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8 of the ‘Meatiest’ Substitutions for Meatless Monday

A vegetarian burger with lettuce, tomato, and feta cheese next to some fries.
Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Minimizing the amount of meat you eat in favor of more veggies is a sure way to save some money, but it’ll also help you majorly slash those calories. These tasty substitutions are so good, you might not even miss the meat (as much).

When it comes to meat substitutions, a lot of it is about the texture. That’s why we’ve selected the “meatiest” nonmeat options for you to try.

Soy-Based Products

Over the years, veggie lovers worldwide have been trying all sorts of new and innovative plant-based products. We’re talking about meat replacements from companies like Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat, and Field Roast.

What makes these meaty replacements so popular is their realistic texture and flavor from a tiny molecule called heme. Ground veggies are also great for creating imitations of your favorite classics, like burgers, taco beef, and meatloaf.

Other honorable mentions are, of course, the ever-popular soy-based foods, like tofu, tempeh, and texturized vegetable protein, all of which are plant-based, too. You might also like to try seitan, which is made from wheat gluten.

While these so-called meat alternatives offer a fix for those who are still craving meat, we prefer to eat fruits and veggies in their natural forms. Let’s look at some of our favorites.


A roast aubergine with crispy kale and pine nuts.

Eggplant is a lovely fruit (Yes, it’s a fruit.) that grows in many forms, colors, and sizes. You’re most likely to see the deep plum-colored version (known as “globe”) at the supermarket.

This versatile fruit tastes good cooked in many ways, but be sure to bitter-temper your eggplants by adding salt and drawing out the moisture before cooking them. Don’t skip this step for the best results.

While eggplant tastes bitter when eaten raw, these notorious nightshades offer a pleasantly soft and buttery texture once cooked right. Slice and roast eggplant for the perfect “steak” sandwich, or cube and grill it into a tasty kebab dinner.

Dice and sweat out an eggplant and then a tomato sauce for a hearty (and meatless) Bolognese, or top a tasty pizza with fried slices in place of pepperoni. Think about your favorite meaty meals and try to find an eggplant version to love.


Vegetarian lentil tacos on a plate.
Joshua Resnick/Shutterstock

Legumes, like lentils, beans, and peas, have a deceptively meat-like texture and consistency. It’s no wonder that vegans and vegetarians love using them as substitutes. The hearty texture of lentils or mashed black beans make a fantastic ground beef replacement.

Next time you make tacos, sub out the meat for either of the above and then add your taco seasoning as you normally would.

Chickpeas, pinto beans, kidney beans, you name it, these legumes make a fantastic meat stand-in. They’re especially good for veggie burgers, and the premade frozen alternatives just don’t compare. We’ve been using this perfect formula for the best veggie burgers.

You can also make a big batch of lentil sloppy joes or try a three-bean meatless chili for your next Meatless Monday adventure.


A sweet potato boat stuffed with avocado guacamole and wild rocket sprinkled with nigella seeds.

Believe it or not, potatoes make a lovely substitution for meat as well. Whether you boil or bake, roast or fry them, you’d be surprised what can come of these wholesome tubers.

Think hearty casseroles, veggie and potato bowls, potato cakes, or stuffed sweet potato boats. Sweet potatoes are one of the main ingredients in our favorite veggie burgers because they add depth while providing a naturally sweet flair.


Skewers of grilled mushrooms on a plate.
Elena Shashkina/Shutterstock

Mushrooms are famous for their delicious umami taste and meaty texture. These healthy and filling fungi replace meat with ease, especially portobello mushrooms. Replace your burger patty with a hearty portobello mushroom for a beef alternative that you’ll fall in love with.

You can also marinate and grill up some kebabs, or whip up a couple of portobello steaks to go with a loaded baked potato. Chop a pound of mushrooms and mix them in with lentils for a moist and tender ground beef substitute.


Vegan pulled jackfruit BBQ sandwich.
Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Jackfruit is a large tropical fruit that’s most stunningly remarkable for its shredded, chunk-like abilities. These make it an ideal replacement for pork and chicken. There’s so much that you can do with this interesting ingredient.

Think about some of your favorite meals, like chicken tortilla soup or shredded chicken tacos. There’s sure to be a jackfruit replacement recipe out there, and you’ll be amazed at the similarities.


Barbecue cauliflower wings on a plate.

Cauliflower has swept the internet in recent years as a popular replacement for both carbohydrates and meat alike.

Use these cream-colored crowns to craft little cauliflower cakes, or cut and marinate hearty slices for roasted cauli-steaks that you’ll love. Another popular vegetarian favorite is buffalo cauliflower bites as an ideal chicken-wing replacement. The possibilities are endless.


A pot of cabbage soup.

Add depth to any soup, stir-fry, or skillet meal with hearty chunks of cabbage. You can also make a lovely pulled veggie sandwich with shreds of cabbage, carrots, or other hearty veggies. Toss those cooked shreds in barbecue or buffalo sauce and create a delicious meal that’s healthy, too.

Otherwise, slice your cabbage into substantial chunks, and oil and roast them before adding them to a pasta meal or on top of rice.

There’s so much that you can do to bulk up and add some texture to vegetarian meals. However, when the craving for meat is hitting hard, try any of these “meaty” substitutes. Be sure to try these meatless recipes for the grill this summer, too.

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »
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