I’ve been meat-free for about 4 years now, and while I still eat seafood occasionally, I mostly cook vegetarian at home. Most of my meals have consisted of pasta, grains, beans and veggies. Obviously these are all great, healthy foods, but there were times when I wanted a faster, filling protein source, especially on work nights when I just don’t feel like cooking much. I had ruled out fake meats, because, well, I always assumed it was something along these lines:
Pretty gross…that was until, earlier this year, I tried chik’n nuggets at a vegetarian friend’s house and was instantly hooked. How it took me this long to try the wonder that is modern-day faux meat is beyond me, but it instantly opened up my culinary world. I have since incorporated different kinds of vegetarian products into my meals.
The biggest reason I stopped eating meat was for ethical and health reasons. However, I never really loved meat growing up either. The taste and texture always turned me off, especially when I was eating something fatty (I’d usually end up gagging). Fortunately, even though faux meat resembles the real thing in appearance, the taste and texture are different enough that I’m not turned off by it at all. In fact, I’m glad that I can enjoy certain favorite dishes of my youth using my own substitutes now.
So here are some of the better faux meats I’ve tried and now use in various dishes. There are some faux meats that are made of pure crap ingredients; I don’t buy those. The brands below are plant or soy-based and have recognizable ingredients in them. Are they all the healthiest options? No, as they are still considered processed. But there are also MANY worse foods you can eat. And I’ll take that over eating meat. The great thing is a lot of these products are now found in almost all grocery stores, due to more people eating less meat. But even if you still eat meat, give some of these a try! You don’t need to eat meat every night, and this is a great way to expand your horizons into the vegetarian world.
I figured I’d start with my introduction to faux meat. Quorn by far makes the best nuggets, in my opinion, and are one of the pioneers of the meat-free movement. These are so easy to make and help me when I’m in a pinch for a quick protein for lunch or dinner. I’ll pair these with some veggies and some ketchup for dipping and I feel like a 10-year old again! Quorn makes several other great products as well that are definitely worth checking out.
I’m a big fan of cooking Mexican food at home, like nachos, tacos, tostadas and quesadillas. These crumbles have really come in handy to add some protein to my dishes. I just saute them with veggies and add some spices, and they always add a nice texture and flavor. The “feisty” kind are pre-seasoned, but you can also buy them plain, which I’ve used in some Italian dishes that would normally call for ground beef. I would check out the Beyond Meat brand, because they are doing some seriously innovative work in the vegetarian protein department. I can’t wait to try these!
These were my next stop after the chik’n nuggets since they’re basically one large nugget. I started eating these for lunch a few months ago, and I now eat them every single day and haven’t gotten sick of them yet. In fact, several of my coworkers now know my exact daily lunch because I’m always in the kitchen at the same time every day making it. And I always get compliments on it! My sandwich consists of a patty with a slice of pepper jack cheese, mashed avocado, mustard and spinach on a sandwich thin. If you don’t happen to have a Whole Foods near you, check out the Quorn brand of chik’n patties.
Lightlife is one of my favorite brands. I recently tried both of these items at a vegetarian BBQ and they are by far the best veggie burgers and dogs I’ve had. I’ve tried my fair share of veggie burgers; some great, some good and some downright awful. These were in the great category. As much as I like bean burgers, they just don’t always hold up on the grill. These tempeh burgers, on the other hand, grill up nice and crispy and have excellent flavor. Same goes for the smart dogs. Some veggie dogs are dry and feel like you’re chewing for days. These dogs actually have the snap of a real hot dog and don’t dry out. I highly recommend these the next time you’re grilling outside!
These actually surprised me. The idea of plant-based deli meat seemed a little weird to me at first, but they ended up being really tasty and satisfying! I’ve tried several of the deli slice flavors, but I’m a big fan of the peppered slices. A few slices on toasted bread with lettuce, tomato, pickles, cheese and mayo, and it’s just like enjoying a deli sandwich. These are a great option for lunches on-the-go since they can stay cold and transport well.
What are your favorite faux meat products that you’ve tried? Leave a comment!