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Grilled Tempeh Steaks

Tamala Krsna: "Still, there is nothing so palatable as nice prasadam.
Prabhupada: Krsna baro doyamoy. From milk you can make. From dal. Urad dal.
Tamala Krsna: Grains.
Prabhupada: Jackfruit, this banana. Then banana fruit... Banana, what is called? Flour.
Tamala Krsna: Banana flour.
Prabhupada: If it is made properly, you can taste lobster.
Tamala Krsna: I noticed that some of these different things... Just like jackfruit.
Prabhupada: Hm. Jackfruit, yes.
Tamala Krsna: Similarly, if it's cooked in a particular way...
Prabhupada: Jackfruit is also called "vegetable meat."
Tamala Krsna: "Vegetable meat."
Prabhupada: Lajpata.(?) Or a vegetable mutton. During my daughter's marriage, the hired cook, they made from this flour of banana, cutlet. Nobody could understand that it is vegetable.
Tamala Krsna: You were present at that time?
Prabhupada: No, no, I did not allow to cook fish, so the guests were given that vegetable cutlet. And they could not understand.
Tamala Krsna: They were satisfied.
Prabhupada: They said, "We could not understand that it is vegetable."
Tamala Krsna: They must have been laughing.
Prabhupada: Later on, after eating.

Srila Prabhupada Room Conversation, 07-05-77, Vrindaban

Meat Substitutes


Meat substitute products containing Mycoprotein are found in the natural foods cold case section of the grocery, particularly packaged as the Quorn line. While these 'trick'n chik'n' products may look tempting, they are unfortunately made from fermented fungus bound with egg whites, and are not bona fide foodstuffs for offering to Sri Krsna.


Wheat protein, called Seitan, is derived from wheat gluten. Gluten is extracted from wheat and then processed to resemble meat. It has a greater similarity to meat than Mycoprotein or Textured Vegetable Protein (see below) and is used as a meat substitute in a range of foods. Seitan is a high protein, low fat, no cholesterol food that is usually found in the refrigeration section of grocery/health food stores. Seitan is made from whole wheat flour which is mixed with water and kneaded. This dough undergoes a simple process of rinsing and mixing to remove the starch and some bran until the gluten is obtained. After boiling in water, this glutenous dough is called Kofu, which can be further processed in many ways, one of which is seitan. Kofu becomes seitan by simmering in a stock of tamari soy sauce, water and kombu sea vegetable.


Tempeh is a meatlike substance made from fermented soya bean paste inoculated with a certain variety of peanut fermented with mold, Rhizopus oligosporus. The cultured soybeans or nuts are bound together by a thick white mycelium of new mold-growth, to form a cake. Although in some western countries, a variety of legumes and cereal grains are sometimes used to prepare tempeh, soy bean is the common legume used in the preparation of tempeh. Fresh tempeh has an earthy aroma, resembling a cross between mushrooms and fresh yeast. Tempeh's chewy texture and distinctive flavour is somewhat stronger than tofu. It can be used as a meat substitute in many recipes, as a crumble, fried, baked or steamed. Fresh tempeh needs to be cultured for 24 hours at 30 C and 80% humidity.

Textured Vegetable Proetin (TVP)

Textured Vegetable Protein is defatted soya flour that has been processed and dried to give it a sponge-like texture that's easily flavoured to resemble meat. Soya beans are dehulled and their oil extracted before being ground into flour. The flour is mixed with water to remove soluble carbohydrates and the residue is textured by either spinning or extrusion. The soya protein is then dehydrated and cut into small chunks or ground into granules. To prepare TVP, just mix it with water or vegetable stock and let stand for a few minutes, then adapt it as a meat substitute. It's a good source of fibre and high quality protein, and is fortified with vitamin-B12.


Tofu is soya bean curd that's made from coagulated soya milk. Soya beans are soaked, crushed and heated to produce soya milk to which a coagulating agent is added. The resulting soya curd is then pressed to give tofu. Tofu comes in soft (silken), firm, and extra-firm packs. Tofu tends be quite bland tasting, and should be used in recipes where other assertive flavors will mix with it. Firm tofu can be marinated, fried, or added to salads or sabjis. Silken tofu can be used for dips, spreads, sauces and sweets. Tofu contains calcium, iron, and vitamins B1, B2 and B3, and has a high protein content. Great tofu turkey products are available in the U.S. If you're on the U.S. East coast (Pennsylvania), try the seasoned tofu shaped like a live, happy turkey but made of molded jello. This Tofu Turkey comes from FreshTofu.com On the West coast, the folks at Tofurkey.com (Oregon) make another great turkey suibstitute.

Flavor & Protein

Aside from the meat substitutes mentioned above, meat can generally be mimicked by creating foods with either a similar flavor, substance or appearance. Very often, if only one of these three qualities is successfully reproduced, the eater will enjoy the recipe and be surprised that it doesn't contain real meat. For example, cauliflower pakoras as known fondly by devotees as "vegetarian chicken', because the cauliflower gets a firm, white texture from the frying, and the crispy batter coating resembles fried chicken. Eggplant and jackfruit can also be fried and flavored so as to taste and appear like meat in various preparations. From an energy standpoint, meat can also be substituted by reproducing the protein level in a dish. There are a number of dals typicall categorized as "protein prana dals" because they pack such a protein punch, they're almost like meat. They include Arhar, Masoor, Moong, Channa and Urad dals, along with Rajma and Maize Atta.


Seafood Substitutes


Thanks to Kurma das's recipe for baked avocados, I've discovered that a taste very similar to crab can be gotten by mixing the right quantities of soy, lemon and coconut with avocado. When these ingredients mix with the avocado oil given off during baking, a lovely Umami flavor is attained. This Umami region of the taste buds, which is known as the "fifth taste", works alonside the taste bud receptors responsible for sweet, sour, bitter and salty. Umami tastes are associated with savory, pungent, and meaty flavors in foods. Meat substitute recipes that can enliven these Umami taste buds are sure to please, and will encourage the meat-eaters to go vegetarian.

Banana Flour

Also known as plantain meal and pisang starch. Made from cooking varieties of bananas, it is filling and easily digested.In the quote from Srila Prabhupada at the top of this page, he describes a dish prepared by the cooks for his daughter's wedding, in which they used Banana Flour to make a vegetable cutlet that gave the taste of lobster. Unfortunately, he did not provide more details about the recipe. As one who loved seafood before giving up meat-eating as a devotee, I look forward to finding this secret recipe one day!

Egg Replacements


There are quite a number of powdered egg replacement products on the market today. While I haven't had much luck with them in baked goods, they seem to do OK in other recipes. An excellent replacement for scrambled eggs can be had by mixing Black Salt with either scrambled medium tofu or scrambled chenna curds. Add a little turmeric for color and blend in a bit of butter and heavy cream, and you have a beautiful breakfast scramble. Eggs can replaced in many baked goods with:

  • Buttermilk - 1 to 1-1/2 Tablespoons for each egg
  • Soft tofu mixed with a little blended water
  • One Tablespoon Flax seeds blended well with 3 Tablespoons water, or boil the two for 10 minutes or until desired 'eggy' consistency is achieved
  • 1/2 mashed banana or 1/4 cup applesauce or pureed fruit
  • 1 teaspoon soy flour plus 1 Tablespoon water

Other Replacements

Onion & Garlic

Asafoetida, or hing, is the most common replacement for onion and garlic in Indian vegetarian recipes. Hing really does a great job on the taste level, but of course it doesn't replace substance that soft-cooked onions give a dish. Try adding finely diced and sauteed daikon radish in place of onion.


Process white sugar can -- and should -- be replaced in as many recipes as possible with healthier sweetening choices. There are major two types of processed sugars available today - Cane Sugar and Beet Sugar. Beet Sugar is not processed with non-vegetarian contents and is fine to use. Granulated cane sugars, however, are processed using cow bone char for bleaching color out of the cane product. Cow bone char is a fine mixture of cow bone in a power form boiled at high temperatures to process sugar to its white form. Jaggery is a great alternative to processed sugar. Jaggery, or gur, is a natural sweetener made from concentrated sugarcane juice. It has a distinctive taste that's sweet and fruity, with a sharp edge like molaasses. Jaggery is made without the use of any chemicals/ synthetic additives or preservatives, and is safe for use by diabetics.

Rennet in Cheese

Rennet, used as the active agent in many cheeses, is derived from the stomach linings of calves. Vegetarian cheeses are made with various rennet substitutes, which come either from vegetable sources or are processed in the lab. Vegetable rennet is usually called 'rennin' to distinguish it from the animal-derived type.


Gelatin, which is used in some Yoghurts, Sour Cream and many dessert products like Jell-o, is made from the boiled bones of animals. An alternative substance called Agar-Agar, is a good replacement in many recipes. Agar-Agar is derived from seaweed. Agar-Agar is sold in noodle-like strands, powder, or in long blocks, and is usually white-ish in colour. Another substitute is made from the root of the Kuzu. One of the hard-to-find, or make and replace products containing gelatin is marshmallows. A company called Emes, in Lombard, IL, (708) 627-6204 makes them, however. The package lists gelatin, but it is not animal derived. Most "kosher gelatin" also isn't vegetarian, but is made from fish cartilage or is simploy rabinnicly supervised.