Cutting down on meat? 5 delicious, veggie-friendly swaps

March 26, 2012 at 9:18 AM ET

SweetonVeg via Flickr /
Gardein Crispy Tenders are a meat-free option when you're craving chicken tenders.

A few years back, the words “meat substitute” often meant a product that was high in processed ingredients and low on taste. But in response to consumer demand, manufacturers of meat-free items have upped their game, creating yummy options — made from real ingredients — that both vegetarians and those who just want to eat less meat can enjoy.

In 2011 alone, sales of frozen meat substitutes reached $267 million, according to market research firm Symphony IRI Group. And events like the recent Great American Meatout are among many around the country encouraging people to incorporate more meat-free options in their diet.

Since 2010, more than 100 new products have come on the market. Here are five we like munching on:

Kellogg's /
Morningstar Farms Veggie Corn Dogs

Veggie Patch Ultimate Meatless Burger and Veggie Dogs. Not only are these burgers and dogs hearty enough to withstand the heat of a grill, they have a ton of flavor. I’ve also sampled several of their veggie bites and am consistently impressed with how good everything is. And they contain few artificial ingredients.

Trader Joe’s Meatless Corn Dogs and Morningstar Farms Veggie Corn Dogs. These slightly sweet state-fair favorites are perfect for kids — they look just like their meaty brethren, taste relatively similar, and are a healthier option.  

Quorn. When it comes to “chik’n,” Quorn corners the market, at least according to a quick survey of my vegetarian friends. They offer a range of products made from mycoprotein, egg whites and vegetable flavors. Opt for their Naked Chik’n Cutlets or spice things up with the Gruyere or garlic and herb varieties. Bonus: The company recently introduced a line of meatless, soy-free burgers and a vegan burger.

Turtle Island Foods, Inc. Smoky Maple Bacon Marinated Tempeh. Made from fermented soybeans, tempeh’s texture is a worthy alternative to the crispness of good old bacon. Try it on a sandwich with slices of Tofurky deli “meat” for a vegetarian-friendly club sandwich.

Gardein Seven Grain Crispy Tenders. Gardein’s ad campaign advises consumers to “cheat on meat,” and their products make it easy to do just that. To boot, these breaded tenders contain heart healthy grains like quinoa, millet, amaranth and Kamut and have 8 grams of protein per serving.

Are there other meat-free meats you enjoy? Tell us in the comments!

Get more tips and recipes for seasonal eats at Made By Michelle.