They’re the answer to your meatless Monday prayers.
Credit: Courtesy of Facebook/Boca

Meatless crumbles are sort of a godsend for vegetarians. Finally, we aren’t forced to claim the side dish is an acceptable and satisfying meal (it’s called a SIDE dish for a reason) or shove a block of poorly prepared tofu around our plates. We can dine on meaty pasta dishes, beefy chili, and hearty, flavorful stir-fries just like the rest of the meat-loving world. It’s time to reinvigorate meatless main courses.

The crumbles (my personal go-to are Boca brand’s Veggie Ground Crumbles ) easily take on whatever flavors you season them with, and cook in little-to-no time at all. Not to mention, using them in place of actual ground beef saves calories, cholesterol, and fat. We picked three of our favorite uses for the meat-free grounds—dishes so good, your carnivore friends might not even notice the difference.

The Classic Spaghetti and Meat Sauce

Credit: Sara Tane

Sara Tane

The best starting point for anyone new to cooking with meatless ground beef is the humble meat sauce. Plain pasta with marinara is old news for vegetarians, but this dish packs a fulfilling protein punch. To keep this dish quick and simple, we use a jar of prepared tomato sauce, and jazz it up with spices and fresh veggies for a robustly flavored dinner that’s easy enough to make on a weeknight.

The starter version spoons the meaty goodness over plain, whole-wheat spaghetti, but once you get to next-level meatless cooking, this sauce is outrageously delicious utilized in baked ziti and lasagna dishes too. And if green stuff in your pasta isn’t quite your thing (we don’t judge), simply pack on the Parmesan and save the spinach for a side salad, keeping your pasta dish pristinely cheesy and delicious.

The Beyond-Bean Chili

Credit: Sara Tane

Sara Tane

Every vegetarian chili in the books has beans as the main source of protein, which is fine… but don’t you ever just want something more? Toss together three creamy beans with the meaty crumble, mix in plenty of glorious vegetables, and you’ll find yourself with a meat-free chili like no other. Play with the spices until you find the perfect balance, because cumin, paprika, and chili powder are a gold mine for flavor.

The veggies stirred into this recipe are more like guidelines than rules. Feel free to mix in zucchini, eggplant, or butternut squash to take this basic chili up a notch. Once you master the foundation of this chili, spoon it over rice, noodles, or top it with fresh baked cornbread. It’s a meal that will (meatlessly) feed a whole crowd.

The Fresh, Asian-Inspired Lettuce Wraps

Credit: Sara Tane

Sara Tane

Forget settling for steamed veggies and tofu at your local Chinese restaurant. Sweet hoisin sauce and hot Sriracha come together for a sweet and spicy dish that will make you toss the take-out menu. Chopped water chestnuts bring the perfect crunch, while sliced mushrooms add incredible umami goodness and meaty texture.

From movie nights to game day appetizers, there’s always room for a platter of beautiful, bright lettuce wraps. But if you’re looking to mix things up, spoon the mixture over a tray of chips for vegan, Asian-style nachos or over hamburger rolls for an Asian-inspired sloppy Joe.