Can’t Find Meat? Try These 6 Meals Instead

If your grocery store’s meat section is out of stock, don’t fear. Try these fast, delicious meatless options!

Medically reviewed in October 2021

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Across the country, shoppers are often finding empty refrigerated cases at their grocery store due to a nationwide meat shortage. Even if you can locate poultry, pork or beef, many stores are limiting the amount that can be purchased.

If you find yourself short on meat, don't fret. This could be a good time to consider adding more plant-based protein into your diet.

There are many benefits of going meatless. For starters, plant proteins like soy, legumes and nuts can often be cheaper than meat. Plus, eating excessive amounts of animal protein, especially red meat, is linked to an increased risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Plus, meatless meals are often quick, easy and just as delicious.

We worked with Anne Brock, RDN, LD specializing in weight loss and diabetic education at West Valley Medical Center in Caldwell, Idaho to build a list of easy, plant-based recipes that anyone make.

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Savory sweet potato patties

To make sweet potato patties, roast one medium sweet potato at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. Allow it to cool and remove the skin. Mash together with one can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed. Mix in 1 tablespoon of flour, one egg and herbs and spices of your choice. 

Lightly coat a skillet with olive oil; warm over medium heat. Form the potato mixture into patties and sauté for about 5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.

“This recipe is very versatile,” says Brock. Play around with different mix in combinations. For a slightly spicy option, try cumin, smoked paprika and cayenne. You could also add in another veggie, like diced onion or sautéed and chopped spinach. You can even substitute the egg for a "flax egg"—combine 1 tbsp. water with 3 tbsp. ground flax seed. Let it sit for 5 minutes before adding to the patty mix.

Brock suggests serving your sweet potato patty on top of a salad or with sautéed veggies. Other options? “Wrap the patty in lettuce or eat on its own, topped with tomatoes, avocado and a little bit of low-sodium barbeque sauce,” she says.

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Incredibly simple stir-fry

“You can add so many different vegetables to a stir-fry and create whatever concoction you want,” says Brock. This is her go-to mix:

  • Slice or chop bell peppers, carrots, broccoli and tomatoes. Open a can of baby corn and chickpeas.
  • Warm a pan to medium heat; add 4 to 6 tablespoons of water.
  • When the water starts to steam, add vegetables according to how long it takes them to cook. Start with the carrots and broccoli. When they start to soften, add the bell peppers, baby corn and tomatoes. Add small amounts of water as needed; cook until all veggies are tender. Put in chickpeas at the end and sauté until warm.

Serve this stir fry over brown rice or quinoa with a drizzle of teriyaki, low sodium soy sauce or siracha, if you want to add some spiciness.  

This recipe is extremely flexible. Use whatever veggies you have on hand and adjust the order depending on what takes the longest to cook. You can skip the chickpeas and opt for a different bean or protein, such as sautéed tofu or a scrambled egg.

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Protein-packed salad

Salads can add variety to your diet, allowing you to experiment with new flavors, colors and textures. Start with a mix of greens and your favorite chopped veggies. Then add ingredients from other food groups such as:

  • Grains: Try quick-cooking bulgur, farro or millet.
  • Nuts and seeds: Cashews, almond flaxseeds or sunflower seeds
  • Protein: Edamame, cooked lentils, peas, beans

Here’s one combination to get you started: Mix baby spinach, cooked quinoa, raw broccoli florets, dried cranberries and chopped pistachios. Make a homemade dressing using equal parts olive oil and lemon juice, chopped shallot and a pinch of salt and pepper.

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Homemade “chik’n” nuggets

If Impossible Burgers and other meat substitutes are difficult to find, you can try making your own version. These meatless “chik’n” nuggets are actually made from cauliflower.

Steam one head of cauliflower for about 8 minutes. It should be soft but with enough conisistency that it can still be chopped. After it’s cool enough to touch, place on paper towels and pat dry.  Break up the florets and place in a food processor.

Add one egg, ½ cup of breadcrumbs and your choice of seasonings, like garlic powder, parsely and paprika. Combine until well mixed.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Shape the mixture into nuggets and place them onto a cookie sheet that’s lightly coated with olive oil. Bake for about 10 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Serve as a healthy side dish or a satisfying snack.

To spice them up, toss in hot sauce right out of the oven to make a buffalo nugget.

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Tasty veggie pizza

“Pizza doesn’t always have to be a guilty pleasure,” says Brock. “It’s easy to make a healthy, meat-free version at home.”

To start, make a homemade pasta sauce.  Mix one can tomato sauce, two cloves pressed garlic and one tablespoon of Italian seasoning. Heat to a simmer.

Don’t worry about making your own pizza dough, though. You can buy whole grain varieties ready to be rolled out in the refrigerated section of your grocery store or straight from a local pizzeria.

Top dough with sauce, a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese and your choice of sliced vegetables like chopped spinach, mushrooms, onion, zucchini, bell peppers or olives.

Bake according to the directions for the crust, usually for around 18-20 minutes at 400 degrees.

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Spicy black bean burger

These burgers can be customized with the addition of different veggies and spices, but Brock has a favorite. “I add a little onion and bell pepper for texture, plus a jalapeno and chili powder for a bit of kick,” she says.

To make your own burgers, mash one can drained black beans. Mix in one finely chopped jalapeno (remove seeds if you don’t want it to be spicy) and ½ finely chopped onion. Season to taste with taco seasoning or chili pepper

Lightly coat a skillet with olive oil and warm over medium heat. Form the bean mixture into patties and sauté for about five minutes on each side. Top with guacamole and tomato slices.



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