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3 Cheap and Natural Meat Substitutes

Whether you're trying to incorporate more vegetables in your diet or cut down your grocery bill, replacing meat a couple nights a week can help you accomplish both goals. Here are three inexpensive meat substitutes that don't include the often-polarizing tofu.

  1. Eggplant: This purple veggie has a solid, meaty texture compared to other vegetables and is a tasty centerpiece for dishes like baked eggplant parmesan or a complement to stir-fry and pasta recipes. Eggplant is nutritious to boot, packing in fiber, antioxidants, B vitamins, and potassium.

To see two more meat substitutes,


  1. Mushrooms: If it's cost you're focused on, opt for button mushrooms to get the most nutritional bang for your buck. Mushrooms are extremely versatile and can be ideal substitutes in burgers (make a portobello burger or veggie burgers with mushrooms as a base), enchiladas, casseroles, and more, as they tend to take on the flavors of whatever else is in the recipe.
  2. Beans: Full of protein and fiber, beans are an extremely inexpensive meat substitute. Use them in chilis, salads, and soups to make any vegetarian meal a bit heartier.


gingirl gingirl 8 years
Like ilanac13 said, when I first became a vegetarian, I was always looking for substitutes. I've found eggplant to be such a versitile vegetable and I use it very often (I even use it instead of noodles in a lasagna and just keep piling the veggies on). I don't use beans as often as I should, I think. They usually just have the starring role in my pasta fagioli. And I totally second the portobello mushroom burger, they are absolutely delicious.
lilxmissxmolly lilxmissxmolly 8 years
I'm a vegetarian, and I do eat some processed meat alternatives but a maximum of once a day...The only thing about mushrooms and eggplants is that at the end of the day they don't replace meat nutritionally...beans do provide protein, but I'm pretty sure that eggplant and mushroom don't provide a significant amount. However, I do love the tastes of both.
genniboo genniboo 8 years
mmm mmm mmmm!! i love eggplant, mushrooms and beans :) yum
miss-malone miss-malone 8 years
I loooove eggplant and beans! I never eat meat anyway though so these are staples in my kitchen.
Spectra Spectra 8 years
I'm not a big eggplant fan, either. I usually use zucchini and summer squash in my marinara sauce instead of meat, especially in the summer when I have a buttload of them to use up. I also use beans a lot in place of meat because they're super cheap as well. And I LOVE mushrooms! A nice grilled Portobello mushroom really tastes like a burger...I actually prefer them to a burger. They're SO yummy!
mands10 mands10 8 years
This is a great article. I am not a huge fan eggplant, but mushrooms and beans are a wonderful substitute to meats-there is so much you can do with those ingredients. I have to admit, that recipe by Danni2009 sounds delish-might have to rethink my feelings on eggplant!
aimeeb aimeeb 8 years
Minus beans I'll pass.
Dana18 Dana18 8 years
These are all great ideas for veggie meals.
msjean msjean 8 years
Chopped eggplant and button mushrooms together with canned crushed tomatoes (plus seasoning and grated cheese to taste) is delicious over pasta and great way to incorporate these ingredients
Modus-Vivendi Modus-Vivendi 8 years
I love beans. I end up having a lot of meatless meals, and they almost always involve beans and pretty much never involve veggie burgers, tofu, or other produced meat substitutes.
sandy82 sandy82 8 years
I love mushrooms and lately I've been adding eggplant to my dishes. It's a great alternative to meat!
misskacie misskacie 8 years
Thanks for the ideas, Fit-- and danni2009, that sounds really tasty, I'll have to try it!
syako syako 8 years
Thanks for these, Fit.
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
i'm so thrilled that there's a story about this today! it's funny - when i first became a vegetarian, i was always trying to find things that were as substantial to meat for my dishes - and it's so interesting to see that few people really know what to use. i've always used portabello mushrooms in place of meat for a burger or something because they are quite 'meaty' if you think about it. they stay relatively firm which is nice and they've got a GREAT flavor. i do like eggplant, but the problem that i find is that depending on how you cook it, you end up with a pile of mush, and that's not necessarily the best thing for a pretty meal.
Advah Advah 8 years
Oh I didn't know eggplants were full of so many good stuff - and I love them, glad I have another reason to eat more of them. :P Danni, thanks for the cooking idea, it sounds amazing!
danni2009 danni2009 8 years
I often make bean based meals. Yum. I also got a recipe for a nice aubergine (eggplant), courgette and mushroom dish...basically put all those in a baking dish, add some garlic, and some lemon juice, and feta cheese, bake for 30 minutes. Delicious. Far cheaper than quorn and tastier IMO.
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