Vegans, Should You be Eating Highly Processed Meat Substitutes? [with recipes]

If you want to be vegan, why not eat vegetables?

Vegans, Should You be Eating Highly Processed Meat Substitutes? [with recipes] blog image


I read a great article this morning and was just going to share it, but when I started writing my comments, I realised I had a whole lot more to say!

The article in the Guardian was 'Veganuary is huge. But is it really as simple as animal foods bad, plant foods good?'

It starts by saying “We seem to have forgotten that, just like meat, vegan food can damage the planet.”

Highly processed

It goes on to talk about the thought that just because a food is vegan, it's good for you. But with the amount of processing involved in the rise of fake meats, this is not really true. For example, McDonalds vegan dippers contain around 40 ingredients, many of which can’t be found in any domestic kitchen cupboard.

Just read our processed food blog to see that ultra-processed foods are not good for you, meaning the huge rise in fake meat cannot be good.

I understand people not wanting to eat meat for animal cruelty or environmental reasons, but when we start inventing fake food, how can this be a good thing?

Why not eat real food?

If you want to be vegan, why not eat vegetables and not heavily processed meat substitutes with unrecognisable ingredients?

There are so many great vegetables that can be used as meat substitutes now, the obvious old favourite, mushrooms, green lentils, jackfruit and new to the scene banana flower as a fish replacement, plus many more.. 

Alexa Masterson-Jones, the trends and innovation manager at Sainsbury’s, said: Banana blossom has “quite a neutral flavour, so it absorbs flavours really well. We’ve been soaking it in kombu and wrapping it in nori, to put that fishy flavour through it, and created a battered cod-esque fillet,” she said. As banana blossom is fibrous, it can stand a lot of seasoning. “We’ve been stir-frying it, putting it in dumplings and croquettes, and we’ve found that if you dice it up really small, it has a nice mince texture as well,” From 'Banana blossom: the next vegan food star with the texture of fish, Guardian Article'

I have quite a few vegan friends so am always trying out new dishes, but have yet to try banana flower, so if you have please let me know how you found it, in the comments below.

What about yeast extract and nutritional yeast flakes?

As I’ve been talking about not using ultra processed foods, I suddenly had a thought, what about yeast extract, one of my favourite additions to a vegan meal? 

Not only does it add a great flavour, the extract for a meaty flavour and the flakes for a savoury and sometimes cheesy tang, it’s also very nutritious. See the links above.

This is what I found, yeast is a type of fungi, in industry it’s grown in big tanks with sugary water in the presence of oxygen. When the desired amount of yeast is reached the liquid is pumped out, and the yeast is then dried. Nothing else is added in the production of yeast. OK, so not lots of unrecognisable ingredients. Phew.

See the references at the bottom of the page to find out more about yeast.

To get you started here are some recipes that don’t use meat substitutes for you:

Vegan Guinness stew

This fab stew will contribute to your vision, immune system and cell specialisation.

Serves: 4

Preparation:10 Mins
Cooking: 30 Mins
Calories: 135
Allergens: Sulphur dioxide, Gluten

220g/1 medium potato, peeled and chopped into chunks
100g/1 medium red onion, peeled and chopped
140g/2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into slices
2 tsp olive oil
200g button mushrooms
Black pepper to taste
Sprig of fresh thyme
1 tbsp corn flour
200ml vegan stout
1 tsp yeast extract
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
20g vegan spread
100ml vegetable stock

Click here to see the full nutrition and method

Vegan mushroom Bolognese

A great dish for energy creating vitamins and support for your immune system and antioxidant activity.

Serves: 6
Mins Cooking: 40 Mins
Calories: 142
Allergens: Sulphur dioxide, Soya, Celery, Gluten, Sulphur dioxide

500g chestnut mushrooms
150g red onions, peeled and chopped
100g green lentils
400g chopped tinned tomatoes
100g/1 small leek, washed and sliced
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
2 tsp miso paste
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 vegetable stock pot or cube
1 tbsp olive oil
1tsp garlic paste or two cloves of garlic finely chopped

Click here to see the full nutrition and method

Or try another version of Lentil and Mushroom Bolognese here

Suryas vegan lentil burgers

An amazingly tasty burger that will provide your immune system with the vital support it needs

Serves: 4
Preparation: 10 Mins
Cooking: 10 Mins
Calories: 258 
Allergens: Celery, Gluten, Sulphur dioxide

100g green or brown lentils
1 vegetable stock cube
60g chopped red onions
75g white cabbage grated
75g /1 medium carrot, grated
4 tbsp cornflour
Big grind of black pepper
Big pinch salt 
Olive oil for frying  
4 tbsp plain flour

Click here to see the full nutrition and method

Vegan pulled 'pork' - jackfruit

Look after your blood and immune system with this vegan take on pulled pork

Serves: 4
Preparation: 10 Mins
Cooking: 35 Mins
Calories: 170 

2 x 400g tins jackfruit drained
½ medium red onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp chilli powder or to taste
1 tsp smoked paprika
150ml vegetable stock
1 tbsp olive oil
50ml barbecue sauce

Click here to see the full nutrition and method


There are lots more recipes on CheckYourFood, so take a look at how you could be cooking without meat substitutes.

If you find a recipe with one, have a think, what could you replace it with? Blitzed mushrooms for example. The more you cook, the better you’ll become at knowing the right ingredient to add to a recipe.

Happy cooking 😋
Surya Wright

Surya Wright

Co-founder, production manager

I'm our communications and marketing person, dealing with social media and copywriting. I also work with Matt and Ric overseeing the design and strategic management of the site. I'm also the author of the Eva the Hungry Amoeba children's book series (only one so far). You can find it on Amazon. My favourite foods, shepherds pie and smoked haddock!

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