Plant-based meat alternatives—or PBMA—have been seeing a lot of coverage lately. Not only are these alternatives quickly growing in popularity, but they’re becoming more advanced each day, too, thanks to food science.
There are a ton of reasons why individuals might opt for plant-based meat alternatives; they may be looking for a meat-like experience but have an ethical objection to meat, they may be looking for zero-cholesterol foods that nonetheless satisfy that innate craving, or they may abstain from certain meats due to religious reasons. People may simply want to give them a try to see what all the fuss is about!
Whatever the reason for eating PBMA, seasoning is key when preparing many meat dishes, and the same applies to plant-based meat alternatives. That’s why we’re exploring some of the most popular meat alternatives and how to prepare them right. Let’s jump in.
Tofu, for many, is the quintessential meat alternative. This alternative has made a big comeback recently. This alternative comes in various levels of hardness at the store: you’ll typically find levels of soft, firm, extra firm, and super firm. While soft is the consistency of pudding or yogurt, used for smoothies and desserts, extra firm is often used as a chicken substitute.
Many people describe tofu as tasteless. There can sometimes be a distinct soy taste, but it can be quite subtle, and it is rarely noticed. The preparations of this alternative vary to such a degree that its versatility rivals that of any meat with ease. Tofu can be baked, fried, sauteed, blended, uncooked, boiled, roasted, air fried—and more. It can be used to make savory dishes, desserts, and everything in between.
However, tofu often must be dried to make meat-like dishes. You can either use a tofu press or use a couple of plates to squeeze the water out—or use towels to pat it dry. Though it isn’t frequently recommended, you can also simply drain the tofu and bake it until it’s dry—but that will take a while. Additionally, some people freeze this meat alternative before cooking it, as freezing it causes it to develop a more noticeable texture.
How to Season Tofu
When it comes to seasoning tofu, there’s a lot to consider. But—remember, it has very little of its own flavor. One huge tip: Marinating is everything. The great thing about tofu seasoning is that it gives you a totally blank canvas to work your magic on. It absorbs flavors like nothing else, and anything you put into tofu comes through loud and clear. While when making steak, the name of the game might be embracing and enhancing the natural flavors that are already there, it’s the opposite with tofu.
This versatility also makes it important to season; if you want to make a delicious tofu scramble (a common scrambled egg substitute), you’ll want to rely on a medium-firm tofu and scramble seasonings, like nutritional yeast and onion. (Or our professionally crafted blend) But, if you’re interested in making firm, crispy General Tso’s tofu, you’ll want to utilize spices like heavy amounts of ginger, red pepper, garlic, and soy sauce—and start with extra or super firm levels. Still, if you want a high-protein, zero-cholesterol smoothie, you may want to lean into spices like ginger along with fresh fruit and make use of some soft levels.
Seitan is a lesser-known but highly popular meat substitute made from gluten. While unsuitable for those with gluten allergies or sensitivities, or for those with Celiac, seitan is suitable for those who are not averse to gluten. Seitan can be made from refined gluten or by kneading and rising dough made with wheat flour. Seitan generally must be cooked. Wheat flour should not be eaten raw. The ways seitan can be prepared vary, but it is very often battered and fried as a chicken substitute.
How to Season Seitan
It’ll be up to you to impart the flavors you want in your seitan dish. Seitan does have a distinctive and generally pleasant taste, somewhat akin to that of bread, which can fairly easily be covered up with whatever other spices you’d like to use. If you’re going for a fried chicken substitute, you may rely on spices typically used in chicken—poultry blends, sage, garlic, black pepper, paprika, etc. may make up your seitan seasoning. Similarly, if you’re making seitan steaks, you might opt for caramelized onions or onion powder, black pepper, liquid smoke, steak sauce, steak seasoning blends, and Worcestershire sauce.
Tempeh is made out of soybeans, but with a big caveat—they’re fermented. Rather than making milk from them and adding thickening agents, as is the case with tofu, they’re fermented in a controlled process that results in them clumping together in “bricks,” which are used as meat substitutes. Tempeh has a much more noticeable flavor than tofu and tastes distinctly earthy and nutty—some may liken it to certain cheeses, and tempeh is often used to make plant-based bacon alternatives.
How to Season Tempeh
When it comes to tempeh seasoning, you can think of the flavor fullness as a spectrum; if tofu is at the far end of low flavor, seitan is somewhere in the middle, and tempeh has a clear distinct, noticeable flavor that is impossible to ignore or mask. That’s why, when it comes to seasoning tempeh, the trick is often to lean into the flavor. Tempeh has some wonderful flavor components that can really shine if they’re given a little bit of attention. With a strong earthy, almost nutty flavor, tempeh possesses a great potential for umami, making it a prime candidate for seasonings that are smoky and rich—like a Spicy All Purpose Seasoning or Smokey Southwest Grill Seasoning.
Humans have been loving—and avoiding—meat for centuries—and for numerous reasons. As such, the amount of plant-based meat substitutes that exist makes it impossible to create an exhaustive list. However, to get a better understanding, it can be helpful to note a few things.
For one, all the substitutes we’ve mentioned thus far can be combined and used in various ways together. Many products that individuals can find at stores, such as plant-based frozen nuggets, may contain combinations of vital wheat gluten and soy—making them akin to both tofu and seitan. What’s more, people have found many creative ways to reframe typical foods in meat-like ways, whether for fun or because they were craving a certain dish. Some popular ones that have trended on social media include:
- Carrot hotdogs: Rather than a hotdog, some individuals may use a carrot marinated in spices typically used in hotdogs—such as paprika, liquid smoke, and mustard.
- Battered, fried cauliflower and oyster mushrooms: Battered fried cauliflower can be prepared much in the same manner as chicken, resulting in a delicious fried battered dish. Another chicken substitute favorite, oyster mushrooms have an amazing fibrous texture that makes for an excellent fried battered dish. Seasonings for this often include those used in chicken batters–black pepper, garlic, onion powder, red pepper, paprika—or Citrus Pepper Herb Seasoning.
The Bottom Line
Plant-based meat alternatives seem to be exploding in popularity recently; while many people might opt to abstain from meat, many others simply are drawn to these low- cholesterol alternatives to some of their favorite dishes or are interested in trying out new types of foods and expanding their palettes.
Whatever the reason, there are a ton of tasty dishes out there just waiting to be made! Whether you’re going to start with the blank canvas of tofu and perfect your masterpiece, or you’re interested in working with the hearty flavors of tempeh to create an incredible smoky piece of art, remember: seasoning is key.
If you’re looking for an incredible selection of organic spices, some of which are even custom-tailored for meat substitutes, don’t hesitate to give us a visit! You’ll find an amazing selection of high-quality spices and seasonings waiting to unlock a world of culinary possibilities. Learn more about us here.
Did you Know…
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