This is a contributed post.

If the idea of a meatless Monday sounds a little too green or if you’re worried your plant-based meals will taste like grass, this guide is here to show you how to make tofu taste like meat.

tofu meatballs

Can plant-based protein taste like meat?

YES! They absolutely can, plant-based proteins like tofu and seitan are highly absorbent when it comes to flavor. The trick to great-tasting every time tofu is in the preparation and plenty of practice. Most meats are rather bland if you cook them without basic preparation.

Pork is bland and straightforward when it has not been cured and treated. In America, they add a little sweetness to their bacon such as maple. Knowing what flavors make up meaty tastes makes it so much easier to recreate with tofu if you deconstruct the original product’s flavors.

Making vegan meats taste like meat!

It is 2021, where online stores stock everything from vegan butter flavorings to vegan fish sauce. Some stores stock artificial meat flavorings; however, many people prefer to make their own. Here is a list of flavor combinations that can be used to make all your favorite meaty flavors.

Pork

When we think of pork, salty and sweet notes come to mind, a subtle smoked umami flavor that hits the right spot.

  • Bacon – Bacon is made up of salty, smokey, and sweet. Try blending soy sauce, liquid smoke, maple syrup, and a little salt to create these flavors.
  • Glazed pork style flavor– Combine brown sugar, soy sauce, and a dash of smoked paprika to make a glaze for your tofu.
  • Sticky rib flavors – Nutritional yeast, smoked paprika, onion and garlic powder, pepper, soy sauce, and sugar, all come together to make a delicious lip-smacking BBQ flavor.

Chicken

Chicken has a savory umami flavor with a very soft sweet note.

  • Traditional chicken bouillon flavoring: Blend a mixture of nutritional yeast, onion powder, dried parsley, celery salt, paprika, sage, turmeric, garlic salt, and seasoned salt. This bouillon flavor can be used as a rub for tofu or sprinkled into scrambled tofu for a chicken flavor.

Beef

  • Ground beef: Add ground mushroom powder, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, non-spicy chili powder, and marmite to crumbled tofu for foolproof vegan beefy ground meat.
  • Steak: All good steak marinades start with a drizzle of sesame and olive oil, soy sauce, non-spicy chili powder, and some black pepper.

The trick is in the texture

The texture of plant-based meat substitutes is mainly responsible for the meaty experience. Each type of meat has its unique texture that can be achieved with tofu with a little trial and error.

Recreating meaty flavors at home is easier than you think. With the help of a tofu press and some patience, your meat-free Mondays might become permanent. These vegan recipes are fun and easy to make at home, soon you will master the art of making tofu taste like meat.

spaghetti bolognese with tofu

Ground meat – chicken or beef

Going vegan can sometimes send people straight into panic mode, no more ground meat tacos or lasagna? Fret not; there are a few ways to make tofu taste like ground beef or chicken and enjoy your favorite dishes. This recipe has all the information you need to make your ground meat without a fuss! The only difference between the two is the flavorings added.

Ingredients: 

For the ground meat:

  • 1 block of tofu, 14 oz firm to extra firm tofu

Chicken: Blend the herbs and spices in the blender until well combined. The blend can be made in bulk and stored in an airtight container.

  • 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp dries parsley, 2 tbsp nutritional yeast, 1 tsp celery salt, 1 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp garlic salt, 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp dried sage, and 1/2 seasoned salt.

Beef: Blend the spices with the wet ingredients to create a paste; you can store the paste for up to 1 week in the fridge’s airtight container.

  • Dried spices and herbs: 1 1/2 tsp ground mushroom powder, 1/2 tsp black pepper (ground), 1 tsp each garlic and onion powder, 1 tsp non-spicy chili powder, 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • Wet ingredients: 1 tbsp marmite or soy sauce, 1 tbsp olive oil.

Method:

Place the tofu in the tofu press (check out Tofubud) for 30 minutes to remove excess moisture from the tofu. Crumble the block of tofu with your hands in a large bowl.

Mix your flavoring of choice into the crumbled tofu. Make sure that the tofu is completely coated. Place the crumbled tofu on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Add an extra 5 minutes for a crispier texture.

You can use the ground meat in any recipe that calls for ground beef or chicken, from lasagna to tacos and even spaghetti bolognese. Store the minced tofu meat in an airtight container in the fridge or the freezer. Prepreparing helps cut down prep time for quick weeknight meals.

Pork style tofu ribs

The succulent and sweet scent of sticky BBQ pork ribs is enough to make anyone hungry. Try this tasty plant-based tofu rib recipe any time you are craving something decadent.

Ingredients:

  • 1 block of tofu, firm, 14 oz
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 3 soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • 1/4 cup water

Method:

Slice the tofu into thick slices. Press the tofu for 15 – 30 minutes.

Mix the corn starch and the water to make a paste, add the soy sauce, and other ingredients. Remove the tofu from the press and coat with the sauce mixture. Push metal skewers or wooden lollypop sticks into the tofu sticks if you prefer. On a greased baking sheet, arrange the tofu ‘ribs’ carefully, they should have enough space to sit comfortably. Brush on additional sauce leftover. Cover the tofu ribs and allow to marinate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 392 degrees F (200 degrees C). Bake the riblets for 15 minutes and flip, bake for another 15 minutes. Serve with a side of cold, crunchy slaw or potato salad.

From meat to tofu in a jiffy

Any recipe can be made meat-free with a little research and experimentation. For the most part, simply swapping out the protein for a suitable meat alternative is all you need to do! Any recipe that calls for minced meats swap in some nutritious ground tofu. Tofu can be stored in the fridge or the freezer, making meal prep easy and quick.

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