The Best Way to Use All the Plant-Based Meat Alternatives
With more than plant-based ground "beef" on the market, here's how to use each of the plant-based meat alternatives in the grocery aisle.
By Leah Brickley for Food Network Kitchen
There have always been alternative “meat” vegetarian and vegan options like tofu, tempeh and seitan, but the new world of plant-based meats is offering something different. In addition to being free of animal products, some of these new plant-based meats also mimic the way the real thing looks and cooks and have similar macro- and micro-nutrient profiles. (As wonderful as tofu can be, its nutrition label falls short on essentials like protein with only about half the amount per serving when compared to both animal and new plant-based meats.) Whether you’re looking to eat less meat, add more protein to your diet or just want to try something new, here’s what you need to know about how to use the new plant-based meat on the market.
What Is Plant-Based Meat?
The newest generation of plant-based meats are made from 100% plants, but are also intended to cook like their animal-derived counterparts. A plant-based burger patty might sizzle in the pan or smoke on the grill and have a similar nutritional profile — particularly in protein, zinc, iron and B vitamins — of the animal meat it is replacing. These products do not have simple ingredient labels like tofu. Depending on the company, you may see pea, soy and rice proteins along with refined coconut oil, dried yeast, cocoa butter and beet juice (for color), to name a few. These plant-based meats should be considered processed foods — saturated fat and sodium can be on the high side — but can absolutely be part of a balanced diet, if eaten in moderation.
How to Use Plant-Based Meats
Plant-based meats in all forms are showing up in packages and pouches in every corner of the grocery store and online. You’ve also probably seen more than a few plant-based burgers on fast food menus, too. Most meat-based recipes can easily become vegan or vegetarian using these plant-based meats. Here’s what varieties to use, when.
Patties for Burgers
These are best for making plant-based burgers at home, and skies the limit on toppings. They can also be broken up with a spoon or spatula while cooking if you need ground “meat” in a pinch. Impossible™ Foods was one of the first companies to go to market with plant-based burgers: Each patty has 19 grams of protein and 0 milligrams of dietary cholesterol, compared to 15 grams of protein and 55 mg of cholesterol in an average patty made from ground beef. Look for them in the refrigerated and freezer sections.
Ground "Meat" for Chili and Meatballs
Use ground plant-based beef for any recipe that calls for loose meat like taco filling and sloppy joes or meat that needs to be shaped like meatballs and kofta. Beyond MeatⓇ sells ground Beyond BeefⓇ in 1 pound packages and is both soy- and gluten- free (not all plant-based meat are). There’s also ground OMN!PORK™, which claims to be both nutritionally superior to the real thing and environmentally-friendly.
Crumbles for Pizza and Pasta
These plant-based convenience products come frozen and in clumps that can be browned quickly and sprinkled as a topping on everything from pizza to your favorite pasta dish. Beyond MeatⓇ Beyond BeefⓇ Crumbles cook up fast and can be ready from freezer-to-plate in 5 minutes.
Sausages for Cookouts and Breakfast
Dreaming about a bratwurst smothered in mustard? Good news: There are plenty of very convincing looking and tasting plant-based options. Future Farm™ Future Sausage™ brown up so convincingly they could be mistaken for regular links. The texture is almost spot on and can be cooked thawed or frozen, which is super convenient. Breakfast hasn’t been left out of the plant-based meat movement: There are pre-shaped patties perfect for breakfast sandwiches and ground sausage (even chorizo) that can be browned and added to breakfast burritos, casseroles and omelets.
Pieces for Kebabs and Stir-Fry
When it comes to chunks of plant-based meat you’re most likely to see chicken. Daring™ offers both plain and breaded “plant chicken” as well as cajun and lemon-herb flavors. All are incredibly versatile and can be cooked a number of ways. They’re great added to grain bowls and can be tossed into stir fries.