There are a million and one ways to go meatless, whether you want to go full time vegan, vegetarian, or just be vegetarian a few days a week like me. There are a plethora of meat substitutes available to try, and many of them are quite good! I’ve tried all of them except Textured Vegetable Protein (which a friend says was his favorite of the bunch) so here’s my impression:
Tofu is made from soy milk that is coagulated and then pressed into blocks similar to the cheese making process. Tofu has a very smooth texture which makes it less like meat unless you buy extra firm, cut it, press the water out and then grill or fry it. I have never truly been a fan of tofu due to the texture, but I recently tried it again and was pleased with the results. It’s practically flavorless so you’ll need to season it well.
Tempeh is also made from soy, but it’s less processed than tofu. It’s also fermented: this gives it a nutter flavor and a heartier texture. I really love the texture of tempeh, but it doesn’t really resemble meat, since it doesn’t have a very good “chew”. What I love about it is whole soybeans are visible in the finished product which make it look and feel vastly less processed than other meat substitutes.
TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein)
Another soy product, TVP is dehydrated soy flour and needs to be reconstituted before eating. It’s a by product of the soybean oil production process. It would work great in any situation that requires a ground meat texture, and because it’s a byproduct of another process, it’s very low cost. It’s usually sold dried and needs to be reconstituted before eating.
Seitan is made from wheat gluten, so if you have a wheat allergy I’d steer clear. It’s a GREAT substitute for chicken, however, because it shreds just like chicken. It’s mild in flavor like tofu, so it can be flavored any way you like. I remember eating this nearly 20 years ago at a Vegetarian Kosher Chinese restaurant. It was coated in sesame seeds and deep friend for Sesame “Chicken”. It was soooo gooood.
To understand the wonder that is Quorn, one has to understand what a mycoprotein is. If you read a lot of science fiction, you may realize that future humans will probably be eating tons more of it. Mycoprotein is made from a mold that’s part of the fungus family. It’s grown in large vats and then egg and spices are added before it’s steamed to cook it. Sounds perfect for space travel, right? Plus, it TASTES GOOD, like a very mild mushroom. Texturally it’s pretty close to meat, if a little on the dense side.
It can be difficult to compare nutrition on these things because the serving sizes can vary so greatly. I made an easy to read chart that compares facts based on both 100g servings and what 100 calories will get you. It’s quite eye opening!
I hope you give some of these a shot if you haven’t already!
4 thoughts on “Meatless Moments: More Than Just Tofu”
I love this post. I’ve had all or most of the items you cover at restaurants but would love to try more cooking with some of them but don’t know where to start. Of course I probably just need to Google some recipes. That being said, the chart with the nutrition info is especially interesting.
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Thanks! I think tempeh might be the easiest to start with. It already has quite a bit of flavor and can simply be grilled or pan seared. I’d say the most complicated to work with would be tofu, as it needs the most preparation. All I did with the Quorn was grill it and serve it with tzatziki and it was delicious!
Good post. Have you tried the trick of freezing the tofu first? Freeze the whole block solid, then thaw, crumble and squeeze out the excess water. It will then be spongy in texture and will absorb marinades. Marinate it in seasonings that give an umami flavor (mushroom concentrate, soy aminos, etc. and pan fry to get a type of ground meat substitute. It’s actually quite good! I also like extra firm tofu cut in slices and pan fried with just a dash of oil and some coarse salt. Fry it until golden turning to brown all sides. Putting a layer of salt in the pan is a chef trick that helps keep foods from sticking to the pan. Serve as an appetizer with dipping sauce (BBQ, ponzu, etc) or add to a stir fry dish.Trader Joe’s has an excellent organic super firm nigiri tofu at a reasonable price.
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I actually just found that trick on Pinterest this week, and I’m going to try it as extra firm tofu is on sale at my grocery store this week for 99c. That’s a great tip about the salt, too! Thanks, Zakiah!