While many people choose to eat less meat for a variety of reasons, that doesn't necessarily mean they didn't like the taste of meat. Even if you like to eat a plant-based diet, you may find yourself craving that 'meaty' taste again. You often hear the phrase "Something's missing" when it comes to meatless, plant-based dishes.
It's true: Removing meat and cheese from the menu leaves many with the feeling that something is missing. However, meatless or plant-based meals don't have to be bland or tasteless. Nowadays, we have countless options to prepare amazing meat-free dishes that can satisfy the need for 'meaty' food.
The most important compound in food is not the meat itself - it's the texture and taste of the food that gives you a sense of satisfaction. That certain something that is often lacking in meatless food is "umami". Umami is our fifth taste receptor, after sweet, sour, bitter and salty, and describes the fleshy, strongly aromatic taste of food. It spreads over the tongue and promotes the flow of saliva. It also lingers in the mouth longer than other flavors and helps make food more delicious and filling - a real flavor bomb!
Umami is found in all protein-rich foods because they are high in glutamate, a naturally occurring amino acid. These include animal products such as fish, meat and cheese. But many plant-based foods are also loaded with umami, such as tomatoes, onions, soy sauce, mushrooms, broccoli, and more. In order to create an equally fantastic taste experience with plant-based ingredients as with animal ones, it is important to build up various 'layers' of umami flavor in one dish. For this purpose, one must combine several foods in such a way that a rich taste variety is created.
Boiling, roasting, drying as well as fermenting can further increase the amount of umami in food because it releases the glutamate from the proteins. For example, potatoes and mushrooms can be combined with roasted tomatoes, (fermented) soy sauce and caramelized onions for a a double dose of umami. So once you understand the art of creating plant-based umami flavors, you no longer need to feel disadvantaged when using less animal ingredients in your dishes.
As a high-protein food, hemp seeds offer an intensive, filling source of umami and also have a high biological value. They have a nutty, slightly herbal taste, are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber and also contain all the essential amino acids. The correct use of hemp seeds in the preparation of food can be a decisive factor in creating a well-rounded umami taste. You can use them as ingredients or sprinkle them on different dishes as toppings to increase the flavor volume.
Instead of meat, for example, you can sprinkle a few hemp seeds on your salad or casserole. They give it a pleasant flavor and blend perfectly with other vegetables, dried fruits and lemon juice. To intensify their flavor, hemp seeds can also be roasted and made into a tasty spread along with other nuts and seeds, adding extra 'meatiness' to sandwiches. You can do a lot with hemp seeds in the kitchen. For a start, browse our collection of delicious and easy hemp seed recipes!
Hemp seeds can also be wonderfully combined in dishes with all of the umami-rich vegetables and spices mentioned below:
Fully ripe, sun-dried tomatoes and tomato paste are rich in umami and contribute significantly to the "meaty" taste of salads, pasta and casseroles.
Mushrooms have a rich, earthy flavor and a naturally meaty texture. They are filling and can replace various types of meat in recipes. For example, you can mix them with thyme, balsamic vinegar and pepper and serve them over mashed potatoes as a substitute for meat sauces.
Eggplants have a rich, meaty flavor and have many uses in the kitchen, including as a filling substitute for steaks in sandwiches.
Potatoes are suitable as the main ingredient for numerous meatless dishes because they can be fried and boiled as well as baked and mashed. Combined with hemp seeds, cumin and roasted beets, they can create a deliciously filling umami taste.
Beans, Lentils and other Legumes
There are many different types of beans and legumes to choose from, all of which make great meat substitutes for hearty soups and stews because of their dense, chewy texture. For example, beans can also be mashed and mixed with onions, spices and rolled oats to make a vegan steak.
Lentils are another delicious option. They're high in protein, can be cooked quickly, and offer a rich flavor experience, making them a great substitute for ground beef. Lentils can be made into a hearty and filling stew, but they can also be rolled into meatballs or pressed into meatless steaks, for example.
Vinegar and Mustard
Vinegar and mustard are wonderful natural flavor enhancers. A drizzle of mustard or balsamic vinegar in a meatless sauce, soup or marinade gives it a rich umami boost.
Herbs and Spices
Many of the meaty flavors we associate with a particular dish actually come from the spices. Adding highly aromatic herbs and spices to meatless dishes automatically enhances its enjoyment Ginger, coriander, curry, cloves, aniseed and basil, but also sautéed onions, garlic, celery, fennel, horseradish and peppers give the dishes a complex aroma and thus increase the anticipation of the meal. Herbs such as rosemary, basil, thyme, savory, chervil and tarragon can even further optimize the taste.
As you can see, there are countless ways to minimize the use of meat when cooking meals. The possibilities are practically limitless once you stop thinking of veggies and the like as just side dishes.