9 Vegetarian Ground Beef Substitutes for Meatless Meals

You won't miss ground beef even a little when you use these meatless substitutes that make mouthwatering meals.

Updated December 13, 2023
Vegetarian chili

If you love tacos, shepherd's pie, or (my personal favorite) tater tot casserole, you don't have to stop eating them if you're a vegetarian or having a meat-free weeknight meal. With tasty ground beef substitutes, you can use them as a replacement for hamburger in your favorite dishes. Our substitutes for ground beef are tasty, easy to use, and they'll help you make a satisfying meal. 

Ground Beef Substitutes

While you can use these as direct substitutions for ground beef in any recipe, your cooking methods and times may change slightly. 


Tofu is an amazing vegan protein. It's so versatile it works for a number of savory and sweet recipes, subbing in not only for ground beef but for dairy products, seafood, and more. Use it as a substitute for ground beef in casseroles, lasagna, and tacos.

  • To use, look for firm-textured tofu.
  • Remove the excess water by wrapping the tofu block in a paper towel and placing a heavy plate or skillet on top for about 15 minutes. Don't skip this step! Pressing the tofu improves the texture and makes it meatier. 
  • Chop the tofu to the size of ground beef crumbles and then add to your recipe when you'd add the ground beef. The tofu is already cooked, so cooking times will be much shorter than with raw ground beef.
Helpful Hack

Another way to make tofu crumbly like ground beef is to freeze it for 24 hours. Defrost and squeeze out excess water. Crumble so it resembles ground beef. 

Textured Soy Protein

Don't want to have to crumble? Try TSP (aka TVP). Textured soy protein, also called textured vegetable protein, is defatted soy flour. It takes on the texture and appearance of ground beef.

  • To use, rehydrate the granules in boiling water and drain as per the manufacturer's instructions before using in your recipe.
  • Use around one cup of dried TSP per pound of ground beef.
  • It's great in tacos, chili, casseroles, meatloaf, spaghetti Bolognese, or burgers.
  • TSP doesn't have much taste on its own, but it takes on almost any seasoning well. You may want to add a bit more of your seasoning ingredients to amp up the flavor. 


Lentils are a tried-and-true vegetarian ground beef substitute. Use them in tacos, sloppy joes, chili, soups, burgers, meat pies, and casseroles. About a cup of lentils roughly equals a pound of ground beef.

  • Lentils have more moisture than ground beef, so you should decrease the liquid in your recipe and add it gradually.
  • You can also cook dried lentils in liquid (one cup lentils/two cups liquid) separately and add them to your recipe.
  • To keep them from becoming mushy, leave the lentils slightly undercooked.
  • If you use canned lentils, drain them well and rinse before adding to your recipe.
Helpful Hack

Amp up the hearty, meaty flavor to any of these ground beef subs by adding some dried porcini mushroom powder and about a half to 1 teaspoon of soy sauce to your recipes. 


portobello burger

If you want a super umami sub for ground beef, mushrooms can be your go-to. They add the savory richness of ground beef many people miss when they cut meat from their diets.

  • Use meaty portobello mushrooms instead of ground beef as a hamburger patty. Season or marinade a portobello mushroom cap and grill each side for about three minutes. Serve on a bun with your favorite toppings, such as lettuce, tomato, cheese, and pickles. To add even more savory flavor, brush with garlic butter or garlic vegan butter in the last minute or two of cooking. 
  • Use finely chopped mushrooms combined with diced onions and seasonings as a ground beef substitute in tacos, chili, meat pies, and casseroles. Mushrooms have a high water content, so you may need to reduce the liquid amounts in your recipe.
  • Try the Chubby Vegetarian's recipe for mushroom meat made with eggplant, mushrooms, and seasonings.


You can use tempeh (fermented soybeans) as a great meat replacement.

  • Break the block up into ground beef-sized pieces and brown it in a little oil.
  • Steam raw or pre-cooked tempeh before using it in your recipes to make it more tender and able to take on other flavors.
  • It's great in recipes that require browned ground beef, such as tacos, sloppy joes, chili, soups, and sauces.
  • You may want to add extra spices to help flavor the tempeh.

Bulgur Wheat

Bulgur wheat — an inexpensive, partially cooked whole wheat — may seem like an odd ground beef substitute. However, Middle Eastern recipes, such as tabbouleh and salads, commonly use it, and it works well in many ground beef recipes like tacos, meat pies, sauces, and chili.

  • Use one cup bulgar wheat for one pound ground beef.
  • Simmer bulgar, covered, in two cups water until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes.
  • Once the bulgar is cooked, you can use it as you would browned ground beef in a recipe.


If you want to make meatloaf, meat patties, or meatballs, seitan is the ground beef substitute for you.

  • It's made from wheat gluten, so if you're gluten-free, skip using this ingredient.
  • It doesn't have much flavor, so you need to add lots of seasonings. Increase the recipe seasoning to get the flavor you want.
  • It's soy-free, so if you're avoiding soy, this is a good option.
  • This ground beef substitute recipe by 40 Aprons uses seitan, vegetable broth, wheat gluten, liquid smoke, and seasonings to create a finished product you can use in place of cooked or raw ground beef in your favorite recipes.


black bean nachos

Beans are a delicious, high-protein, and inexpensive ground beef substitute.

  • Black beans make a delicious burger.
  • They're also tasty in tacos, chili, nachos, lasagna, and meatballs, although the texture may be mushier than if you use ground beef.
  • Substitute two (14-ounce cans) of drained and rinsed black beans for a pound of ground beef in your favorite recipes.

Pre-Packaged Ground Beef Substitutes

Most grocery stores also have pre-packaged ground beef substitutes you can try that make it super easy to replace meat.

Versatile Alternatives to Ground Beef

It has never been easier to enjoy meatless meals. With so many substitutes for ground beef, you can make virtually any dish your heart desires, and you won't miss the meat at all. 

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9 Vegetarian Ground Beef Substitutes for Meatless Meals