Meet Some Plant-Based Meat Replacements

Photo: Vegan Burger

Who says that eating a plant-based diet means missing out on your favorite foods and living off salads? A common misconception among those interested in eating a plant-based diet is that they will have to say goodbye to many of their favorite dishes, especially local and cultural ones. Meat-based dishes can actually be easily altered and still taste very similar to the way you remembered them. This way you can eat right, your way, every day. Best of all, plant-based substitutes don’t have the negative health aspects of meat and other animal-based foods, and often taste just like the ‘real thing’. The following are some meat replacement options and four local recipes that have been altered to accommodate a plant-based diet.

  1. Textured vegetable protein (TVP) TVP is a dehydrated high-protein, high-fiber meat replacement made out of soy flour and is great to use as a substitute for ground meat. It readily absorbs the flavors of the spices and sauces it’s cooked in and is good to use in pasta sauce, soup, chili, salads, burritos or sloppy Joes.
  2. Seitan This product is also sometimes known as ‘wheat gluten,’ or ‘wheat meat.’ Seitan can be used in many different ways and is similar in texture to real animal meat, and has a high amount of protein. It is commonly used to replace beef, pork, and chicken.
  3. Portobello mushroom Portobello mushrooms are great alternatives to burger patties and other grilled meats. Their texture is remarkably similar to some meat and, of course, they are much lower in fat and contain zero cholesterol.
  4. Tempeh This is a product that is derived from soy, made by cooking and fermenting soybeans and then shaping them into patties. You can bake, steam, fry or sauté tempeh and it is a great alternative to meat or fish. Besides the great flavor, tempeh is also high in iron, calcium and protein.
  5. Legumes Beans, lentils and peas are great protein-rich substitutes for meats, and can be used in anything from chili to soups.
  6. Tofu A good substitute for most meats including chicken, pork and beef, tofu is derived from soybeans and is full of protein (3 ounces of extra-firm tofu has around 8 grams of protein). Tofu is extremely versatile and tasty. You must add seasoning to tofu to make it flavorful, of course, as you would with meat. Frying, grilling and baking are wonderful ways to prepare tofu, giving it a crispy chewy coating. Crumbling tofu with turmeric, garlic, and spices has an amazing similarity to scrambled eggs.
  7. Meat Analogues There are tons of meat substitutes on the market, from burger patties, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, fish fillets, and sandwich meats – pretty much whatever you might miss when making the switch to a plant-based diet.

Vegetarian Arroz Caldo

Make this comfort dish ahead of time for an easy meal that can be refrigerated (up to a week) and warmed up when needed.


  • 3-4 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1” ginger piece, chopped
  • ½ cup sliced onions
  • 3 green onions, chopped with ¼ cup reserved for garnish
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 pound mushrooms of choice, sliced
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • ½ cup tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Lemon juice (optional)


  1. Soak dried mushrooms in hot water for 20 minutes or until softened. Drain and pat dry. Chop roughly and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add sliced garlic and cook for 3 - 5 minutes. Stir frequently until garlic is a light golden brown.
  3. Remove garlic carefully from pan and transfer to paper towels to dry and cool. Set aside.
  4. Combine shiitake mushrooms, ginger, onions, green onions, chopped garlic, mushrooms, stock, and tamari in a large pot over medium heat for 15 minutes or until boiling.
  5. Add quinoa. Lower heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for another 25 minutes or until grains are tender.
  6. Season with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. Stir and serve with toasted garlic and green onions. Enjoy!

Yields: 4-6 Servings

Baked Banana Lumpia


  • Phyllo dough, thawed
  • 1 bunch apple bananas (5-6), ripe to overripe
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • ½ cup baking cocoa (optional)
  • ½ cup coconut flakes (optional)
  • ¼ cup coconut oil


  1. Preheat oven to 400°. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Cut 1-2 sheets of phyllo dough into quarters (about 8” squares). Cut enough squares to equal the number of bananas you have.
  3. Peel bananas and cut off ends.
  4. Pour brown sugar and cinnamon into a small bowl. Pour cocoa, coconut flakes and coconut oil into separate small bowls.
  5. Brush coconut oil generously over each square.
  6. Roll bananas in sugar and cinnamon mixture. You can either bake them as-is or roll in cocoa and/or coconut flakes.
  7. Place banana on the bottom of phyllo square and carefully roll, brushing a little coconut oil on the outside layer as you roll. If dough is too long, simply cut until the ends are about ½”-1” from the banana inside.
  8. Place rolled lumpias on a baking sheet, evenly spaced. Bake for 20-25 minutes, turning over halfway through.
  9. Remove from oven and let cool. Serve immediately as-is or with ice cream. Enjoy!

Yields 4 Servings

Agedashi Tofu

Dashi serves as the basis for many Japanese dishes. Substitute traditional bonito flakes for iron-rich kombu. This popular dish is one of the best ways to enjoy tofu – simple, warm, and delicious.


Vegetarian Dashi

  • ¼ cup dried shittake mushrooms
  • 2½ cups water
  • 5" piece of dried kombu


  • 1 (10-ounce) block medium tofu, drained well
  • 4 Tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • 3 Tablespoons mirin
  • ¾ Tablespoon brown sugar
  • ½ cup corn starch
  • ¼ cup safflower oil + more if needed
  • ¼ cup chopped green onions
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh grated ginger
  • 1 Tablespoon sesame seeds or gomasio


  1. Rehydrate mushrooms according to package directions. Coarsely chop mushrooms, combine them with 2 cups water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.
  2. Add remaining ½ cup water and kombu. Bring to a boil. Strain mixture into a large bowl, reserving mushrooms to use in other dishes and discarding kombu.
  3. Cut tofu into ¼” thick slabs, then slice in half width-wise. Place tofu on paper towels to remove any excess water.
  4. Combine prepared Vegetarian Dashi, soy sauce, mirin, and brown sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer.
  5. Pour corn starch into a shallow bowl. Coat tofu slabs with corn starch.
  6. Heat safflower oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry tofu until golden, turning once. Work in batches if necessary. Add more oil if needed. Tofu should be immersed one-fourth to halfway in oil. Transfer to paper towels to absorb excess oil.
  7. Transfer tofu to a serving bowl and add warm sauce. Garnish with green onions, ginger, and sesame seeds. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Yields 4-6 Servings

Kalbi Seitan

Grilled Kalbi dishes are an important and famous part of Korean cuisine (aside from kim chee!). This meatless version has all the great flavor while incorporating more vegetables and amazing meat substitute seitan.


  • 1 (8-ounce) package seitan
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 Asian, Bosc or Bartlett pear
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup mirin
  • ¼ cup finely chopped onion
  • 4 Tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1-2 Tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 2 green onion stalks, thinly sliced
  • Kim chee (optional)


  1. Drain seitan well and pat dry. To chop seitan Kalbi-style: chop seitan into bite sized cubes. Sprinkle brown sugar and rub into seitan. Set aside.
  2. Peel and core pear. A quick way to core a pear is by using a melon baller. Grate pear into a medium bowl.
  3. Whisk in soy sauce, water, mirin, onions, garlic, sesame oil and black pepper to pear mixture – it should be quite thick.
  4. Transfer seitan into marinade, ensuring all pieces are covered in the marinade. Cover and let refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
  5. Strain seitan, saving the marinade. You can refrigerate and reuse marinade for up to a week.
  6. Heat sesame oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  7. Cook pieces 4-5 minutes or until browned on all sides.
  8. Garnish with sesame seeds, green onions, and a small piece of kim chee on the side. Enjoy!

Yields: 4 Servings