6 Healthy Red Meat Substitutes.

Hi Davey,

I have a question for you. I cut out red meat from my diet about 12 years ago and I haven’t touched it since. I’m not a vegetarian (I eat fish and poultry), but I do enjoy Morning Star veggie products. Unfortunately, the sodium is really high.

Is there anything else that I can substitute for red meat?


Yummy tempeh sliders!

Hey Frankie,

It’s no secret that most Americans eat far too much red meat. As I recently shared, a Harvard study concluded that 9% of male deaths and 7% of female deaths would be prevented if people lowered red meat consumption to 1.5 ounces (or less) per day. Studies like these are part of the reason why I’ve lowered my red meat consumption to twice weekly.

Because you eat other types of meat, you have no shortage of leaner alternatives. There are a million great chicken, turkey or fish dishes that you can enjoy. But if you want to look beyond the butcher block, I do have a few meatless suggestions:

  1. Seitan. Also know as wheat gluten, seitan was popularized by vegetarian monks in China. It’s frequently used in place of red meat, chicken or pork – and, with a whopping 30+ grams of protein per 4 ounce serving, it’s certainly worth trying.
  2. Tofu. Because tofu has become increasingly popular, you can find it in most grocery stores. It doesn’t have much flavor in and of itself, but it tends to pick up the flavors of the foods and sauces around it. Made from soy, 4 ounces of tofu contains about 17 grams of complete proteins.
  3. Tempeh. I really enjoy tempeh – and, in fact, you can use it to make homemade veggie burgers. The taste is quite earthy and nutty, but very delicious. It can also be marinated before you grill, fry or bake it. It also has 20 grams of muscle-building protein per each 4 ounce serving.
  4. Mushrooms. Portobello mushrooms, in particular, are a popular alternative to meat. Because of their large size, the mushroom can be used in place of a whole piece of meat (i.e., in a sandwich or on a burger bun).
  5. Eggplant. Though it’s one of the few foods that I don’t enjoy, eggplant is a very versatile meat substitute. Eggplant also works well on sandwiches or in other dishes like meatless meatballs or veggie lasagna.
  6. Beans. As I’ve mentioned before, beans are an often-overlooked nutritional powerhouse. As a meat substitute, beans work well. And, much like seitan, tofu and tempeh, they contain a good amount of protein. They’re also incredibly versatile and can be used in soups, stews, salads, veggie burgers and more.

I’m not a vegetarian. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy the above alternatives. In fact, many of these options are so delicious that the label “alternative” doesn’t do justice.

If you are interested in trying a tempeh burger, give this recipe a try:

Grilled Tempeh Burger: Serves 2 – 4

  • 1 (8 ounce) package of tempeh
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium tamari
  • 2 tablespoons mirin (also known as Japanese rice cooking wine)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 whole grain buns

Cut tempeh in half, lengthwise. Then cut across into 4 pieces.

Steam over simmering water for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and poke holes in tempeh (both sides) with a fork.

Mix tamari, mirin, garlic powder and onion into a dish for a marinade. Add the tempeh and turn to coat. Set aside for at least a half hour – but overnight is best.

Heat a grill to medium heat. For 4 to 5 minutes per side, grill tempeh until browned with grill marks. If you don’t have access to a grill, heat a dab of canola oil in a skillet over medium heat and cook tempeh for 3 to 4 minutes per side – or until browned.

Top with whatever your heart desires. Avocado, peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, sprouts, pickles, onions, ketchup, etc. all make for great choices!


Davey Wavey

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  1. Jon Ward says:

    I eat red meat perhaps once or week or less. This usually consists of either beef mince, steak or a fantastic roast. I love varying my diet so eat everything on your list above…. but what about fish? Especially the oily kind. It can taste great and is good for you if you know what you are doing 😀

  2. I’m a vegetarian. Kudos to you for lowering your meat consumption! ^.^

  3. charley says:

    Seitan? Tempeh? Huh?

    Get real. I’m not a red meat fan- probably less than once a week. Juicy hamburger is nice. But I do like to eat actual food. You know, fish, chicken. But not stuff I have to look up.

  4. Hi, I like to eat quorn, it’s made out of mushroom protein and it comes in either filé form och minced så you can use it instead of minced meat.
    Since it’s made out of mushroom protein it’s got a lot of protein and not much fat at all. It’s also pretty low on the calories (45 calories per filé á 90 gram if i remember corectly)
    It’s really great ’cause you can make pretty much any dish you want with it, it’s easy to cook (you can even pop it in the microwave if you want to) It tastes good and you can season it any way you want. You can also buy quorn hot dogs or nuggets and a few other things.
    It’s quit common here in Sweden but I don’t know how it is in america. I think it comes from England originally.

  5. I was diagnosed recently with an allergy to beef so I had no choice but to stop eating it. I have always been a conscious eater and for over twenty years now have included meat substitutes into my diet. Seitan and tofu are delicious when properly prepared.
    If you are looking for high protein alternatives things such as mung bean with its 12grams of protein per 1/4 cup (uncooked), or eggs which contain around 8grams of protein in a large egg white. Both are very low calorie as well.
    @charley I know you think you’re being clever with your comment but Seitan, tempeh, and tofu are real foods and have been eaten as food for several thousand years and continue to be consumed by almost half of the worlds population as part of the daily diet.
    @Lisa I eat Quorn here in the states and it is available at most good grocery stores. If you can find the Gardein brand of meat substitute where you are I highly recommend trying it, it is a seitan type product and the texture of their beef substitutes is phenomenal.

  6. Tempe is healthy food. It’s made from bean and it’s taste is delicious.

  7. christopher says:

    some red meat not mentioned-although not vegetarian-emu-ostritch-bison.

  8. I’m trying to find a way to cut my consumption. I eat a lot of already cooked meals because of time constraints, but a lot of those have red meats as well as other worse things. :/

  9. christopher says:

    visit Veggie Fest in Naperville-Illinois every summer.you can get many vegetarian food ideas-ethnic food too.