American College of Nutrition Certified Nutrition Specialist | Professor of Nutrition


Monday Swap #5: Veggie Ground “Beef”

If you’ve never tried substituting veggie crumbles for ground beef, or haven’t had success, read on. When you make a few adjustments to the recipe, you really can’t tell the difference. And you can save yourself from a ton of saturated fat and cholesterol while enjoying some foods you thought may have been off limits. And veggie crumbles don’t have to be defrosted before using, which is great if you decide at the last minute to make chili.

Here’s the deal with veggie ground crumbles, you need to use them in something where the ground meat is in a sauce – like chili or spaghetti sauce. You will be unhappy using them for meatloaf. I’ve tried the Morningstar Farms and Yves brands, and they both were good.

To make a successful sway, you will want to add more liquid to the recipe – start with adding 1/2 the liquid again, and go from there. You will also need to add a little oil, like plain olive oil or canola oil, for the texture. And lastly, you will want to bump up the earthy spices in the recipe, like oregano and cumin.

This is our favorite chili – it is guilt-free and absolutely delicious. I took The Pioneer Woman’s chili recipe and made it veggie. If you don’t tell, I won’t tell, and no one will even suspect you swapped out the ground beef. Once they taste it, you won’t have to hide the wrapper.

Veggie Chili

1 onion, chopped

1 Tbs. olive oil (not extra virgin) or canola-type oil

2 cloves garlic, chopped or pressed

1 Tbs. ground cumin – generous

2 tsp. dried oregano

2 Tbs. chili powder

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper – or to taste, depending on how spicy your chili powder is and how you like your chili

2 packages of veggie crumbles, about 12 oz each

1 14-15oz can tomato sauce, no salt added if you can find it

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/4 cup masa or corn flour, you can use fine ground corn meal if that’s all you can find

2 15oz cans of beans – I like kidney, pinto or black beans – drained and rinsed

1 15 oz can diced tomatoes with green chilis, like RoTel


1.  Heat oil in a dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat, and saute onion until translucent

2. Add garlic, spices and veggie crumbles, and saute until blended and veggie crumbles are hot

3. Add tomato sauce, swish out can with some water to get the rest, pour it in and bring to a low boil

4. Cover the pot and simmer about 20 minutes to meld the flavors

5. Mix the masa with 1/2 cup of water, and add to chili; let simmer uncovered a few minutes

6. Add beans and tomatoes, heat through

7. Enjoy chili with your favorite toppings, like grated cheese or red onion or avocado!

Experiment with these crumbles, and you may never go back to ground beef again – think about it, those days of draining all that yucky fat from the pan into an old coffee can can be behind you! Along with a healthy heart, a smaller backside, and a happy family.


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