faux meat

This vegan chili con carne recipe is just one example of how to use faux meat (and hide the fact from your friends and family until after they tell you how tasty it is!).

Isn’t Vegan Chili con Carne a Contradiction in Terms?

One thing you need to understand about lifelong vegetarians is this—they probably have some weird fake meat habits hiding in their closets. Not that there’s anything wrong with fake meat. I even like some of the stuff. I suppose that we should call it ‘faux meat,’ because it sounds so much more sophisticated than ‘fake meat,’ but old habits die hard.

We have heated family debates about the best brand of fake hot dogs and mourn at Thanksgiving when we can’t find a source for our favorite roll of smoked turkey (faux, of course). My husband loves Stripples (fake bacon), and I love Prosage (fake sausage patties). We both love fake chicken patties.

I used to think discussions like these were normal, but as I grew older, I realized that the most of the world had no idea that things like TVP (textured vegetable protein) even existed. Even though school lunch programs, hospitals, and some fast-food restaurants have been cutting costs (and fat content) by adding TVP to their meat dishes since the early 1970s.

So, bear with me, even if you have no plan on going full-time vegetarian. Meat substitutes such as textured vegetable protein can absorb the flavor of the meat you cook it with, reduce the cost per serving of meat dishes, and cut the fat content. The next time you make hamburgers, you could toss in some rehydrated TVP (which costs a mere $3.39 for 11 servings and has no fat) and double your burger quantity for pennies on the dollar. You can’t buy 11 servings of lean ground beef for under four bucks!

What do Meat Eaters Think About Faux Meat

I covered breakfast duty for a staff member the other day, and it just so happened that the cafeteria had served fake sausage links (If you’re new around here, I teach at a boarding school for Native American youth, and the cafeteria serves a vegetarian menu). I decided to take an informal poll of the students (ranging in age from 6-18).

“So, do you like those things?” I asked the kids at first table, pointing at the faux meat sausage link on the trays.

“I do!” one of the girls shot her hand into the air. “I love it when they serve them.”

“They’re o.k,” a boy said.

“Do they taste like real sausage?” I asked.

Everyone shook their heads. “O.k, so they don’t taste like real sausage, but some of you like them anyway?”

“They taste better than real sausage,” a girl offered. “They aren’t as greasy.”

“I like them with syrup on them,” a little one chimed in, “but they didn’t serve syrup this morning.”

As I went from table to table, about 75% of the students liked the faux meat. Of the ones who didn’t like it, I noticed that many had eaten two ‘sausage’ links and some had headed back for seconds.

“Which vegetarian meat do you think tastes most like the real thing?” I asked.

“The chicken patties. We had those for dinner last night, and I really like them,” one of the boys told me.

“The bacon tastes like real bacon, only not as greasy and a little dry,” someone else offered.

“What about the fake turkey they serve for the Thanksgiving dinner?” Everyone shook their heads. Evidently, the faux meat manufacturers fell short in the turkey department. But I like it.

The Skinny on Faux Meats

Another word for meatless meat is analog meats (also spelled analogue), and their main ingredient is usually soy or gluten (the protein portion of wheat). Some companies are starting to combine the protein from peas with soy or gluten.

beef vs. faux meatFaux meats, like real meats, come in a variety of price points, tastes, and calories. Just because it’s fake doesn’t mean it’s healthier. Manufacturers add oil, flavors, and preservatives in order to take a virtually tasteless substance (soy or gluten) and bring it to life (pun intended). Sometimes, they add a lot of salt.

If your end goal includes a balanced, healthier diet, than you’ll want to make sure you read the labels of vegetarian and vegan products to make sure they actually fit with your goals.

In our house, we tend to only eat the highly-processed analogues once a month of less. I find it cheaper to make my own concoctions using the base products (textured vegetable protein (TVP), soy, vital wheat gluten, and tofu) and simple seasonings.

Here’s a visual comparison of Augason Farm’s Beef Flavored Vegetarian Meat Substitute . A cup of each prepared protein stacks up in different ways. The faux meat has fewer calories, less fat, less protein, and a lot more sodium. It also has carbohydrates.

Lean ground beef has more calories, cholesterol, and a lot more fat. But it also has no carbohydrates and half the sodium that the faux meat has. The bottom line? You’ll need to make your decisions based on your dietary and budget needs.

Bottom Line

Twenty servings (we’ll stick with the one cup of prepared product measurement here, which from my research online would take approximately ¾ a pound of ground beef to produce) of lean ground beef will set you back anywhere from $40-56, depending on where you buy it. There’s a reason faux meat is also known as ‘meat extender.’

If you’d like to experiment with fake meat, try this vegan chili con carne recipe. I’ve subjected my carnivore friends to it, and they all love it, even if it has no meat. Making informed, balanced decisions about what goes into our bodies is a form of self-care.

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faux meat in vegan chili con carne

Vegan Chili Con Carne

  • Author: Anita Ojeda
  • Prep Time: 15
  • Cook Time: 45
  • Total Time: 1 hour


This hearty vegan chili con carne is low in calories and fat but high in protein. Even better, you can make it in your Instant Pot!



3 cups dried kidney beans
2 onions, chopped
4 jalapeños, chopped
8 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 Tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon cayenne
2 15 ounce cans of tomato sauce
5 cups water
2 cups beef or taco-flavored soy TVP


Sort and soak the dry kidney beans overnight, or use the quick method: Pour six cups of boiling water over the dry kidney beans, cover with a plate or lid to trap in the heat, and let sit for 45 minutes to an hour)

Turn the Instant Pot to [Sauté] and add the olive oil to heat up while you chop the onion, garlic, and jalapeños. Add the chopped veggies to the Instant Pot and sauté until the onions look limp. Add the spices, nutritional yeast, drained kidney beans, tomato sauce, water, and TVP.

Lock the lick and set the Instant Pot to [Pressure Cook] and use the + or – buttons to set the time for 35 minutes.

When the cycle ends, allow ten minutes to pass before canceling the program and opening the vent to allow steam to escape.

Add salt to taste (and more cayenne if you like your chili hotter!).

The leftovers freeze nicely. Make sure that you allow the beans to cool UNCOVERED in the refrigerator before you cover them or store the leftovers in a freezer bags to freeze.

Keywords: Vegan, Chili con Carne, TVP, Faux meat, Soy meat

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Instant Pot vegan chili con carne

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  1. This is great, Anita! I have an instant pot but not many recipes to use in it! I’ll have to give this one a try! Sounds delicious! Thanks for the linkup, my friend!

  2. Love how honest the students are! And will definitely have to try this chili recipe. I’m an award winning chili maker!!

  3. Thank you for this interesting and informative post. I used to like the occasional veggie burger, but I haven’t had one in a really long time. I hope you have a great day!

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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