Best-Tasting Vegetarian Foods
17 tasty products that fit into a vegetarian diet, plus 4 vegetarian recipes that use them.
By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column
Whether you're following a vegetarian diet full-time or part-time, and whether you're eating more vegetarian foods because of health, budget, or ethical reasons, you probably want to know which vegetarian products are worth buying. I'm a practicing "part-time vegetarian," so I have tried all sorts of non-meat and alternative meat products. Some products I buy again and again, while for others, one taste was too many.
Vegetarian products generally fit into these categories:
- Meat substitutes, which are made to replace or look like popular meat or dairy products. Products like soy cheese and vegetarian versions of hot dogs, breakfast sausages, chicken nuggets, ground beef, and burgers are included in this grouping.
- Unapologetically vegan foods, which are not meant to look or taste like meat. This group includes frozen entrees that feature tofu or beans instead of chicken or beef, for example.
- Foods for lacto-ovo lovers (lacto-ovo vegetarians are those who consume milk and egg products as well as plant foods). There are many dishes that are naturally meatless or can be made in a meatless version. Dishes like vegetable lasagna, cheese pizza, and vegetarian burgers that include cheese would fit into this grouping.
Thinking back to some of the products I've tried over the last couple of years and including products recommended by friends, here are some of the best-tasting vegetarian products that can be found in supermarket chains and specialty markets. Below that, you'll find some vegetarian recipes using these products.
Best Supermarket Vegetarian Foods
Here are some favorites that are available in most major supermarket chains.
Morningstar Farms Meal Starters. You can use this instead of cooked ground beef. The first three ingredients listed on the label are textured vegetable protein, water, and corn oil
How Does It Taste? It has a mild pleasant flavor and seems to work best when added to a mixed dish like chili, enchiladas, or casseroles.
Nutrition Information: 2/3 cup has 80 calories, 10 g protein, 4 g carbohydrate, 2.5 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber, 240 mg sodium. Calories from fats: 28%.
Gardenburger Breakfast Sausage (meatless). The first five ingredients are soy protein concentrate-hydrated, canola oil, ground flaxseed, vegetable gum, and salt. Each patty contributes .28 grams of plant omega-3s from canola oil and ground flaxseed.
How Does It Taste? It doesn't taste like pork sausage, but it's good for a non-meat sausage. It's even better when you include it in a breakfast dish with other flavorful ingredients.
Nutrition Information: 1 patty (43 grams) has 45 calories, 5 g protein, 3 g carbohydrate, 2.5 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 270 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 50%.
Amy's Cheese Pizza Pocket Sandwich (contains milk products). The first five ingredients are organic wheat and whole-wheat flour, part-skim mozzarella cheese, organic tomato puree, filtered water, and organic extra-virgin olive oil.
How Does It Taste? This is a nice-tasting alternative to the more processed pizza pockets on the market.
Nutrition Information: 1 pocket has 310 calories, 14 g protein, 42 g carbohydrate, 10 g fat, 3.5 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 4 g fiber, 450 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 29%. (10% Daily Value for Vitamin A, 20% Daily Value for calcium)
Amy's All American Veggie Burger, made with organic vegetables & grains.The first 10 ingredients are wholesome enough: organic onions, organic mushrooms, filtered water, wheat gluten, textured soy protein concentrate, organic bulgur wheat, organic celery, organic carrots, organic walnuts, and organic oats.
How Does It Taste? It's a tasty burger with a great texture. I suggest pan-frying your burger with a little olive oil cooking spray. After it's cooked, add condiments like sundried tomato bruschetta sauce, or your favorite mustard or salsa.
Nutrition Information: 1 burger has 120 calories, 10 grams protein, 3 grams fat, 0 gram saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 15 g carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 390 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 22.5%. (15% Daily Value for Vitamin A)
Gardenburger (Original). The first five ingredients are cooked brown rice, vegetables (mushrooms, onions), water, rolled oats, and bulgur wheat (hydrated).
How Does It Taste? This is Gardenburger's top-selling burger for a reason. It has the same great flavor and texture that helped define veggie burgers many years ago.
Nutrition Information: 1 burger has 100 calories, 5 g protein, 14 g carbohydrate, 3.5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 5 grams fiber, 420 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 31.5%.