Burger and chips, sausages and mash, and beef pies used to be the go-to options for pub operators, usually with one or two token dishes for less those carnivorously inclined.
However, with recent data showing that more than a quarter of Brits have reduced or limited their intake of meat in the last six months, change in pub food offerings is afoot.
The rise of ‘flexitarianism' – where consumers eat a mixture of meat-based and vegetarian dishes over the course of the week – requires pubs to be a lot more creative when designing their menus.
Cooking without meat doesn’t have to mean sacrificing on quality or on flavour, however. Here are eight alternatives to meat pubs should investigate using to mix up their menus and tap into a growing demand for vegetarian grub.
1. Sweet potato
Sweet potato fries have been a staple in trendy gastropubs and street food pop-ups for quite a few years now, but the orange vegetable can also be used in a range of main dishes. Fibrous, hearty and packed full of flavour, sweet potato is a healthy and versatile option for pubs. Mash and bake it into savoury cakes, or cut it into cubes in dishes like fajitas or chilli.
Hard cheese is a great substitute for meat, offering a high source of protein, calcium and healthy fats. Halloumi is a particularly ‘meat-like’ option, adding filling density and a delightful salty edge to lots of dishes. Try grilling it to use in wraps and sandwiches, or get creative and fry it in breadcrumbs to make delicious halloumi fries.
The classic meat substitute, Quorn has a varying colour and a mild flavour resembling the imitated meat product, and is suitable for use as a replacement for meat in many dishes such as stews and casseroles. It has the added benefit of being sold in frozen packets, and claims to be at least 80% more environmentally friendly than beef.
4. Chickpeas & other pulses
Pulses have long been a great way to bulk out meals when cooking at home but restaurants are increasingly using them in more creative ways and pubs should look to follow suit. High in protein and with a full, meaty texture, chickpeas are an easy substitute in almost any recipe. Serve them cold in salads and wraps, or bake them in pastas, curries and pies.
Sure, smashed avocado and toast is a bit of a cliché, but that doesn’t mean the green fruit can’t be used in a variety of other ways to improve your brunch and lunch offerings. Avocados are rich in the proteins, fats and enzymes supplied by meat and make great additions to chillis, pizzas and savoury pies.
Perhaps not the most obvious choice when it comes to swapping out meat, cauliflower is high in fibre and adds real texture to dishes. It’s also great for soaking up spices, sauces and marinades to give a full and hearty flavour. Sauté it in curry spices and marinades, or mash it into a patty and deep fry to create a delicious veggie burger.
Adept at taking on flavour from spices and sauces, mushrooms provide a tender and hearty texture. They’re high in protein and come in a whole variety of shapes and sizes. Fried, sautéed or baked, mushrooms can be a valuable addition to pizzas, sandwiches and wraps. Alternatively, try them in pastries or veggie tacos.
A starchy and fibrous fruit from India, the jackfruit is the perfect substitute for any ‘pulled’ meat. Young jackfruit has a mild flavor and distinctive meat-like texture and is often compared to poultry. Use it in salads, sandwiches and pastas, or slow cook it to mimic pulled pork.