While there’s no denying that meat is a primary source of protein for many people, it’s not the only option out there for home cooks. Whether you’re cutting back on red meat for health reasons or have opted to follow a vegetarian diet in order to reduce your carbon footprint, today there is a great variety of alternative protein sources that you can even rely on when preparing typically meaty dishes, from burgers to stir-frys. To help increase your protein knowledge, weâ€™ve rounded up some smart options that make for easy switches as you expand your culinary horizons.
A good substitute for cubed pork, chicken and beef, this soybean-based protein powerhouse (80g of extra-firm tofu has around 8 grams of protein) is amazingly tasty and versatile. You can enjoy it in some of your favouriteâ€”but typically meat-heavyâ€”dishes, such as stir-fry, salad and sandwiches; you just need to prepare the tofu first just as you’d do with chicken and red meat to give it flavour.
When using tofu as a meat stand-in, buy the extra-firm style in your supermarketâ€™s refrigerated aisle. To prep the tofu, pat dry with paper towels and/or press it by wrapping in a clean kitchen towel and placing a heavy book on top of it for about an hour. This helps remove the excess moisture so it can better absorb whatever you’re flavouring it with.
Marinate it in things like curry paste or soy sauce (kecap manis), and then it can be cut and broiled, sautÃ©ed, grilled or friedâ€¦or coat it with flour and nuts, like almonds or pecans, similar to a cutlet.
Part of the legume family, beans are low in fat but high in fiber as well as vitamins and minerals, including iron, potassium and folate. On average, 1 cup will provide 5 to 7 grams of protein. When using beans as a protein substitute for ground meat in pastas or one-pot stews, opt for sturdier beans such as black, pinto and red kidney.
If using dried beans, be sure to rinse and soak them for several hours or overnight (which is best) before cooking. Canned is also a great option, especially for time-pressed cooks. Just drain, rinse and go!
Tempeh is a nutty-flavoured soybean product made from cooked and fermented soybeans. One cup has about 19 grams of proteinâ€”in addition to fibre calcium and vitamins. With a consistency that’s much firmer than tofu, it can be used in a greater variety of dishes, including as a ground beef substitute in dishes like shepherd’s pie and spaghetti bolognese, as a diced chicken substitute in chicken salad and stir-fries, and as a substitute in classic sandwiches..
Bonus: You don’t have to do anything extra to prep it for recipesâ€”just chop, dice or shred as needed.
Portobello Mushroom Caps
Clocking in at around 5 grams of protein a serving, these “meaty” mushroom caps are a delicious alternative for burgers, sandwiches/wraps and other typically meat-laden dishes. Plus, they have a wealth of vitamins and minerals to offer, including thiamin, potassium, vitamin B6 and folate.
Portobello mushrooms has a great texture, itâ€™s very meaty, and when marinated, it has a nice strong flavour. Soy sauce, liquid amino and brown rice vinegar adhere well to it. To really re-create the feel of a burger, buy the large caps, brush with a little olive oil, then grill until tender.
Chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) are part of the legume family, and as such, are fibre- and nutrient-rich, with very little fat; plus, they tend to offer more protein than other legumes, at around 12 grams per cup. Theyâ€™re great cold or hot and can be used as a substitute for shredded chicken or tuna when you want to layer some protein on top of your salad. You can also whip them into hummus, which is a popular method of preparation and makes an unbelievably satisfying alternative to mayo.
Finally, if you want to up the protein ante in Indian curry dishes or in veggie-based soups and stews, add chickpeas for some satisfying bulk.
Seitan (pronounced SAY-tan) is processed wheat gluten and a terrific alternative to meat, adding about 18 grams of protein per cup as well as a dense, chewy texture to your dish. Found in organic and most health food stores, it can be moulded and flavoured into just about anything, including shrimp, scallops, duck and ribs.
Heck, you can also make meatballs with it; grate it, slice it, chunk it; put it into anything from lasagnas and casseroles to pastas and sandwiches. It can be grilled, braised, broiled, sautÃ©ed, stir-fried and deep-fried, so any recipe that calls for hearty protein-rich ingredients, like stew, tandoori, barbecue and kebabs, is fair game. MYNEWSHUB