Subbing In

Thinking of giving up meat or eating less of it? Try these meat substitutes

These days, the number of commercialised vegan meat substitutes available in your local supermarket’s freezer will have you spoilt for choice. But it’s important to remember that these aren’t the only options for plant-based protein options, nor the healthiest, despite their merits of taste, innovation, and convenience. Whether you’re planning on going vegan for life or experimenting with an increasingly plant-based diet, here are four natural alternatives or substitutions to meat to keep in your back pocket.


We start with the classic, the OG, the most versatile vegan protein: tofu. Meat-lovers and vegetarians, especially in Asia, already love and embrace this soybean-based ingredient in our cuisine. However, if you’re planning on easing your way out of meat, you might want to consider getting more acquainted with the bean curd. At a beginner’s level, you can fry pieces of tofu to replace meat in classic recipes, like krapao. Turning it up a notch, scrambling tofu with turmeric and seasoning will allow you to still be able to enjoy scrambled “eggs” with toast in the morning. You can also cook slabs of tofu in some vegan house teriyaki or breadcrumbs and deep-fry them in the spirit of tonkatsu. My personal favourite tofu-based mock-meat dish, however, is tofu Japanese hamburg, made by crumbling tofu, shaping it into patties to grill and bake with plenty of seasoning.


Similar to tofu, tempeh is soybean-based, high in protein, and can essentially be integrated in vegan dishes the same way you would tofu. Typically coming in firm slabs, you can chop tempeh up into bite-sized cubes and cook them with a variety of vegetables. For something more fun, you can create an hor d'oeuvre of fried tempeh sticks to be enjoyed with a selection of your favourite dips, such as BBQ sauce or sriracha mayo. 


So you’ve decided to forgo meat but miss pulled pork and other shredded meats. Jackfruit is the answer. The Jackfruit’s slightly sweet but overall neutral flavour makes it a great base to take on the flavours of sauces and seasoning. Its ingenuity as a meat substitute, however, comes from its stringy, flesh-like texture. Try shredding up some jackfruit and marinating it in your sauce of choice. For a few meal ideas, jackfruit “meat” is great for tacos, burritos, and gyros, as well as Asian dishes like curries or Chinese-style braised beef. 


Similar to jackfruit, mushrooms have that stringy, elasticky texture that’s perfect for imitating chicken especially. One such mushroom that’s perfect for meat substitution is oyster mushrooms. They can be battered, deep-fried, flavoured, and sauced for one mean vegan fried chicken. You can even adapt the recipe for a vegan fried chicken burger for a fuller meal that’ll surely make your carnivorous friends intrigued.