- The edible kind’s tasty, the musical version’s killer. Made from soybean curds, tofu’s a great low-cal protein source. The spongy beige stuff works raw, baked, grilled, or fried and easily absorbs the taste of whatever it’s cooked in— yum! Plus, it works in pretty much any traditional meat dish (and even on a stick).
- Sei-what? Swap meat for wheat and use this vegan alternative made from wheat gluten. The texture is pretty similar to meat’s, and like tofu, it absorbs the flavor of any sauce. Bake it, grill it, fry it (it’s not so appetizing raw)— seitan can sub for meat in fajitas or fancy up vegetable dishes.
- Star of the “TLT sandwich,” tempeh’s the crunchy cousin of tofu and seitan. It’s made from soybeans, and a single serving packs as much protein as some meats. Tempeh works well in basic rice and veggie dishes, or in more exotic ones like spicy sushi, so try grilling and frying it with different flavors.
- Made from soy pulp, okara’s high in nutrients like protein and fiber. It can replace meat and eggs in soups, stews, and omelets, and even transforms crab cakes into a vegan delicacy.
- Rice is nice, but quinoa’s awesome. This grain is protein-rich (actually, it’s a complete source of protein) and offers other nutrients like magnesium and folic acid. Quinoa’s a staple in meat-free salads and pilafs. Plus, baked quinoa patties are a posh alternative to beef burgers.
6. Garbanzo Beans
- Don’t be fooled by their nickname— chickpeas are an awesome meat alternative for guys, too. Most have made the beans’ acquaintance in hummus spreads, but chickpeas add protein and fiberto pretty much any meal. Hide the ham and try whipping these babies into a homemade veggie burger, or make it Mediterranean and go for the falafel.
7. Black Beans
- Everyone knows they’ll make you toot, but these Mexican legumes also boast some big health benefits. Like chickpeas, black beans are a huge protein source for vegetarians. Try a black bean burger that makes the meat variety look like chopped liver, or (metaphorically) beef up a breakfast burrito.
8. Black-Eyed Peas
- This Fergalicious protein source is the veggie alternative to typical Taco Bell fare. Healthy black-eyed pea tacos are as easy to prepare as any meat dish, and maybe even tastier.
- Otherwise known as edamame, soybeans are a nutritious vegetarian snack. Cook like an Egyptian and whip up a meatless stew with these beans that come in almost every color of the rainbow.
10. Split Peas
- Peas: It’s what’s for dinner. Other than the classic soup, these legumes also feature in vegan burgers and golden potstickers, an appetizer that’s okay to bring to a PETA party.
- The BFF of every low-budget, protein-hungry vegetarian, lentils are pretty easy to prepare, too. Try a meat-free stew or a vegan chili— meals that look (almost) as good as they taste.
- Make like Mr. Peanut and go nuts! A handful of peanuts adds a powerful protein punch to any meatless meal. In place of chicken and rice, take a trip to the Middle East and eat couscous with roasted peanuts. And instead of beef noodles, slather on the Skippy— a little bit of peanut butter makes a sesame noodle feast. “Nut burgers” are another way to use chopped peanuts (or pretty much any kind of nut).
- Kick the Cobb to the curb and choose nuts for a serious salad. Though walnuts are among the more fattening nut varieties, a handful packs a ton of protein.
- Sliced, slivered, and sprinkled, a serving of almonds is a sneaky way to add meatless protein. The nuts replace chicken in stir-fry recipes and make vegetable dishes a savory main course.
- Cashews are popular as a healthy snack— their antioxidants promote heart and bone health. But they also make a surprising appearance in meals that normally include meat and cheese, like this vegan pasta Alfredo and meatless lasagna.
- No Halloween mask’s necessary to reap the benefits of this veggie celebrity. The Greatist superfood is also an unexpected meat alternative. Skip the meat sauce and pump(kin) up the protein value of pasta with this creative recipe— it uses the seeds and the pulp.
- Meaty in texture, a Portobello mushroom cap fits neatly inside a hamburger bun— the perfect substitution! ’Shrooms can also replace meatballs in pasta sauce. (Not sure how well they’ll work in the Lady and the Tramp spaghetti scene, though.) One caveat: Mushrooms don’t provide as much protein as most meats, so make sure to add cheese or tofu to get the same nutritive value.
- Eggplant’s another vegetable with a deceptively meat-like consistency. Say, “that’s amore” again and use it like mushrooms in pasta sauce. Or veg out— don’t pig out— and fry up some eggplant bacon. Of course, it’s best to add some cheese or nuts, since vegetables don’t have the same protein value as most meats.
- Zucchini’s an easy way not to miss meat in classic carnivore dishes. Try it in vegetarian lasagnafor a low-fat, high-fiber twist on the meat variety.
- Chunks of squash have the added benefit of making meals bright orange. (If meat’s that color, consider returning it.) And while this vegetable usually turns up as a side dish, vegetarian entrees like baked risotto put it back in the spotlight. It’s best to serve the squash with an ingredient like quinoa to up protein intake.
- Don’t be fooled by the Greatist “dangerfood” label: Potatoes are okay in moderation. ’Taters keep vegetarian dishes filling— try these recipes for a meat-free Mexican omelet or a squash and goat cheese gratin. Potatoes can also serve as a hearty veggie burger base.
22. Textured Vegetable Protein
- TVP isn’t as popular as, say, chicken nuggets, but it’s a great source of protein and other important nutrients, and doesn’t take much preparation. Dehydrated powder rarely sounds appealing (astronauts can’t be the pickiest eaters), but TVP is actually a great way to make vegan versions ofdishes like meatloaf and chili. There are lots of different varieties, like powder, chunks, and slices. Find it in most health food stores and buy it in bulk— it lasts up to a year in a sealed container.
23. Imitation Crab
- Crabs can be contagious— but the fake stuff’s safe. Friends of Sebastian can relax with this humanitarian spin on crustacean cuisine. Try these recipes for fish-free sushi and mock crab cakes. (When buying fake crab, double check that it’s the vegetarian kind, since many varieties contain fish.)
- Scrambled, sunny-side up, or unfertilized, there’s no wrong way to prepare this awesome protein source. Eggs can easily replace any kind of meat in a main dish. (Those looking to lower their cholesterol can stick to the whites.) Egg and cheddar quesadillas spice up the classic chicken variety. Try eggs, tomatoes and couscous for a veggie spin on meat ’n potatoes.
- As versatile as Katy Perry’s beau, cheese comes hot and cold. It’s a perfect protein source for vegetarians, with the added bone-healthy benefit of calcium. Use ricotta cheese on pasta instead of meat sauce, grab some goat cheese for a meat-free sandwich, or replace chicken with feta for a fancy salad.