Robin Asbell isn’t trying to fool anyone with her mock meats. Sure, she could have quotation marks around the chorizo, ham, wings and bacon recipes in her new cookbook, “Plant-Based Meats: Hearty, High-Protein Recipes for Vegans, Flexitarians, and Curious Carnivores” (The Countryman Press, 183 pages, $23.95)

But that’s not necessary. We know what she has in mind as she carefully, deliberatively and creatively replicates the umami flavor and specific textures of many meats — pepperoni, pastrami and bologna, among them — as she tries to entice us to move away from an animal-based diet.

As Asbell so succinctly phrases it in her new book: “The future is plant-based.”

The appeal of mock meats, of course, is that you can use them in familiar meals: spaghetti and meatballs, or jerked chicken and the like.

Asbell, who writes for the Taste section, reminds the reader that “You don’t need meat.” And that the alternative can go far beyond the veggie burger.

You may have tried such faux fare at the Herbivorous Butcher in Minneapolis with its wide selection of plant-based options. Now you can DIY.

While many of Asbell’s recipes require a trip to the food co-op for beet powder, vital wheat gluten or various mock broth powders, the following two recipes are a bit more mainstream.


Walnut-Cauliflower Ground Beef

Serves 4.

Note: Your food processor does all the work in this easy recipe, where minced cauliflower and walnuts mimic ground beef. From “Plant-Based Meats: Hearty, High-Protein Recipes for Vegans, Flexitarians, and Curious Carnivores,” by Robin Asbell.

• 2 tbsp. refined coconut oil

• 2 c. cauliflower florets

• 1 small onion, quartered

• 3 garlic cloves, minced

• 1 tbsp. tomato paste

• 1/2 tsp. sugar

• 1/4 tsp. dried oregano

• 1/2 tsp. chipotle powder

• 1/2 tsp. smoked salt

• 1 c. walnut halves and pieces

• Warmed tortillas or taco shells, for serving


Drop the cauliflower florets and onion quarters through the feed tube of a running food processor fitted with the “S” blade and process them to a fine mince.

In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the oil.

Scrape the contents of the food processor bowl into the skillet and sauté, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes, or until the cauliflower is very soft and browned and the pan is dry.

Add the garlic, tomato paste, sugar, oregano, chipotle powder and salt to the skillet. Stir and cut in the ingredients until the mixture is well combined.

Place the walnuts in the bowl of the food processor and mince them into bits the size of cooked ground beef.

Stir the walnuts into the skillet and cook until the mixture smells like toasted walnuts. Remove from heat.

Serve in the warmed tortillas or set aside to cool to room temperature and store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Nutrition information per serving with tortilla:

Calories 400 Fat 27 g Sodium 685 mg

Carbohydrates 34 g Saturated fat 9 g Total sugars 5 g

Protein 9 g Cholesterol 0 mg Dietary fiber 5 g

Exchanges per serving: 1 starch, 1 ½ carb, 1 medium-fat protein, 4 fat.


Tempeh Bacon

Serves 4.

Note: Tempeh is made of cooked and fermented soybeans. It has a chunky texture and makes a bacon that fries up as crispy as you prefer. From “Plant-Based Meats: Hearty, High-Protein Recipes for Vegans, Flexitarians, and Curious Carnivores,” by Robin Asbell.

• 1 (8-oz.) tempeh block

• 2 tbsp. apple juice

• 2 tbsp. maple syrup


• 1 tbsp. canola oil, plus more for greasing

• 1/2 tsp. liquid smoke

• 1/2 tsp. smoked salt


Set up a steamer. Place the tempeh in the steamer and steam for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool completely.

Slice the cooled tempeh into thin strips.

In a large bowl, whisk together the apple juice, maple syrup, 1 tablespoon oil, liquid smoke and salt. Pour mixture into a loaf pan. Add the tempeh strips to the pan and gently mix, coating each strip without breaking it. Marinate in the refrigerator, covered, overnight.

Warm a large, cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Once the skillet is hot, drizzle a little oil into it and spread the oil around. Transfer tempeh strips to the pan, making sure they do not touch one another. Fry for 2 to 3 minutes, until glaze is all absorbed and slices are browned. Remove from heat and serve hot.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 170 Fat 10 g Sodium 300 mg

Carbohydrates 12 g Saturated fat 2 g Total sugars 8 g

Protein 12 g Cholesterol 0 mg Dietary fiber 2 g

Exchanges per serving: 1 carb, 1 ½ medium-fat protein, ½ fat.