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A Beginner’s Guide to Plant-Based Proteins

Know your tempeh from your tofu.

Nowadays, there are many reasons a growing number people are making the shift toward eating a more plant-based diet. Fortunately, an abundance of plant-based protein options available at the grocery store makes it easy to cook hearty and satisfying meatless meals. Whether you’ve never cooked with meat alternatives before or you’re a well-seasoned vegan, this quick guide with tasty recipes will help anyone put more plant power on the dinner table.


Perhaps the most well-known plant-based meat alternative, tofu is a high-protein, low-fat product made from soybeans. It’s available in different textures ranging from extra firm, a durable block that slices easily, to silken, which has more water and an almost custard-like consistency. The textural variety and neutral flavor of tofu makes it a versatile ingredient in both sweet and savory dishes. Firm and extra firm tofu are the best options for grilling and stir frying. It also holds its shape in the oven, like in these crispy baked nuggets. The velvety texture of silken tofu  makes it a great, dairy-free alternative   for adding rich, creamy texture to sauces, soups, smoothies, and even chocolate pudding. Mild-mannered tofu also works as a secret ingredient to sneak more nutrients into your family’s favorite meals, like these tofu-crust pan pizzas.


A cousin to tofu, tempeh is another firm protein made from soybeans. The key difference is that the soy used in tempeh has been cooked and fermented, resulting in a slightly nutty, mildly savory flavor. Like firm tofu, tempeh is easy to slice, holds its shape, and can withstand the heat of grilling, baking, and frying. It can also be crumbled and cooked as a stand-in for ground beef or turkey.

Get the recipe: Tempeh Fajitas


Sometimes called “wheat meat,” seitan is a vegan-friendly protein made from wheat gluten. It’s sold in a variety of forms, including crumbles and strips, as well as pre-seasoned meatless deli slices, hot dogs, and more.  Unlike tofu and tempeh, seitan has a naturally firm texture that’s similar to poultry. For this reason, it’s a great choice for grilling and pan-frying. Like other plant-based proteins, seitan has a mildly savory flavor that works as a blank canvass and plays well with all kinds of sauces and marinades.

Plant-Based “Meats” 

Available unseasoned or in flavored varieties, like seasoned crumbles or sausages, plant-based meats offer an endless array of possibilities for weeknight meals.  Plant-based Italian sausage is the star of this fall pasta made with gluten-free red lentil rotini, butternut squash, and fresh sage.  

  Get the recipe: Rotini with Butternut Squash and Plant Based Sausage


Don’t overlook one of the most versatile plant-based protein sources that’s likely in your pantry right now. With so many tastes and textures to choose from, budget-friendly beans are always a good place to start when brainstorming meatless meals. Dips and spreads, soups and stews, grain bowls, and pasta are all tasty ways to make these protein-packed legumes part of your family’s diet. Versatile beans can even transform into satisfying burgers, like this easy recipe that sneaks in even more plant power with frozen cauliflower rice.

Get the recipe: Black Bean Cheeseburgers

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