Healthy, hearty alternatives to meat are proliferating. The best part? These plant-based proteins absorb the flavor of whatever you cook them in, making them extremely versatile. Here's a guide to some options not concocted by modern food scientists in a laboratory. (I'm looking at you, fast-food veggie burgers!) These traditional ingredients are starring in trendy new dishes.
Protein: Earthy, umami-rich fungi; white button and portobello are easy to find in markets
When to use: Grilled for sandwiches and salads, stuffed with cheese, sautéed for pastas
Pro tips: Instead of rinsing, clean with a damp paper towel; cook low and slow.
Protein: Cooked and fermented soybeans formed into a cake; nutty and chewy
When to use: Sliced, to replace bacon (in BLTs), or crumbled like ground beef (for tacos)
Pro tips: Cut into thin strips, then marinate before cooking.
Protein: Vegan protein made from wheat gluten and water
When to use: Marinated and baked in slices, breaded and fried in strips, or grilled on kebabs
Pro tip: Watch out for high sodium content in packaged versions — or make your own.
Protein: A large green fruit with spiky skin, it adds a meaty texture
When to use: Barbecued like pulled pork for sandwiches; chili; Asian-inspired dishes
Pro tips: Buy it canned (packaged in water); the skin can be tough to cut.
Protein: Condensed soy milk pressed into white blocks; bland flavor on its own
When to use: In lieu of eggs in breakfast scrambles; in stir-fries or smoothies
Pro tips: First, press out water with paper towels; next, marinate tofu as called for in a recipe.