A Handy Guide to Meat Substitutes

A handy guide to meat substitutes: some to make, some to buy, all totally delicious and cruelty free!

You don’t need vegan meat to eat vegan, but meat substitutes can help folks make the transition to and stick with veganism. †As a long-time vegan, I still eat the occasional mock meat, and I know I’m not the only vegan who stocks the fridge with seitan and the freezer with Gardein for the occasional meal.

Like plant-based milks, vegan meats have come a long way since I stopped eating meat. These are the meat substitutes that my family and friends turn to when we are preparing our meals.

A handy guide to meat substitutes: some to make, some to buy, all totally delicious and cruelty free!

Store-Bought Vegan Meat Substitutes

Store-bought meat substitutes vary in how processed they are. If you’re vegan for the animals, like†me and many of the long-time vegans I know, though, that’s not really a big deal. These are some of the best brands of pre-made vegan meats:

  • Gardein – If you miss chicken strips, chicken tenders, pork bites, beef tips, crab cakes or fried fish, Gardein has got you covered. Their†Crabless Bites are my favorite, and my husband loves their Fishless Filets. We use both†as taco fillings, and they’re so good!
  • Beyond†Meat – Beyond Meat makes amazing burgers, ground beef-style crumbles, and chicken strips. Their new Beyond Burger (different from their Best Burger) is rocking the vegan world right now. It’s not yet available in Atlanta, but you can bet that I’ll nab it as soon as it hits stores here!
  • Simple Truth – Kroger’s store brand sells frozen, meatless chicken and beef products that are similar to Gardein, but less pricey.
  • No Evil Foods – This Asheville-based vegan butcher makes vegan chicken, pork, sausage and turkey from vital wheat gluten and chickpea flour.
  • Herbivorous Butcher – This widely-acclaimed vegan butcher makes vegan meats and cheeses from a variety of vegan ingredients, like wheat gluten, jackfruit and beans.
  • Tofurkey – This is the original vegan meat, and Tofurkey’s line has come a long way, baby. Their sausages and lunch meats are top notch.
  • Field Roast -†These roasts, sausages, hot dogs, burgers and lunch meats are some of my family’s favorites. If you’re looking for a less-processed option that’s available at grocery stores, Field Roast is your best bet.


A handy guide to meat substitutes: some to make, some to buy, all totally delicious and cruelty free!

There’s no pork in this BBQ sandwich. Jackfruit is the secret to the sweet-and-savory filling!

Vegan Meat Substitutes to Make

Chicken-Style Seitan – Homemade seitan seasoned†like†chicken is perfect for stir fries,†chicken salad, or anywhere else you’d use a chicken breast.

Walnut Taco Meat – Just pulse walnut, soy sauce and spices in your food processor. Bing, bang, boom!

Corned Beef – This recipe from JL Fields is another seitan-based vegan meat, and it’s super amazing! Use it to make corned beef and cabbage or a†Reuben. Yum!

Buffalo Wings – These wings are also a JL Fields recipe, because she and her husband are meat substitutes magicians!

Mushrooms†- Chicken of the Woods mushrooms taste eerily like chicken, no special prep required.†I’ve also had amazing dishes with trumpet mushroom stems as the sub for chicken.

Bacon – There’s a joke in the vegan community that “vegans will make bacon out of anything.” It’s funny because it’s true.

BBQ Jackfruit

recipe by†Zoe Eisenberg, Care2

Jackfruit is is the world’s largest tree-growing fruit, and it makes an amazing meat substitute. You can use it in all kinds of recipes, but this BBQ jackfruit recipe is a great intro to its powers.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 (16-ounce) can water-packed jackfruit, drained and shredded or thinly sliced
  • 1 (4-ounce) can chopped mild or hot green chiles, drained
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce
  • 1 tablespoon tamari
  • 2 teaspoons prepared yellow mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 4 sandwich rolls, split and toasted


  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the jackfruit and chiles and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Stir in the barbecue sauce, tamari, mustard, paprika, liquid smoke, onion powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, to heat through and blend the flavors, about 8 minutes. Mix well, adding a little water if the mixture is too dry. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed.
  2. When ready to serve, spoon the mixture onto the rolls and serve hot.

Chickpea Nuggets

reprinted with permission from Eat Drink Better

These whole food no-chicken nuggets are perfect for picky kids. Give them ketchup to dip, and rejoice!


  • 1 (16-oz.) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained (1-1/2 cup cooked chickpeas)
  • 1 (14-oz.) can whole new potatoes, rinsed and drained (1-1/2 cups peeled diced cooked potatoes)
  • 1/8 cup dried bread crumbs, such as Panko (read package label to avoid junk like MSG or hidden animal ingredients)
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 3/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper (or to taste)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vital wheat gluten (optional, for firmer texture and ease of flipping)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Dipping sauce: barbeque sauce, ketchup, sweet mustard, etc. (optional)


  1. Mash chickpeas (or white beans) together with the potatoes, until well-smushed ó after starting with a potato masher, itís ok to use your hands! You want everything really well mashed, with no whole chickpeas or potato chunks in the mix.
  2. Sprinkle vital wheat gluten over mashed chickpea-potato mixture, and combine well. Add bread crumbs, parsley, poultry seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper; mix well. Taste to adjust seasonings, adding more salt and pepper if needed.
  3. Form mixture into 1-1/2″ to 2″ patties, about 1/4-1/2″ thick, on a plate or cutting board. Mixture should form patties easily, without crumbling. Add water or oil as needed if it feels dry, 1 tablespoon at a time, just until patties are easy to form and hold their shape when handled.
  4. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium to medium-high heat, in large frying pan. Pan-fry half the nuggets about 8-10 minutes on each side, until nicely browned. Try not to flip them too much ó aim for only turning them once or twice.
  5. When first batch is done, remove to paper-towel lined plate, add remaining 2 tablespoons oil, and repeat with remaining nuggets.
  6. Serve with whatever dipping sauce you think would be good with chickenish nuggets. Yummy!

A handy guide to meat substitutes: some to make, some to buy, all totally delicious and cruelty free!

Related at Care2

All images via Thinkstock.


Chrissie R
Chrissie R4 months ago

I'm sorry, but if I weren't going to eat meat I certainly wouldn't eat this stuff!

Brad H
Brad H5 months ago


Beryl L
Beryl L11 months ago

who needs to substitute meat? I don't eat things that merely resemble other foods. I don't eat meat either. But I think this is mostly an advertisement for the vegan industry. just change your diet with normal foods!

Glennis W
Glennis W11 months ago

Very informative Thank you for caring and sharing

Glennis W
Glennis W11 months ago

Great information and advice Thank you for caring and sharing

Glennis W
Glennis W11 months ago

Very interesting article Thank you for caring and sharing

sheena a
sheena arsenaultabout a year ago

lots of info

David C
David Cabout a year ago


Louise A
Past Member about a year ago

Thanks for sharing

Magdalen B
Magdalen Babout a year ago

Do you have Quorn beyond the pond? I'ts made from mushrooms.