As an avid meat eater, the thought of swapping out meat products for vegan alternatives has always made me recoil. Mainly because, back in the early 2000s when meat free stuff had just started to hit the supermarket shelves, I decided to try Quorn chicken. Now, I am a huge lover of chicken, so this substitution was not a good one. I did try the mince as well, and again it wasn’t for me. I felt (at the time) the meat alternatives lacked ‘real’ taste, texture, and was incredibly expensive compared to their meat counterparts.
Fast forward nearly 20 years (Oh. My. God, that just made me feel old!)I have a few friends who are vegetarian/vegan, so to be considerate of their beliefs I always cook with them in mind when they come to visit. I for one have never liked going to someone’s house if they smoke (inside) as I can’t stand smoking! I can only imagine that’s a similar feeling veggies/vegan have going to a house of meat eaters on a Sunday!
Some factors that are essential for me to make permanent swaps:
- Taste – the alternative has to taste like I’m eating meat (with a couple of exceptions below). If it’s a chicken substitute then I want it to taste like chicken. The key is, can I tell the difference?
- Texture – it still has to be similar to the produce it is emulating. I don’t want to be eating mushy ‘meat’.
- Versatility – I often use mince for many dishes, so I need an alternative to be able to do the same. Not just a one trek pony.
- Affordable – I don’t mind spending a little bit extra, but I am not going to pay double for something just because it is ‘meat-free’.
- Healthy – for me, it is all about finding a healthy balance. If I am swapping out meat for something, it needs to be healthier than the meat product, e.g. If it is higher in fat or additives then I am not interested.
So, here are some of my favourite swaps that have made a permanent appearance on my shopping list!
By far, my favourite sausage! It even beats meat ones for me (which is a huge thing for me to say if you knew how much I love meat). You will not be able to tell the difference from this to a regular pork sausage. Even the texture is meat like, they seem to use the same flavourings in regular sausages, and they honestly taste soooo good. I buy them when they are usually on offer. Cheapest I’ve found was 2 packs of 8 for £4. On par with meat sausages so it is not going to break my bank.
The only ‘downside’ is that you have to fry them, either with a little oil or spray. The first time I cooked then (under the grill as I would usually do with meat ones) I burnt them, and they just shrivelled and went dry and black! Oops, lesson learnt.
A nice alternative to beef mince, ideal for use in Bolognese, chilli, or other saucy mince dishes. I used in on loaded nachos for our Mexican night. The children could tell it wasn’t meat but they still enjoyed it and ate it all. It tastes good, not meaty but still a pleasant taste. The texture is what gives the game away that it isn’t meat. But that didn’t bother us, and it was nice not to have grisly hard bits that you can sometimes get with meat mince.
400g will cost you around £3, which is reasonable and cheaper than the premium supermarket mince of this quantity.
I love these! They taste super good with a salad and some vegan coleslaw (coming next). Ok, as the name suggests, they don’t try to emulate meat. But they are packed full of flavour, they are not greasy, and they have a nice texture to them. I’ve not had them in a bun; I’ve always had them as a salad meat alternative. They might be a little dry in a bun and not sure they would be BBQ worthy, but you can probably get around this by cooking with a touch more oil and adding the coleslaw/other sauce in the bun.
A pack of 2 burgers cost around £3, 4 quarter pound beef burgers cost about the same… But I think it’s a viable swap for non-bbq style burger nights!
As a lover of my own homemade coleslaw, this is HUGE! I won’t normally buy shop coleslaw as they put too much peppery-ness (celeriac) in for my liking. But this vegan alternative from Aldi is nice. It still has a kick to it, but not as much as other coleslaws. It is coleslaw, tastes like it, smells like it, and looks like it… What more can I say. You will not notice the difference!
An absolute steal at 0.79p for 300g.
Every Friday is pizza and film night in our house. So finding a ‘healthy’ alternative is awesome! The downside with vegan cheese is that is doesn’t seem to melt, however Aldi have somehow found one that does! There are 3 flavours available; BBQ jackfruit, ham & mushroom (I had this one), and spicy cauliflower. It tasted good, it has a nice stone-baked base and lots of topping. Although slightly higher in calories (approximately 10 Kcal more per half a pizza than a stone baked margarita), it has almost half the amount of saturated fats and sugars!! That’s a winner from me!
A regular355g pizza casts £1.75 which is comparable with any other meat pizzas of this style.
Now, as I stated before, I LOVE CHICKEN. It is probably one of the only reasons I could not fully become a non-meat eater. But…These are so tasty! They have a chicken like texture, flavour, and (if I had one not knowing) I wouldn’t know I was eating meat free. They are M&S so are expensive! Also, half of the saturated fat and salt content compared to regular M&S chicken Kiev’s. Winner!
At £3.50 for 2 Kiev’s, they are a treat. They sometimes make an appearance in the ‘2 dine’ meal deals which is then worth it.
Thanks to having a few non meat-eater friends, I have discovered new tasty alternatives to some of my favourite meat products. I will never become completely vegan, but these vegan alternatives will remain in my shopping baskets, as well as trying other products as I see them on the shelves.
Obviously veganism is more than food, so if you’d like to find out more about a vegan lifestyle, visit Vegan.com.
Let me know what vegan food products you’ve tried, and what you think of them.