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The Ultimate Guide: How to Get Vegan Recipes to Taste Like Meat?

Today we're discussing easy tips you can follow to make your recipes mimick flavors you remember from your favorite meat dishes.

And these tips actually work.

Why do vegans eat things that taste like meat?

A lot of vegans transitioned from eating meat to eating less over time. This means that some vegans have an acquired taste for foods they used to love. For other vegans, they just enjoy the flavors that these recipes have to offer.

When we think about a recipe using meat, what flavors come to mind? Roast chicken might remind you of thyme, rosemary, fat, liquid salt, and butter. Fried pork might remind you a deep fried flavor, tough texture that dissolves quickly, fattiness, and salt. Salisbury steak might just remind you only about the texture and gravy.

It's these flavors that really transform a protein into these classic dishes. That's what we're looking to recreate!

thanksgiving vegan recipes that taste like turkey
chinese pork dumplings vegan
vegan burgers that taste just like beef

Why do some vegans want to eat fake meat?

The fake meats tend to carry the flavor of a classic dish but have been processed to better match the texture, fat content, and protein values as meat. Some vegans choose to eat fake meat to have the same flavors from their favorite dishes but also to recreate as closely as possible the texture, fat content, and protein of the meat.

Not all vegans wish to eat fake meat, but it can be very easy or accessible compared to home-cooking in some options. For those needing an easier transition or a meal that can make everyone in the household happy, fake meats can easily help.

In this post though, we wish to talk about how to recreate the flavors specifically of your favorite meat-based dishes.

So how can I make my vegan recipes taste like meat?

How to make vegan recipes taste like meat
  • Eggy: When you want a dish to have flavor as if it had an egg in it. To do this, keep black salt on hand. Kala namak is the specific name, black salt is the common term for it. Black salt doesn't look black at all, it's a very fine grain salt in the shade of a dull pink. The salt is rich in sulphur and that is why it tastes similar to eggs, specifically egg yolks. The first few times you use this, go easy on it, trying ¼ of a teaspoon and working your way up once you get used to it. Perfect for quiche, deviled "eggs", and tofu scrambles.
  • Italian Meatballs: Fennel Seeds and Oregano perfectly turn any ball of protein into a good meatball. Adjust the amounts of each to suit your palette and the recipe.
  • Grilled: Use liquid smoke before, during, or after in your dish to mimick the flavor of having cooked food over a grill. Not all liquid smoke are made the same, so make sure you use liquid smoke that is naturally made from concentrated smoke in liquid versus made from chemicals. Liquid smoke goes perfectly onto any pan-seared vegetable, in collard greens, and splashed onto naan.
  • Smoked Salmon: When thinking of smoked salmon, the flavor feels fatty and subtle, but is definitely a tad fishy with a hint of wood smoke. Here, you could use liquid smoke, but we recommend using smoked salt instead. Smoked salt is naturally wood smoked salt which you can buy in a variety of wood flavors. Rub the salt into your vegetable you're using in your recipe, which generally tends to be carrot. Another reason to use salt, is that you can roast the carrot surrounded by the salt as well. To finish the taste, use a variety of different types of kelp (aka, sea vegetables or seaweed) to create that fishy flavor. We tend to use a combination of flaked nori and dulce flakes. If you don't want the seaweed changing the color of the food, put the seaweed into a sauce that is served with the vegetable.
  • Sushi: See the above notes about smoked salmon as most sushi you make will likely use the above techniques! For a smoked salmon roll, place your roasted carrot with smoked flavor into the roll with a line of sauce that is mostly a combination of nori and dulce mixed into something like vegan mayonaisse. For a spicy tuna roll, marinade dried mashed tofu with a chili sauce, some mayonaisse, and lots of seaweed. Always, add a dab or serve with soy sauce or tamari.
  • Eastern Umami: When thinking of most Asian umami, this is what we think of. It'll be achieved by a combination of 1:1:1 miso, seaweed, and ginger added to your vegetable stock. We tend to use 1 tablespoon of each into a 2 serving recipe for a stir-fry, soup, or noodle dish. While this isn't exactly traditional to use miso in every recipe, the miso definitely helps to add a certain flavor that matches Chicken and helps heighten the flavors in the entire dish using a natural, healthy form of salt. The seaweed helps elevate the dish by complicating the flavors and replaces the need for anchovy in a lot of Korean or Thai dishes. And ginger helps compliment these flavors and can be found traditionally needed in many Eastern recipes.
  • Western Umami: When thinking of most European umami, this combination is what we think can be used in most stews and deep sauces. The combination of bay leaves, carrots, celery, onion, and garlic really crate a base for a lot of your favorite dishes. Recipes like chicken soup or beef stew perfectly match these flavors to use as a base for your favorite meat-based soups and sauces.
  • Cheesy: To achieve a cheesy type of flavor for your favorite cheese-based recipe, use blended roasted red bell peppers and nutritional yeast. Your mac n cheese will certainly be elevated and compliment your favorite plant-based protein.

What does umami mean? Umami is a Japanese term referring to a complexity of flavors that taste savory. It's a complicated flavor which can't be traced back easily to its parts and instead is tasted as a whole.

Or, to put it simply, it's a bundle of yummy flavor.

Bonus tips and tricks!

  • Burgers: Generally, use smoked paprika, tomato paste, garlic, onion, and soy sauce. Make sure your burger is moist and full of a fatty feeling. To get a fatty flavor, use oil, ground flax meal, tahini paste, or a bland nut butter.
  • Sausages: Use the above and add fennel seeds.
  • Chorizo: Use the advice for burgers and smoked chili powder to your desired spice level.
  • Poultry: Miso paste and tahini paste for a heavy fattiness.
  • Duck: Use the above but add soy sauce and a dark sugar like molasses or brown sugar.
  • Pork: Use the same advice for poultry and make sure your protein doesn't break apart easily.
  • More: Need more complexity? Add mushrooms. Works in every type of recipe!

Here are some 5 Star recipes that taste like meat:

Black Bean Sausage Patties

1) Black Bean Breakfast Sausage

This recipe tastes just like your favorite breakfast sausage used to. Just like the tips advise above, this recipe heavily relies on smoked paprika, tomato, and fennel to recreate the traditional recipe. This version is also gluten-free and can be made into patties or links.

Vegan Gyoza Dumplings Potstickers

2) Vegetable, Vegan Gyoza Dumplings (Potstickers)

Bianca uses mushrooms and a mix of fragrant vegetables like onion, garlic, and ginger, to recreate a nice vegetable gyoza that will also taste like a pork or chicken dumpling. This is a wonderful recipe, it's no wonder it's rated 5 stars - an instant classic worth making double to freeze for later!

Vegan Jackfruit BBQVegan Jackfruit BBQ

3) BBQ Jackfruit Sandwich

We're a little partial to North Carolina BBQ, so when we saw this 5-star recipe, we knew it was a winner. It's a simple bbq sandwich, made to mimick slow-cooked pulled pork, traditionally only served on a bun or with coleslaw. Nothing fancy, just delicious! I love it a lot because it allows you to create your own sauce or just use your own favorite store-brought bbq sauce.

Vegan Sesame Chicken Recipe

4) Sticky Sesame Cauliflower

We love this recipe because it focuses on why a classic Sesame Chicken is good - because of the texture and the sauce. But does it taste like the original classic? YES! Some recipes are entirely about what goes on TOP of the protein and this recipe ROCKS. Tastes amazing and is a really healthful version of the original by baking the cauliflower instead of frying.

Vegan Breakfast Sandwich like an Egg McMuffin

5) Vegan Breakfast Sandwiches with "Eggy" Tofu

This recipe recreates a classic McDonald's Egg McMuffin but makes it vegan, using the Black Salt technique mentioned above to make the tofu taste like egg. You'll find this recipe is even easier to make than the original and of course, loads more healthy!

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