Top 5 meat substitutes

Did you know that according to a 2012 United Nations report, it’s estimated that agricultural meat production has the potential to contribute as much as 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions? Did you also know that it takes up to 100 times more water to produce 500g of grain-fed beef than it does to produce the same amount of wheat?

Fighting climate change is like trying to conquer the big boss fight at the end of a hugely complex and challenging game of saving the world. Short of donning a blue suit and green underpants a la Captain Planet, you can do your bit by simply reducing the amount of meat you consume.

If the thought of giving up meat completely has you bunkering down with enough meat and fried chicken to weather a zombie apocalypse, worry not – we folks at Oxfam Australia and 3things have got you covered with some of our favourite “faux meats”.  Armed with enough green knowledge for the part-time (and full-time, for those so well inclined) vegetarian, you can be sure to unearth a few scrumptious recipes to kickstart the cooking creativity – be it for those ‘Meatless Mondays’ or simply because you’re more conscious about where your food comes from.


TofuPacked with all the good fats, calcium and carbohydrates you would need, tofu is considered one of the most complete forms of protein of any plant-based foods. As one of our favourite multi-purpose foods, the soft kind of tofu is delicious in warm, winter soups and curries, while the harder varieties are perfect for your lasagnes, stir-fries, and whoopie pies (filled with tofu-blended marshmallow cream – oh yes) .


PolentaThe star of Jamie Oliver’s Italian recipes, polenta is a growing favourite due to its diversity as a meal, side dish or dessert. Filled with what we call the ‘complex carbohydrate’ (this basically means it takes the body longer to digest so gives you longer term energy), Vitamin C, Vitamin A as well as potassium, phosphorous and magnesium, who knew ground cornmeal was capable of so much? Delicious as chips, blueberry pancakes, tart crusts, or a trusty base to the hearty meatball, it really is the food chameleon.


LegumesMmm, beans. The Mexicans and South Americans were definitely onto something when they made the bean one of their much-loved staples in all their national dishes. Offspring of the grain, legumes are a high source of protein, rich in carbohydrates, low GI, gluten-free, and are packed with vitamins, such as iron, zinc, calcium and magnesium. And did we mention fibre? 

Along with its fraternal twin, the lentil, the legume is often used in veggie burger patties, but is also great addition to salads, a brilliant quesadilla, and of course, the compulsory chilli.


Lentil soupComing under the umbrella family of ‘legumes’, the lentil is almost everyone’s favourite, multi-purpose bean, as it shares a lot of the same benefits as its relatives. Delicious in a red curry, a mushroom pie, or even a refreshing Indian dessert, the lentil should be a staple for every aspiring vegetarian (or Meatless Mondayer)!


MushroomsShitake, portabello, white button, enoki – with so many varieties and so many uses, you’ll be hard-pressed to your meat intake by substituting mushrooms in its place. Hearty and filling, the humble mushroom is a great substitute for your ground beef and related meats. A great source of antioxidants and Vitamin D, mushrooms are also a good source of B vitamins, such as riboflavin for healthy red blood cells and niacin to promote healthy skin, as well as a number of minerals like potassium.

An essential part of any trusty pasta or scrumptious as a stuffed side, you can also try your hand at a delicious mushroom pie. Or if you fancy the challenge, consider these delicious campfire mushrooms next time you’re out in the wild.

Do you have a favourite meat substitute we didn’t mention here? Tell us by leaving a comment below.


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About Margaret Tran

Content producer by day, baking rookie by night. Serial window shopper, "long reads" enthusiast, and lover of brilliant TV. I eat and do words via
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