January 23, 2017

Jackfruit is a great alternative to "pulled pork"
Those who adhere to a meat-free diet are always interested in finding delicious ways to get the protein they need. Even people who love sinking their teeth into a juicy piece of beef or pork can appreciate a well-made vegan substitute. If you’re a student working to be a plant based chef, that means you should think about how you can put fruit and vegetable proteins to work as meat substitutes.

According to Today, plant-based proteins will be one of 2017’s biggest trends in healthy eating. While tofu and seitan are still on plenty of menus, diners all over the country are enjoying inventive and tasty meat imitations. By learning about the creative ways chefs have found for using these proteins, you’ll unlock new possibilities in your own cooking repertoire.

Know your meat-free protein sources
There are a wide variety of plant-based proteins suitable for different applications in your dishes. Prevention pointed out that edamame, black beans, whole grains and nuts are all good alternatives to meat for a vegetarian or vegan diet. However, chefs can explore many other ingredients that deliver essential nutrients without requiring animal products.

“Chefs can explore many ingredients that deliver essential nutrients without animal products.”

Unlike soy, pea protein is not considered complete, meaning it needs to be consumed along with another source of amino acids to get full nutritional benefits. Still, the isolate has gained popularity because it is both meatless and free of ingredients that people are commonly allergic to. The Washington Post reported that pea protein is the main ingredient in a brand of veggie burger patty that is exceptionally close to beef in both taste and texture.

The enormous and highly nutritious jackfruit, native to South and Southeast Asia, has also taken off in popularity in recent years. As NPR discussed, the fruit has a powerful smell and a sweet flavor in addition to plenty of protein, vitamin B and potassium. With the right marinade or sauce, the fruit can be perfect for applications from salads to tacos.

Edamame is an excellent source of protein.Edamame is an excellent source of protein.

Pushing the protein-packed possibilities
Chefs at countless vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurants have turned their skills and creativity to making many exceptional dishes out of these plant-based proteins. There is even a growing number of meat-free butcher shops and delis, using produce to deliver fresh and tasty spins on favorites that traditionally spotlight chicken, beef or pork.

At The Herbivorous Butcher in Minneapolis, the menu includes a wide variety of meats and cheeses, all made without animal products. For a quick lunch, guests order sandwiches in the style of classic Italian cold cuts or a hot ham and Swiss. They can also choose among items mimicking breakfast sausage, filet mignon, pepperoni and barbecue ribs, while jerky made from wheat gluten comes in varieties such as teriyaki, Cajun and Korean.

The Butcher’s Son Vegan Delicatessen in Berkeley offers its own array of meat-like dishes to satisfy the palates of guests with all different dietary needs. On weekend mornings, there’s a brunch menu featuring an imitation steak and egg hoagie or a breakfast sandwich with substitutes for scrambled eggs, grilled mozzarella and bacon with avocado on garlic ciabatta bread. Lunchtime guests enjoy a melt of tempeh tuna, cheese, tomato and avocado on garlic bread or a soy pulled pork sandwich with grilled onions and cabbage slaw.

As these establishments demonstrate, eliminating animal-based products from the menu doesn’t have to limit a chef’s creativity. Whether you’re a meat-eater or not, a culinary academy student should take the time to learn more about the unique flavors and textures of vegan meat substitutes. Once you’ve tried a few, you may find countless delicious ways to incorporate items like soy, jackfruit and pea protein into your food.