Plant-Based Meat Alternatives

Oct 09, 2022 ByClaire Miles

Meat alternatives are foods that look, feel, smell, taste, and even act like meat. These products are typically made using whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits. There are many different types of meat substitutes out there, including tofu, tempeh, seitan, soy protein, etc.

Tempeh is fermented soybeans that have been inoculated with Rhizopus oligosporus. The result is a product that is high in protein and digestible. To create tempeh, beans are soaked overnight and then ground into a paste-like consistency before being mixed with rice bran and cooked until the bean paste becomes firm. After cooking, they are inoculated with Rhizopus oligosporus spores. This creates a moldy environment on the surface of the tempeh, giving it a shelf life of about one year. Tofu is a food product made from soybeans and water. After soaking and draining, the beans are solidified, cut into pieces, and pressed. Then they are heated until they reach the desired consistency. Tofu is high in protein and low in fat. It’s a versatile ingredient that can be added to soups, stir-fries, salads, sandwiches, casseroles, curries, stews, and pasta dishes.

"Impossible Foods" burgers made from plant-based substitutes for meat products sit on a shelf for sale on November 15, 2019 in New York City.

Getty Images/AFP/Angela Weiss

Seitan is wheat gluten that has been treated with enzymes. Once the wheat gluten is treated, it’s called seitan. It can be prepared in many ways, including stir-frying, deep frying, baking, grilling, and even smoking. Generally speaking, seitan is used in place of meat due to its similar texture and taste. Like tempeh, seitan contains a good amount of protein and fiber. Natto is a traditional Japanese food that is made from fermented soybeans. When natto is made, the soybeans are steamed and washed thoroughly. Next, the beans are mixed with salt water, allowed to sit at room temperature, and covered with cloth. This mixture sits for two or three days while yeast forms on the beans. Finally, the soybeans are mashed with a wooden spoon and left sitting for another day. The resulting mash is then spread out flat and dried. Natto is commonly eaten as a snack or side dish.