Meat-Free Fridays: A Medley of Meatless

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Each Friday during Lent, the dailySpark will feature a different meat-free main dish. Whether you observe Lent or not, we can all benefit from learning about alternate, affordable proteins. This is the final blog in the Meat-Free Friday series. View the rest of the series here.

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and the adage applies to food. When you know you can't or shouldn't have a food, do you crave it all that much more? Since Lent started, have you had any Friday cravings for meat?

Sure, I've offered plenty of meat-free alternatives, but what are you to do when a craving for a hot dog, chicken nuggets or a turkey sandwich hits? Must you hold off until Saturday?

Nope. You can indulge your cravings for all your favorites--pepperoni pizza, BLTs and even sausage and egg breakfast sandwiches--even when you're on a meatless diet.

Welcome to the wonderful world of… meat analogs.

Take a stroll through the frozen food section of any grocery store these days, and you'll find the meatless meats. Chicken nuggets, chicken patties, ribs, burgers, sausage, bacon, ground meat, hot dogs, even turkey have been made meatless.

These meatless meats are not just limited to vegetarians and those who give up meat for Lent. If you keep kosher and crave a cheeseburger or are on a low-cholesterol diet but want an Italian sausage, they could also fill a niche in your meal plan.

I like to think of meat substitutes as "gateway" foods for new vegetarians and those who want to enjoy a meat-free meal. They help you adapt foods you know and love for a meat-free meal, day, or lifestyle.

How are these meat substitutes made?
Meat substitutes can be made from a variety of foods, the most common being soy/TVP and seitan, which is wheat gluten.

Veggie burgers: These are usually made from various processed soy products, mushrooms, vegetables, beans and seitan. There are plenty of different brands to choose from, including Morningstar Farms, Boca, Amy's and Gardenburger. Beyond just a beef substitute, check out interesting flavors like spicy black bean (great in Mexican and southwest dishes), Asian vegetable (try them in stir-fries), veggie-medley (get a serving of vegetables on a bun) or tomato and cheese (fabulous on top of pasta).

Quorn: Quorn is the most popular brand of mycoprotein foods. Marketed as being made from mushrooms, Quorn is made from an edible, processed fungus that is bound with egg whites. Quorn is especially popular in the UK, and its products are convincingly meatlike. I've had their chicken cutlets in the UK, and I was thoroughly surprised by how much it looked and tasted like meat! Quorn also makes chicken nuggets and patties, turkey roasts, meatballs and mince (ground meat, as we call it in the States).

Yuba: This is one you can't knock until you try. Yuba is… wait for it… the skin that forms on the top of soymilk. It's also called dried beancurd. It's actually quite tasty. Yuba can be used to recreate chicken and other poultry. It's not bad!

Do they taste like meat?
Well… no… yes…maybe…

"It depends" is the best answer I can give you.

Is a veggie burger going to taste like beef? Nope. But after you pile on the low-fat cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, ketchup, mustard and low-fat mayo, will you really miss the beef? I sure don't.

Funny meatless meat story No. 1: After college, I moved in with my dad and stepmom for a couple of months. My stepmom bought me a box of Boca burgers. One night my dad worked late and opened the freezer in search of a quick dinner. He saw "burger" on the box, popped one in the microwave, and plopped it on a bun with onions and mustard. The next night at dinner, he remarked to my stepmother, "Those burgers were a little dry. Were they on sale or something? I'd much rather have a regular burger."

She laughed. "I didn't buy any burgers," she said.

"Yes, you did," he replied. "They're on the door--Boca something."

She laughed again. "Those are Stepf's veggie burgers. They're not beef."

"Oh. I wondered why you had bought such a cheap, dry cut."

My father, a real meat and potatoes kind of guy, thought the Boca burger was beef--just not good beef! (He still eats them and says he liked them better once he learned they weren't beef.)

Chicken-less nuggets don't taste like chicken, but do chicken nuggets really taste like chicken? Not really.

Would an Italian soy-sage be mistaken for real Italian sausage? Yes. If you're my dad. (A few weeks later, the same scenario happened, only with Italian soy-sage. He's a fan of those now, too.)

Vegetarian hot dogs taste remarkably similar to regular hot dogs. They have the snap of a good hot dog, and you don't have to shudder to think about what's in them (various soy products and wheat gluten, plus spices, in case you were wondering).

There are also vegetarian cold cuts, chorizo, and pepperoni (surprisingly tasty)!

As far as meat-free eating goes, I would prefer "whole" unprocessed foods in most cases. These products are good for satisfying the occasional cravings. How about you? Would you or have you tried "meatless meat"? Would you?

And, while we're on the subject: What's your favorite veggie burger? Do you buy them or make them? Which brand is best?

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RETIREDSUE 3/25/2020
Some of the "Beyond Meat" burgers that we've seen are very high in sodium to compensate for the lack of meaty taste and that to me makes them not a good choice. I'd be fine with meatless products that aren't high in sodium but most of those listed are not likely available here. Report
KATHYJO56 2/23/2020
I have a lot of meatless days, not just meatless Fridays Report
Meat analogs are my junk food. So that means I get some when cravings are high, they happen to be in stock, and no more than quarterly.
This year, I’ve yet to get any, but that was because the mini corn dog bites were sold out.
I like analogs well enough. I’ve moved on to other burger options, usually marinated portobello mushrooms, because I’m looking to eat a high percentage of real food, not processed. And I have very little freezer space.
I am grateful that Boca were available when my kiddo was small. And the buffalo chikn nuggets. Those and tempeh based “hippy fingers” I made at home worked for kid food, which is, let’s be honest, a sauce and dip carrying device.
KATHYJO56 10/6/2019
Please check the amount of sodium on the brands you buy. Some can be very good. Report
CECELW 10/5/2019
I like most of these products Report
Love these products! Report
BLHEALTH 7/30/2019
Our family loves these products Report
Beyond Burgers are amazing!!! Report
I like the morningstar veggie burgers, especially the black bean... would I mistake it for beef? No way! But I don’t care. I enjoy the veggie burgers for what they are... Report
some of those meatless product ingredients scare me.. and some have lots of sodium... on our meatless days, we just have fresh veggies and fruits, we have nuts for protein, some times or eggs. Report
I only eat veggie hotdogs. Never "meat" ones as they often barely class as meat. Taste great and way better to know what you are eating... Not pink slime! Report
I only eat veggie hotdogs. Never "meat" ones as they often barely class as meat. Taste great and way better to know what you are eating... Not pink slime! Report
Aldi's carries a line of meat free sausages, burgers, meatballs and hotdogs. Not a fan of the hotdogs. Definitely looking to try quorn next. Report
Beyond Meat has sausages now too. If you haven't eaten meat for a while, they are likely to creep you out a little. They are very meaty. Report
Please try Beyond Beef Burgers ! You won’t belive how much they taste like meat. Cook each burger rare for the best comparison. Remember - no need to check the inside temperature. This isn’t an animal sourced product. All taste and compassion, no cruelty. Report
Vic’s burger is ok, but it’s just another choice, we don’t fake being vegetarian. Report
Yes, I have tried the boca burgers and have ordered the veggie burgers at restaurants. I never miss the beef. Coach Nicole has a lentil loaf recipe I have also tried and it very good. Report
I've only tried 2 brands of veggie burgers but Morningstar Farms is my favorite, as it was juicier and more flavorful than the other brand. I like all the different flavors of veggie burgers, but I like the original veggie burger the best, because it is so moist and tasty, and I can see and taste the carrots, mushrooms, and water chestnuts. Mmm. I don't even eat it on a bun all the time, sometimes I like it plain with sour cream on the side to cut down on the starch.
My husband likes the 'grillers original' also because those have more of a grilled burger taste. When I eat the 'grillers' on a bun with ketchup, mustard, and grilled onion, it tastes just like a burger to me. Report
Morning Star and Quorn are my favorite brands. I really enjoy the burgers and the chicken cutlets. My whole family loves them. We hit the Naural food stores and try other things too. It's amazing what you can find! I've always been pleased. Report
Morningstar Farms makes the best fake meat, I love their veggie breakfast sausage patties and their spicy chipotle black bean burgers, but lately my favorite veggie burger is Dr. Praeger's California Veggie Burger. Delicious and mostly made of a variety of vegetables instead of mostly beans and grain products! Report
Loma Linda used to make fabulous "meat" products in the 80's...especially a dried chunk "meat" that made for FABULOUS chili...and it didn't tie up space in the freezer...wish I could find some..... Report
Meatless options are wonderful. I just can seem to find that many at my local healthfood stores. Maybe it's just not as popular in Canada? Report
I like the Boca Original Vegan Meatless Burgers best. They cook well on the grill and microwave. Report
I would love to see you keep running this feature. You could tie it in to the Meatless Mondays movement. As a new vegetarian, I need all the help I can get. Report
I really like the Boca burgers, and I'd like to try Quorn. I have done the "Smart Dogs"....I threw out the pack after I took one bite. Maybe it's just me but there just wasn't something right w/the dog....I mean it was topped w/homemade chili and everything! Report
Quorn chick'n nuggets, Morningstar veggie burgers (I don't like the soy based Boca burgers), my husband loves the Morningstar Chipotle Blackbean burgers I can only find at BJ's. I recently tried the fake bacon - it tasted just like the yucky fake bacon bits and had a weird texture. Not something I'm going to buy again. Report
I like the Morningstar "chicken" patties, the Italian Herb. I also like the Boca veggie burgers and Gardenburger Portabella Mushroom burgers. I cannot digest red meat, so I have had to find alternatives. I gave up on the fake beef as the smokey flavors triggered some digestive problems, too. I have been red meat free for many months and can tell a vast difference in how I feel. I still love my chicken, turkey and fish, though. Report
I LOVE Gardenburgers!! Wrapped in lettuce with all the fixings. It's messy and tasty especially when it made on the bbq...... Report
OK... My favorite meat-less burger by FAR is the Chili's Black Bean burger. They put these southwestern spices in them, and they are SO GOOD. You can use them to substitute for a meat patty in ANY of their burgers... and the best I've had so far is the Black Bean Burger substitute in the Mushroom Swiss Burger... It's making my mouth water right now, just thinking about it! :) Report
This was a good series. I'd like to see a Meat-Free Fridays e-mail newsletter. Year-round. Report
I do eat some of these meatless products, but honestly I do not expect them to resemble/taste like meat all that much. I do use the morningstar crumbles in things like pasta, chili, etc, where I might use ground beef and it's actually pretty similar to beef, but not exactly. I don't really like veggie burgers. When I want a burger I want beef (or bison...or buffalo...)! Report
We just tried Tofurkey and loved it! It was Italian flavored from Trader Joe's. I sliced them and mixed it with whole wheat thin spaghetti and sauce. Report
Our two favorites are Morningstar Crumbles and Gimme Lean "Sausage" flavor. I use the Crumbles to make an awesome vegetarian chili, and I make "burgers" with the Gimme Lean sausage. Both are really yummy. Report
I make a "mock tuna" sandwich filling that's super good and healthy. I substitute a can of mashed kidney beans for tuna. All other ingredients are what you would normally use. Try's great! Report
In Au we have many product that try to imitate meat, they are usually expensive!
There are so many wonderful non meat product and so many dissapointing mock meat dishes. I do eat meat and always will but I also enjoy meatless dishes and days. Report
I don't mind soy and eating veggies but I really do not like veggie burgers or hot dogs. I say just stick to the veggies. Report
I have purchased Morning Star Farms mushroom lovers
veggie burgers. My mom ate one and actually liked it!
She made the remark about her glucose level being lower
when she came to my house last year. Morning Star Farms
beats McDonalds any day! Report
For those who think it's "weird" or ridiculous for vegan/vegetarians to eat meat analogs you have to realize most of us aren't veg due to hating how meat tastes. The vast majority of folks are veg to help animals. If we can eat something that tastes good, works in our old familiar recipes (in my case, my mom's recipes from when I was a kid) and didn't cause any animal to suffer or die isn't that just a win, win, win?

It always drives me crazy when folks get snotty about vegans eating meat analogs. They aren't dead animals. That's pretty much all I care about. Oh, and I won't buy Boca due to them being owned by Phillip Morris. Not giving them a cent, if I can help it.

I prefer Amy's burgers, as they are full of veggies, whole grains and not all processed soy like the Boca brand, anyway. Field Roast and Tofurkey are also great. I really like my premade proteins to be more wheat gluten based than processed soy based, usually.

Also, for those saying "ew, fakeeeee" I saw, "ewwww, rotting dead carcass!" And I'll bet 9 out of 10 of you eat nitrated meat on a regular basis, eat mostly factory farmed stuff FULL of fake chemicals, pesticides and worse. A little processed veg meat is still WAY more healthy than 99% of the meat on the market. Unless you're buying all organic, grass fed and natural meat (preferably farmer direct or via a place like Whole Foods) I'd watch what you say about fake stuff in food. Our meat system is ridiculous in the States. Report
I've made black bean burgers using the recipe here on Spark! It was amazingly good, and all of us had two. Even 18 year old picky eater. I want to make them again, but picky eater is gone for another couple of days, and that is something I want to make while she's HERE -- we can have stuff while she's gone that she won't eat, like artichokes. Oh man, that's my lunch. Report
Hi V-RON_CAN! I can help you with that! Generally, when we buy TVP, it isn't called that, unless we buy it in bulk in the health food store. What you are looking for is packaged meat analogs. You will find them in the frozen food case with brands such as Boca, Morningstar Farms, Quorn, etc. You will also find them in the produce case in better supermarkets with brand names such as Yves. Other sources are health food stores (but that can get pricey), or your local Seventh-day Adventist Church, as most of them have their own health food store that will be open generally one night a week or on Saturday nights after Vespers. Nobody will try to convert you. Everybody will be happy to help. You'll find Cedar Lake products (canned) there, as well as a lot of frozen Morningstar Farms products, also Bragg's Aminos (because you gotta get amino acids SOMEHOW). Another good source is your local Asian market. Try the Mock Duck (it will come in a can), or ask what they have frozen that's vegetarian. You might find veggie shrimp, veggie spare ribs, veggie lamb, veggie salmon...the possibilities are endless. Report
I use veggie meat analogs when I want to eat what my family is eating but without the meat (burgers, ribs, breakfast sausage, etc.)

I prefer tofu, beans, whole grains etc. but sometimes convenience and "fitting in" with my family is more important.

I like yuba. I have had it prepared for me by a friend but I recently bought some and plan on trying to make a dish with it.

I prefer Morningstar farm to Bocca because I think Bocca tastes too much like meat or at least what I remember meat to taste like. Report
I am a fan of Quorn products more than anything else. I do like Morningstar Farms veggie dogs and fake bacon, though. Report
I'm not a big fan of the tastes & textures of most meat. So, eating something that is trying to imitate the flavor of meat doesn't appeal to me. I'd rather have the various ingredients taste like what they actually are (veggies, mushrooms, tofu, etc.). All of those things are much tastier than meat, in my opinion. But I guess the texture would be better b/c it wouldn't be fatty like real meat (fatty meat grosses me out!). The black bean burgers are tasty, but I don't think of them as meat substitutes b/c they just taste like seasoned black beans to me. Report
I've been doing "vegetarian Friday" for several years now. I prefer the Morning Star Farms burgers to the Boca burgers, but can't find them in our new location (we moved out of state). I like Amy's and CedarLane products also. Report
My daughter is the vegetarian (pescetarian, actually; she eats fish), and she loves the Boca brand. I particularly like the Original Boca flavor; she prefers the Spicy Chicken Patty. (Yes, I eat them sometimes, even though I do eat meat, too.) She also makes her own black bean burgers and her own crab meat burgers, which she will make and eat over several meals. But for convenience, we've tried Gardenburger, Morningstar, and Boca, and we prefer the taste and consistency of Boca. Report
I'm not a vegetarian, but I do enjoy the occasional "meatless meat" I have been searching high and low for TVP ever since I tried it at a restaurant (if anyone knows where to find it I would be every so grateful!) I don have a little trouble with eating things that are SO processed (like boca) but I learned how to make my own veggie burger out of black beans and corn and LOVE them! Report
Trader Joe's makes great buffalo chix nuggets, and they are very good! There's also a veggie burger made by fantastic foods that you take the mix and add water, let it sit for 3 minutes, form a patty, and fry up just like the real thing! Tastes fresh, and low calories too. Just fry up in a little olive oil! 1000's of times better than anything frozen first! Promise! Report
Some products are far better than others. I have a friend who cringes when you mention tofu and has teased me for years about my "fake meats." She however unknowingly tried the Morningstar Farms Corn Dogs (which are a special treat for me) and loved them. She kept commenting on how tasty they were compared to other packaged corn dogs you can get in the freezer. Now she eats them instead of other brands and even her kids love them. You never know until you try something what it will be like. Report
First of all, don't knock it until you try it! There are so many meat alternatives available, so if you don't like one brand it doesn't mean you should swear them all off! have to feel good knowing noanimals were killed for your pleasure! Boca original Vegan are my favorite. Report
I tried them. They are OK. I view it as a different choice in food. I dont eat them on a regular basis. I also tried portobello burgers. I do not like frozen food for some reason. I like more of the fresh stuff. I will try just about anything once. I have eaten soy cheese and meats. I cant think of it as meat or cheese or it tastes bad. i think of it as another food choice that is unique then I can tolerate it. Report