Ground Beef Alternatives: 12 Healthy Substitutes


Ground beef is one of the most versatile ingredients for cooking. However, too much isn’t the healthiest and people may want to find substitutes for various reasons. Therefore, what are ground beef alternatives?

The following are ground beef alternatives:

  1. Ground turkey
  2. Ground chicken
  3. Tofu
  4. Portabella mushrooms
  5. Tempeh
  6. Textured vegetable protein
  7. Beans
  8. Cauliflower
  9. Beets
  10. Bulgur
  11. Seitan
  12. Pre-packaged ground beef substitutes

This article will list the alternatives and compare their nutrients, tastes and textures. In addition, I include a summary of why each substitute is a good alternative.

1. Ground Turkey

Ground turkey is a much leaner alternative to ground beef. That difference alone should be enough to convince you to grab the ground turkey the next time you’re in the supermarket.

However, not only is ground turkey leaner, it also tastes surprisingly similar to ground beef in most recipes.

Since ground turkey is very lean, it can have a drier texture compared to beef. Although it’s not an issue in meat sauce recipes.

Nutrient comparison

The following table is a side-by-side comparison of some nutrients contained in 4 ounces of raw ground beef (80% lean meat/20% fat) and raw ground turkey (85% lean/15%fat).

  Ground beef, raw (4 ounces) Ground turkey, raw (4 ounces)
Calories 287 203
Protein 19.4 g 19.1 g
Saturated fat 8.6 g 3.9 g
Total fat 23 g 14.1 g
Carbohydrates 0 g 0 g
Fiber 0 g 0 g

Nutrient Resources 1 2

  • Ground turkey contains 84 less calories per 4 ounces.
  • Ground beef and ground turkey contain a similar amount of protein.
  • Ground beef contains over double the saturated fat.
  • Ground turkey contains 8.9 grams less of total fat than ground beef.

Why ground turkey is a good replacement for ground beef:

  • Ground turkey is leaner.
  • It contains a similar amount of protein.
  • Ground turkey can taste similar in many recipes.
  • It’s great in meat sauce recipes which camouflage its drier texture.

2. Ground Chicken

Ground chicken is a fantastic ground beef alternative. It contains less calories and saturated fat than ground turkey.

Ground chicken has a texture similar to ground beef, but it may be a bit bland. However, if you add some spices or add it to a sauce, you can trick almost anyone into thinking they’re eating beef.

It contains about the same amount of protein as ground beef. It’s also an excellent source of several vitamins and minerals.

Nutrient comparison

The following table is a side-by-side comparison of some nutrients contained in 4 ounces of raw ground beef (80% lean meat/20% fat) and raw ground chicken.

  Ground beef, raw (4 ounces) Ground chicken, raw (4 ounces)
Calories 287 162
Protein 19.4 g 19.7 g
Saturated fat 8.6 g 2.6 g
Total fat 23 g 9.1 g
Carbohydrates 0 g 0.4 g
Fiber 0 g 0 g

Nutrient Resources 3

  • Ground chicken contains 125 less calories per 4 ounces.
  • Ground beef and ground chicken contain a similar amount of protein.
  • Ground beef contains over 3 times the saturated fat.
  • Ground chicken contains 13.9 grams less of total fat than ground beef.

Why ground chicken is a good replacement for ground beef:

  • Ground chicken is leaner.
  • It contains a similar amount of protein as ground beef.
  • Ground chicken can taste similar in many recipes using spices and sauce.
  • Ground chicken is great in meat sauce recipes which camouflage its drier texture.

3. Tofu

Tofu is one of the best alternatives to meat in general. It is made from soy protein, so it has a high protein content.

Unfortunately, tofu doesn’t have much flavor on its own. However, it does absorb spices and aromas beautifully, so this shouldn’t be an issue in most recipes. 

If you get a block of tofu and then crumble and bake it, you’ll get something looking like ground beef. Aside from the look, the texture is shockingly similar to ground beef, so you can use it as a replacement in any recipe calling for it.

It’s also a vegetarian and vegan-friendly option, so it’s perfect if you’re hosting a meal including non-meat eaters. 

Nutrient comparison

The following table is a side-by-side comparison of some nutrients contained in 4 ounces of raw ground beef (80% lean meat/20% fat) and raw tofu.

  Ground beef, raw (4 ounces) Tofu, raw (4 ounces)
Calories 287 93
Protein 19.4 g 9.3 g
Saturated fat 8.6 g 0.6 g
Total fat 23 g 5.3 g
Carbohydrates 0 g 2.6 g
Fiber 0 g 2.6 g

Nutrient Resources 4

  • Tofu contains 194 less calories per 4 ounces than ground beef.
  • For a non meat option, tofu contains a good amount of protein but less than ground meat.
  • Ground beef contains 14 times the saturated fat.
  • Tofu contains 17.7 grams less of total fat than ground beef.

Why tofu is a good replacement for ground beef:

  • It’s good for vegetarians and vegans.
  • It’s high in protein for a non meat option.
  • Tofu will last long in the refrigerator sealed in the package.
  • It contains less calories and fat.
  • The texture is similar to ground beef.
  • Contain fiber where ground beef doesn’t.

4. Portabella Mushrooms

Mushrooms, especially the portabella variety, are one of the best, tastiest ground beef alternatives. You can easily mince them with a knife or food processor to get to any consistency you want.

They work especially well in recipes calling for frying, like meatballs, burgers and stir-frys. They’ll soak up any sauce you throw at them.

Nutrient comparison

The following table is a side-by-side comparison of some nutrients contained in 4 ounces of raw ground beef (80% lean meat/20% fat) and raw portabella mushrooms.

  Ground beef, raw (4 ounces) Portabella mushrooms, raw (1 cup)
Calories 287 19
Protein 19.4 g 1.8 g
Saturated fat 8.6 g 0 g
Total fat 23 g 0.3 g
Carbohydrates 0 g 3.3 g
Fiber 0 g 1.1 g

Nutrient Resources 5

  • Portabella mushrooms contain 268 less calories per serving.
  • Ground beef contains much more protein than mushrooms.
  • Ground beef contains saturated fat, and mushrooms don’t.
  • Portabella mushrooms contain 22.7 grams less total fat than ground beef.

Why portabella mushrooms are a good replacement for ground beef:

  • It’s good for vegetarians and vegans.
  • It’s good if you’re counting calories.
  • It contains less saturated and total fat.
  • It’s great for meatballs, burgers or stir fry.

5. Tempeh

Tempeh is a favorite with vegetarians. Versatile tempeh is fermented soybeans in block form. To use as a ground beef substitute, break it up into your hands and brown it with avocado or olive oil. 

Tempeh is great to use when making sloppy joes, tacos, soups, sauces and chili.

Nutrient comparison

The following table is a side-by-side comparison of some nutrients contained in 4 ounces of raw ground beef (80% lean meat/20% fat) and raw tempeh.

  Ground beef, raw (4 ounces) Tempeh, raw (1 cup)
Calories 287 319
Protein 19.4 g 33.7 g
Saturated fat 8.6 g 4.2 g
Total fat 23 g 17.9 g
Carbohydrates 0 g 12.7 g
Fiber 0 g 0 g

Nutrient Resources 6

  • Tempeh contains more calories than ground beef. If counting calories is a concern then consider another food in this article.
  • Tempeh contains more protein.
  • Ground beef contains double the amount of saturated fat.
  • Tempeh contains 5.1 grams less total fat than ground beef.

Why tempeh a good replacement for ground beef:

  • It’s good for vegetarians and vegans
  • It contains less saturated and total fat.

6. Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)

Textured vegetable protein, also known as soya chunks, is a phenomenal ground beef alternative. It’s mostly made from soy protein, but it tastes nothing like tofu.

TVP can come in any shape, size or form. It’s often sold as something resembling ground beef. Since TVP has next to no moisture, it works best in stews or meat sauce recipes.

TVP needs to reconstitute by letting it absorb hot liquids if you’re looking for that meaty ground beef texture. Additionally, TVP has little flavor, therefore take that into account when deciding which recipes to add it to.

TVP is also a great alternative to ground beef when it comes to nutrition.

Nutrient comparison

The following table is a side-by-side comparison of some nutrients contained in 4 ounces of raw ground beef (80% lean meat/20% fat) and dry textured vegetable protein.

  Ground beef, raw (4 ounces) Textured Vegetable Protein, dry (1/2 cup)
Calories 287 111
Protein 19.4 g 17.5 g
Saturated fat 8.6 g 0 g
Total fat 23 g 0.4 g
Carbohydrates 0 g 11.5 g
Fiber 0 g 5.96 g

Nutrient Resources 7

  • Textured vegetable protein contains 176 less calories per serving.
  • Ground beef contains 1.9 grams of protein more than TVP.
  • Ground beef contains saturated fat, and TVP doesn’t.
  • TVP contains 22.6 grams less total fat than ground beef.

Why textured vegetable protein is a good replacement for ground beef:

  • It’s good for vegetarians and vegans.
  • It’s good if you’re counting calories.
  • It contains less saturated and total fat.
  • TVP contains a similar amount of protein.
  • TVP contains fiber, and ground beef doesn’t.

7. Beans

Beans don’t just make for a hearty meal, they’re also a super versatile ingredient. Although I wouldn’t make Pasta Bolognese with them, they’ll taste amazing in any stew or baked dish normally used for ground beef.

There’s an endless list of bean varieties that you can replace ground beef with, like:

  • Black beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Soybeans
  • Kidney beans
  • Pinto beans

Keep in mind the nutrition content varies a lot between the varieties. However, beans are typically very high in protein, complex carbs, fiber, low in fat and packed with vitamins and minerals.

Nutrient comparison

The following table is a side-by-side comparison of some nutrients contained in 4 ounces of raw ground beef (80% lean meat/20% fat) and lentils. Although lentils are legumes, many refer to them as beans.

  Ground beef, raw (4 ounces) Lentils, raw (1/2 cup)
Calories 287 338
Protein 19.4 g 23.6 g
Saturated fat 8.6 g 0.1 g
Total fat 23 g 4.08 g
Carbohydrates 0 g 244 g
Fiber 0 g 41 g

Nutrient Resources 8

  • Lentils contain more protein.
  • Ground beef contains saturated fat and lentils almost zero.
  • Lentils contain 18.9 grams less total fat than ground beef.

Why beans are a good replacement for ground beef:

  • It’s good for vegetarians and vegans.
  • It contains less saturated and total fat.
  • Beans contain more protein.
  • Beans contain fiber, and ground beef doesn’t.

8. Cauliflower

Vegans and vegetarians love substituting meat with cauliflower, and for a good reason. Cauliflower stays firm after cooking and will soak up spicy rubs and marinades.

Cauliflower can replace ground beef in literally any recipe. It has a mild, sweet flavor and a firm, crunchy texture. It’s great for baking, frying, steaming and boiling.

More than that, cauliflower is one of the healthiest veggies out there. It’s mostly water, so it’s very filling. Furthermore, it’s very low in calories, high in fiber, vitamin C, potassium, calcium and magnesium.

To use cauliflower as a ground beef substitute, you will first have to finely chop it or blitz it in a food processor or a blender like a vitamix. I have a vitamix blender at home which I reviewed in my article, Vitamix Venturist V1200 Blender Review.

Nutrient comparison

The following table is a side-by-side comparison of some nutrients contained in 4 ounces of raw ground beef (80% lean meat/20% fat) and raw cauliflower.

  Ground beef, raw (4 ounces) Cauliflower, raw (1 cup)
Calories 287 27
Protein 19.4 g 2.0 g
Saturated fat 8.6 g 0 g
Total fat 23 g 0.3 g
Carbohydrates 0 g 5.3 g
Fiber 0 g 2.1 g

Nutrient Resources 9

  • Cauliflower contains 260 less calories per serving.
  • Ground beef contains more protein.
  • Ground beef contains saturated fat, and cauliflower doesn’t.
  • Cauliflower contains 22.7 grams less total fat than ground beef.

Why cauliflower is a good replacement for ground beef:

  • It’s good for vegetarians and vegans.
  • It’s good if you’re counting calories.
  • It contains less saturated and total fat.
  • Cauliflower contains fiber, and ground beef doesn’t.

9. Beets

If you want to make steak tartare but need a replacement for ground beef, I recommend making it with finely chopped beets. You can eat them raw or boil them before serving.

Their high fiber content is what gives beets their fleshy, firm texture. Although the flavor is very earthy, it tastes wonderful when combined with sweet ingredients like onions, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce.

Most importantly, beets are way healthier than ground beef. They are high in fiber, potassium, iron, vitamin C, vitamin B9 and manganese.

Nutrient comparison

The following table is a side-by-side comparison of some nutrients contained in 4 ounces of raw ground beef (80% lean meat/20% fat) and raw beets.

  Ground beef, raw (4 ounces) Beets, raw (1 cup)
Calories 287 59
Protein 19.4 g 2.2 g
Saturated fat 8.6 g 0 g
Total fat 23 g 0.2 g
Carbohydrates 0 g 13 g
Fiber 0 g 3.8 g

Nutrient Resources 10

  • Beets contain 228 less calories per serving.
  • Ground beef contains more protein.
  • Ground beef contains saturated fat, and beets don’t.
  • Beets contain 22.8 grams less total fat than ground beef.

Why beets are a good replacement for ground beef:

  • It’s good for vegetarians and vegans.
  • It’s good if you’re counting calories.
  • It contains less saturated and total fat.
  • Beets contain fiber, and ground beef doesn’t.

10. Bulgur

Bulgur is made from cracked parboiled groats of several wheat species. Partially cooked whole-wheat may seem like an odd substitute for ground beef. However, it works well in many ground beef recipes like:

  • Meat pies
  • Tacos
  • Sauces
  • Chili

Most people will substitute one cup of bulgur for one pound of ground beef. Once the bulgur is cooked, it can be used as you would use browned ground beef in a recipe.

How to Cook Red Bulgur

Bulgur is partially cooked and for that reason most types take less than 15 minutes to cook. Different types require different cooking times, therefore always check the instructions on your package.

  • Bring 2 cups of water and 1 cup of bulgur to a boil in a pot.
  • Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until tender. About 12 minutes.
  • Drain off any remaining water, fluff with a fork and serve.

Nutrient comparison

The following table is a side-by-side comparison of some nutrients contained in 4 ounces of raw ground beef (80% lean meat/20% fat) and cooked bulgur.

  Ground beef, raw (4 ounces) Bulgur, cooked (1 cup)
Calories 287 151
Protein 19.4 g 5.6 g
Saturated fat 8.6 g 0.1 g
Total fat 23 g 0.4 g
Carbohydrates 0 g 33.9 g
Fiber 0 g 8.1 g

Nutrient Resources 11

  • Bulgur contains less calories per serving.
  • Ground beef contains more protein.
  • Ground beef contains saturated fat and bulgur almost zero.
  • Bulgur contains 22.6 grams less total fat than ground beef.
  • Bulgur provides a good amount of fiber while ground beef doesn’t

Why bulgur is a good replacement for ground beef:

  • It’s good for vegetarians and vegans.
  • It’s good if you’re counting calories.
  • It contains less saturated and total fat.
  • Bulgur contains fiber, and ground beef doesn’t.

If you’re on a low-carb diet bulgur wouldn’t be a good choice for you. Choose one of the other foods lower in carbs on the list in this article.

11. Seitan

Seitan is a food made from gluten, the main protein of wheat. Wheat gluten is often used instead of meat in Asia. Seitan is a good ground beef substitute in the following dishes:

  • Meatloaf
  • Meatballs
  • Burgers
  • Sauces
  • Casseroles
  • Tacos

It has little flavor on its own so it pairs well with most seasonings. Seitan is a good option for those who don’t want beef or soy.

Nutrient comparison

The following table is a side-by-side comparison of some nutrients contained in 4 ounces of raw ground beef (80% lean meat/20% fat) and seitan.

  Ground beef, raw (4 ounces) Seitan (4 ounces)
Calories 287 160
Protein 19.4 g 21.3 g
Saturated fat 8.6 g 0.3 g
Total fat 23 g 2.7 g
Carbohydrates 0 g 13.3 g
Fiber 0 g 1.3 g

Nutrient Resources 12

  • Seitan contains less calories per serving.
  • Seitan contains more protein.
  • Ground beef contains saturated fat and bulgur almost zero.
  • Seitan contains 20.3 grams less total fat than ground beef.
  • Seitan provides a little fiber while ground beef doesn’t

Why seitan a good replacement for ground beef:

  • It’s good for vegetarians and vegans who don’t want soy.
  • It’s good if you’re counting calories.
  • It contains less saturated and total fat.
  • Seitan contains fiber, and ground beef doesn’t.

If you’re on a low-carb diet seitan may not be a good choice for you. Choose one of the other foods on the list in this article.

12. Pre-packaged ground beef alternatives

New products designed to taste like meat are now being marketed to not only vegetarians, but meat eaters. Two popular brands are Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat’s Beyond Burger.

Both brands recommend their products as nutritious alternatives to animal protein. 

For taste, I bought one in a Burger King and tried it out. I have to admit, it tasted closer to meat than I thought it would but I wasn’t impressed and never tried one again.

These plant based burgers provide a good amount of protein and add vitamins and minerals to the burgers. If you decide to use these burgers or meat, be aware they are processed, contain saturated fat and sodium to improve their taste.

Therefore, they may be not the best substitute on this list but they are ground beef substitutes which can be used in moderation.

Nutrient comparison

The following table is a side-by-side comparison of some nutrients contained in 4 ounces of raw ground beef (80% lean meat/20% fat), Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger.

Fiber0 g1.3 g

  Ground beef, raw (4 ounces) Beyond Burger (4 ounces) Impossible Burger (4 ounces)
Calories 287 230 240
Protein 19.4 g 20 g 19 g
Saturated fat 8.6 g 5 g 8 g
Total fat 23 g 18 g 14 g
Carbohydrates 0 g 7 g 9 g
Fiber 0 g 2 g 3 g
Sodium 80 mg 390 mg 370 mg

Nutrient Resources 12

  • Ground beef alternatives contain less calories per serving.
  • Ground beef alternatives and ground beef contain a similar amount of protein.
  • Ground beef alternatives contain a similar amount of saturated fat.
  • Ground beef alternatives contain less total fat than ground beef.
  • Ground beef alternatives provide a little fiber while ground beef doesn’t.
  • Ground beef alternatives contain much more sodium than ground beef.

Additional Resources 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

Read Next – More Food Alternative Articles!

Quinoa Replacements: 13 Healthy and Affordable Substitutes

Cod Alternatives: The 12 Best Substitutes

Trout Replacements: The 12 Best Substitutes

Sea Bass Substitutes: 10 Healthy Alternatives

Alternatives to Sweet Potatoes: 16 Unbeatable Solutions

 

Article Resources: Foods For Anti-Aging follows strict guidelines to ensure our content is the highest journalistic standard. It's our mission to provide the reader with accurate, honest and unbiased guidance. Our content relies on medical associations, research institutions, government agencies and study resources. Learn more by reading our editorial policy.
  1. USDA: Beef, ground, 80% lean meat / 20% fat, raw[]
  2. USDA: Turkey, ground, 85% lean, 15% fat, raw[]
  3. USDA: Chicken, ground, raw[]
  4. USDA: Tofu, raw, regular, prepared with calcium sulfate[]
  5. USDA: Mushroom, portabella[]
  6. USDA: Tempeh[]
  7. USDA: Textured vegetable protein, dry[]
  8. USDA: Lentils, raw[]
  9. USDA: Cauliflower, raw[]
  10. USDA: Beets, raw[]
  11. USDA: Bulgur, cooked[]
  12. Nutrition Value: Seitan[][]
  13. Utah State University: Mushrooms[]
  14. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Acceptability and consumption of tofu as a meat alternative among secondary school boarders in Enugu State, Nigeria[]
  15. Harvard T.H. Chan: Swap out red meat for healthier meats[]
  16. Harvard Health Publishing: Impossible and Beyond: How healthy are these meatless burgers?[]
  17. Wikipedia: Textured vegetable protein[]
  18. Harvard T.H. Chan: Lentils[]
  19. University Of Illinois Urbana-Champaign: Bulgur is a convenient whole grain source[]
  20. Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction: Cauliflower[]
  21. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Functional properties of beetroot (Beta vulgaris) in management of cardio-metabolic diseases[]
  22. Wikipedia: Seitan[]

Kevin Garce

Kevin Garce is a Certified Health Coach who encourages people by informing them on nutrition and food topics important to them. His years of research and knowledge inspire people to achieve their goals. Read more here About Me

Recent Posts