Since I cut meat from my diet over a year ago, I had to find other ways to supplement my protein intake. There are so clever ways to do so that are so tasty, you might way to try them even if you’re not vegetarian or vegan!
Here is my top 5 favorite plant-based sources of protein:
1. The Classic: Tofu
Now, now, I know what you’re going to say: Yuck! It’s gross, bland and chewy!
I confess it, I used to think that way myself. The trick is to add as much flavor as you can, because admittedly, it is quite bland on its own. But, one does not simply season tofu and hope for the best.
There are a couple tricks to make it delicious. Sauces and marinades are your friend and you can use pretty much any flavors you like. But first, if you want it to soak in flavors, you have to squeeze the water out of it or else it won’t absorb your yummy marinade. How do you do it? Simple: wrap your block of tofu in a clean dishcloth and put something heavy on it. I personally like to place a wooden cutting board on the tofu and a small pot filled with water on top for extra weight. It doesn’t take long. 10-15 minutes is enough but you can leave it longer if you want. No harm done.
Another trick that can help if you don’t like the texture is to freeze it. Yes, you can freeze tofu. It helps drain water out of it when it thaws. It also affects the texture and many people prefer it after it’s been frozen and thawed. I always have a few blocks of tofu in my freezer.
The last trick I did from the beginning and still do now is I cut tofu in small cubes or thin slices. I was never a fan of biting into big chunks of tofu. The texture is more prominent than when it’s small cubes or slices, plus, it’s easier to integrate in your recipes if it’s in small cubes or even grated.
Also remember that tofu now comes in a variety of flavors! There’s herbs, ginger, veggies, sea weed, jalapeno and lots more. Feel free to explore!
2. Dirt Cheap: Beans and Legumes
When people say that plant-based diets are cheap, it has a lot to do with beans and legumes. They are easily accessible in cans or if you have a little more time, you can buy them and cook them yourself, and cost next to nothing. As a bonus, they can be stored for long periods of time without spoiling.
I really like black beans and add them to most of my meals be it a salad, a burger, pasta, casserole, etc. I also loooove hummus! Lentils can be used in some recipes to replace ground meat so they’re worth exploring with (for example in a meatloaf or shepherd’s pie). They are smaller than most beans and blend easily with other ingredients.
I also recently started exploring with beans in desserts. Not so typical in our Western diets but in Asia, beans are regularly used in desserts and actually quite yummy!
3. Protein Powder: Sprinkle It Everywhere
You can add very nutritious vegan or vegetarian protein powders to all of these recipes and many more! You can find protein powders with fruity flavors or a vanilla or chocolate flavor for your deserts and smoothies but don’t forget to look for more neutral flavors for burgers and such.
Here’s a great articles with recipes and 41 Sneaky Ways to Add Protein Powder Into Every Meal.
My goal when adding protein powder isn’t necessarily to use a whole scoop every time because I find it doesn’t always work to add such a large amount in some recipes. I figured adding a 5- or 10-gram bonus of protein is worth it.
4. Seitan: It’s All About The Texture
Seitan is another meat substitute but unlike tofu and TVP (see below), it’s made from wheat protein. The texture is also more similar to meat than tofu is and is used a lot in Asian cuisine. Seitan also comes in many different flavors and is very easy to use as a meat substitute. Sometimes, it’s shaped like a sausage, sometimes it’s in a cube, sometimes, it’s wrapped in plastic. You can fry it in a pan, grill it, slice it thinly to replace cold cuts, use it in skewers, etc. It’s extremely versatile!
5. Textured Vegetable Protein: Vegans’ and Vegetarians’ Best Kept Secret!
I had seriously NEVER heard of texture vegetable protein (often referred to as TVP) before switching my diet. Yet, it’s a staple in virtually every vegan’s or vegetarian’s diet.
So what it is? TVP comes from soybeans through a process in which the protein itself is extracted for the beans. What’s left is protein- and fiber-dense flakes that are low in calories, carbs and fat. To eat it, TVP needs to be rehydrated and because it’s pretty neutral in terms of flavor, you can add whatever liquid you’d like to give it an interesting flavor. You can add water but I highly recommend using broth, tomato juice, a mix of soy sauce and water, cumin-seasoned water, etc. Once hydrated, it looks a lot like ground meat. It can be added in a spaghetti sauce instead of meat, or in enchiladas or burritos, or shepherd’s pie, or even soups.
Once you get over the fact that it looks a little bit like fish food, you’ll realize it’s a great ingredient to have on hands for all kinds of recipes. Even if you don’t want to cut meat altogether, it can be added to replace some of it. Did I also mention TVP is very cheap (I get mine for less than $2 for 100 grams which leads a good amount of meat substitute when hydrated)?
Have you ever tried any of these foods? Which one is your favorite? What’s your favorite recipe with plant-based protein?
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