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A Guide to Vegetarian Food Substitutions

If you’re thinking of going vegetarian this year, we’ve got a range of delicious recipes to keep you on the vegetable route (or should we say root). From a vegetarian substitute for chicken to a mouth-watering curry, they’re dishes the whole family will love and a great way to get everyone enjoying more meat free dishes after the festive season. 

So what is vegetarianism and what do vegetarians and vegans have in common? The vegetarian diet involves skipping the meat, poultry and fish in favour of vegetables, fruit, nuts, grains and pulses. Unlike the vegan diet, which excludes all animal products and focuses solely on plant foods, eggs and dairy can also be consumed as part of a vegetarian’s diet.

As with all meat-free diets, it’s important to ensure that you get all the essential nutrients from other sources, such as the recommended amount of iron from lentils, chickpeas, kale, spinach, dried apricots and figs. There’s also a multitude of inspiring ways to substitute meat and fish meaning you don’t have to miss out on your favourite dishes.

Meat Substitutes

Quorn mince makes a fantastic alternative to mince meat in a bolognese and jackfruit can be used instead of pulled pork in a burger while seitan (pronounced SAY-tan) is a great substitute for chicken that is also high in protein. 

With a very mild flavour itself, seitan makes the perfect base for infusing with all your favourite flavours, whether added to a vegetarian curry or to a stir-fry with soy sauce and ginger. Made by rinsing the starch from wheat dough, seitan has a texture that closely resembles that of meat and can be cooked in a way that looks like it, too. 

It’s the ideal chicken substitute in this butter chicken curry recipe. Combining the seitan with spices, citrus, yoghurt and of course butter makes a satisfyingly rich dish for the ultimate weekend treat.

Or for a lighter option, try paneer in this cauliflower curry with peas. A mild-tasting cheese popular in South Asian cuisine, paneer is delicious and cooked until crisp and golden. Serve on a bed of basmati rice with a generous helping of yoghurt and handfuls of fresh coriander for a vibrant dish that’s bursting with fragrant spices.

Fish Substitutes

If the idea of missing out on fish and seafood leaves you floundering, then tofu can offer a fantastic alternative. Also known as bean curd, tofu is made by curdling fresh soya milk which is then compressed in blocks, which is a similar method to traditional cheese making. It’s important to note that silken tofu is contrasting in texture to firm or extra-firm tofu, so you will get a very different result depending on which type you choose.

For an option the kids will love, make fish fingers with tofu instead of fish, using strips of firm tofu rolled in panko breadcrumbs for an extra crispy finish. They’re perfect for dipping or for wedging between two freshly cut slices of bread in a vegetarian-friendly version of the classic fish finger sarnie.

Or try firm smoked tofu in this katsu curry with sautéed spinach for a delicious  version of the classic Japanese dish. Taking just 30 minutes to make and rich in iron, it’s a wonderful mid-week option for those chilly winter evenings.  

Want to learn more about how to cook with tofu? Check out our tofu guide.

If you love to eat meat, going meat-free can be a challenge when it comes to favourite dishes, from a beef bourguignon to a Sunday roast. This cauliflower ‘steak’ burger featuring roasted cauliflower and grilled halloumi provides a tantalisingly ‘meaty’ meal that’s packed with flavour. Add a side of a leafy green vegetable such as spinach or kale to give you a little extra iron.

Head over to our site and try some of our favourites…

Whether you’re thinking of committing to the vegetarian diet or simply trying semi vegetarianism with the occasional meal with meat or fish, we’ve got a fantastic range of inspiring recipes and vegetarian-friendly products to keep you on track.

Explore our fantastic range of vegetarian products here or browse our collection of vegetarian recipes for inspiration.

Before dramatically changing your diet, it’s always worth speaking to a health official such as your local GP.

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