Meatless options are sweeping fast food chains—from Burger King’s plant-based Whopper burgers to KFC’s plant-based fried chicken—and big restaurants alike. Some were only available for a short time, but it shows where the future of food is heading.
Two separate Gallup polls in 2019 discovered that one in four Americans have cut back on eating meat, and four out of ten have become familiar with plant-based alternatives. There are various reasons for the change, one being increased awareness of climate change—demand for meat has contributed to deforestation, antibiotic resistance, and greenhouse gas emissions over the decades.
While it may take some getting used to, meat-free alternatives can be as satisfying as meat—provided the right ingredients. Psychologists at the University of California Los Angeles surveyed 579 meat-eaters in 2019 and found that taste is one of the reasons keeping them from considering meat-free alternatives. Fortunately, there are countless ways to make meat-free dishes delicious.
One such way is to pick the right spices and mix them in a spice blend. People use these spices for their dry rubs on steaks, so they should also work on meat-free ones. You can pick up the following spices at your local supermarket or online sellers such as Oregano Spices.
Salt forms the base for various dry rubs, and sea salt is no exception. Sea salt is different from your typical table salt as it comes from evaporated seawater instead of salt mines. Evaporation leaves some trace minerals along with the salt, which can give your meat-free meat a richer flavor. Apart from having slightly larger crystals than common salt, you can use sea salt just the same.
You can also find smoked sea salt—smoking infuses sea salt with the flavor of the wood. The advantage of smoking sea salt is that it makes sure more of the flavor permeates through the meat with the salt. Smoked sea salt can form the base for other smoked spices.
For a nutty, cheesy taste that vegans will love, consider getting nutritional yeast. It’s regular yeast, but its yeast cells have been rendered inactive during processing, thus its powdery or flaky appearance. It’s a typical replacement for cheese in various recipes, giving dishes a hint of sharp cheddar.
As its name implies, nutritional yeast is chock full of nutrients like fiber and niacin—but take care not to use too much in your dishes, as not all stomachs may respond positively to the yeast. Experts recommend slowly integrating nutritional yeast into any meat-free diet to mitigate the side effects.
A staple spice in Indian cuisine, turmeric has enjoyed a spike in popularity in recent years. That’s because promising studies have investigated turmeric’s alleged wellness properties, which ancient medical anecdotes first purported. The curcumin present in turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory substance and antioxidant.
Turmeric and black pepper are a healthy combination, as the piperine in the black pepper improves the absorption rate of curcumin into the bloodstream. If turmeric isn’t available in your local store, you can use other substitutes like saffron, curry powder, and ginger.
If turmeric isn’t spicy enough for your tongue, you can up the ante with chili powder. It’s not one spice but rather a blend of spices that include, but not limited to, chili peppers, paprika, cayenne, cumin, and garlic powder. You’re getting the best of multiple worlds with this spicy rub.
Chili peppers can also be smoked and crushed into powder, resulting in smoked chili powder. The smoky flavor enhances the earthy undertones already produced by certain spices in the blend. You can experiment with various peppers and spice blends to create your own chili powder.
Although technically a vegetable, garlic is widely considered one of the most versatile spices. The possibilities of using garlic in cooking are endless: sauteed, roasted, or ground into powder. Almost every known recipe utilizes garlic in some form—a dish would be bland without it.
Like turmeric, garlic is thought to have medicinal properties. Multiple studies have revealed the various benefits of garlic, from lowering blood pressure to regulating cholesterol in the body. To maximize garlic’s flavor, grate or puree the cloves.
Your meatless dish may require more than one spice, but that’s the beauty of it. The perfect blend of spices can make any dish, vegetarian or otherwise, stimulating and palatable. Test various spice blends and see how it changes your meat-free dish. You’ll be surprised at the endless possibilities spices have to offer on your next Meatless Monday.