7 Vegetarian Jerky Options Better Than Beef

People have relied on jerky for centuries as a way to preserve meat from spoiling. There are two main components necessary for making jerky: salt and heat. The salt draws out water, reducing the occurrence of bacterial growth, while the heat evaporates the water. The result is a portable, preserved, nutritious snack that’s convenient and easy to carry around.

But the process of making jerky can also be used to enhance the flavor, texture, portability, and shelf life of non-meat ingredients, like fruits, vegetables, and soy-based proteins.

Click here to see how you can make bacon from nothing but plants

By using ingredients like maple syrup, soy sauce, liquid smoke, and other spices, any home cook can recreate the essence of jerky without any meat. Plant-based jerky is perfect for lunch boxes, camping trips, picnics, or as a snack to slip into your bag. Another bonus is that plant-based jerky is pretty simple to prepare and totally customizable based on your own taste preferences. But if you don’t feel like cooking, there are dozens of different brands offering a variety of interesting plant-based jerky options.

This Monday, start experimenting with your own versions of jerky with our list of seven creative vegetarian jerky options that are better than beef.

Eggplant Jerky

Eggplant is a superb alternative to beef thanks to its meaty texture and ability to absorb flavor. You can easily turn eggplant into bacon or “steaks”, but you can also cook it low-and-slow to make jerky. This recipe for eggplant jerky from Everyone Eats Right calls for marinading the eggplant in a mixture of balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, and paprika, and then dehydrating for 10-12 hours in the oven on low.

For the Eggplant Jerky(ish) recipe, click here.

Jackfruit Jerky

In its raw form, jackfruit is not so common, but you can usually find it canned or in refrigerated sections of many supermarkets. This recipe from Kitchen Gadget Vegan recommends mixing canned jackfruit with maple syrup and liquid aminos (and a few other spices) before roasting the slices in a 350-degree oven for a little less than an hour.

For the Vegan Jackfruit Jerky recipe, click here.

Peppery Beet Jerky

Beets have a pleasantly earthy taste that pairs well with smoky, sweet, and spicy flavors. Punch Fork’s recipe for beet jerky hits all those yummy notes by applying a garlic, onion, black pepper spice blend and a coating of vegan Worcestershire sauce to the raw beets before cooking.

For the Peppery Beet Jerky recipe, click here.

 Pumpkin Pie Fruit Leather

This recipe from Common Sense Home has a texture more like fruit leather than traditional jerky, but it’s still a great snack to take on the road or on nature hikes. Using canned pumpkin, coconut milk, apple sauce, and pumpkin pie seasonings gives this snack a uniquely sweet and satisfying flavor. To store the fruit leather, wrap the sliced strips in plastic wrap and seal in an air-tight container.

For the Portable Pumpkin Pie Fruit Leather recipe, click here.

Sesame Maple Tempeh Jerky

Tempeh is a soy-based protein with a texture similar to meat, and when dehydrated in the oven its texture becomes nice and chewy. This recipe from Heal Your Health Now uses a combination of sesame oil and sesame seeds to give the “jerky” a toasted, nutty flavor.

For the Sesame Maple Tempeh Jerky recipe, click here.

Shiitake Mushroom Jerky

Mushrooms of all types are prized for their satisfying meaty texture and rich, umami flavor. This recipe from The Mushroom Council is super easy to make: just toss shiitake mushrooms in a marinade of coconut aminos, apple cider vinegar, and chile garlic paste overnight and bake for an hour the next day. You’ll have a munchable snack that will fulfill your jerky fix.

For the Shiitake Mushroom Jerky recipe, click here.

Smoky-Sweet Tofu Jerky

Tofu is another protein-rich ingredient that serves as a good substitute for meat. When marinated in barbecue sauce, maple syrup, and other seasonings and baked in the oven, it takes on that chewy, leathery quality synonymous with traditional Jerky. Try this recipe from Life Currants for some inspiration.

For the Smoky-Sweet Tofu Jerky recipe, click here.


Click here for more Meatless Monday recipes. When posting pictures of recipes to your social media network, tag @MeatlessMonday use #MeatlessMonday to show the plant-based community your creation.