Food + Drink

A Vegetarian’s Guide to Meat Alternatives

June 3, 2020

Are you curious about meat alternatives but don’t know where to start? Here’s the lowdown on tasty, plant-based proteins that won’t leave you missing beef, chicken or pork

By Nicole Glynn

Featured photography by Alayna Horvath

Due to recent meat shortages and purchasing limits placed on meat-based  products, more people have been turning to meat-free alternatives. Still, navigating the available options can be confusing. Here, 8 delicious substitutes for beef, pork and chicken that can easily add a touch of “meat” to your dish — and provide ample amounts of protein, too.

Beef Alternatives


If you’re looking for a veggie burger, Trader Joe’s Protein Patties are a must-try! These plant-based patties taste so “real” that you’ll need to double-check the ingredients on the packaging to make sure it isn’t beef. While most veggie burgers get a bad rep for having unpleasant textures or leaving you with an upset stomach, this option avoids both those pitfalls.

Trader Joe's Protein Pattiesvia traderjoes.com


Everyone knows spaghetti isn’t complete without meatballs, and Gardein Meatless Meatballs are the perfect plant-based addition to your favorite Italian dish. This soy-based product mimics the texture of beef meatballs so you’ll hardly know the difference. Plus, they taste great!

Gardein Meatless Meatballsvia gardein.com

Ground Beef

No ground beef? No problem! Celebrate Taco Tuesday with Trader Joe’s Beef-less Ground Beef  (you can also add these yummy crumbles into pastas, chili or on top of nachos!)  While most ground beef alternatives are usually too gritty or fine, this particular brand closely resembles the slightly chewy-yet-juicy texture of real beef. Toss in some taco seasoning and cook it up in a skillet for a quick and easy Mexican meal.

Trader Joe's Beef-less Ground Beefvia traderjoes.com

Chicken Substitutes

Chicken Nuggets

Transitioning away from real chicken nuggets can be a difficult swap. Luckily, Gardein Seven Grain Crispy Tenders are a great alternative. Most chicken nugget alternatives resemble breaded tofu, but these tenders have an ideal texture both inside and out. Although the packaging suggests baking them in the oven, try deep-frying them in some oil and dipping them in ketchup!

Gardein Seven Grain Crispy Tendersvia gardein.com

Chicken Patties

Most unbreaded chicken breast substitutes lack flavor, can cause an upset stomach and are basically just a block of regular old tofu. But the  BOCA Original Chik’n Veggie Patties are one of the most flavorful and “real” tasting chicken substitutes out there. Try it on your favorite bread for a meatless version of a chicken sandwich or slice it up and add it on top of a salad. And while most meat alternatives can’t be prepared in the microwave, these patties can!

BOCA Original Chik'n Veggie Pattiesvia bocaburger.com

Pork Substitutes

Pulled Pork

Enjoy meat-free pulled pork sandwiches at a barbecue this summer with Upton’s Naturals Bar-B-Que Jackfruit! When shredded and cooked, jackfruit naturally has a pulled pork like texture, and when tossed  in BBQ sauce, it tastes almost identical to the real thing.

Upton's Naturals Bar-B-Que Jackfruitvia uptonsnaturals.com


Most people can’t imagine life without bacon, so luckily there’s a  meat-free version! MorningStar Farms Veggie Bacon Strips are the real (fake) deal. The only downside: they lack significant protein, but the great taste makes up for it. Pair these strips with some eggs and toast for a delicious vegetarian breakfast.

MorningStar Farms Veggie Bacon Stripsvia morningstarfarms.com


Enjoy all the pleasures of a summer barbecue while going meat-free with the plant-based Beyond Sausage Brat. This soy-free, gluten-free brat alternative tastes just like a pork sausage. One bite into its casing-like exterior, and you won’t even realize it’s not the real deal!

Beyond Sausage Bratvia beyondmeat.com

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