Many meaty recipes can use meat substitutes and maintain the savory taste and texture intended. Substitutes include the following:
SEITAN has been used in Asia as a protein source and meat substitute for hundreds of years. It is made from a flour-and-water dough, which is rinsed to remove the starch components. What is left behind is a high-protein gluten. Sometimes called “wheat meat,” seitan is available at natural products stores and Asian markets. Do not use if you are gluten-sensitive (see “Against the Grain”).
TEMPEH is made by fermenting soybeans and grains, then forming a cake. This Indonesian food has a yeasty, nutty flavor and is a good source of protein. Some chefs prefer the texture of tempeh over tofu for use as a chicken substitute.
TOFU is soybean curd made from soy milk. Although somewhat bland by itself, it easily absorbs the flavors of other ingredients. A firm or extra-firm tofu can be used in stir-fries, for marinating and for baking. The soft or “silken” variety is creamier and is used primarily for dips, puddings and salad dressings.
IN THE PAST FEW YEARS, soy-based meat substitutes have sprung up everywhere. Some examples include tofu hot dogs, soy sausages, soy bacon bits and textured vegetable protein (TVP)—look for MSG-free varieties. Because soy foods in general are lower in fat than meats, they tend to stick on the grill or to a skillet. Avoid this by using cooking oil or a vegetable spray, and make sure the pan is hot before cooking. Also, choose organically grown soybean products to ensure products are free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).