What are the best red meat alternatives for vegans?

Read Time:   |  10th May 2019

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Ditching beef products not only helps the environment, but you also omit high levels of cholesterol, saturated fat and known carcinogenic compounds from your diet. What’s not to love? Charlotte Willis looks at the plant-based alternatives…

Best alternative for: A hearty friday-night treat

Steak-Less Pie

best red meat alternative for vegans

The chip-shop favourite is lovingly re-created using plant-based alternative ingredients, encased in a pastry blanket of vegan-buttery goodness.

What Is It? The steak alternatives used in pies can vary. Some recipes and manufacturers will tend to use soya proteins, whilst others might opt for seitan chunks to give a more realistic texture.

A hearty steak-less pie is pretty simple to recreate. Using a vegan ale in the gravy sauce filling, you can craft a beautifully seasoned pie. You can also purchase vegan steak-style pies in supermarkets.

Pies aren’t necessarily the healthiest option, so once every week at most. The pre-packaged pies can also be reasonably expensive, and may contain a high level of fat.

best red meat alternative for vegans

Protein Content: The protein content of shop-bought pies will vary based on the choice of protein type or the recipe specifications. In general, the protein content will be lower due to the higher quantities of carbohydrate and fat.

Preparation: If you are making your pie from scratch, I would recommend creating a thick gravy sauce to contain the steak-alternative pieces and vegetables. I like using seitan in steak-less pies, as this will help replicate the texture and provide a nice texture.

Brands: Fry’s Steak Style & Ale pie, and Linda McCartney’s Deep Dish Country Pie are two of my personal favourites.

Best alternative for: A decadent Sunday lunch

Seitan Wellington

best red meat alternative for vegans

There’s nothing more comforting, show-stopping and insanely delicious dish than a Wellington. Replacing the beef in a Wellington is of high importance, but rest assured, it is possible to achieve!

What Is It? Beef alternatives in a Wellington can be as diverse as mixed mushrooms and rice to a simple roasted beetroot. To achieve the closest match in like-for-like texture and flavour though, I suggest seitan. Made from vital wheat gluten, combined with binding flours and seasoning ingredients, it is kneaded like a dough, before being steamed or boiled prior to use in your Wellington.

Seitan is very adaptable in terms of shape and flavour, which means you can make it taste and look like real beef!

Seitan is fairly difficult to perfect. The basic recipes for seitan might seem simple, but practice makes perfect here, before you decide to wow your friends.

Protein Content: 75g of plant-based vegan protein per 100g. That’s impressive!

Preparation: It’s wrapped in vegan pastry, but don’t forget a vegetable paste around the seitan so it doesn’t dry out in the oven. Use a blended mushroom purée or a kale pesto, or try blending chilies and roasted red peppers for a spicier Wellington.

Brands: Seitan isn’t widely available in supermarkets yet. Look out for it at local independent health food shops, and vegan street-food events like Vegan Nights.

Best alternative for: A fast-food burger fix


best red meat alternative for vegans

Gone are the days when bland, veggie-based patties were the only options on the menu. Oh no, these days we’re lusting after “bleeding” beetroot burgers and juicy soya-based burgers.

What Is It? Meat-like, beef-less burgers recreate the taste, texture and feel of their animal-based relatives. Plant-based proteins such as soya, pea and gluten are combined with seasoning and flavours, then shaped and processed into burgers.

These burgers are a great way to introduce veganism to meat-eaters, to prove that vegan food is both delicious and gourmet! They are so easy to cook and then adorn with your favourite toppings.

These highly processed, meat-like hamburgers are often made from concentrated soya and vegetable proteins, alongside additives and natural colours. It’s not easy to make these burgers at home, as special processes are used to achieve the texture.

Protein Content: The protein content will vary, however the Beyond Meat burger has 20g of plant-based protein per serving, and is free from soya and gluten.

Preparation: Most of the burgers will need grilling (or barbequing) for about 15-20 minutes depending which brand it is.

Brands: A favourite of mine is the Beyond Meat Burger, which is also now sold in All Bar One restaurants on their vegan menu! Vivera, Moving Mountains, Meatless Farm, Fry’s and Asda’s own brand are some of the best beef-less brands on the market.

Best alternative for: A juicy beef steak

The Plant-Based Steak Alternative

There’s no need to miss out on steak when you give up animal products. Plant-based steaks are a new, revolutionary way to enjoy the texture and flavour of beef steak, without any concerns for your health or harming the animals.

What Is It? The Vivera Veggie Steak is made from a combination of soya and wheat proteins, alongside some binding agents and coconut oil.

The Vivera Veggie Steak is a natural source of fibre, with additional B12 and Iron to ensure that vegan diners acquire additional vitamins from this meat-alternative.

Because the product is quite highly processed, there are a few additional ingredients such as natural colourings and thickeners needed to create the beefy texture. The steak is also reasonably expensive for the average budget. Perhaps one to enjoy once-in-a-blue-moon, as opposed to a weekly staple.

Protein Content: 17g per 100g, predominantly from the soya protein.

Preparation: To cook the steak, you need to pan-fry it for 5 minutes on a medium heat. The steak will always cook with a pink middle, owing to the beetroot colouring. You can cook the steak in oil, or grill on a griddle pan or BBQ.

Brands: The only plant-based steak on the UK market at the moment is by the brand Vivera. Hopefully we will see a more of a diverse range of steak alternatives in the future!

Best alternative for: Italian bolognese & cottage pie

Minced Beef-Style Mince

Replacing traditional mince is perhaps the easiest of all beef-based vegan swaps you can make. There are many different brands  so no need to miss out on your favourite bolognese, vegan lasagne and cottage pie!

What Is It? Mince alternatives are made from a variety of basic, high-protein ingredients. In textured vegetable protein (TVP) mince, soya is the main ingredient, making the mince reasonably high in protein and low in fat. Other alternatives can contain a higher amount of blended proteins from pea and gluten.

Beef-style mince is readily available from most supermarkets. You can find vegan alternatives in the freezer, fridge and dried wholefoods sections. The mince is easy to use with no requirement to alter your recipe.

Some of the alternatives may contain colourings or additives, so always be sure to check the back of the ingredients list if you are avoiding gluten, sugar or palm oil.

Protein Content: This varies but as a rule of thumb, the larger the amount of soya or plant-based protein in the mince (as opposed to oils and bulking ingredients) the greater the protein content. Ensure that the main protein source is one of the first ingredients on the label.

Preparation: If using TVP, re-hydrate the mince in warm, seasoned water prior to cooking. Other mince alternatives can be used frozen or chilled, and only need 10-15 minutes of cooking.

Brands: Clearspring’s TVP Mince is a fantastic staple ingredient. The Meatless Farm sells an extremely realistic beef-style mince alternative, which comes in similar packaging to that of traditional mince! Most supermarket chains also have their own frozen veggie mince — just be sure to check the packet to confirm that the product is completely vegan.

Looking for the best vegan alternatives to cheese or yoghurt? Click the links to see our recommendations.

Written by

Charlotte Willis

Charlotte Willis is an Assistant Psychologist at the University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and has a MS degree in Clinical Neuropsychiatry from Kings College London. Charlotte is also a marketer for ethical brands, author of Vegan: Do It! A young person’s guide to living a vegan lifestyle, and a regular contributor to sustainability and plant-based publications.

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