The Veggie Table: Beyond the Portobello Burger

By: Janel Ovrut Funk
Related To:
veggie burger

When you make the move to a meatless diet, one of the first things you may miss is that familiar sink-your-teeth-into-it texture you got from beef, chicken and even some fish. Fortunately, there are so many plant-based foods that easily mimic the texture of meat and are versatile enough to be used in a variety of recipes, whether you're craving a burger or anything else.

Mushrooms: Mushrooms have a savory umami flavor, making them a star ingredient in meat-free burgers. I'm not talking about those measly veggie burgers at restaurants that have just one floppy portobello mushroom cap slapped in a burger bun. I'm talking about a thick, filling mushroom burger like the one above (photo courtesy of Oh My Veggies), which also contains lentils and oats.

Eggplant: Salting eggplant slices before cooking draws out some of the vegetable's moisture, helping it lose that spongy texture and bring out a meaty one. Try eggplant slices cooked on the grill and layered with tomato sauce and cheese in an eggplant parmigiana.

Soy: Soy has chameleon-like properties in that it can be transformed to take on different flavors and textures. I prefer soy in its least processed forms, including tofu and tempeh. Tofu, like mushrooms and eggplant, needs to have the water squeezed out of it before it can be grilled or baked to give it that leathery (in a good way) texture.  I use my TofuXpress to squeeze out the extra moisture, but you can also drain a block of tofu between two heavy plates in the kitchen sink. Once you have a drier tofu, you can cut it into thick slices, marinade it in your favorite sauce, and grill or bake it the same way you would cook chicken.

Although tempeh is sold as a compact block, my favorite way to enjoy it is diced into tiny bits or crumbled, much like ground beef. Simply cook your block of tempeh in a steam basket, or steam it in a few tablespoons of water in the microwave until soft. Then flake the tempeh with a fork until it is completely broken up. You can sauté your tempeh crumbles with taco seasonings to make tempeh tacos, or mix in BBQ sauce to make a tempeh sloppy Joe that even meat eaters will devour.

TELL US: What's your favorite way to mimic the texture of meat?

Janel Funk, MS RD LDN, loves experimenting with vegetarian and vegan cooking. Read her food blog, Eat Well with Janel, and follow her on Twitter @DietitianJanel.  Catch up on her previous posts here.

Next Up

The Deets on Mock Meats

Ground "beef," tofu hot dogs, veggie burgers and fake chicken nuggets -- you name it and a veg-friendly, faux meat is available at the supermarket. Here's what we think of some of these substitutes and how often you should turn to them.

Spotlight Recipes: Vegetarian Pasta Dishes

Good old pasta dishes can easily be turned into a vegetarian dish. Problem is, pile in tons of cheese and large portions of pasta and watch the calories and heart-clogging saturated fat go through the roof (yes, even vegetarian recipes can be unhealthy!). There are ways to lighten up your lasagna and macaroni and cheese but here are a variety of vegetarian pasta dishes that are delicious and figure-friendly.

15 Great Vegetarian Pastas

These recipes are all sans meat, poultry and fish but brimming with flavor from veggies, beans, herbs and nuts.

The First Vegetarian Elementary School Is Changing More Than Meals

P.S. 244 in New York City's Queens is the first public school in the nation to become 100-percent vegetarian.

Vegetarian Thanksgiving: A Feast of Fall Sides

Here are a few vegetarian-friendly Thanksgiving dishes that the whole crowd will love.

Taste Test: Veggie Burgers

For a quick meatless meal, veggie burgers are a convenient choice. Since there are only a handful of popular brands out there we turned to our Facebook Fans to tell us their preferred flavors—then we tasted and ranked them. See how they stacked up.

The Veggie Table: Meatless Mexican Lasagna

This vegetarian lasagna features kicked up Mexican flavors with salsa and jalapenos for extra warmth on a cold winter.

A Showstopping Vegetable Tarte Tatin

Food Network Magazine’s Vegetable Tarte Tatin features sweet and savory layers of roasted potatoes and parsnips beneath and on top of freshly made caramel.

Reading List: San Fran’s Meatless Mondays, Apps for Allergies & Mealtime Photo Sharing

In this week’s nutrition news: A new iPhone app helps allergy-prone eaters, study links trans fat with sudden heart attacks and San Francisco jumps on the Meatless Mondays bandwagon.

The Veggie Table: A Vegetarian Pregnancy

Throughout my pregnancy, one of the most popular questions I got was, "Are you still going to be vegetarian?"

Related Pages