Recent news reports say the price of meat, specifically beef and veal, have gone up 20 percent. Red meat isn’t particularly healthy compared to other meat options, but with some creative substitutions you can get that same sensation of red meat without the expense or health consequences.
When you want meat umami
There is a specific quality to red meat in its ability to give dishes a rich umami flavor. It is a savory depth of flavor that may seem hard to replicate otherwise. My favorite meat alternative when looking for that umami flavor is mushrooms, specifically portobello or baby bella mushrooms.
Many restaurants offer mushroom “burgers” as a vegetarian option and there is a great reason for it: those giant mushroom caps are able to pull in a lot of flavor from cooking methods and they have the ability to maintain their texture after cooking.
To get the most from mushrooms as an alternative to beef, be sure to season it well (salt and pepper) and add a little fat – either sauté them in butter, top with a little warmed mayonnaise or spritz them with some oil spray. One way I like to give mushrooms that meaty flavor is to steam them in beef broth.
I use mushrooms as a replacement for buns and pizza crusts, but that’s another conversation for another day.
When you want to feel full
One of my favorite red meat substitutions is beans. Much like mushrooms, they are able to soak in a lot of flavor from cooking methods and they are jam-packed with fiber that gives a similar sensation to the fullness you get from beef protein. One of my favorite preparation methods is to take dry beans and pressure cook them in broth. It infuses the beans with salt (without all that extra sodium that comes with canned beans). You can also throw in a couple dried peppers to super charge your beans with a kick.
Some people swear by black bean burgers. I stay far, far away! You can have too much of a good thing, and too many beans can cause all sorts of digestion issues.