What to Substitute for Ground Beef When You Can't Find Ground Beef

These five stand-in ingredients will stop you from missing ground beef.

Between meat processing plants shutting down due to Covid-19 cases and shoppers stocking up to avoid trips to the grocery store, finding ground beef can seem like an impossible task sometimes. But just because you can't get a pack of ground chuck doesn't mean you have to miss out on your favorite dishes that use it.

Our five substitutes can create meaty and hearty meals that will leave you wondering why you didn't branch out from ground beef sooner. From vegetarian options to white meat, here are our favorite ingredients to sub in for ground beef:


Finely chopped white or brown button mushrooms can easily stand in for ground beef in the right recipe. When sautéed in a little oil, the mushrooms shrink down and concentrate their umami flavor for an extra savory taste. These mushrooms are perfect for cooking down into a bolognese sauce or mixing into meatless meatballs. If you're missing ground beef for a burger patty, these portobello mushroom burgers make a great substitute. They're already the correct shape for a burger, and a quick marinade in savory ingredients results in a juicy dinner.

Ground Poultry

With a similar texture, ground chicken or ground turkey can be superb substitutes for ground beef. The poultry is a bit paler than beef, which can change the appearance of some dishes, but they still taste equally delicious. Chicken and turkey are leaner than beef, so if you're missing that natural fattiness in a dish, try adding a bit of extra cooking oil or butter to offset the mouthfeel. Try ground poultry in dishes like meatloaf, tacos, sloppy joes, or stuffed peppers.

Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)

Textured vegetable protein, also known as TVP, is a meat-free protein source made from defatted soy flour that can be bought at health food stores or online. It's a shelf stable ingredient that's available in a minced shape, which when rehydrated is eerily similar to the texture of ground beef. TVP is often used to stretch meat budgets in food production, some common grocery items that feature it are Hormel No Bean Chili and Betty Crocker Bac-Os Bacon Flavor Bits. To be made palatable, TVP should be soaked in a flavorful liquid to rehydrate for about 10 minutes, you can use anything from beef broth to veggie bouillon depending on what flavor you're going for. Or if you're making an already soupy dish, such as pasta sauce or stew, you can simply stir in the dry TVP and it will soften up during cooking. Use TVP as a beef substitute in chili, stuffed cabbage rolls, or stroganoff.


Brown lentils, due to their small shape and similar color, make an excellent stand-in for ground beef. These legumes can be cooked from dry or use the canned variety for extra convenience. Left whole, lentils can make a hearty addition to shepherd's pie and meatless meatloaf. They can also be mashed and mixed with other ingredients to create meaty pasta sauces and taco fillings.


Tofu's heartier cousin, tempeh, is also made from soybeans but instead fermented into a firm patty. It can often be found in the refrigerated vegetarian section of well-stocked grocery stores. With a mildly nutty taste and hearty texture, crumbled tempeh is a great substitute for ground beef. Due to its mild flavor, it soaks up any seasonings that it's sautéed with or simmered in. Try tempeh in meatless meatballs, spiced tacos, or barbeque sandwiches.

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