How do you replace mince meat in cooking?
One of the hardest things for people who eat meat to visualise is how you “fill up the plate” when you take the meat off it. (If you’re wondering why people would consciously want to reduce the meat in their diet then check out these posts here health reasons, animal welfare concerns and environmental reasons).
When it comes to replacing meat in a dish – the easiest meat to replace is mince. Because of the ground up texture. So in this post here are 7 different options you can use instead of mince meat that you might use in a bolognese sauce, or with a gravy (eg. within a pie a patty or a “meat” loaf).
For some order, I’ll list the alternatives from more processed, quicker to prepare to less processed, more whole food options. If you choose to try out one of these options, always check the labels of any products you buy to ensure they suit your dietary needs as a company may change the ingredients in their products at any time.
We’ve got some links and packaging here just to help you out when you go to the shops. In our experience looking for a new product on an unfamiliar shelf is a bit like looking for a book you heard about on the radio at a book shop that doesn’t store the books within each section in alphabetical order 😉 (we aren’t affiliated with any of these companies)
1. Commercial soy and meat free mince meat alternatives.
Anne likes to cook with ingredients she can access at her local supermarket and so Anne used Quorn mince in her lasagne in The Lasagne Episode. The Quorn mince that Anne used is soy free, but it contains egg .
2. Commercial meat free soy based mince alternatives.
Other commercial mince alternatives include soy based alternatives like the Linda McCartney mince which you can also access in the freezer section of your local supermarket or Vegan grocers.
These are great options for vegans or people who are just starting to change their diet and are experimenting with tastes and textures and need a quick option on hand.
3. Grated organic firm tofu.
Grated tofu gives a great crumbly texture and when cooked in your pasta sauce also absorbs the sauce and flavour. Our top tip: choose an organic option and make sure you are using firm tofu (because it’ll get seriously messy if you try this with the silken tofu). Grate it with the finest option on your grater – like you would grate Parmesan cheese not like you would grate mozzarella. Anne shows you how to do this in the Lasagne Episode.
4. Crumbled tempeh including soy free tempeh.
You could use soy based tempeh (often available in supermarkets or organic produce stores), but if soy doesn’t work for your dietary needs we’ve recently discovered this range of fantastic soy-free tempeh by Byron Bay Tempeh. Which include a fava bean and wakame and a chickpea tempeh option (always check the labels of packaging to make sure the product is suitable for you). Tempeh has a stronger flavour than tofu, and it is also a firmer texture. But I find these tempehs have a milder flavour than regular soy based tempeh. So let your taste buds do some experimenting and tell us what you think!:-).
5. Commercially available whole food based options like these Vegie bites:
An option suggested from our friends at Everything Vegan is to crumble these veggie bites (or keep them whole and use them as “meat balls”) in your pasta sauce or veggie gravy for that “mincey” texture. This is a good option for people who don’t have time to make things from scratch and or they are transitioning from their previous – fast food heavy diet toward more healthier or home-made options. They’re also available in many supermarkets too.
6. Whole food and non-soy options – Legumes and Grains
Legumes like red lentils are great because they breakdown while they cook, whilst brown lentils are also good because they keep their shape but are still fairly small. Adzuki beans are also quite small. Kidney beans, being bigger can also give a bit more texture to the bolognese sauce – but I prefer to mash them a little first with a potato masher. If you’re making pies which might usually be made with a white meat like fish or chicken, you might like to try using chickpeas, fava beans or cannellini beans (or other white beans that you like the taste of).
Lastly, a suggestion from Glenys is to add some brown, red or wild rice to your bolognese sauce for some extra texture. To add the grains, you can add them to the sauce (providing it is wet enough) and cook for 40 minutes (or until the grain is cooked).
If you don’t have time to prepare dried legumes (check out Glenys’ segment in the Hoummus Episode if you’re not sure what we mean and want a quick visual run-down) you could also use organic canned legumes (check out my segment in the Hoummus episode to give you some pointers for what to look for with canned options).
7. Nut blends
A home-made nut mince – like Hayley made is another whole food mince alternative (and it is so tasty it’ll knock your socks off!) You can use a range of nuts to find out the flavour combination you like the best – One of my personal favourites is a combination of walnut, hazelnut and cashew, but brazil nuts and almonds also blend quite nicely. I personally find the nuts taste nicer in raw mixes, and the legumes taste nicer in the cooked sauces, but I’ll let your taste buds decide what you prefer.
So there you go 7 mince alternatives listed in this article alone (more if you consider each of the different legumes and grains you can try and other products suggested).
If you’d like some recipes check out our recipe books The Little Book of Italian Recipes.