Food and Cuisine

Published on April 26th, 2012 | by Vivian Nelson Melle


Beef Replacements: Meat Alternatives for the Mad Cow Blues

Looking for beef replacements after the Californian dairy cow tested positive for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy(BSE), often called Mad Cow Disease? BSE is transmitted to humans as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) causing neurological dysfunction including memory loss, motor dysfunction and eventually, death. While cases in the U.S are rare, the disease incubation is up to 40 years. Instead of risking further exposure, low as the risk may be, why not find alternatives for beef while enjoying added health benefits.

Here are some beef replacements sure to please the pickiest palates and avoid the Mad Cow Blues.

black beans

Black beans provide protein as well as fiber

Black Beans As Tasty Beef Replacement

The Cattlemen’s Association questions black beans as a replacement for beef because it takes more calories from black beans to make up the amount of protein in a serving of beef.  It takes one and half cups of black beans recording 374 calories to equal the protein in 3 ounces of lean beef with only 180 calories. However, the important detail left unreported is how those beans are a complete meal in themselves with equal amounts fiber to protein. You are also getting antioxidants to fight off free radicals and decrease your risk of heart disease, some cancers and the signs of aging. Black beans mashed with spices and Bulgar wheat can become faux meatballs, hamburgers and even ground beef. Try them for your next beef enchiladas, tostadas or burger recipes.

{black bean photo via Morguefile}

portobello mushroom

Marinating Portobello mushroom

Mushrooms Instead of Meat

Mushrooms are one of the easiest substitutes for meat, all meats but especially steak. Portobello mushrooms have a rich meaty texture and taste requiring little treatment to transform them into a quality meat replacement. Simply brushing off a big Portobello and drizzling on some olive oil, salt and pepper becomes an elegant main course when grilled on the barbecue or on an iron-cast skillet. Using Bragg’s Aminos adds even more flavor additionally, sautéed onions and a smaller variety of mushrooms is simply divine. Of course the big cap makes a great burger especially when adding lots of toppings. A Hawaiian burger is pure indulgence by marinating the mushroom cap in shoyu and pineapple juice with a little agave nectar or honey. You can sprinkle in a little sesame oil and grated ginger for even more flavor. Drizzle the leftover sauce while cooking and top with pineapple slices.

{mushroom photo via digiyesica on Flickr}

tempeh with broccoli

Tempeh with broccoli

Tempted by Tempeh?

You will be. Tempeh is made from cooked, slightly fermented soybeans and has more flavor than traditional tofu. Its firmer texture makes it easier to cook with while still absorbing flavors during marinating.  Slice the tempeh thinly and marinate in shoyu, with a little liquid smoke, sesame oil, ginger and garlic and saute with broccoli for a healthy alternative to beef and broccoli. Marinate in green chilies, garlic, cumin, pepper and red chili powder for delicious fajitas. Don’t forget the sautéed onions and bell peppers. You can also use both tempeh and Portobellos together to make a pretty delicious Philly cheese steak sandwich. I have made the Fake-Out Mac and Cheese with much success and instantly thought this “cheese” would be perfect for Philly cheese steak sandwiches. It has the gooey loveliness that you must have along with the peppers and onions.

{tempeh photo via sleepyneko on Flickr}


What’s your favorite beef replacement? What beef do you miss or would you miss most?

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About the Author

Vivian Nelson Melle is a writer and life coach helping individuals, families, and businesses thrive. She supports small businesses especially in the areas of Green Living, Health, and Wellness. She can be found at and

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