food recipes

Recipes using faux meat that will convert the carnivore in your life

In my life, I’ve conducted two “vegan journeys,” as I like to call them. I wanted to test the waters of my own willpower and see if I could commit to a meat-free life. When cooking for myself at home, I found the task easy: roasted vegetables, umami-rich sauces, lots of nuts and seeds and toast … lots of toast. But it was when I would try to have dinner out that I understood why most people find it hard to commit to a vegan diet. Just try being the one person who orders a group of sides when everyone else wants the whole roast duck or steak — it’s an unenviable position, trust me.

Our culture of food is centered on meat, cheese, eggs and all sorts of animal-based proteins. Now, I’m not for or against a wholly meat-based or vegan diet — in any case, every person’s diet is unique and should fit their individual needs — but I’m certainly all for ingredients that might help meat eaters eat a bit less of it. And if the choice to convince someone is between a squishy veggie loaf or a faux meat that actually has the taste and texture of real meat, I believe the latter will do the best job in the long run.

In today’s print issue, you’ll see an exploration of the faux meat boom and how their creators believe they’re poised to do just what the veggie patties and tofu loaves that came before them couldn’t: convert meat eaters to another way of eating.

As for recipes? We’ve been doling out vegan and plant-based recipes using faux meat and other naturally occurring meat substitutes for a while now (some are included below). Are they the cure-all for our society’s meat-obsessed food culture? No. But they’re a start in the right direction. And if you’ve ever been curious to try out some faux proteins for yourself, we’ve also included great recipes to start with.

Spaghetti and ‘Meat’ Balls

Binding these meatballs with egg ensures balls you can spear with a fork. If you’d like to make them vegan, omit the eggs and pulse the ingredients together into a paste; the balls will hold together after baking and simmering in sauce but will be softer in texture. Steamed lentils and beets are available in the produce section of most supermarkets. Use your favorite marinara sauce here, jarred or homemade.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 1 hour.

Vegan spaghetti and meatballs.

(Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)

Impossible Burger With Spicy Special Sauce

The toppings and condiments called for here are for a classic burger with a spicy kick. You can put whatever you want on these burgers as long as you’re adding loads of flavor. You can follow the recipe below using Beyond Meat as well. Buy the preformed patties, then slice them each in half through their equators so you end up with two thin patties.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 20 minutes.

An Impossible Burger With Spicy Special Sauce.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Vegan Tommy’s-Style Chili Burger

If you’re a fan of L.A. classic Tommy’s chili burgers but not of eating meat, these burgers are for you. The trick to making the patties really tasty is keeping them thin and salting the browned side after it’s been seared but before it’s out of the hot pan. You won’t be able to tell that it isn’t beef, especially with the saucy chili on top. The chili is as good on these burgers as it is as a topping for fries, tortilla chips and hot dogs.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 30 minutes.

A vegan Tommy's-style burger.

(Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)

Chickpea Frittata With Tomatoes and Kale

Here, chickpea flour mixes with water into a tender, egg-like batter to make a faux frittata. You caramelize vegetables, whisk together the batter, then sear the baked frittata slices. Each piece becomes crackly on the outside and tender within. It’s delicious on its own or with a green side salad or toast.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 1 hour 45 minutes, plus overnight chilling.

Slices of chickpea frittata.

(Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)

Vegan Picadillo Empanadas

Though these empanadas are not made with faux meat, the filling is made with a pantry staple that has long been used as a less-expensive substitute for meat: nuts. Here, finely chopped pecans take the place of ground beef in these picadillo empanadas seasoned with spices, raisins and olives.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 1 hour.

A tray of picadillo empanadas.

(Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)