Beyond Meat and other plant-based meat substitutes are big business, but if you’re only used to cooking actual meat, you might not be sure how to make them—hence, this guide to the best ways to cook the most popular vegan meat alternatives.
plant-based craze. Thing is, it’s not so crazy. Studies have shown the trendy diet has enormous health benefits, reducing the risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer. Plus, if we could all lean a little bit harder into switching to plant-derived foods, it would have a global impact, diminishing the need for massive cattle and poultry farms that are often not only inhumane but environmentally destructive.So you’re finally ready to take the plunge into the
Sure, it’s hard to deny an omnivore’s lust for the meaty stuff (there’s a reason why burgers are a regular reward on “Survivor”), which is why non-animal substitutes from companies such as Impossible and Beyond are becoming pillars of mainstreaming eating. Scores of scientists have spent years in laboratories looking for a solution that will satisfy even the most diehard meatheads out there. Discover how close they’ve come to achieving that goal with these recipes that will have you saying, “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Insert-Animal-Based-Protein-Here.”
Related Reading: This Vegan Chef’s Top Tip for Plant Based Eating Makes Perfect Sense
Cooking with “Raw Meat”
Beyond and Impossible manage to rather miraculously replicate the flavor and texture of ground beef. You literally can handle it the same way you would the real deal. It’s built to be soft and pliable when “raw” and tender and juicy when cooked.
Beyond Meat products are widely found at grocery stores nationwide, most notably Whole Foods. Impossible has taken a different approach, marketing its brand first through restaurants (partnerships that have resulted in plenty of advertising), which may be why you’re more familiar with it than Beyond. But it has been slower to roll out the product to home cooks and it may be difficult to locate at the supermarket.
Whichever one you come across, it may have taken a rocket scientist to create the “meat,” but it doesn’t take one to cook it.
Related Reading: 5 Plant-Based Swaps for the Carbs You Crave
Approach a plant-based burger like you would any other. We’re talking about forming a patty (sometimes you’ll find it’s already packaged that way), tossing it on a hot surface for a few minutes (don’t forget to flip), and sliding it between two buns with a slice of the orange stuff. Nothing to it but to do it. And don’t fret if you don’t have a grill. Plant-based burgers taste just as good (if not better) cooked on a skillet on high heat. But if you do happen to be grilling, consider throwing some sweet potatoes on there as a side. Get CNET’s Beyond Meat Burger recipe. (And check out their review of the new Beyond Breakfast Sausage, which come in patties and can be prepared in the same ways.)
Cooking Tips: Why not go completely plant-based and jazz up your burger with Follow Your Heart’s non-dairy and cruelty-free condiment products? They’re available on Amazon and at Whole Foods nationwide. Use their 1000 Island Dressing if you’re looking to mimic a Big Mac or In-N-Out’s Double Double. They also produce a wide assortment of could’ve-fooled-me vegan cheese from American to smoked Gouda.
Think “beyond” the burger and use plant-based ground beef in a crowd-pleasing bolognese. If you already have a favorite recipe for the classic Italian pasta sauce, do a 1-for-1 swap of Beyond or Impossible in favor of animal-based protein. This stick-to-your-ribs recipe from Cooking with Books might even impress your nonno’s discerning palate. Get the Beyond Meat Bolognese recipe.
Cooking Tips: Pile it onto al dente tagliatelle for the closest approximation to the iconic dish, and try topping it with vegan parmesan to make the whole meal an ode to plants.
If you’ve ever cohabitated with a vegan, chances are you’ve had an unfortunate run-in with substandard “meat”loaf. Thankfully, with recipes such as this, which offers a meat-free taste of classic Americana, those days are over. Get the Classic Vegan Meatloaf recipe.
Cooking Tips: The glaze topping, accentuated with a BBQ spice blend, carries the day. Not only does it make the plate look pretty, it highlights the flavor those food scientists labored so hard to design.
Cooking with “Crumbles”
Now, let’s move past the ground “beef” pastures and into crumble country. Though the texture is a bit firmer and not as cleverly deceptive, they couldn’t be simpler to work with. The crumbles come pre-separated in a bag, so they’re easy to portion.
Whether or not it’s football season or a cold, wintery day, chili is a winning one-pot meal. This method advocates baking the crumbles in the oven before adding them to the sauteed-veggie base. Get the Ultimate Vegan Chili recipe here.
Cooking Tips: The ingredient list in this recipe may call for tofu, but plant-based meat is a no-brainer substitute. Once again, Follow Your Heart comes through with the requisite add-ons. Try topping off your bowl with faux sour cream and/or shredded “cheddar.”
A lot of fast food chains are embracing the plant-based movement, but not all of your favorite menu items have made the transition. Cure your case of the non-meat munchies in the comfort of your own kitchen and save yourself a ride to the drive-thru. If you quiero heat, Beyond Meat’s Crumbles come in a “Feisty” variety, which we recommend using here over the standard stuff. Get the Vegan Crunch Wrap Supreme recipe.
Cooking Tips: Instead of buying two different sizes of tortillas, consider using a small bowl to cut out a smaller tortilla from one of the larger ones. With the leftover tortilla scraps, you can whip up crispy tortilla chips as a starter dish.
The glistening Korean BBQ glaze on these Beyond Meat Beef Crumble meatballs instantly trick your eyeballs, then your tastebuds, into thinking this is real meat. This is one of those recipes that’s perfect to prepare for a large gathering of food snob plant-based-naysayers where you can then smugly announce that what they just ravenously scarfed down was not in fact an animal product. Get the Vegan Korean BBQ Meatballs recipe.
Cooking Tips: The mouthwatering sauce here works well on a number of applications. Definitely think about making a big batch and freezing it for future uses.
Cooking with Field Roast “Sausage”
Beef stand-ins may horde the spotlight but other animal alternatives are big players in the plant-based game. When it comes to pig substitutes, Field Roast has been at it for a while with its “sausage” offerings. Also look out for the impending release of Impossible Pork. The product debuted at CES 2020 and earned raves from attendees.
This bodega breakfast staple is a vegan’s worst nightmare with a triple threat of bacon, eggs, and cheese. Though visually, Lightlife’s “bacon” is not a perfect stand-in for actual cured pork belly, the flavor does come through. To round it out, Just Egg has you covered on the yolk-ish front, and Follow Your Heart can hook you up with cheesy fakes of both American and cheddar. Get the Breakfast Bagel Sandwich recipe.
Cooking Tips: Unless you’re in the greater Manhattan area and have access to some of the best bagels on the planet, try your hand at making your own with our bagel recipe.
Here’s a way to show off not only the endless applications of plant-based meat and cheese, but also your mad kitchen skillz. And to those who are intimidated by the idea of making your own pasta—hey, there’s a first time for everything. Field Roast Sausage is the centerpiece here. While the inclusion of coconut milk and coconut vinegar in the mushroom-basil sauce may sound strange, the two non-dairy ingredients both add flavor and balance each other out. Get the Vegan Sausage-Stuffed Ravioli recipe.
Cooking Tips: You’ll need a food processor to grind the Field Roast for the ravioli filling.
Cooking with Chick’n
Plant-based chicken has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to its counterparts. Don’t expect to find a product that looks, tastes, or cooks quite like it should. There are still a lot of uses for it, though, and they aren’t half bad. Keep in mind that Gardein products often contain soy whereas the majority of Quorn’s do not, if allergies or dietary restrictions are a concern. Also, not all Quorn products are vegan, so be sure to look for the vegan label on the package.
OK, so you’re not up for making your own ravioli. Here’s a more weeknight-friendly (or beginner-friendly) meal from Afelia’s Kitchen for those looking to dip their toe in the plant-based waters. Most of the ingredients are pantry staples, making this dish very easy to whip together at the last minute. Forget takeout. Check out this fake out and get the Quorn Chow Mein recipe.
Cooking Tips: Similar to the bolognese recipe above, you may have a preferred approach when it comes to accessorizing chow mein and seasoning its accompanying sauce. We encourage tweaking the recipe however you like.
Be warned: Even though this is faux chicken, it still requires a long marinade (4-6 hours) for maximum flavor . On the plus side, this is a great make-ahead dish. You can prep the accouterments the night before, start the marinade in the morning and spend just a few minutes in the kitchen searing the Chick’n and gently heating the pita bread in the oven before serving. Get the Vegan Chick’n Gyro recipe.
Cooking Tips: Consider making vegan tzatziki to keep the meal 100% plant-based.
Even without chicken, a Caesar salad is deceptively full of animal products. The classic dressing (did you know it originated in Tijuana?) is egg-based, and, if authentic to the original recipe, contains finely chopped anchovy, not to mention the traditional cheese sprinkling on top. But this recipe from the minds of wife and husband duo Brittany and William at I Love Vegan is far from traditional. The Parmesan is cashew-based, the croutons are prepared with vegan butter, and the main protein is tofu-derived chick’n. Get the “Chicken” Caesar Salad recipe here.
Cooking Tips: This recipe involves breading and frying, but you can also experiment with grilling or sauteing the cutlets for a healthier alternative.
Header image courtesy of Beyond Meat