5 Red Meat Alternatives You Can Offer to Your Customers

Red meat alternatives are growing in popularity as consumers look for plant-based options. While not every recipe or menu idea will require a vegan option, you can offer healthier options to your patrons than red meat. Let’s examine the top five alternatives you can use instead of red meat. 

Key Takeaways:

  • While tofu and tempeh are soy-based red meat alternatives, they do have a few differences, including texture, density, and nutritional data.
  • Beans and legumes are an excellent choice for vegetarian or vegan recipes. They are a source of protein and are high in fiber.
  • Textured vegetable proteins, plant-based meats, and nuts are all rich in protein and low in cholesterol. They also offer many nutrients available in red meat, like zinc and iron.

5 Alternatives to Red Meat           

Some red meat alternatives taste like real red meat, and some don’t. To find the right recipes for your menu, you can have several selections for customers to choose from. Here are some alternatives you should try for your next recipe idea: 

1. Tofu and Tempeh

The popularity of tofu has been on the rise since the pandemic. The market size for tofu will grow steadily as key players in the market find innovative ways to incorporate tofu to meet consumer trends. These key players include (but are not limited to):

  • House Foods
  • Sunrise Soya Foods
  • Pulmuone
  • Lo Sam Manufacturing Sdn Bhd
  • Sagamiya Foods
  • Morinaga Nutritional Foods
  • SoyBoy

Tofu comes in several consistencies, from soft to hard, depending on the water content. Firm or extra-firm tofu are great red meat alternatives because they are versatile and can be used for grilling, frying, stir-frying, and more. For example, Chipotle uses spice-braised shredded tofu to make their famous Sofritas, which customers can choose for their tacos and burritos. 

Another alternative to red meat that is often compared to tofu is tempeh. While it is also made from soybeans, the manufacturing process is different, as is the nutritional content. As you can see from the chart below, tempeh has more calories, fats, and protein, and is firmer and more compact. It is ideal for soups and stews and would make an excellent alternative to lamb in dishes like curry.

Infographic of the differences between tofu and tempeh

Image Courtesy of Legendary Spice

2.  Beans and Legumes 

Beans and legumes are full of protein and fiber, as well as vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, copper, and phosphorus, to name a few. They are also naturally fat-free, sodium-free, and cholesterol-free. They are plant-based alternatives to animal proteins that can cater to health- and sustainability-conscious consumers.

Beans and legumes have been a dietary staple for generations in most cultures worldwide and have historical and nutritional significance. As flavors spread across the globe, chefs can use popular beans and legumes, like chickpeas, broad beans, and lentils, to introduce consumers to unique and delicious ethnic ingredients.

3. Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)  

Textured vegetable protein (TVP) is a high-fiber, high-protein, and fat-free processed meat substitute made from soybeans. To make the protein, manufacturers heat the soybeans to separate the soy protein from the other components found in soybeans. You can find TVP in chunks, granules, strips, or slices. The widely used TVP granules are often used as an alternative to ground beef in dishes like spaghetti Bolognese or lasagna.

The protein-rich TVP has a texture that rivals meat in many ways. It is an excellent red meat alternative because one serving of TVP contains approximately 35 grams of protein. Expect the market size of TVP to continue growing in the coming years due to the increased interest in plant-based proteins.

4. Plant-Based Meats

Plant-based meats – like mock burger patties, nuggets, bacon, and sausages – don’t have straightforward ingredient labels like tofu. Depending on the company, they may contain soy, pea, and rice proteins along with refined coconut oil, cocoa butter, dry yeast, and beet juice (for color). They are processed and can be high in saturated fat and sodium, but they can be part of a balanced diet when eaten in moderation. 

In the U.S., plant-based food sales reached a record high of $7.4 billion in 2021. The latest research into consumer trends revealed that plant-based consumers remain loyal to plant-based foods, including refrigerated and frozen meats and frozen meals. Roughly 95% of plant-based shoppers state that they had increased or maintained their plant-based spending habits versus the previous year. Furthermore, the study showed that almost 30% of the consumers surveyed opt for refrigerated plant-based meat and frozen meals instead of animal-based versions.

Bar graph of the various reasons people opt for plant-based vs. animal-based foods

Image Courtesy of Progressive Grocer

5. Nuts

Try adding almonds or cashews the next time you make a salad or a curry. That allows you to offer some of these amino acids, proteins, and healthy fats in your recipes without the need for red meat. Here are some examples of nuts that you can use as red meat alternatives:

  • Almonds: Almonds contain a variety of nutrients and vitamins, including vitamin E, and 28g of these nuts have 6g of protein, making them a great source of natural protein. It has also been shown to reduce inflammation in patients with Type 2 diabetes.
  • Pistachios: Like almonds, these nuts are high in fiber and improve cholesterol levels. They can also help prevent heart problems.
  • Macadamia: While macadamia nuts are high in monounsaturated fats, they can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease or other heart-related issues that would increase when consuming red meat.
  • Walnuts: These nuts are full of omega-3 fatty acids. They can improve overall heart health, lower cholesterol, and ease blood pressure levels.  They are a refreshing alternative to the heart-clogging fats in red meat that may lead to heart trouble.
  • Pecans: Pecans are low-cholesterol nuts that contain essential antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.  

Learn More About Red Meat Alternatives at the Next SIAL Show

Join us this March for our next show. At SIAL America, we host our annual food show in Las Vegas, Nevada, where those working in the food and beverage industries meet under one roof and collaborate. Find new recipe ideas using red meat alternatives, or share your secret menu item that every patron loves. 

Attend the show in March or contact us today to become an exhibitor.