These are great, no matter if you make a few adjustments or go all-in.
If January is looming and you don't know where to begin, meat substitutes can be a great starting point to a plant-based diet.
Although we recommend that you experiment with vegetable-led cooking right away, it is a good idea to have a meat substitute in your arsenal. Substitutes are a good option for long-time vegans. They can satisfy any nostalgia your brain has despite you moving to an animal-free lifestyle.
Since 2017, our testers have tried to be as vegan as possible. They also had the support of committed meat-eaters for some of their testing. These items had to be suitable for a variety of vegans with different culinary skills. We tried to include a variety of foods, including staples and occasional treats.
We consider ourselves refined vegans. A plant-based burger is unnecessary when there are so many great vegetables available. The Beyond Meat Burger proved to be the perfect burger.
For a long time, we've avoided the hype surrounding this company. But now we are truly embarrassed. Beyond Meat burgers are great because they can be prepared for anyone who remembers what meat tastes and how to cook it. For those who want to cook for their vegan children or prepare a barbecue for a large group, this can prove to be a problem. Beyond Meat hamburgers look and feel like burgers. They can be served in a bun with garnishes or salads.
They taste great, and are a far cry from other excellent options. For instance, the No Meat Company's no-bull quarter pounders (PS2, Iceland.co.uk) are a perfect replica of a burger that you would buy on your way home from a football game. Beyond Meat's plant-based protein slabs will make sure that you don't stand out from the crowd. They are simply the best that we have ever tried.
For curious cooks
Okay, we admit it. It's possible to argue that tempeh should not be considered as a meat substitute. It is an essential ingredient in Indonesian cuisines. The fermented soybean product is similar to tofu.
It is usually fried in sugar or syrup and served with a variety vegetables sides. We have had it before in Bali. We have never seen it this way in Bali.
Tempeh Meades, a business founded by Benedict Meade in Bristol, brings unpasteurized, homemade tempeh to the UK. The freshly fermented stuff was a real revelation. We were sent a traditional soybean tempeh and a version with quinoa (PS4.75, Tempehmeades.com) to try and used both kinds in a tikka-masala-inspired curry. We hadpreviously made this dish and found that the marinade and spices didn't work well with our Asian-brand tempeh. Tempeh Meades's product was delicious on its own, but it also took on the flavors of the vegan yogurt and spices, making it our most popular curry.
The tempeh was funky in our opinion (in the same way that cheese can be strong, smelly, but not because it loves to wear flares on weekends). We promise you that even if you haven't been vegan in a while, your palate will be amazed at the depth and complexity of this dish.
We encourage everyone to get on the vegan train and start their culinary journey at Benedict Meade. It's an amazing place to learn about the exciting and varied vegan food options.
Best: For convenience
It tastes amazing (and we have tried many options over the years), but it also has a game-changing aspect. You don't have to press the tofu. This is important because if your dinner plans are not well thought out, it can be difficult to make many recipes on a regular basis.
Tofoo can be found in every kitchen, always ready to go in the fridge. It is expected to sit in its own juice for five minutes, then it will be ready to be poured into any recipe that has caught your attention in the last five minutes. It is delicious because of its clarity of flavour. It's not a very exciting dish, but it is delicious.
If you really miss your local take-out, you can experiment with deep frying it with seaweed to make tofish. We prefer to steam it with broccoli, and then serve it with light soy and Chinese wine sauce.
Best: To be a daytime donor
Vivera also began appearing on supermarket shelves over the past few years. It is a Dutch company that sells a wide range of meat alternatives. The kebab "meat" was our favorite. We tried many for this piece. Sometimes, your vegan brain craves the richness of lamb shawarma and won't stop until it is satisfied.
Vivera's recipe is easy to prepare - simply fry the meat in a pan for a few mins, then put it in a pitta with pickles and any other tasty things you might normally inhale while on your way back from the pub. This meat substitute is so easy to prepare that you can eat a kebab anytime of the day.
Best: with pasta
Tofurky, an American vegetarian brand, is now a modern company that offers delicious plant-based options for all situations. While it will be known for its turkey, we love its Italian-style sausages.
These are replicating a type of sausage not so common in the UK. However, if you search for sweetsausage recipes, usually from US websites you will find a wide variety of uses for this product. It's a great way to add flavor and texture to a pasta recipe that uses porcini mushrooms. These mushrooms are great fried to make them crispy. However, you want their flavours to soak into the dish you're making. These would also be great in a casserole.
For the pantry
Another great example of British vegetarianism is Sosmix. This mix was once the only one that could taste like meat in the country. It's now quite difficult to find the original recipe, but there is one website that still sells it in convenient bags of 500g or 1kg.
It's not the strongest at creating a meat texture but it has a comforting, savoury taste when it is used to make sausages. It reminded us of Northern Irish potato farl with meat flavours, which is a good thing.
But Sosmix shines when it is used to make other things. Modern meat substitutes are often made in specific shapes, meant to look like a particular animal. Sosmix is a great option for vegan chefs who are keen to break the fake-fillet mold.
This strangely dehydrated mixture can be used to make spices stuffing balls or Picasso-style paintings. It can be used with vegetables or spices, and has a very long shelf life. This makes it an excellent backup. We've had a lot of fun trying it out and have been finding new ways to add Sosmix to every meal.
Best: For a quick supper
Quorn is the OGs - great group of guys. The company's main product, however, is made with egg. This means that it has been trying to catch up with vegans for some time. We have come to depend on its fishless fingers made from plant-based ingredients, which are an easily available option for every toddler's favorite dinner.
Vegans cannot tell the difference between the fake and theimitation. This may not be a criticism of the quality of regular fish fingers, but they are great for midnight snacks. Perfect with some vegenaise (PS3.19 at Thevegankind.com).
This company's zalmon was actually our intention to review. Although we did make vegan sushi, it was delicious. It needs to be seasoned with soy and rice vinegar to really shine. However, we have become more obsessed with the breaded lemon shrimpz from the brand.
These delicious snacks are baked in the oven until they look crispy and delicious. In just three seconds, we ate through the entire packet. These delicious bites will satisfy your craving for seafood snacks (honestly vegan party food is a pain). These bites have the texture and appeal of a crab stick, but with a delicious seafood flavour.
There are also options to buy the fake shrimp without the breaded coating. However, these are only available in large chef-sized packs (PS59.19, Vegex.co.uk). They are great for making paellas, laksas, and many other dishes. However, if you don't have enough freezer space, they may not be for you. You can still get the breaded version, but make sure to grab them as soon as they are out of the oven.
Best: For brunch
Rudy's has made a name of itself by offering vegan alternatives to the posh takeaways which became so popular during the pandemic. As delicious as the brand's dirty burger DIY kit (PS36, Rudysvegan.com), the brand's Reuben kit with pastrami proved to be the star of the vegan butchers' line-up.
It was served with dairy-free cream cheese, dill pickles and a fresh bagel. We instantly felt like we were on the other side. It's perfect texture and it has a gaminess that we didn't expect.
The only problem is the large size of the pastrami packet. We weren't sure how we were going to incorporate it into our daily diets. We're not trying to be too strict with the word "problem". The pastrami can be purchased by itself at Rudysvegan.com, but the package that includes the secret Reuben sauce is the best. This would be a great weekend brunch idea.
Best: For sandwiches
Taifun is a market leader in smoked meats for many years. These little packets of goodness are far more reliable than sandwich fillers that claim to replace chicken slices or ham. This makes a great base for baguettes stuffed with fresh tomatoes and salad, and the basil variety (PS3.69 on Thevegankind.com can be used to make amazingly pizza-flavoured Panini. These are great tools for your plant-powered arsenal if you enjoy making sandwiches to take to work.
Best: For a sausage sarnie
Sausages are the most contested meat alternative. There are many options, and each one has its own unique selling point. We've tried many over the years - including the Tofurky (PS3.50, Thevegankind.com) and Sosmix (PS5.50, Alternativestores.com) options that we have recommended above - and although Linda McCartney's (PS2.20, Sainsburys.co.uk) will always have a special place in our heart, we think these from This are some of the best we've come across.
These cook just like meat and are much easier to use than older meat alternatives. They are flawless and provide a satisfying feeling of fullness, which is something that can sometimes be lacking in other options. While vegan sausages can be of exceptional quality in general, these sausages just beat the rest when it comes time to making Saturday morning sausage sarnie.
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