The Best Real Food Ground Beef Substitutes (Plant Based)

ground beef substitutes - plant based

Looking for an alternative to Ground Beef using real whole food ingredients? You’re in the right place! Keep reading for my favourite simple plant based Ground Beef substitutes.

Best Ground Beef Substitutes – Plant Based

1. Lentils

Cooked lentils are my number one go-to when I’m looking for a vegetarian alternative to ground beef. Especially for dishes like spaghetti bolognese or chilli.

While I LOVE the flavour of lentils, they can be lacking compared with meat, so I season the lentils with soy sauce and vinegar before using. See my lovely lentils recipe for exact quantities.

For recipes where the ground beef is formed into a shape like meatballs or burgers, you can still use lentils but the results will be more fragile than beef so you’ll need to be careful when cooking. Or consider using an egg (or flax egg) See my lentil balls recipe for more specific ideas.

From a nutritional perspective, lentils don’t contain all the essential amino acids so you’ll need to include alternative sources in other meals for these.

2. Tofu or Tempeh

Diced, crumbled or coarsely grated firm tofu is a fab substitute for ground beef from a nutrition and texrtural perspective.

From a flavour perspecitve tofu is very bland so be prepared to up the umami flavours but adding some soy sauce, miso paste, Worcestershire sauce or Fish sauce.

Tempeh will work in a similar way to tofu but it does have a unique flavour so won’t be for everyone.

3. Mushrooms

Cooked mushrooms have a super meaty texture and complex flavour which makes them an excellent real food substitute for ground beef. Just finely chop the mushrooms either by hand or using a food processor either before or after cooking. See my Easy Mushroom Loaf recipe for a delicious alternative take on meatloaf.

Nutritionally mushrooms don’t provide much protein so you’ll need to add alternative protein sources at other times.

4. Chickpeas

Canned or home cooked chickpeas are chunkier than lentils but work in a similar way to add substance and deliciousness in place of ground beef.

5. White Beans, Butter Beans & Black Beans

All work in a similar way to chickpeas and lentils.

6. Eggplant (Aubergine)

Like mushrooms, I find there’s something really meaty (not to mention delicious) about roast or grilled eggplant. For a specific recipe, try this Easy Spiced Eggplant.

What about commercial plant based meat substitutes like Impossible and Beyond Beef?

These can be a great option if you want the closest substitute from a taste perspective. But from a health perspective, I prefer to focus on real food rather than these highly processed options. Plus it’s more fun to play around with creative real food alternatives. The possibilities are endless.

Best Ground Beef Substitutes for Omnivores

If you’re happy eating animal products, like me, I’ve got you covered.
See my Best Simple Ground Beef Substitutes for Omnivores

More Ingredient Substitutes

Also see see the Simple Ingredients Substitutes Index.

Have fun in the kitchen!

With love,
Jules x