How to Vegetarianize Almost Any Recipe

Every once in a while we all crave an old recipe that we enjoyed before we converted to a vegetarian diet. It might be something simple, like a tuna salad sandwich, or something more complex, like beef bourguignon. Simple or complex, you can recreate those flavors and textures with the right flavor swaps.

For example, you could use crumbled tempeh instead of ground beef. Then, pick the best flavor swaps, like seaweed to create a faux seafood broth.

To get you started, the tables below list all the most common swaps to created your vegetarianized recipes.

Select Your Vegetarian Protein

Animal Protein Replace With
Beef Seitan; portobello mushrooms
Ground Beef Tempeh; mushrooms and lentils
Tuna salad Chickpeas, tempeh or combination
Crab Cakes Chickpeas, tempeh or combination
Flaky fish Firm tofu, frozen and shredded
Bacon Tempeh sliced thin

Choose Your Flavor Swaps

Protein Flavor Swap
Beef Soy sauce and mushrooms; dark miso; or a combination of all three. (Works great for meatloaf, sloppy Joes, meatballs, etc.)
Beef Broth Dashi; miso; molasses and sherry vinegar
Seafood Seaweed (either nori or kelp); Old Bay Seasonings (excellent combined with kelp and lemon); capers
Fish stock and broth Light or sweet miso broth; vegetable stock and sea kelp; seaweed and mushroom stems
Bacon (smoky flavors) Soy sauce and vegetarian Worchestershire sauce or steak sauce; liquid smoke

Just keep in mind that vegetarianized recipes won't taste exactly like the original, although some can come surprisingly close. 

Vegetarianized Classics

If you're not quite ready to experiment and create your own, here are some recipes that use the flavor swaps above.

Vegetarian Meat Loaf: This recipe is one of my all-time favorites. It takes a little time to make, but the flavor is spot-on.​

Vegetarian Crab Cakes: There's a lot of prepping for this recipe, but it's well worth it. I think the flavor is as close as you can get to the real thing.

Mock Tuna Salad: Once in a while I get in the mood for an old-fashioned tuna salad sandwich with a side of potato chips. This recipe hits the spot every time.


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