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Article: NATURAL meat substitutes you should know about

Jackfruit Burger

NATURAL meat substitutes you should know about

Processed meat substitute products based on soy, wheat or pea protein are definitely good and definitely have a right to exist. But are there also natural products that come close to the taste or consistency of meat? The answer is “Yes”! I would like to introduce you to three of these natural substitute foods today.

1. King oyster mushrooms

Mushrooms as a meat substitute? Yes, of course! One type of mushroom is particularly suitable as a natural alternative to meat: king oyster mushrooms. I first stumbled upon it in an English recipe. Here the mushrooms are called “king oyster mushrooms”. The term “ royal oyster mushroom ” also exists in German. In fact, king oyster mushrooms are closely related to oyster mushrooms.

The king oyster mushroom is often referred to as an alternative to the rare porcini mushroom. Due to its firm consistency, this type of mushroom is reminiscent of chicken meat after preparation. Nevertheless, the king oyster mushroom has a spicy, nutty aroma , so it is not as tasteless as the other natural meat substitute products presented here.

King oyster mushrooms as a natural meat substitute

Photo by Megumi Nachev on Unsplash

The type of mushroom is available all year round at the same price because it is exclusively cultivated . Because growing king oyster mushrooms is particularly time-consuming and requires constant monitoring, these mushrooms are more expensive than other cultivated mushrooms. If you can't find them in a conventional supermarket, you can look for the mushroom variety in organic and Asian stores.

Nutrients and preparation

Not surprisingly, king oyster mushrooms are low in calories. But what is not necessarily expected is that 100g of mushroom contains at least 4g of protein . In addition, king oyster mushrooms contain B vitamins and plenty of fiber . They are also virtually fat-free . Some breeders use fungicides and insecticides - if you want to avoid such substances, you should pay attention to organic farming when purchasing.

A “good” king oyster mushroom should look plump, juicy and not too dry. If they are still fresh when eaten, they taste best. King oyster mushrooms can also be frozen (cleaned and sliced) and can be stored in the freezer for up to 8 months.

The stems can be used, only dry stem ends should be removed before processing. Like other mushrooms, king oyster mushrooms are very versatile and can be used in mushroom pans, vegetable dishes, risottos or soups.

The best way to get the meat-like consistency is to cut the mushrooms into strips and fry them in a little oil in a pan . Seasoned with a little pepper and salt, they are ideal as an accompaniment to all sorts of dishes. My personal favorite is herb mushrooms in a sauce with pasta. Definitely try it out!

2. Jackfruit

A real insider tip for people who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. Okay, I admit that jackfruit is now more well-known than secret. Even so, I'm still surprised at how few of us have tried them. The jackfruit is the type of substitute product that, after appropriate preparation, meat eaters in most cases do not notice that what they are eating is not meat .

But what exactly is a jackfruit?

Jackfruit, as the name suggests, is a fruit that grows on trees in the tropical regions of the world . The trees grow up to 20 meters high and bear up to 700 fruits per year. What's special: The jackfruit is the heaviest and largest tree fruit in the world . The fruits can weigh 40-50 kg and are approximately 1 meter long. A fruit consists of a core, seeds, the pulp, which is surrounded by fiber strands and the hard, rubbery shell, which has a kind of knobs. Depending on the degree of ripeness, the fruit has a yellow or green-brown color.

Jackfruit hangs on a jackfruit tree

Photo by MANOJ AP on Unsplash

In the native areas, the “jackfruit” is often consumed in its ripe form. Then it has a sweet taste that is reminiscent of a mix of banana and pineapple. In order to be able to function as a meat substitute, the unripe pulp is placed in brine and further processed.

Buy, prepare and consume jackfruit

In our latitudes, jackfruit is rarely sold as a whole fruit, but mostly in cans or jars (pickled in brine). It is available in organic and Asian supermarkets, but is increasingly also available in large supermarket chains. A can costs between 2 and 5 euros.

The unripe pulp is almost tasteless and is very reminiscent of chicken meat, especially due to its fibrous consistency and the crust that forms when frying. It can be marinated as desired. Whether as cubes, strips or “pulled” (see cover photo) – the jackfruit can be prepared at home as a meat substitute without much effort.

In terms of nutrients, jackfruit is reminiscent of a potato , as it also contains a lot of starch. It is low in fat and doesn't really contain much protein, but it is rich in calcium.

The ecological balance of jackfruit

As described at the beginning, the jackfruit comes from the tropics. The main growing countries are India, Thailand, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. That is far away. And this is exactly where the catch lies: By the time the jackfruit reaches us, it has already consumed a lot of fossil energy and has a decent CO2 footprint .

When buying, you should also pay attention to organic quality . The mixed cultures of organic farmers are significantly more sustainable than the monocultures of “conventional” farmers. You can find organic jackfruit at Jacky F. , Govinda and Junes, among others .

Every now and then you can enjoy jackfruit. However, you should always keep in mind the rather questionable ecological balance of the fruit.

3. Tempeh

Okay, strictly speaking, that's a bit of a cheat. Because tempeh is not a “direct” food that grows in the field or falls from a tree. Nevertheless, it is natural and consists of only two components: soybeans and the noble mold Rhizopus oligosporus. It can also be made from chickpeas, peanuts or lupins instead of soybeans, but this form is less common. If you like, you can even make tempeh at home.

The soybeans are enriched with the mold and then fermented . The result is a fairly firm structure with a grainy consistency. Tempeh tastes fairly neutral and is therefore usually consumed marinated. The meat substitute can be used in many ways: grilled, baked in the oven or fried in a pan. It is usually cut into thin slices. It can be served as a burger patty , a schnitzel substitute or a side dish . If you crumble it lightly, the consistency is somewhat reminiscent of minced meat.

Nutrients and sustainability

Like other soy products, tempeh is rich in protein and even contains more protein than tofu. Fermentation allows our body to absorb this protein particularly well. Tempeh is also rich in fiber and minerals . Unlike meat, it does not contain cholesterol . The “natural” meat substitute is gluten-free and low in fat and calories. If consumed very frequently, the plant hormones contained in tempeh can potentially disrupt the hormonal balance. Cancer sufferers should consult their doctor.

Tempeh originally comes from Asia. The soybeans that are conventionally grown there may be genetically modified. Therefore, you should also pay attention to organic quality when purchasing. If you want to kill two birds with one stone, buy tempeh from Germany or Austria : genetically modified soybeans are not allowed in Europe and regional cultivation means transport routes are significantly shorter, which saves CO2.

Buy and prepare tempeh

The soy product is usually found in vacuum-packed, “sausage-like” pieces in the refrigerated section of health food stores and health food stores. In addition to the neutral version, there is also smoked tempeh or, more rarely, seasoned or marinated tempeh.

The preparation is very uncomplicated . It is cut into pieces or “crumbled” and then marinated or seasoned , for example with soy sauce, Sriracha, paprika powder, tomato paste, vinegar or maple syrup. As mentioned, tempeh can be fried, baked or grilled depending on your preference.

Tempeh skewers with peanut sauce

Photo by Ella Olsson on Unsplash

Do you know any more natural meat substitute products? Have you had any experience with jackfruit, tempeh or king oyster mushrooms? Then feel free to share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comments under this post! We would be pleased :)

If you would like to find out more about the topics of healthy eating, mindfulness or sustainability, take a look here .

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