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10 Vegetarian Substitutes Everyone Needs to Know

Whether you're going vegetarian for personal or health reasons, it can be tricky to get started. Make the transition easier with these must-have meat substitutes, like tofu, tempeh, cauliflower and more.

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Taste of Home

Tofu

Vegetarian or not, you’ve likely heard of tofu. This soy-based protein source comes in different levels of firmness—from silken to super-firm. Tofu is designed to soak up flavor from sauces and accompanying ingredients, and can be used in scrambles, smoothies, stir-fries and more. Just don’t make these mistakes when cooking it!

Try It!House Foods, Organic Extra-firm Tofu ($3 on Amazon Fresh)

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Raw vegetable and lettuce salad with tempe goreng, fried tempeh,Gekko Gallery/Shutterstock

Tempeh


Similar to tofu, tempeh is also soy-based (and protein-rich—it’s one of the foods that has more protein than an egg!). It’s dense with a nutty flavor and can easily holds its shape. Try tempeh on a sandwich, cubed atop a salad or even skewered on kabobs.

Try It!Fresh Tempeh ($12 for a pack of 3)

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Gardein chicken tenders with saucevia Amazon

Chik’n Tenders


 If you’re having a hard time giving up fast food—don’t worry! You can still have your beloved nuggets. These “chicken” tenders taste just like the real deal. Nestle them between a bun, add them to a salad or just enjoy ‘em with your favorite barbecue sauce.

Try It!Gardein Seven Grain Crispy Tenders ($5 on Amazon Fresh)

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Creamy, low-fat vegan cheese sauce over chic pea soft shells with a side of steamed kale and plenty of nutritional yeastBenjamin Scribe/Shutterstock

Nutritional Yeast


Super popular with vegans, nutritional yeast adds protein, vitamins and minerals to nearly any dish. This topping has a nutty, cheesy flavor and is tasty sprinkled on veggies, pasta, popcorn and more. If you’re still not convinced, read up on nutritional yeast’s many health benefits here.

Try It!Anthony’s Premium Nutritional Yeast Flakes ($13)

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healthy vegan jackfruit tacosshellygraphy/Shutterstock

Jackfruit 


If you’re craving pulled pork, it’s time to give jackfruit a try. This tropical fruit mimics the texture of your favorite barbecue, and when slathered in sauce, it’s almost impossible to tell the difference. (Here’s what happened when we tried jackfruit for the first time.)

Try It!The Jackfruit Company, Lightly Seasoned Jackfruit ($15 for a pack of 3)

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Grilled sausages and green vegetables - zucchini, asparagus, bell pepper, garlic, lemon and rosemary on cast iron grill pan.Larisa Blinova/Shutterstock

Veggie “Sausages”


Summer was designed for cookouts. And you won’t miss any of the fun thanks to veggie “sausages.” They’re easy to toss on the grill, and taste very similar to the real deal. Pass the mustard, please!

Learn how to grill brats (veggie or not) like a Wisconsinite.

Try It!Tofurky Beer Brats ($5 on Amazon Fresh)

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Beyond Meat burger with vegetableAtif Rizwan Nasir/Shutterstock

Faux Burgers


Replacement meat products have come a long way. In today’s market, you’ll find plant-based burgers with the same texture and flavor of beef—and some of ‘em even “bleed.”

Learn more about The Beyond Burger here.

Try It!Beyond Meat, The Beyond Burger ($7 on Amazon Fresh)

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Vegetarian sandwich with zucchini burger, cheese, ruccola and tomatoes,Oleksandra Naumenko/Shutterstock

“Deli” Slices


If you enjoy a sandwich for lunch every day, check out deli slices made from tomatoes or lentils instead of traditional ham and turkey. Each slice is packed with flavor and includes several grams of protein.

Try these expert tips for making the best-ever sandwich.

Try It!Field Roast, Lentil Sage Deli Slices ($4 on Amazon Fresh)

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Taste of Home

Cauliflower


As a vegetarian, it can be tempting to eat too many carbs. After all, bread, pasta and many bakery items rarely contain meat. That’s why cauliflower is such a great substitute. It’s nutritious, cheap, easy to find and low in carbs. Try it as a meat replacement (hello, General Tso’s Cauliflower) or in a variety of store-bought products, like cauliflower pizza crust, sandwich thins, rice and more. Just keep an eye on the ingredients list, as many products use non-vegetarian cheeses (like Parmesan) as a binder.

Try It!365 Everyday Value Organic Riced Cauliflower ($5 on Amazon Fresh)

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Salad with fusilli, chickpeas, grass in a white ceramic bowKarpenkov Denis/Shutterstock

Chickpea Pasta


Vegetarians know and love whole chickpeas in salads, roasted as a snack or pureed into one of our best hummus recipes. But chickpea pasta takes the legume to a whole new level. Each serving packs in a whopping 25 grams of protein.

Try It!Banza Chickpea Pasta ($13 for a pack of 2)

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