Menuing Meat Alternatives

After dominating 2018 as the trend of the year, plant-based foods have gone from niche to mainstream. Concerns for health, antibiotics, and environmental conservation all contribute to the appeal of plant-based options. While Datassential reports 49% of consumers want to increase their consumption of plant-based proteins, they also claim that 15% want more plant-based choices that reflect the flavor and texture of meat. Draw inspiration from meat’s bold complexions and play up on the natural elements of plant-based ingredients to position your restaurant as an ethical and sustainable eatery. Add some of the following meat alternatives to your menu to stay on trend and fulfill the needs and appetites of vegetarians, vegans, and veg-curious meat-eaters alike.


Mushrooms are found on 80% of menus and their meaty texture and natural umami quality makes them a rich, nutritious meat replacement. Robust Portobellos can stand in for steaks, burgers, or sliders, and the tender texture of other varieties matches the consistency of seafood. Experiment with oyster mushroom “crab” cakes or trumpet mushroom “scallops.” Mushroom blends are also a huge trend in 2019, adding a meaty texture to stir-fries, soups, and sandwiches. Available at Maines, To-Jo Pulled Port® Mushrooms are conveniently ready to blend with meat or use alone for vegetarian meal offerings. Utilize this innovative blend in an ethnic, plant-based Spicy Thai Mushroom Sandwich and serve with lotus root chips for a flavor-packed plant-based plate.


A large, green, tropical fruit with a spiky exterior, jackfruit is native to South India and packed with several beneficial nutrients. Its starchy, neutral taste can easily soak up any sauce or seasoning. Inside the fruit are multiple bulbs that can be kept intact to mimic chicken wings, crab cakes, or meatballs (make sure to remove the seeds first). Shredding jackfruit is a more common way to serve this tropical gem, using its fleshy interior to create dishes mirroring pulled pork or chicken. Coat jackfruit in a house-made barbeque sauce and serve as pulled “pork” in sandwiches, tacos, tostadas, or curries.


One of the original meat substitutes, tofu is made from condensed soy milk. It’s high in protein and is typically used in place of pork, chicken, beef, or seafood. To closely resemble meat, be sure to utilize extra-firm tofu. With the ability to absorb flavors from marinades and spices, tofu is ideal for showcasing international tastes. Marinate in Asian-style sauces and seasonings for topping rice or noodle bowls, or season with garam masala, curry powder, and turmeric for a plant-based Indian curry. To differentiate classic American offerings, menu a plant-based hot dog featuring fried tofu smothered in mushroom chili, buffalo tofu “wings,” or breaded and fried tofu for a plant-based “chicken” and waffles breakfast offering.


Made from cooked and fermented soybeans and grains, tempeh is dense and boasts an earthy, nutty taste. It’s packed with protein and fiber, and because it’s fermented, you can promote its gut-healing benefits. For customers who are unfamiliar with tempeh, offer it to them in a recognizable presentation. Mix tempeh with corned beef-style spices and serve it in a plant-based Reuben topped with sauerkraut, vegan cheese, and Russian dressing. Bacon never goes out of style, and a plant-based bacon option is sure to pique customer interest. Offer crisp tempeh bacon as a stand-alone appetizer or on a plant-based BLT, burger, or pizza.


Made by filtering out the starch in wheat, seitan is a high-protein item with a chewy, meat-like texture. Substitute seitan for chicken in a traditional picatta or give it a panko crust and balsamic glaze for an elevated “chicken” entrée. Even steakhouses can menu meat alternatives; utilize seitan in place of steak or ribs, or pair it with cannellini beans to form a flavor-packed plant-based patty. Crumble seitan and cook with seasonings to add a meat-like element to lasagna featuring beet noodles, roasted tomato sauce, and cashew ricotta.


A rich source of protein, fiber, iron, and potassium, lentils offer a world of possibilities for meat alternatives. From meatloaf and meatballs to tacos and stuff ed peppers, lentils perfectly resemble ground beef in texture and have a neutral flavor that can take on an array of seasonings. Deliver a plate packed with plant-based flavor by pairing lentils with chickpeas, a nutrient-rich, on-trend ingredient. Craft a lentil-chickpea burger, or serve Blount’s Organic Lentil & Chickpea Soup (#018245) for a comforting plant-based offering.


Providing more plant-based meat alternatives will help your restaurant open doors to new sectors of customers. Creating nutritious and wholesome veg-centric, meat-like plates that are first and foremost delicious will help your plant-based customers stick around and expose meat-eaters to all the possibilities meatless meals have to offer.


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