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Holocene  •  02 July 2021  •  Offhand

Meat Alternatives: Ranked

By Isabel Cant

Science has told us loud and clear: eating less meat is key to the world reducing its carbon footprint. But eating less meat is not (and we can’t stress this enough) a death sentence to delicious food. In fact, it can be quite the opposite. With the world developing more meat alternatives, plant-based products, and recipes than ever before, eating a plant-based or meat-adjacent diet has never been easier, both at restaurants and at home. Whether you’re an omnivore looking to cut down on your meat consumption, or a veggie-lover needing some inspo, let me give you a hand with this personal guide to meat alternatives. 

Tofu 5/5 

Tofu is the Kanye West of meat alternatives. It has made its fair share of enemies and haters for being ‘too bland’ and ‘slimy’, but like Kanye, tofu’s defenders are convinced everyone is just misunderstanding its genius. It has the ability to take on any flavour, and comes in a versatile variety of textures. We’ve got soft, steamed, silken tofu, or spongy tofu that’ll soak up your laksa like a delicious ShamWow, and everything in between. Tofu really is the perfect blank canvas. Get on it ASAP.

Tempeh 4.5/5

Tempeh, just like our old mate tofu, is also made with soybeans, but fermented, which instantly makes it ~cool~ like what kombucha did for tea. Hailing from Indonesia, tempeh has a stronger, almost nutty flavour — and texture — compared to tofu, which makes it perfect for those who complain about tofu’s blandness. You can cook it almost any way (grilling and pan-frying are the best, IMO). Tempeh is also a perfect meat alternative for curries. 

Beans & Lentils 4/5

We’re talking legumes here people. Don’t @ me saying that legumes aren’t meat alternatives, because anything can be if we try hard enough. More importantly, beans and lentils are the best alternative to minced meat. Brown lentil bolognese can stand up to your family’s tried ‘n’ true spag-bol anyday, and black beans are the ultimate mince replacement for all your Tex-Mex needs. Points are taken off for the horrific farts they may induce the next day.

Seitan 4/5

No, not the guy that Lil Nas X was giving a lap dance to. This meat alternative — essentially made from gluten and water — originates from China. Seitan only loses points for being a coeliac’s worst nightmare, however, it can be used basically in any way you would use tofu or tempeh. Its texture is probably the rubberiest out of the three but is often likened to chicken or duck. Nonetheless, it takes on flavour well, and is a popular bacon alternative (although it doesn’t get nearly as crispy), so I’ll give it some credit where credit’s due.

Beyond Beef 3.5/5

My heart lights up when I see Beyond Beef as an option at burger restaurants. The product, an OG of Beyond Meat’s range (#notsponsored), tastes, looks, and feels so similar to a beef patty. It’s an absolute no-brainer for any meat-eater looking to decrease their meat intake without missing out on those meaty flavours. It’s even pink in the middle like a perfectly cooked medium-rare patty! However, vegos and vegans who don’t miss meat in the slightest might find all of Beyond Meat’s products redundant. New vegans, this one’s for you! 

Jackfruit 3/5

Both incredible and terrifying. Is it meat that’s trying really hard to be a fruit, or a fruit that is trying too hard to be a meat?! Get yourself a girl who can do both. Jackfruit rocks as a meat alternative in Mexican and Caribbean cuisines, (be it sliiightly slimy). When cooked correctly, it does a freakishly good pulled pork impression. But I’m deducting points for the fact that it’s a fruit. Unless you eat a tonne of it, its lack of protein will give you absolutely no sustenance to function throughout your day and may leave you ravenous in an hour. Not ideal.

Portobello Mushrooms 2.5/5

Mushrooms are great, don’t get me wrong. Sauteed in a creamy pasta dish? Chef’s kiss! Eating hotpot? Gimme more. But no amount of seasoning or char-grilling will ever improve the sad sight that is a portobello mushroom replacing a burger patty *sigh*. They are too thick for their own good, meaning that they’re always bland in the middle, and don’t have that rich flavour that you want in a burger patty. Sorry Portobellos. Instead, legume-based patties or Beyond Beef patties will give you that oomph. In defence of the mushroom, grating or chopping any kind of mushroom and stir frying it will give you another healthy and cheap mince meat alternative. Plus, it’s juicy as. 

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