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8 Plant-Based Swaps for Meat for New Orleans Recipes

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Cutting back on eating meat or giving it up altogether doesn’t mean you have to miss out on your favorite New Orleans dishes.

The good news is that options for meat alternatives extend far beyond veggie burgers these days. The key is to read labels closely because some brands have far more carbs and sodium than others. When looking at labels, compare the ratio of protein to carbs. 

If the product is to serve as a meat replacement, it should be higher in protein. As a general rule, look for two to three times more protein than carbs (many brands have three times more carbs than protein). Some brands are loaded with vegetables but still low in protein.  

Here are some plant-based alternatives to meat for traditional New Orleans recipes.

Italian Sausage Alternative

Top pick: Tofurky Original Italian Sausage 

  • Good for: Red beans and rice, gumbo, jambalaya.
  • Ingredients include soybeans, vital wheat gluten, non-GMO canola oil, soy sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, garlic, salt and spices. 
  • Nutrition Facts per 3.5 ounce serving: 280 calories, 14 grams fat, 1.5 grams saturated fat, 620 mg sodium, 8 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 3 grams sugar, 30 grams protein.

Ground Beef Alternative

Top pick: Morningstar Farms Grillers Crumbles 

  • Good for: Stuffed peppers, meat sauce.
  • Ingredients include soy flour, onion, carrot juice, salt, garlic and reduced-sodium tamari soy sauce.
  • Nutrition Facts per half-cup serving: 60 calories, 2 grams fat, 0 saturated fat, 330 mg sodium, 4 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber, less than 1 gram sugar, 9 grams protein. 

Grilled Chicken Strips Alternative

Top Pick: Beyond Meat Grilled “Chicken” Strips 

  • Good for jambalaya, grilled chicken salad, chicken salad with Greek yogurt. 
  • Ingredients include non-GMO soy protein, pea protein, evaporated cane juice, rice flour, oil, soy fiber and carrot fiber. 
  • Nutrition Facts per 6 strips (3 ounce) serving: 130 calories, 3.5 grams fat, 0 saturated fat, 330 mg sodium, 5 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 0 sugar, 20 grams protein. 

Sliced Deli Meats

Top Pick: Lightlife White Bean & Kale Veggie Deli slices

  • Good for turkey poboys, muffulettas, eggs Benedict. 
  • Ingredients include: Wheat gluten, navy bean flour, oil, garlic, kale, wheat flour, potato starch. Note: This product, like many of the “veggie deli meats,” is made with wheat gluten and added starches. But at least it also has navy bean flour and a dab of kale. 
  • Per 3 slices: 90 calories, 3 grams fat, 0 saturated fat, 340 mg sodium, 7 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 1 gram sugar, 11 grams protein.


Top Pick: West Soy (cubed, strips, ground)

  • Good for stir-fry, soups, stews, roasted or pan-fried dishes. 
  • Ingredients include vital wheat gluten, soy sauce, garbanzo bean flour and defatted soy flour. Note: Seitan has an excellent protein-to-carbohydrate ratio, but gluten is the primary source of protein.
  • Per 3 ounce serving: 120 calories, 2 grams fat, 0 saturated fat, 320 mg sodium, 4 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 2 grams sugar, 21 grams protein.


Top Pick: Tofurky’s Original Tempeh (also available in varieties like smoked, garlic or multigrain)

  • Good for stir-fry, soups, stews, roasted or pan-fried dishes. 
  • Ingredients: Soybeans, apple cider vinegar and starter culture. Note: Tempeh is essentially a fermented soybean “cake” that takes on the flavors of ingredients added to it.
  • Per 3 ounce serving: 170 calories, 4.5 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 0 sodium, 12 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams fiber, 2 grams sugar, 13 grams protein.


Top Pick: Brands are pretty equivalent; no top pick in this category. Options range from silken to firm to extra-firm tofu. 

  • Good for adding creaminess to dishes, or in place of meat or cheese like fresh mozzarella.
  • Per half-cup serving: 95 calories, 6 grams fat, less than 1 gram saturated fat, 10 mg sodium, 2.5 grams carbohydrate, 0.5 grams fiber, 10 grams protein
  • Ingredients: Most contain water, whole soybeans, nigari (sea water extract) and calcium sulfate.

Pro Tip: It’s easy to make a vegan version of a dish like red beans by skipping the sausage, or using vegan sausage, but what about that creaminess? To get that creaminess, remove half of the beans after they’ve been cooked down, puree them with a block of tofu, then return it to the batch of beans. 


In addition to using meat alternatives, consider adding vegetables to your dishes.

Mushrooms have a nice ‘meaty’ texture. Try chanterelle mushrooms, which can be found at local farmers markets, or look for oyster mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms or baby portobello (crimini) in your local store.

Alternatively, eggplant can be pureed and added to a dish for creaminess, or cubes of grilled eggplant can be used in place of meat.

A version of this article originally appeared on 

Note: Registered dietician Molly Kimball offers brand-name products as a consumer guide; she, along with Ochsner Health, do not solicit product samples nor are paid to recommend items.

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