Vegetarian Substitutes for Beef

Beef: It’s what for dinner!

The Cattlemen’s Beef Board slogan isn’t just whistling Dixie. More often than not, ground beef finds some way onto the dinner table in a variety of recipes – hamburgers, spaghetti with meat sauce, ziti, moussaka, tacos. The list goes on. Vegetarians, however, nix the staple from their recipes so they must find plant-based, protein-packed substitutes. Some of these vegetarian substitutes for ground beef include:

Vegetarian Ground Beef Crumbles

Some vegetarian food companies such as Morningstar offer what they call vegetarian ground beef crumbles. Not surprisingly, the look-alikes resemble ground beef crumbles and have the same levels of protein but they are actually made of soybeans! Vegetarian ground beef crumbles can be found in many grocery stores; vegetarian/health-conscious section. These veggie crumbles can be substituted anytime for recipes requires ground beef crumbles such as spaghetti, spaghetti, and moussaka.


Tofu is the most obvious of meat replacements and is made of soy beans as well. Unlike vegetarian ground beef crumbles, though, tofu comes in block form. In addition, it also comes in several different textures: soft, firm, and dry. Tofu can be eaten in its block form as well as cubed or crumbled, depending on the recipe for which it is being used. This soybean product is available in all grocery stores in the vegetarian and health section. Although it can be crumbled, tofu can also be used to substitute steaks and cubed meats.


Tempeh is very similar to tofu but there are a couple of distinctions. While tofu is made solely from soybeans, tempeh often includes beans, wheat, or the combination of both. As a result, the texture of tempeh tends to be cakey as opposed to the smoothness of tofu and can be used as vegetarian patties. Tempeh is less common than vegetarian ground beef crumbles and tofu, but it can still be found in natural health food stores. Tempeh can be used as a ground beef substitute in multiple dishes including hamburgers and meatloafs.


Natto are cooked soybeans and, like other beans, they can replace ground beef. However, unlike the average bean, natto is great source of protein. It tends to be sticky and has a cheesy texture, so the savory factor of beef is still maintained. Natto can be found in Asian and health food stores.

With vegetarian ground beef crumbles, tofu, tempeh, and natto, vegetarians can approach dinnertime with any beef!

1. List of meat substitutes
2. 10 Vegetables That Can Substitute for Meat | One Green Planet