The Best Meat Alternatives for Chicken, Fish, Deli Meat, and Roasts
What are the best meat alternatives for vegetarians and those wanting to eat less meat? We’ll walk you through our favorite ways to cook and use faux chicken, fish, roasts, and sandwich meat, and the best plant based brands to try!
What meat alternatives are there for vegetarians? Well, buckle in, because there are a bunch of great plant based meat options that can be used to make all of your favorite dishes meatless! In fact, you can cook plant based meat in most of the same ways you would cook regular meat, sometimes even faster since you don’t have to reach a certain temperature.
So, let’s look at a few reasons why plant based meats are important and then dive into great meat alternatives for sandwiches, stir-fries, pastas, and many more delicious dishes.
Why eat meat alternatives?
Since cook times for plant-based proteins are shorter than animal proteins, you can get dinner on the table in a flash and not have to worry about salmonella!
Have more options
If you’ve experienced meat shortages at your local grocery store, you’ll know how frustrating that can be to make sure you and your family have enough protein to last you a couple weeks without solely relying on beans, tofu, and eggs. Plant based meats provide another tasty option, and they can easily be substituted in any meat recipe, as we’ll dive into below.
Protect the environment
Raising animals for food requires a lot of land, fossil fuel, water, and food, so cutting out or cutting back on all the animal products you eat is one of the best ways to protect the planet. In fact, to meet necessary climate change targets, meat and dairy consumption must decrease globally by at least 50% by 2030. (*1) After all, producing feed alone for billions of chickens eaten every year has resulted in cleared forests, which is accelerating climate change and threatening wildlife extinction. (*2)
It’s time to welcome chicken alternatives into your life so you can enjoy plant based nuggets, cutlets, tenders, and strips any day of the week!
For the most part, the cook time for any plant based poultry products will be shorter than regular chicken or turkey. Strips, tenders, cutlets, fillets can all be prepared as you would regular poultry.
Many plant based chicken patties come pre-breaded, and if you want an amazing crispy texture, it is best to bake them in the oven. However, if you are planning to use a ‘wet’ cooking technique (like stir-frying with sauce), you’ll want to stick to unbreaded ‘chicken’ patties.
Here are some of the best ways to cook plant based chicken:
- ‘Chicken’ entrees – treat a patty like a piece of chicken breast and sear or bake it; enjoy over your favorite grains and veggies, with a pan sauce drizzled on top
- Pastas – slice or chop unbreaded ‘chicken’ and saute with pasta ingredients or simply add on top of your pasta dish
- Salads – bake breaded patties to crispy, then slice / chop and top on salads for a good dose of protein and crunch
- Pizzas – slice or dice unbreaded ‘chicken’ and arrange on top of cheese before popping in the oven
- Sandwiches – prepare any ‘chicken’ patties as preferred and pair with favorite sandwich fixings
- Stir-fries – slice or chop unbreaded ‘chicken’ and then stir-fry with vegetables
- Kebabs – chop unbreaded ‘chicken’ into 1” chunks or use pieces, skewer along with veggies, and grill
- Chicken satay – marinate unbreaded tenders, skewer, and enjoy with satay peanut dipping sauce
- Chicken parmesan – bake breaded ‘chicken’ patties in the oven until crisp, top with some marinara sauce and shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese, and broil until cheese is melted
- Chicken katsu – bake breaded patties and enjoy with tonkatsu sauce over rice
- Cajun-style chicken – coat unbreaded cutlets with Cajun seasoning and then grill or sear
- Chicken and waffles – bake breaded tenders and enjoy with homemade or frozen waffles
- Before the Butcher UNCUT has some great plant based chicken and roasted turkey burgers as well as chicken chunks for all your basic cooking needs.
- Gardein crispy tenders are vegan and kosher and are sure to satisfy those chicken tender cravings.
- Raised and Rooted nuggets have received tons of rave reviews and Nuggs can be bought right online!
- MorningStar Farms’ breaded Chik Patties crisp up great in the oven or on the grill, and are even low in sodium.
If you ever get cravings for fish and chips or a tuna melt, these plant based fish options are ready to provide delicious and satisfying solutions.
Plant based tuna comes ready to use, but if it sits in water, just make sure to drain it before use. If you are making fishless sticks, you will of course need to bake them to get that satisfying crispness we all love.
Some of the best ways to cook plant based fish:
- Sandwiches – combine ‘tuna’ with diced celery, pickles, mayo, and mustard, and serve with lettuce on toast or between slices of bread
- Salads – sprinkle ‘tuna’ on any green salad as a topper
- Casserole – combine ‘tuna’ with cooked egg noodles, peas, and creamy white sauce in a baking dish and pop in the oven
- Fish and chips – bake fishless sticks and fries in the oven and enjoy with tartar sauce and / or ketchup
- Tacos – bake whole or chopped sticks and add to tacos with a quick slaw like how we do in our popular Crispy Asian Fish Tacos recipe
- Good Catch plant based tuna is gluten-free, comes in a variety of flavors, and manages to achieve a great canned tuna texture.
- Gardein and Quorn make fishless sticks that both crisp up to make a delicious substitute for any fish and chips night.
Deli Slices & Bacon
When people think about plant based alternatives, they often forget to look for meat alternatives for sandwiches. But with vegetarian deli meats and bacon, you can look forward to getting reacquainted with your favorite subs.
You can easily use plant based deli meat like you would any regular deli meat, which means there’s no need to cook! For plant based bacon, you can cook it on a stovetop until crisp and then add to sandwiches or crumble onto salads or soups. You can also dice and saute it to add to dishes like fried rice, though it’ll lose its crispness with that technique, but still maintain its smoky flavor.
Some of the best ways to cook plant based bacon and deli meats:
- Sandwiches and wraps – layer deli slices or cooked ‘bacon’ with your favorite sandwich fixings
- Burgers – crisp up slices of ‘bacon’ and add to your favorite burger
- Salads – dice and saute plant based ‘bacon’ to top salads for extra crunch
- Quiches – bake ‘bacon’ or ‘ham’ deli slices into quiches and frittatas
- Hors d’oeuvres – make mini pinwheels or wrap deli slices around veggies or cheese; wrap ‘bacon’ around pitted and sliced dates, then bake
- Savory bakes – add vegetarian ‘bacon’ to cheddar biscuits, pancakes, donuts, etc.
- Chowders and soups – crumble cooked ‘bacon’ on creamy corn and potato chowders for a bit of smokiness
- Field Roast’s wild mushroom deli slices and smoked tomato slices are equally tasty in cold-cut sandwiches and melts alike.
- Morningstar Farm veggie bacon strips get beautifully crisp when cooked over a stovetop and have a nice smokey flavor that will add that something extra you’ve been looking for.
- Tofurky has a range of deli cuts, from bologna to smoked ham to oven-roasted turkey that will really up your vegetarian sandwich game.
You can still celebrate all of the special occasions by placing a plant based roast at the center of a truly festive feast!
When cooking a plant based roast, we recommend baking it in some stock to keep it moist (just like a real turkey!). Another way to prepare a veggie roast is to slice and sear it on the stovetop. If your roast comes with stuffing in the middle, just make sure to cook up the slices carefully so the filling won’t crumble out.
- Trader Joe’s breaded turkey-less stuffed roast is budget-friendly, not too dense, and stuffed with seasoned wild rice and vegetables.
- Field Roast has some delicious options like this Hazelnut Cranberry Roast En Croute and this Celebration Roast that is filled with grain, butternut squash, and seasoned apples.
- For a simple unstuffed option, try Quorn’s Meatless Roast; perfect for adding additional flavors and ingredients as you please . . . or if you simply prefer your dressing on the side!
Where to buy meat alternatives?
Vegetarian meat alternatives are commonly sold at many local grocery stores. You can often find some in the refrigerated section next to the produce, in the “health food” refrigerated section, or in the frozen food aisles. The freezer section of any local Asian food store is also a great place to find anything from vegetarian shrimp to mock duck.
Also, the websites of the brands we recommended above can help you find where to buy their specific products in-store, online, or with grocery delivery.
Whether you’re looking for meat alternatives for sandwiches, pastas, or casseroles, we hope this article helps you navigate the vast world of plant based meat options. If you know anyone who wants to eat great meatless meals on a regular basis, please send this article along to them!
You can also check out The Best Meat Substitute for Burgers, Sausages, & Ground Meat to explore more amazing options for even more everyday dishes.
Get more helpful cooking tips and resources by signing up for our newsletter below. We send out weekly emails that will help you improve in the kitchen and live a healthier life, so join our community today and start cooking smarter!