It’s easy, when first substituting meat, to become over-reliant on soy. CNM Natural Chefs are taught to avoid soy as not only is it a common allergen, its effects on health are poorly understood. CNM Natural Chefs are trained in using a range of plant-based meat substitutes, which have their own health benefits, when catering for meat-free diners. Here are our top four meat substitutes and why they are our favourites.
If you are cooking a dish that requires the use of holding shapes or complex flavours, walnuts (particularly ground walnuts) offer an excellent, mince-like effect. They are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, essential for brain health and function, and B vitamins, particularly B6, important for a healthy nervous system and mood.
Walnuts are extremely gut-friendly, thanks to a special subgroup of polyphenols called ellagitannins. As an excellent source of fibre, which plays an important role in cholesterol regulation, walnuts balance blood sugar and offer a sense of satiety, making them great for anyone wanting to feel fuller for longer after a meal.
Ground walnuts in particular are a great meat substitute for Natural Chefs as they hold their shape, absorb flavour well and blend nicely into a meal for a tasty, filling and nutritious, meat-free dish.
Mushrooms are another stellar meat substitute. Currently a focus of scientific investigation for their therapeutic effects on the immune system, particularly in cancer, they bring their own flavour and texture to foods and are also loaded with health benefits
Mushrooms are Vitamin D absorbers, making them a rare plant-based source of this vital nutrient. They are so efficient at absorbing Vitamin D from sunlight that if you leave mushrooms in the sun, their Vitamin D content increases as a result.
The earthy taste of mushrooms makes them easy to dress and you will find that their flavour complements a wide range of dishes.
They are great for creating pâtés, kebabs and vegan ‘burgers’.
Unripe jackfruit has a very bland taste, and a texture very similar to chicken making it an excellent alternative for roasts, kebabs and curries.
This fruit is full of antioxidants, particularly Vitamin C and flavones, important for a healthy immune system.
To use jackfruit as a chicken substitute, it is important to choose the unripe version which is naturally bland and very receptive to flavourings. Ripe jackfruit on the other hand will have a super sweet flavour.
Jackfruit has a moderately high Vitamin C and calcium content, a superb mix for bone health. It is very high in fibre, and low in calories so a good option for blood sugar balancing.
Jackfruit is low in protein compared to other meat-substitutes so, if it’s protein you’re after, add beans and legumes to your jackfruit recipe to boost the protein content.
4. Beans and legumes
Beans, especially pre-soaked or fermented, make excellent meat substitutes and tent to be a favourite amongst vegans, thanks to their high amino acid content. Bean combinations can create complete proteins.
Beans are also rich in fibre which, as mentioned before, is important for health digestion, blood sugar control and the maintenance of a healthy gut flora.
Beans are very versatile; you can use them hot or cold, in soups and purées. You will find they absorb flavour very well and add a nice amount of texture and colour to a dish, whilst delivering a healthy shot of nutrients.