Plant-Based Swaps for Beef

Moderating your beef consumption is crucial for your personal health and the health of the planet, so we’re offering some protein-rich plant-based options to help you satisfy your meat cravings. By eating less meat, you’re also able to explore different ingredients, cooking techniques, sauces, and seasonings that can help build new culinary skills and still enjoy your favorite foods, sans beef.

For Your Guide to Cooking, Eating, and Shopping for Plant-based Meats, click here.

This Monday, we’re providing you with a nice list of all the different plant-based ingredients you can use instead of beef. Many of these foods are lower in saturated fat and cholesterol, and contain protein, fiber, and other essential nutrients. Try adding them to tacos, lasagna, meatballs, burgers, or any one of your favorite meaty recipes.

Beans, Peas, and Lentils

This broad category of ingredients (also known as legumes) is essential for anyone looking to eat less meat. Legumes are packed with protein, fiber, and minerals, but they are also inexpensive, shelf-stable (they don’t go bad), and easy to incorporate into meals. Many times, you can just crack open a can, drain, and add to noodles, rice, or salad greens for a quick mid-day meal. You can also use different legumes to recreate dishes like tacos, pasta Bolognese, and meatloaf. But if you’re looking for some more elaborate dishes, check out our top 10 favorite bean recipes.


Whether you’re throwing marinated Portobello mushrooms caps on the grill or sautéing shiitakes on the stove top, most varieties of mushrooms are perfect substitutes for beef. Loaded with umami flavor and satisfyingly chewy, you can use mushrooms to make many meat-forward recipes entirely plant-based. There are many ways mushrooms can be used to replace beef, such as adding them to mushroom pie, mushroom fried rice, and pulled mushroom baos. Also, try experimenting with dried mushrooms; you can store in your pantry and rehydrate to use in soups and stir-fries to recreate the richness of beef. Note mushrooms are not a significant source of protein.


When used in combination with other ingredients, like grains and beans, nuts are an excellent way to infuse healthy fats and texture into plant-based dishes. Nuts are a common addition to veggie burgers and veggie crumbles, and they are often used to recreate the mouthfeel of ground beef or taco filling. Try experimenting with nut-forward dishes like walnut lentil tacos, meatless meatballs, or farro, walnut, and white bean veggie burgers.

Plant-Based Meats

Using pre-made plant-based meats like burgers, grounds, strips, or crumbles is the easiest way to eat less beef. These ingredients can replace beef 1:1 in many recipes, and typically contain lower amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol (although they may contain added sodium, so just check the package). You can find plant-based meat options from brands like Gardein, Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat, Quorn, Daring, and many more at most grocery store chains in the frozen aisles.


Seitan is a wheat-based protein that usually has a savory taste similar to seasoned chicken but is also a great beef alternative. It is a versatile meat substitute for nearly any type of animal protein due to its hearty and chewy texture. It’s simple to prepare and you can use it in a number of beef and non-beef dishes like vegan Mongolian beef, 10-minute seitan ‘beef’ and broccoli,  seitan baked ziti, and seitan satay skewers with peanut sauce.


A soy-based protein with neutral flavor, tofu benefits from tangy marinades, explosive seasoning, and different cooking techniques that give it texture and crunch. Since it absorbs flavor so easily, tofu can be used to mimic classic beef dishes. Tofu comes in a variety of textures ranging from silken (creamy, not recommended for meat substitutes) to extra firm (best for a ‘meaty’ texture). For best results, press out the water before cooking so it can absorb seasonings more easily and marinade with traditional steak flavors like garlic, rosemary, or chimichurri. You can also chop up tofu so that it resembles the look and feel of ground beef and add to tacos or casseroles, like this classic tofu loaf. There are so many awesome things you can make from tofu, but we find boldly seasoned dishes like shawarma tofu pitas, jerk tofu tacos, tofu steaks with chimichurri, and tofu basil paninis are some of the best ways to recreate the beefy flavor.


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.