As the interest in humane, healthy food has grown, the popularity of faux meat has soared

Don’t know what to use instead of meat in your favourite recipes? Almost all grocery stores now carry delicious faux meat products — from veggie burgers to veggie hot dogs, faux turkey deli slices and chicken patties to vegetarian chicken nuggets, and meatless barbecue ribs, steak strips, and more. Plant-based meat substitutes have come a long way both in taste and texture since the days of the first veggie burger, thanks to the growing popularity of vegetarian diets. Faux meats are most often made from soy or wheat protein and are available fresh, dried, or frozen.

As the interest in humane, healthy food has grown, the popularity of these foods has soared — sales of mock meats in the last decade have skyrocketed and now constitute a billion-dollar industry. Not only are these foods delicious and cruelty-free, they are also usually high in healthy plant protein and low in saturated fat, and they contain zero cholesterol. Here is a list of vegetarian meat alternatives that can give you the flavours you grew up with minus the cruelty to animals. Try the following meat substitutes for mouth-watering, cruelty-free, and heart-healthy meals.

Meal maker: Soya chunks, also known as meal maker, is said to lower cholesterol levels, prevent heart diseases, reduce the risk of osteoporosis, control hypertension, and help in weight loss. Soya chunks are made from defatted soy flour, a by-product of extracting soybean oil. It has a protein content which is equal to that of meat. It is quick and also easy to cook. You can prepare many dishes using soya chunks such as soya chunks curry, kurma and even add them to your pulaos, soups, stir fries, etc. Though it does not have a flavour of its own, it has the tendency to absorb flavours well.

Tofu: It has been a staple of Asian cuisine for quite a long time. Tofu soaks up flavours and is best when marinated for at least 30 minutes or served with a flavourful sauce. There are two types of tofu: fresh, water-packed tofu (always refrigerated) for when you want the tofu to hold its shape, such as when baking or grilling, and silken tofu, which is usually not refrigerated, for pureeing. Try firm or extra-firm tofu for baking, grilling, sautéing, and frying and soft or silken tofu for creamy sauces, desserts, and dressings. When baking tofu, cook it in a marinade so it will soak up the flavour. To give tofu a meatier texture, try freezing it for 2-24 hours and then defrosting it.

Tempeh: This traditional Indonesian food is made from fermented soybeans and grains. Unlike tofu, which is made from soybean milk, tempeh contains whole soybeans, making it denser. Because of its density, tempeh should be braised in a flavourful liquid for at least one hour prior to cooking. This softens it up and makes the flavour milder. After braising, you can dredge the tempeh in flour and corn meal and then panfry it. Then try adding it to a sauce and continue cooking it for an enhanced flavour.

Seitan: Also known as wheat gluten, seitan is derived from wheat and is a great source of protein. Try seitan as a chicken substitute in your favourite recipes. You can find seitan at most health food stores but if you are feeling adventurous, you can make it at home.

There are usually vegetarian options no matter where you are — a restaurant, a friend’s house, or on the road. You just have to know what to look for and ask! Here are some pointers to help you eat vegetarian when you’re away from home:

At a restaurant: There are plenty of vegetarian restaurants around the country, but you can also find vegetarian options at restaurants that serve meat. Don’t worry if your favourite restaurant isn’t on the list. Just ask the waiter what vegetarian options are offered, and most restaurants will accommodate you.

At a friend’s house: Call ahead of time and ask your friend what is on the menu. Offer to make a tantalizing vegetarian dish to share.

On the road: With more and more people becoming vegetarian these days, most restaurants now offer great-tasting, healthy vegetarian selections. When travelling, arm yourself with an app that will help you find the closest vegetarian restaurant.