Never have meat-free recipe searches been so high. Whether you’re choosing veggies over meat for a lifestyle, ethical or even a health choice, discovering a tasty alternative is key to making it work. But the question is, can these dishes really satisfy your hunger in the way that juicy steak or a rich Bolognese can?
The short answer is that not all meat substitutes are created equal.
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Living meat-free: More than you imagined
It’s official: More and more Australians are opting for plant-based diets.
According to Roy Morgan, “nearly 2.5 million Australians (12.1% of the population) now have diets of which the food is all, or almost all, vegetarian; up from under 2.2 million (11.2%) four years ago in 2014.”
While the reasons for this shift are complex, what we know is that Australians’ average intake of red meat is around 25 per cent higher than recommendations made by the Australian Dietary Guidelines.
The important shift that needs to be made is to simply make more room on the plate for vegetables and mushrooms, as well as wholegrains, nuts, seeds and legumes. Reducing the amount of processed foods consumed such as sausages, salami and bacon is also key.
A balanced diet is important. And mushrooms are the perfect partner in making a shift to reducing meat consumption.
Why mushrooms are mightier (and meatier) than the alternatives
How do you bring a meat-free meal to life? It’s as easy as switching meat for a plant-based alternative. But which one?
“Mushrooms can take on different flavours really well, so it’s easy to swap them for meat in your favourite dishes,” says Gregori Molinaro, head chef at vegan restaurant Bad Hombres. “When mushrooms are prepared and cooked correctly, they can have a meat-like texture.”
We put mushrooms to the test. The contenders: Tofu, cheese and green veggies.
- The tofu steak versus the mushroom steak
Tofu is a good source of all nine essential amino acids, but lacks the flavour punch of mushrooms. Mushrooms are lower in calories, saturated fat and higher in fiber than tofu. Plus, their texture is just right for the task at hand. Winner: mushrooms.
- BBQ halloumi versus mushroom kabob
Cheese is often pointed to as a great source of protein, essential for giving you that full tummy feeling. But when compared to mushrooms, the fat content, sodium and calorie count of haloumi is off the charts! Winner: mushrooms.
- Green veggies versus mushroom salad
Look, we’re not going to tell you not to eat your greens, but try levelling up your veggie salad by tossing in some raw sliced mushrooms: the humble mushroom packs more B2, B3, B5, Zinc and antioxidants than potatoes, carrots, onions, zucchini… even broccoli. Winner: mushrooms.
Chef Gregori Molinaro’s mushroom cooking tips
Now that we know mushrooms are the meat-free warrior you need in your shopping trolley, here’s how to cook with them:
- Mushrooms are versatile! “They can be steamed, fried, boiled, baked or confit,” says Gregori.
- Think mushrooms can only be enjoyed hot? “Mushrooms can be prepared in cold dishes like ceviche and even in patty burgers, they also contrast flavour and texture when combined with everyday recipes like salad.”
- Next time burger night is on the menu, “marinate portobello mushrooms in soy sauce and balsamic vinegar, then grill them as you would a burger. Serve with caramelised onions and you have a great alternative to a classic meat burger that everyone can enjoy.”
- “Personally, I like to prepare mushrooms separately from other items and add them to the recipe when they are cooked, as this highlights the flavour of the mushrooms best,” shares Gregori.
Ready for your next meat-free meal?
Of course you are. Here’s some inspiration to excite your taste buds for every Meat-free Monday and beyond.
- A summer time picnic calls for a French onion mushroom cob French Onion Mushroom Cob
- A soba noodle salad with teriyaki mushrooms Soba Noodle Salad With Teriyaki Mushrooms makes a great addition to any Christmas table spread
- Long weekends and a Mediterranean poke bowl with marinated button mushrooms Mediterranean Poke Bowl with Mushrooms are a match made in heaven
- Having your mates over for a barbecue? Impress them with Shish-kaBoom mushroom kabobs Shish-ka Boom Mushroom Kabob