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The 6 Best Substitutes for Veal in a Recipe

Veal is not something we commonly buy at the grocery or meat market. So, when a recipe calls for it, what can we use as a replacement?

The best substitutes for veal are pork, turkey, chicken, beef, lamb, and goat. For the best result, some people use 50/50 beef and pork. The pork gives the dish a tender texture, and the beef gives the closest flavor approximate to veal.  

Keep reading for more information on the meat you can use to replace veal.

Sliced veal

1. Pork

Whatever your reason for avoiding veal in your cooking, note that you can use pork as a substitute. Despite coming from a different species, the taste of pork is very similar to veal. It’s sweet and juicy, something you’d also get from veal.

Regarding texture, pork is generally softer and more tender than beef. Generally, pigs are slaughtered at a younger age than cows. Typically, cows are slaughtered up to 42 months of age; their body is bigger, hence more meat than veal, although tougher.

Despite coming from a fully grown pig, pork is easier to work with (when substituting veal) than meat from cows older than 18 weeks old. Cows older than 18 weeks of age taste different than younger ones and have tougher textures. 

While pork has a distinctive taste (you’d know it’s pork and not cow’s meat), its texture which is softer than beef, makes it a better option than beef. Sure, it’s fattier, but you can always remove the meat’s fatty edges. Furthermore, pork is cheaper than veal, making it ideal for those cooking on a budget. 

It’s easier to work with pork when substituting it for veal by grinding it. When ground, pork feels even softer. You can easily use it for making meatballs for pasta or soup.

Related The 10 Most Similar Pork Shoulder Substitutes.

2. Turkey

Not a fan of pork? You may consider turkey as a substitute for veal.

Unlike veal, turkey is white meat. Even though eating white meat like turkey isn’t always healthier than red meat like veal, you may consider using turkey in a recipe that calls for veal. Likewise, eat moderately because, as stated earlier, white meat isn’t always a healthier option than red meat.

Turkey is rich in protein and minerals, just like veal, although veal and chicken contain more protein than turkey. Regarding fat and calories, turkey and veal have about the same amount. 

Without the skin, a 3-ounce (85 g) serving of roasted turkey has 25 g (0.8 oz) of protein, 4 g (0.14 oz) of fat, and 145 calories (19 g). This serving contains no sugar, carbs, or fiber. A Veal of a similar serving contains 21 g (0.7 oz) of protein, which is close to what you get from a turkey.

When it comes to flavor and texture, turkey tastes good and is easy to work with, especially when ground. Consider getting a turkey breast for the recipe that calls for veal. Go for boneless turkey breast, if possible, or you may use bone-in turkey breast and debone it yourself. 

Price-wise, turkey is more affordable than veal since it’s easier to obtain.

3. Chicken

Chicken is a good option for veal if you don’t have turkey in hand. It’s soft, tender, and easy to work with for making recipes that call for veal. Like turkey, using the breast (and boneless) is advisable.

Several raw chicken legs

To mimic veal, slice the chicken breast thinly. You may also pound it using a meat tenderizer. Some people cut chicken meat into smaller pieces using a food processor. Ground chicken meat is an excellent substitute for veal.

Chicken and turkey are quite similar in terms of their nutritional values. Per 100 g (3.5 oz), chicken has 27 g (0.9 oz) of protein. Chicken has 14 g (0.5 oz) of fat and many minerals, including potassium, zinc, and iron. Like veal and turkey, raw chicken doesn’t contain carbohydrates; it’s perfect if you’re looking for a diet meal. 

4. Beef

As discussed earlier, pork may be a better substitute for veal than beef due to its soft and tender texture. Beef is typically tougher than veal because the cow that has reached adulthood has stronger muscles than those that haven’t, such as calves.

Even so, depending on the cut, you can still get beef that closely resembles a veal’s taste and texture. For example, sirloin is an excellent substitute for veal.

If you’re making a stew recipe that calls for veal, you can use beef chunks instead. Allow them to cook slowly until tender. After hours of slow cooking, your beef chunks will fall apart beautifully. They will also be tastier, as slow cooking retains the beef’s flavor. Your beef will be moist and juicy.

Per 85 g (2.9 oz), beef has 22 g (0.8 oz) of protein, 13.1 g (0.5 oz) of fat, and 212 calories (27 g). Like veal, beef has no carbohydrates or sugar.

Related The 8 Best Beef Tenderloin Substitutes (And How to Use Them).

5. 50/50 Beef and Pork

Another option is to prepare your dish with half beef and half pork. Pork will help enhance the flavor and improve the meat’s overall texture. But to get the ideal taste and texture, you’ll need to grind the pork and beef first.

Between the pork’s texture and the beef’s flavor, you’ll have a combination that will make you feel like you’re eating veal.

Using 50/50 ground beef and pork doesn’t always apply to all recipes. It’s best for recipes like burgers, stir-fry, or soup. Still, it’s a good alternative to veal. Plus, pork is affordable, perfect if you’re looking to cook on a budget.

Regarding nutrition, 50/50 beef and pork can offer you more nutrients than veal. For example, a serving of 100 g (3.5 oz) of veal can give you 24 g (0.8 oz) of protein. For the same serving, pork can give you 27 g (1 oz) of protein, while beef can give you 26 g (0.9 oz) of protein. 

The Best Substitute for Ground Veal in Meatballs?

A mixture of ground pork and beef is the best substitute for ground veal in meatballs. When ground, pork gives the tender texture of veal, while beef gives the meatballs the flavor. As a result, mixed ground pork and beef taste close to veal. Consider using pork loin cuts and beef tenderloins.

Raw meatballs

You can use ground pork and beef meatballs in pasta, soups, and stir-fry recipes that call for veal. You’ll need a meat tenderizer to make ground meat. But you may use prepackaged ground beef if you like, although it’s not the best.

Use Equal Quantities of Pork and Beef 

Using 50/50 pork and beef is recommended. To ensure you get the right portion, weigh your pork and beef on a scale separately. Make sure both types of meat are ground. Once you’ve weighed your meat, mix them in a bowl. Then season your mixed ground meat. A basic seasoning of salt and pepper is excellent.

Make Your Meatballs in the Same Size

Once seasoned, your mixed meat is ready for the next step: roll the meat into meatballs. You’ll want to roll the meatballs in consistent sizes to ensure they cook properly within the same timeframe. Use a tablespoon to scoop out your mixed meat and roll it. Once you’ve rolled all your meatballs, they’re ready for cooking.

6. Lamb or Goat

Pork, turkey, chicken, and beef are great substitutes for veal. But if you don’t have them, you may use other meat, such as lamb or goat.

Lamb is a great substitute for veal.

Many people find lamb overwhelming for their dish, thus why it’s not always the preferred veal substitute. But if you only have lamb or goat in your pantry, you may use it to replace veal. 

No matter the cut, lamb isn’t very tender; thus, it is not easy to mimic the texture of veal with this substitute. It is, however, juicy and delicious, making it an acceptable choice for a veal substitute. But should you wish to tone down the overwhelming lamb flavor, there are many seasonings that you can use to help you with that.

When choosing your lamb, opt for the easiest cut to work with. You’ll want cuts with fewer curves. Do the same for goat meat as well. 

In terms of nutritional values, lamb and goat are high in protein. Lamb leg, for example, offers 17 g (0.6 oz) of protein per 100 g serving. Raw goat meat, on the other hand, offers 21 g (0.7 oz) of protein per 100 g (3.5 oz) serving. 

Tips for Choosing Your Veal Substitute

As established in this article, pork, turkey, chicken, and beef are excellent veal substitutes. Lamb and goat are acceptable, too, although not always preferred. Using 50/50 pork and beef is recommended. Regardless of your meat choice, choosing the right meat is ideal. The following explores what you should consider when choosing your veal substitute:

Don’t Buy Low-Quality Meat

When buying your veal substitute, you must check the meat quality. Avoid buying meat that doesn’t look fresh. You can tell that meat is no longer fresh by looking at the texture; if it’s slimy and lacks the typical red or pink color of fresh meat. 

If you can, get your meat from your local butcher instead of your nearby supermarket. Local butchers typically have the freshest meat, ensuring the best taste and texture for your dish. Remember that not all meat is equal; it highly depends on the cut. 

Be Mindful of Who You’re Serving the Dish To

While pork is the best substitute for veal, it’s not always the best choice for everyone. Pork isn’t suitable for people who don’t consume the meat, such as Muslims, Jewish, and Christians of certain denominations. Hindus don’t eat beef, as cows are considered sacred animals. If you don’t eat pork or beef, turkey or chicken is best for you. 

Store Your Meat Properly

If you don’t eat your meat immediately, keep it in a fridge or freezer. Keeping meat in the freezer allows you to save it for consumption months later. However, it’s best not to store meat in the freezer for too long. Consider using refrigerated meat immediately or within five days.

Is a Meat Tenderizer Necessary for My Veal Substitute? 

A meat tenderizer is a kitchen tool to flatten meat, typically boneless chicken. You can also use a meat tenderizer for other meat, such as pork, beef, or turkey. 

A meat tenderizer is necessary for your veal substitute if you make a meat filet for your dish. Apart from flattening your meat, the meat tenderizer helps make your meat more tender, hence tastier. However, a meat tenderizer isn’t necessary if you’re making ground meat for meatballs.

For meatballs, you can easily use ground meat that is prepacked or ground using a food processor. However, many prefer to use a meat tenderizer even for making ground meat because the tool allows the meat’s proteins to break down before cooking.

Related 11 Best Tasting Types of Meat in the World.