Best Substitutes For Chicken

best substitutes for chicken

Chicken is a popular protein choice for many people, but sometimes you may need to find a substitute for chicken due to dietary restrictions, personal preferences, or simply because you want to explore different flavors and textures.

In this article, we will explore the best substitutes for chicken that can be used in various dishes. Whether you are a vegetarian, vegan, or simply looking to cut down on meat consumption, these alternatives will provide you with delicious and nutritious options.

Key Takeaways

  • Chicken substitutes are a great way to cater to dietary restrictions or personal preferences.
  • There are various types of substitutes for chicken, including plant-based options and alternative animal proteins.
  • Choosing the right substitute depends on the desired flavor, texture, and nutritional profile.
  • Cooking with chicken substitutes may require adjustments to cooking time and temperature.
  • There are numerous recipes available that make use of chicken substitutes, allowing you to enjoy a wide range of dishes.

Why You Need A Substitute For Chicken

There are several reasons why you might need a substitute for chicken. One of the most common reasons is dietary restrictions, such as being vegetarian or vegan. For individuals who don’t consume meat, finding suitable alternatives to chicken is essential to ensure they still receive necessary nutrients.

Another reason is to explore different flavors and textures. Sometimes you may want to try something new and experiment with different ingredients in your recipes. Substituting chicken can open up a world of possibilities and allow you to create unique and exciting dishes.

Reducing meat consumption is also becoming increasingly popular due to environmental concerns and a growing awareness of animal welfare. By incorporating substitutes for chicken into your diet, you can minimize your reliance on animal proteins while still enjoying delicious and satisfying meals.

Types Of Substitutes For Chicken

Roast chicken on a platter

There are various types of substitutes for chicken available in the market. These alternatives can be broadly categorized into plant-based options and alternative animal proteins.

Plant-Based Options

  1. Tofu: Tofu is made from soybeans and is a popular choice among vegetarians and vegans. It has a mild flavor and a soft, silky texture. Tofu easily absorbs the flavors of other ingredients, making it versatile for use in various dishes.

  2. Tempeh: Another soy-based product, tempeh is made from fermented soybeans. It has a nutty flavor and firm texture, making it an excellent substitute for chicken in stir-fries, salads, and sandwiches.

  3. Seitan: Seitan, also known as wheat meat or wheat gluten, is made from gluten, the protein found in wheat. It has a chewy texture and can be seasoned and flavored to resemble the taste of chicken. Seitan is a popular choice among vegetarians and vegans due to its high protein content.

  4. Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP): TVP is a plant-based protein made from soy flour. It has a meaty texture and can easily be rehydrated to resemble the texture of cooked chicken. TVP is a popular choice for replacing ground chicken in dishes like tacos, chili, and casseroles.

Alternative Animal Proteins

  1. Mushrooms: Mushrooms, particularly varieties like oyster mushrooms and king oyster mushrooms, have a meaty texture and a deep umami flavor. They can be sautéed, grilled, or roasted to enhance their flavor and used as a substitute for chicken in a variety of dishes.

  2. Jackfruit: Jackfruit is a tropical fruit that, when unripe, has a texture reminiscent of shredded chicken. It can be marinated and cooked, making it a popular choice for dishes like barbecue pulled "chicken" sandwiches and curries.

  3. Lentils: Lentils are a great source of protein and can be used as a substitute for chicken in soups, stews, and even burgers. They have a firm texture and can absorb flavors well.

  4. Quorn: Quorn is a brand that offers a range of plant-based alternatives to meat, including chicken substitutes. It is made from a type of fungus and has a texture and flavor that closely resembles chicken.

Best Substitutes For Chicken

The best substitute for chicken depends on the specific dish and the desired flavor and texture. Here are some of the top substitutes for chicken:

  1. Tofu: Tofu is versatile and can be used in various dishes, from stir-fries to kebabs. It absorbs flavors well and can be marinated to enhance its taste. It is an excellent alternative for dishes that require a soft and delicate texture.

  2. Tempeh: With its firm texture and nutty flavor, tempeh works well in dishes that call for a meatier and chewier texture. It can be marinated, grilled, or crumbled to resemble ground chicken.

  3. Seitan: If you are looking for a substitute that has a chewy and meat-like texture, seitan is an excellent choice. It can be used in dishes like stir-fries, sandwiches, and skewers.

  4. Mushrooms: Oyster mushrooms and king oyster mushrooms are particularly suitable for replacing chicken due to their meaty texture. They can be sautéed, grilled, or roasted to bring out their rich flavor.

  5. Jackfruit: Unripe jackfruit has a stringy texture that makes it a great substitute for shredded chicken in dishes like curry or barbecue sandwiches. It absorbs flavors well and can be seasoned to enhance the taste.

  6. Lentils: Lentils are an affordable and nutritious option for replacing chicken. They can be used in soups, stews, and even vegetarian burgers.

  7. Quorn: Quorn chicken substitutes closely resemble the taste and texture of chicken. They are available in various forms, such as fillets, strips, and nuggets, making them suitable for a wide range of dishes.

Choosing The Right Substitute For Chicken

When choosing a substitute for chicken, there are a few factors to consider:

  1. Flavor: Consider the flavor profile of the dish you are making. Some substitutes, like tofu and tempeh, have a mild flavor and tend to take on the flavors of other ingredients. Others, like mushrooms and jackfruit, have a more distinct taste. Choose a substitute that complements the dish and enhances its overall flavor.

  2. Texture: Think about the texture you want to achieve in your dish. Do you prefer a soft and tender texture, or something chewier and meatier? Tofu and jackfruit are softer options, while tempeh, seitan, and mushrooms offer a heartier texture.

  3. Nutritional Profile: Consider the nutritional value of the substitute you are choosing. Tofu, tempeh, and lentils are high in protein, making them excellent choices for those looking to increase their protein intake. Mushrooms provide essential nutrients like B vitamins and minerals, while jackfruit is a good source of fiber.

  4. Allergies and Sensitivities: If you have any allergies or sensitivities, make sure to choose a substitute that suits your dietary requirements. For example, if you are gluten-intolerant, opt for plant-based options like tofu, tempeh, or mushrooms.

Cooking With Substitutes For Chicken

Cooking with substitutes for chicken may require some adjustments to the cooking time and temperature compared to cooking with actual chicken. Here are a few tips to help you get the best results:

  • For plant-based options like tofu and tempeh, marinating them before cooking can enhance their flavor. Use a mixture of herbs, spices, and sauces to infuse them with delicious taste.

  • When using mushrooms as a substitute, make sure to cook them thoroughly to bring out their rich flavor. Sautéing, grilling, or roasting them can help achieve a meaty texture.

  • If using jackfruit as a substitute, opt for young, unripe jackfruit for its chicken-like texture. Make sure to properly season and cook it to maximize its taste.

  • Adjust cooking times and temperatures as needed. Some substitutes, such as tofu and mushrooms, cook faster than chicken, so keep a close eye on them to avoid overcooking.

  • Experiment with different cooking techniques and recipes to find your favorite ways of using chicken substitutes. They can be used in stir-fries, curries, salads, sandwiches, and more.

Pro Tip:

When cooking with tofu, try freezing it before using it as a substitute for chicken. Freezing tofu changes its texture, making it more chewy and able to absorb flavors better.

Recipes Using Substitutes For Chicken

Here are a couple of recipes that showcase the versatility of chicken substitutes:

  1. Tofu Stir-Fry:
  • Ingredients:

    • 1 block of firm tofu, drained and pressed
    • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
    • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
    • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
    • Assorted vegetables (bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, etc.)
    • Garlic and ginger, minced
    • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Instructions:

    1. Cut the tofu into bite-sized cubes and coat with cornstarch.
    2. Heat oil in a pan over medium heat and add tofu. Cook until crispy and golden brown.
    3. Remove tofu from the pan and set aside.
    4. In the same pan, sauté garlic and ginger until fragrant.
    5. Add the vegetables and stir-fry until tender-crisp.
    6. Mix soy sauce and sesame oil, then pour over the vegetables.
    7. Return the tofu to the pan and stir to coat everything with the sauce.
    8. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
    9. Serve over rice or noodles.
  1. Mushroom Fajitas:
  • Ingredients:

    • 1 pound oyster mushrooms, sliced
    • 1 onion, thinly sliced
    • 1 bell pepper, thinly sliced
    • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon chili powder
    • 1 teaspoon cumin
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • Tortillas and desired toppings
  • Instructions:

    1. Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper and sauté until softened.
    2. Add garlic, chili powder, and cumin. Stir for another minute.
    3. Add mushrooms to the pan and cook until they release their moisture and become tender.
    4. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
    5. Serve the mushroom mixture in tortillas with desired toppings like guacamole, salsa, and sour cream.

Storage And Shelf Life Of Substitutes

The storage and shelf life of chicken substitutes vary depending on the type of substitute used. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Tofu and tempeh should be stored in the refrigerator and consumed within 3-5 days. It is best to keep them in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic wrap to prevent them from drying out.

  • Mushrooms should be stored in a paper bag or a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator. They should be consumed within a week.

  • Seitan, when homemade, can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Commercially packaged seitan usually has a longer shelf life, so follow the instructions provided.

  • Textured vegetable protein (TVP) should be stored in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight. It can be stored for up to 6 months.

  • Lentils can be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to a year.

  • Quorn chicken substitutes, whether fresh or frozen, should be stored according to the instructions on the packaging. Generally, fresh quorn can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days, while frozen quorn can be stored for several months.


Finding suitable substitutes for chicken opens up a world of culinary possibilities. Whether you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, have dietary restrictions, or simply want to explore different flavors and textures, the alternatives mentioned in this article provide a wide range of options.

Experiment with different substitutes, adjust cooking techniques, and try out new recipes to discover your favorite ways of using chicken substitutes. With creativity and experimentation, you can enjoy delicious and nutritious meals without sacrificing the taste or enjoyment of your dishes.


What Are The Healthiest Substitutes For Chicken?

Some of the healthiest options for replacing chicken include beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh, and Quorn. These vegetarian options are not only low in fat and calories but also packed with protein, vitamins, and minerals.

Can Fish Be Substituted For Chicken?

Yes, fish can definitely be used as a substitute for chicken. Fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for heart health, and provides numerous essential nutrients like vitamin D and iodine. However, it has a distinct flavor and texture, so you need to choose the right type of fish to replace chicken.

Are Plant-based Meats Good Replacements For Chicken?

Plant-based meats like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are quite popular and can certainly be used as chicken substitutes. These products are typically made from a blend of plant-derived ingredients like soy, pea protein, and wheat gluten, and aim to mimic the taste, texture, and nutritional profile of real meat. However, they are often high in sodium and processed, so should be consumed in moderation.

Can Mushrooms Be Used To Replace Chicken In Recipes?

Yes, mushrooms are an excellent substitute for chicken in a variety of dishes. They have a meaty texture and absorb flavors well, making them a great ingredient in soups, stews, stir-fries, and more. Plus, they are low in calories but high in nutrients, such as potassium, selenium, and B vitamins.

How Can I Make The Best Use Of A Chicken Substitute In My Cooking?

When using a chicken substitute, it’s important to keep in mind the flavor, texture, and moisture content of the original recipe. Experiment with different substitutes until you find ones that work best for your taste preferences and dietary needs. You may also need to adjust cooking times and methods to ensure that the substitute is fully cooked but not overdone. Finally, don’t be afraid to add extra seasonings, herbs, or spices to enhance the dish’s flavor.

  • 12+ Plant-Based Chicken Alternatives to Look For on … – The Vegan Atlas
  • 10 Vegetables That Can Substitute for Meat – One Green Planet
  • The Best & Worst Plant-Based Chicken Options – Eat This Not That
  • About the Author Jenny

    I'm Jenny, a housewife with an unwavering passion for food. My culinary journey began with my grandmother's kitchen, and it's now a full-fledged food blog. I've turned my love for cooking into a creative outlet, sharing recipes and stories with a global community of fellow food enthusiasts. It's proof that being a housewife can also mean pursuing your passions and savoring life's delectable moments.