Vegetarian Alternatives to Tofu

There are plenty of other ways to get your protein

Grilled tofu over charcoal, close-up
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Many vegetarians are concerned about getting all their required nutrients when adopting a vegetarian diet—in particular, protein. But luckily, it's really quite simple to get more than enough protein on a meatless diet, so there's no need for worry. And if you are thinking this means you need to eat lots of tofu, and you don't like tofu, there is good news: there are plenty of meat substitutes out there besides tofu, including tempeh, seitan, as well as other meat substitutes. There are also several foods you can incorporate into your vegetarian diet that provide enough of this essential nutrient.

Vegetarian Meat Substitutes

There are some vegetarians who choose not to eat meat for reasons other than their texture and flavor and actually would like to replicate ground beef or chicken in their recipes. That is when meat substitutions come in handy. Products such as tempeh and seitan are both high in protein and have similar textures to meat when cooked. Tempeh is a soy product and can be crumbled to simulate ground beef, or sliced thinly to replace chicken pieces. It is recommended that you simmer the tempeh in a liquid before adding to recipes to soften it up.

Even closer to the texture of meat is seitan, which is made of wheat. It has a savory taste but takes on other flavors well. Unlike tofu, seitan needs to be cooked before adding to a dish and can be pan-fried, simmered, or grilled. If you are looking for pre-made meat substitutions, there are several on the market, including stuffed turkey, vegetarian chicken legs, and veggie burgers.

Other Protein Sources

If it's just protein that you're worried about, you may be surprised to learn that there are several foods out there chock full of protein that are part of a vegetarian diet. One, in particular, is quinoa, along with other whole grains, beans, nuts, and leafy greens. Vegetarians can also eat eggs as well as certain dairy products for a protein and calcium boost.

Expand Your Palate

In addition to trying new ways to replace meat, becoming a vegetarian is also a wonderful opportunity for expanding your diet. Just because you are eliminating certain foods doesn't mean your dietary choices should shrink; there are most likely lots of exciting ingredients and delicious recipes out there that you have never tried!

If you're a new vegetarian, or just thinking about it, and aren't sure there will be enough variety, go to your local vegetarian restaurant and try a few things on the menu—other than tofu, of course. No vegetarian restaurants where you live? Head to a Thai food restaurant and try a variety of vegetable curries and noodle dishes or sample meatless soups and stir-fries at a Chinese food restaurant. You can also taste savory Indian curries and dumplings at an Indian restaurant. And don't forget about platters filled with heaven-scented grain salads and falafel at Middle Eastern restaurants.

Give Tofu a Second Chance

If you have tried tofu several different ways and don't care for it, then it is clearly not for you. But if you have only had it cut into cubes and floating a soup, or straight from the package drizzled with a sauce, then it is worth revisiting this soybean curd. It's such a versatile food that it really deserves a second and even a third chance.

Tofu is wonderful marinated in a teriyaki sauce and then pan-fried until crispy. It can also be coated in breadcrumbs and turned into "fish sticks" or "chicken nuggets". Tofu also adds a wonderful creaminess to desserts (ideal for vegans).

There are also a few different types of tofu, from silken to extra firm, and each one can be used in different ways, from baking to lasagna to enchiladas. Needless to say, the possibilities of tofu are endless.