For people who don't want to eat meat for ethical, religious, or health reasons, there are a range of meat substitutes on the market. It may take a little bit of experimentation to find meat substitutes which you enjoy and figure out how to cook them, but you might be surprised by the range of delicious things you can cook without too much effort. Most markets have a vegetarian section which is stocked with meat substitutes, and you can also find them at a health food store. In addition, many Asian markets stock meat substitutes to cater to Buddhist customers, and it is also possible to order fake meats directly, if you're in an area with limited options.
The two most common bases for meat substitutes are wheat and soy. In some cases, other grains may be used, as is the case with grain burgers and some styles of tempeh. You can find meat substitutes which are formed in the shape of meats, like veggie burgers and tofu dogs, and you can also find meat substitutes which are simply used as sources of protein, not pretending to be something they're not. If you want to see some really creative meat substitutes, visit an Asian market for foods like mock duck, “Buddha ham”, and other amazing facsimiles of meat products that often taste and feel eerily like the real thing.
Soy is one of the most used bases for meat substitutes. In addition to being high in protein, soy is also easy to handle, and it can be flavored and formed in a wide variety of ways. Soy may be fermented to make tempeh, or pressed to make soymilk which can be coagulated into tofu and an assortment of fake meat products. Another meat substitute, textured vegetable protein or TVP, is made from soy flour. Soy is often packaged with flavorings, which is why it's possible to find soy chorizo for Mexican food, spicy soy Italian sausage, and marinated Thai tofu in the market.
Wheat is used to make seitan, a popular meat substitute in Asia. Seitan is made by rinsing flour to leave the gluten, which can be shaped in a wide range of high-protein forms. Seitan is used to make imitation chicken, fake roasts, mock duck, and a range of other foods. Some people prefer seitan to soy-based meat substitutes, since it has a chewy, stringy texture like real meats. Seitan also holds up to things like long roasting or boiling to make vegan corned “beef” and cabbage, pot roasts, pot pie, and an assortment of other comfort foods.
Grain based meat substitutes such as veggie burgers or tempeh with fermented grains are also readily available in some parts of the world. These meat substitutes are also easy to make at home; you can experiment with soaking and flavoring your own grain patties if you so desire.