit along with onions, celery, green peppers, and plenty of spices for a comforting meal.
Vegan Meal Plan
It’s easy to plan your vegan meals—just follow our guide that includes 35 mouth-watering recipes from breakfast to dessert.
Vegan Dinner Recipes
This post has enough ideas to make a different vegan dinner every night of the week. Spring rolls, pasta, and even meatloaf are on the menu.