10 Vegan Ingredients That Can Be Made Into Meat Alternatives

If you're a vegan in the 21st century, you have an abundance of options when it comes to alternative meats, cheeses, eggs, and milk. As the years have passed, alternative-seeking consumers have increasingly requested variety in the plant-based world, and corporations have answered the calling. 

It's nice to have such variety at our fingertips, even if sometimes our bodies need a respite from ultra-processed meat alternatives. This, however, is where the benefits of the lifestyle can truly thrive.

As a vegan, you don't need to rely on processed alternatives. Use ingredients from your pantry, refrigerator, or garden to make your ideal meal — all you need is a little time, patience, and willingness to create.

With fruits and vegetables, there is opportunity around every corner of the produce department. Most of the time, meat is so seasoned or sauced up that you can barely even taste it, so if you apply those same flavorings to certain vegetables, the outcome can be more similar than you might expect. Using plant-based ingredients and varying cooking and processing methods the next key element — texture — can be within your reach. So roll up your sleeves, and let's get to work cooking some delicious meat alternatives from common vegan ingredients.

Lions mane mushrooms

It may seem like there are so many types of mushrooms that it's impossible to keep up. Lion manes should be on your radar (whether you're vegan or not) because like most mushrooms, they have nice umami undertones, and a unique texture that makes them ideal for would-be meat replicators. 

In appearance these 'shrooms look like a lion's mane, with fuzzy long strands stemming from their sponge-like interior. Those strands can be peeled to create a shredded appearance, similar to the texture of shredded chicken. They are also frequently found in plant-based crab cakes.

The easiest way to make a chicken patty from lion's mane mushrooms is by leaving a fist-sized mushroom whole. Season it with poultry seasoning, or a vegan chicken-less seasoning. Then pan-fry it in hot oil, using a metal spatula or cast iron meat press to flatten it like a patty. At this point, you can choose to enjoy it as is, grill it for a smokey undertone of flavor, or bread and fry it as you would chicken. 

The end result resembles the texture of peel-apart juicy chicken — and with the right seasonings, it will taste like it too. Be sure to whip up some dipping sauces, or if the patty is going between two buns, stick to classic chicken sandwich toppings like tomato, pickles, shredded lettuce, and barbecue sauce.

Banana peels

If you're just getting used to the idea of using jackfruit as a meat alternative, this next suggestion will really blow your mind. It's not only something you've likely never consumed, but also one that typically ends up getting tossed. 

There are plenty of unexpected ways to cook with bananas, including using the peels to make a delicious vegan bacon substitute. Peels can also be used to make this delicious Brazilian dish that resembles pulled pork.

Start by peeling your banana. You'll want to select one that's nice and yellow (green banana peels have a bitter flavor). Use a spoon to scrape the inside of the peel to remove the soft cream-colored layer. Then, scrape the peel with a fork against a clean cutting board. This should result in long strands of banana peel. Heat up a pan with oil, and once the oil is pipping hot, add the shredded peels. Season with tamari, garlic powder, smokey paprika, maple syrup, onion powder, chili powder, and a little bit of barbecue sauce. Let the oil crisp up the peel until it resembles that of barbecued pulled pork. Serve on a bun, or load it onto a South American-style rice bowl.


If you haven't tried cauliflower "wings," you're missing out. Buffalo Wild Wings serves them up as a vegan alternative, and even meat eaters are getting on board. But why cauliflower? 

Mild in flavor, the florets of this versatile veggie resemble that of a chicken wing with a drumstick. After battering, deep frying, and saucing with buffalo or other dipping sauces, who can tell the difference? While things might not be indistinguishable, cauliflower gets the job done.

To turn these cruciferous veggies into wings, roast your oiled cauliflower at a high temperature until you notice that the edges of the florets are browning and blackening. Remove it, then toss it in buffalo sauce. 

For a crispier crunch, you can bread or batter the cauliflower wings before baking them. If you have an air fryer or would like to deep fry the bites, they will more closely resemble chicken wings in texture and taste. If you do choose to bread them, season your bread crumbs, and when it comes to sauces, think outside of the box. Use buffalo, barbecue, teriyaki, or any wing sauce you prefer. Don't skimp on the dipping sauce either; buffalo cauliflower bites with tahini dip is a treat, but blue cheese, ranch, or any other creamy sauce will also do the trick.


An up-and-coming meat replacement making a name for itself seemingly everywhere vegans congregate, there are endless jackfruit vegan recipes out there, but its most popular use is mimicking pulled pork to be added to tacos, sandwiches, nachos, and pizza. 

Jackfruit is healthy, simple to make, and astonishingly close in both appearance and texture to the real thing. Although it may be difficult to source fresh jackfruit (which can be large and difficult to work with anyway), canned options are increasingly becoming more common in most grocery stores. Look for it in the Asian foods section, or canned fruits and vegetables aisle. Canned jackfruit does a lot of the grunt work for you; it has already been peeled, sliced, and diced into easy-to-work-with chunks.

To make vegan pulled pork, simply rinse some jackfruit and shred with fingers or a fork. Mix the jackfruit with your favorite barbecue sauce or dry rub (some combination of tamari, maple syrup, dijon mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, and vinegar, ketchup, or barbecue sauce will do just fine). Include a little oil to help it crisp up, then spread it out on a non-stick pan or parchment paper before baking at a high temperature. You'll know it's done when the edges begin to brown and crisp up, nailing that chewy texture that has made jackfruit so popular among vegan-friendly chefs.


Fans of chicken salad sandwiches, gather 'round. There's a substitute for chicken that's not only lighter and cheaper, but loaded with fiber and protein. Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, have likely made an appearance once or twice in your vegan kitchen — but moving beyond hummus, falafel, and the like, consider the chickpea salad sandwich. 

This deliciousness is jam-packed with all of those chicken-salad ingredients, sans meat. If you've given it a try in the past but it turned out a gloppy mess, try some tips to improve your vegan chicken salad, and give it another chance.

Start by mashing the chickpeas. They shouldn't be totally puréed; make sure there are some half, quartered, and maybe even whole chickpeas in there. Create a sauce using a base of tahini (or vegan mayo) along with dijon mustard and a small amount of something acidic (lemons, apple cider vinegar or pickle juice) then mix in garlic powder, salt, pepper, and onion powder. Load up on chopped celery, diced pickles, chopped red onion, minced garlic, and other crunchy veggies like red peppers. Include freshly chopped dill, sprinkled paprika, and of course, parsley galore. Mix it all together, then put it between some bread with a slice of tomato and avocado.


One of the all-time great vegan white whales is finding something, anything, that can convincingly pass for bacon. While it might not taste exactly like the real thing, vegetables can get surprisingly close, and eggplant is the top contender. 

An unexpected veggie that absorbs flavor beautifully, with proper seasonings and cooking methods, you can whip yourself up a very nice vegan BLT; the eggplant helps trigger the ideal taste and texture response.

Slice eggplant into thin strips and marinate in a mixture of tamari, maple syrup, liquid smoke, garlic powder, tomato paste, black pepper, onion powder, oil, and a little cayenne pepper (for a spicy kick). Let it sit for about 30 minutes before baking at a high temperature, air frying, or pan frying it in a generous amount of oil. You'll want the eggplant to cook long enough so that it gets nice and crispy — as all bacon should.


Although there are plenty of chicken tender substitutes in the freezer section of your local grocery store, it's difficult to come across one made with ingredients you can pronounce or recognize. If you're interested in making your own at home, tofu is the way to go.

It's a vehicle for flavor, similar to chicken, and can be transformed into pretty much anything from meat, to ricotta cheese, to chocolate pudding. The key with tofu is to not skimp on the seasonings, sauces, and herbs. Marinating is essential, so start by pressing your extra firm tofu to get rid of excess moisture, and let it sit for at least 30 minutes (if not overnight) in a slurry of poultry seasoning, herbs, spices, and a little tamari.

Once the tofu has absorbed the flavors of the marinade, it's time to make chicken fried tofu. You can build a buttermilk batter using plant-based alternatives like soy or oat milk. Include rice flour, cornmeal, and bread flour for added texture and variety, bread and fry as you would with chicken, then adorn with a good dipping sauce and enjoy as an entree (in a chick'n fried sandwich). The recipe can also provide an ideal foundation for vegan Caesar salad, or in a honey mustard wrap.

Portobello mushrooms

There's a reason portobellos are so frequently presented as a plant-based alternative to steak. Whether in tacos, over salads, or even between toasted buns, they're loaded with umami flavors and incredibly juicy, but also resemble steak in color, and slightly in texture. 

Both are chewy and juicy, and with steak sauces, herbs, and spices can be flavored in delicious ways. The best way to do a portobello justice is to grill it. The smokey undertones will help trick your mind into thinking steak, while the grill's open flame crisps up the outside and the inside remains nice and juicy. Now, nobody is going to mistake a grilled portobello mushroom for a sirloin steak, but it makes for a healthy, simple meat alternative.

Start by marinating your mushroom caps in oil, tamari, garlic powder, balsamic vinegar, vegan Worcestershire sauce, garlic, black pepper, and liquid smoke. If you have a grill rub you typically include, or a favorite steak sauce or seasoning, use that as well. You can choose to remove the stem if you'd like your 'shroom to have a more steak-like appearance. Let your grill heat up in order to achieve those desired grill lines, then toss that bad boy on there, gills up.


If eggplant, rice paper and other alternatives aren't doing it for you in the vegan bacon department, give carrots a try. These root vegetables have a natural sweetness to them, are colored appropriately, and when shaved into strips have a similar shape. You can use a vegetable peeler to get consistent, thin strips by pressing firmly and dragging from top to bottom after the skin has been removed. The larger the carrot the better — especially if you enjoy large, wide strips of vegan bacon. Next up, let's talk marinades.

The key to making Tabitha Brown's viral carrot bacon is to balance the flavors. Use tamari, liquid smoke, maple syrup, paprika, apple cider vinegar, oil, and black pepper in your marinade, and let it sit for at least 30 minutes, if not longer. At this point, your carrot strips should be darker. You can opt to bake, air fry or pan fry your carrots. Keep in mind that pan frying in oil will most closely resemble the real thing, and using an air fryer is a close second. This melt-in-your-mouth method isn't quite as chewy as using king oyster mushrooms and isn't quite as crispy as rice paper, but it creates a nice balanced mouthfeel somewhere in between the two. Enjoy your vegan carrot bacon on avocado toast, in a BLT or sprinkled on a vegan cobb salad.


Walnuts are meaty, which is the reason they are often included in veggie burgers. Their texture is dense, and they are fairly mild in flavor, with a light bitey or sharp undertone. Although there are endless ways to use walnuts to make vegan meat alternatives, there are two that stand out above the rest: taco meat, and pâté.

Taco meat is fairly simple to make using walnuts. Use chopped, fresh walnuts, and toss them with smokey paprika, tamari, garlic powder, and cumin. Use liquid smoke for a barbecued effect, and feel free to any other seasonings you might typically include. Toss in a little oil, bake in the oven, and remove just as the walnuts are beginning to show signs of browning. Keep a close eye on them, since nuts are notorious for burning easily if not monitored. If you wish, mix the walnuts with seasoned lentils for a delectable lentil walnut vegan taco meat alternative.

For pâté, you'll need a high-speed blender. Use walnuts, tamari, garlic powder, and just a few tablespoons of water or extra virgin olive oil. Blend the mixture together. Likely, you will have to stop the blender and mix the ingredients a few times manually, as the paste will become rather thick. When it is done, you can opt to add additional spices like rosemary, thyme, or any other flavorings you find appropriate. Add to your charcuterie board, or spread on crackers as a fancy, ethical appetizer.