My dad Pete is a chef with over half a century’s worth of culinary experience. Growing up I was incredibly fortunate never to see the back of the fridge, as he always had delicious foods stocked for myself and my brothers. Our mother – bless her soul – is not the world’s greatest chef (though she can make a mean box of mac and cheese) and so dad was always the boss in the kitchen.

As I’ve gotten older, past my angsty teen years, I’ve had a lot more dialogue with my parents. My dad and I have grown very close through our shared loves of going on bike rides and of course, food. One of the things he’s shared with me more than once over the past few years is how he wishes he had been as keenly aware of the importance of eating healthy when we were growing up. While we certainly weren’t complaining about the abundance of rich flavors, fatty dishes, and addictive sweets, in retrospect it wasn’t what was best for any of us. But hindsight is twenty-twenty and so here we are.

Giving Plant-Based Cooking a Try

The reason I bring this up is that it’s with this in mind that I was able to convince my dad to start leaning into plant-based cooking. He’s seen how my own journey (nowhere close to perfect, but a constant work in progress) has me looking and feeling the healthiest I’ve been probably ever. I urged him to start learning more about how to make tasty plant-based meals and the ingredients he can incorporate. After all, eating plant-based has never been easier with an abundance of meat, dairy, egg, and cheese alternatives.

And so in the lead up to Father’s Day, we embarked on a mission to have him try - for the first time - cooking with a meat alternative. We chose to do something simple: plant-based meat in a Korean-style Gochujang sauce served in lettuce wraps. As we’ve been cutting down on refined carbs in the house, lettuce wraps are a favorite and seemed an appropriate vector to deliver a protein about which two out of three people in the house were skeptical.

How Did Plant-Based Meat Stack Up for a Chef?

I’ll spare you the gratuitous details of each step we took and go straight to the outcome: it was delicious. My mother (whose first time it was eating Beyond Beef) remarked, “It tastes just like the real thing!” And my father, ever the vociferous critic of food that doesn’t meet his high standard, conceded that he too thought it was significantly better than he expected (especially after an earlier comment while unwrapping the Beyond Beef about how “smelled like dog food”).

In short, if this recipe can make my skeptical dad a believer (and as you can see from the pictures, this dish won a coveted “Clean Plate Crew” award), it is well worth your time and effort - especially since it takes less than a half-hour!

Plant-Based Korean “Beef”

Ingredients:

  • ½  cup fresh pineapple
  • ¼ cup Tamari (we substituted gluten-free soy sauce)
  • 1 Tbsp. Agave nectar
  • 1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
  • ½ Tbsp. Gochujang (hot pepper paste) - increase this if you want to turn up the heat!
  • 2 Tbsps. garlic and ginger paste
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 16 oz. plant-based vegan beef
  • ½ cup julienned carrots
  • ½ cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
  • A separated head of Bibb lettuce or 2 cups cooked rice

Instructions:

  1. In a blender, puree pineapple, tamari, toasted sesame oil, Gochujang, agave nectar and garlic/ginger paste together.
  2. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  3. Add plant-based vegan “beef” and brown, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add carrots and red onions and cook for 3 minutes
  5. Stir in blender sauce mixture and allow to simmer until heated through and thickened, about 4-5 minutes.
  6. Plate and garnish with green onions and toasted sesame seeds.
  7. Serve immediately over rice or in lettuce cups