Tofu is the result of pressing the curds of soy milk. It is highly favored in Asian cuisine, and it has become a diet staple for many vegetarians. While tofu alone does not have much flavor, it has the ability to absorb the flavors of the ingredients it is cooked with. Soft tofu, also known as silken tofu, is ideal for creating creamy dishes and sauces. Firm tofu is mainly used as an alternative to meat. Press the tofu to remove excess moisture, then marinate or grill it for a delicious meatless meal.
Tempeh is a great meatless option to get the texture of meat in your dishes. Tempeh is another soy-based product, but it is created by fermenting the curds of whole soy beans. It is high in protein, fiber and vitamins. It contains live, active cultures, so it should be cooked thoroughly. Tempeh has a texture that is similar to meat with a slightly nutty flavor. Soak it in soy sauce, and then grill or fry it.
Seitan is a gluten-based alternative to meat. It is created by isolating the gluten from grains. The texture is similar to chicken and is therefore frequently used as a substitute for chicken in many dishes. Seitan is available in most health food stores. Look in the frozen food aisles or refrigerated section for prepared seitan. It can also be found as a dry mix. You can even make seitan yourself, although it is slightly more difficult.
Paneer is a dairy-based option for meatless dishes and is often used in Indian cuisine. It is created by combining heated milk and lemon juice. Paneer has a mild flavor, but it easily assumes the flavors of the foods with which it is prepared. It is a great solution if you want to enjoy meatless dishes without consuming soy or gluten products. You can make your own paneer at home by adding a little bit of lemon juice to heated milk. This will cause the milk to curdle and separate. Use a clean cloth to drain the liquid from the curds. After straining it completely, set a heavy object, such as a book, on top. Store it in the refrigerator for a few hours. Drain any excess moisture before using.
Textured Vegetable Protein
Textured vegetable protein, or TVP, is another soy-based product. It usually is offered in flakes, chunks or granules. It is often dehydrated and will need to be soaked in water prior to cooking. Like tofu, TVP doesn't have much of a flavor of its own, but it absorbs the flavors of the other ingredients in the dish. TVP is an excellent choice for meals, such as chili, tacos and spaghetti.
Prepackaged Frozen Meatless Meat
Many soy-based products are now available in the frozen food section at the grocery store. You can find a variety of meatless meats, such as burgers, hot dogs and sausage. The texture and flavors are very similar to real meat. They are popular options for new vegetarians or for those who crave more traditional dishes.