TSTC Culinary Arts: Options Abound for Meat Substitutes

(WACO, Texas) – Consumers who find limits on purchasing their favorite meats at the grocery store can look for options to make meals satisfying.

Mark Schneider, Texas State Technical College’s Culinary Arts division director, said those who are interested in shifting from meat should not do so cold turkey. He advises cooks to create one or two meatless dishes, then increase the number of such meals as they become comfortable.

Schneider also advises consumers to read the labels on meatless products.

“Most vegetarians are very conscious of what they are doing and ingesting,” Schneider said.

David Ray, an instructor in TSTC’s Culinary Arts program in Waco, said students learn in the first-semester Nutrition for the Food Service Professional class about amino acids, complete proteins and vitamins in food. Also in the first semester, students learn in the Sanitation and Safety class how to avoid contamination and be mindful of cooking for those with food and gluten allergies.

Ray said beans, nuts and rice can be combined in a variety of ways to give people essential amino acids and protein. He said soybeans and quinoa are also great sources of complete protein.

“Asian dishes and Indian dishes have beans and rice and a little of animal protein in them,” Ray said. “It’s not nearly as much as we eat. They stretch the protein way out.”

Eggplant and portobello mushrooms can be used to substitute for meat in recipes, Schneider said.

“Both of those are great,” he said. “You can definitely make a vegetarian burger that is natural. A lot of time, that will include portobellos and grains like barley and oats. You can grind everything together and make a decent burger.”

Schneider also said tempeh is a good alternative. Tempeh is made of compressed soybeans that are fermented and shaped into a block held together with mycelia, according to The Vegan Society. Tempeh is popular in Indonesian cuisine.

“I really like tempeh,” Schneider said. “I cut it up into bite-size pieces and use it as a stir-fry or as a filler for pasta. Instead of cooking it in the dish, cook it first, then add to the dish.”

Tofu is another go-to for cooks.

“It is great,” Schneider said. “It takes on the flavor of what you are cooking. I try to marinate it first. I use the firm, hard tofu that gives it a little more substance. You can even press that and get it a little firmer. You get a better chew, or bite.”

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.