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Will a plant-based menu work in the Philippines? Can vegetarian main dishes trump sisig, crispy pata, bistek, caldereta, lechon, tapa, tocino, and many other hearty dishes found around the archipelago? Even for foreigners, Pinoy food equals pork barbecue, chicken inasal, kare-kare, and bulalo. Where is the veg? Filipinos love their meat too much – or so most people think.

Shifting Filipino Preferences

A diner holding a piece of grilled meat using chopsticks.

The latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show that a Filipino consumes an average of 6.35 kg of pork annually. For chicken, the median value is 6.89 kg. But for beef, the number dips to 0.87 kg. That brings the country’s average annual meat consumption per capita to 14.11 kg. Divide that by 365, and you get less than 40 g of meat per day.

Do the numbers meet your expectations? What if you find out that the country ranks even below global figures? The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reports that the worldwide average is 34.1 kg of meat per person annually. Where does that put carnivorous Filipinos – not as meat-loving after all?

Current events and other external factors, including inflation, may have caused that difference in consumption values. But it also points to shifting perspectives and preferences, including openness to plant-based dishes.

When choosing their food, more Filipinos now consider the environment, animal welfare, and climate change besides just looking into health benefits. The population is also seeing an increase in flexitarians (17%), vegetarians (6%), and vegans (5%). Another good news? Studies reveal up to 70% of diners are willing to purchase plant-based versions of their usual restaurant orders.

Crafting Plant-Based Menu Items

A chef holding tweezers while making finishing touches on a plant-based dish

Before you delete all the meat dishes from your menu, ensure you understand your new target market. Consider the two types of flexitarians. The active ones have been consuming plant-based ingredients for some time already. Meanwhile, the cautious replacers are still new to the concept and unsure if they can fully transition to meat alternatives. Balance your menu so you can cater to both. Here are some tips to guide you in creating plant-based menu items. Go ahead and offer dishes beyond vegan burgers and salads!

1. Swap the meat in recipes.

Changing your protein is the easiest, fastest, and most convenient way to make the plant-based switch. Instead of ground pork or beef, you can use textured vegetable protein for pasta dishes and stir-fries. Mushrooms can replace bacon, ham, and even chicken breast. Alternatively, you can go for The Vegetarian Butcher products for most of your recipes.

2. Pair meat alternatives with tasty sauces.

“They taste too much like plants!” is a common reaction from someone trying plant-based food for the first time. But that might just be all in their head. To counter this aversion, serve your dishes with sauces and dressings their palates are accustomed to. For example, you can use Hellmann’s vegan Smoked Chili Dressing or Miso Ponzu Sauce.

3. Reshape plant-based meats.

Get creative with your plant-based ingredients to keep your diners excited. For example, you can remold The Vegetarian Butcher No Mince into various shapes, including balls, logs, and patties. Make the most of this versatility to create unique dishes. This way, your customers will no longer equate vegetarian fare to boring food. 

4. Use familiar Asian seasonings.

Maximize the seasonings and flavorings you already have. Spices can help bring the taste of plant-based meat closer to the real thing. You can play around with turmeric, lemongrass, ginger, calamansi, and even coffee. Find what works best for your chosen protein.

5. Start from scratch.

If you’re not in a rush, you can go back to the drawing board and develop new recipes. The possibilities are endless when planning a plant-based menu. You can take inspiration from classic Pinoy flavors and regional dishes or create something entirely new. Wow your diners!

5 Vegetarian Main Dishes to Add to Your Menu

Upgrade your menu with plant-based items to satisfy diners' modern tastes. You most likely have recipes you can adjust to be more vegan- and vegetarian-friendly, so start there. Tweak them and position them alongside your meat-centric dishes. Again, you want to offer something for decided flexitarians and curious diners. Take inspiration from these dishes:

1. American + Mexican: Burger burrito

A burrito sliced in half with Mexican rice, refried beans, chicken chunks, and lettuce.

This dish combines two comfort food favorites in one. The filling consists of cubed NOChicken Burger, Mexican-style rice, refried beans, and fresh iceberg lettuce. Everything is rolled tightly in a soft flour tortilla. Served with nacho chips and a vegetarian cheese sauce. 

2. Mexican: Quesadillas

A quesadilla sliced into triangles stuffed with chicken chunks, veggies, cheese, and more, served with a side of garlicky quesadilla dip.

This overloaded quesadilla features grilled NOChicken Chunks, colorful veggies, and ooey-gooey Pepper Jack cheese. This qualifies as a vegetarian dish, but a few adjustments can make it fully vegan. Opt for non-dairy alternatives to the cheese and go for a different dressing, like a house-made creamy garlic sauce with cashews for creaminess.

3. Vietnamese: Fried spring rolls

A platter of fried spring rolls served on fresh green lettuce.

How about something the whole table can share? This dish takes inspiration from Vietnamese cha gio, a crunchy appetizer dipped in sweet-savory nuoc cham. Its filling has stir-fried veggies, NoMince, and cellophane noodles. Feel free to skip the shrimp to keep it vegetarian. The NoMince and mushroom mix makes it very hearty and satisfying already. 

4. Japanese: Katsu with vegetable curry

A plate of chicken katsu with a side of Japanese vegetable curry, white rice, and cabbage slaw.

It's easy to turn the ultra-lean NOChicken Burger into a crispy, indulgent treat. All it takes is a bit of panko breading! This recipe pairs the katsu with a spicy Japanese-style vegetable curry. In Japan, curry rice is widely considered the unofficial national dish, so this is sure to please patrons looking for an authentic experience. 

5. Chinese: Vegetable siomai

A bamboo steamer with Filipino-style siomai served with dipping sauces

This all-veggie version of Chinese-Filipino siomai uses minced NoChicken Burger instead of traditional pork filling. Once assembled, everything cooks fast in a bamboo steamer. It takes only 12 minutes to cook and offers the same chewiness for which meat-based siomai is known. 

Promoting Your Plant-Based Diet Menu

Sampling portions of a salad with plant-based meat.

What happens next after crafting your new menu? You need to get the word out. The task is not unlike marketing a regular menu, but there are ways to highlight the benefits of a plant-based one. How do you announce that you’ve made the switch without it being a hard sell? Follow these tips:

  • Name with care. How you call and describe your plant-based dish should still be appetizing. Don’t go overboard on keywords, like “meat-free,” “low-calorie,” and “vegan-friendly,” so you don’t overwhelm curious consumers.
  • Emphasize familiarity. Your messaging should highlight that making the switch doesn’t depart from the flavors most diners have come to love.
  • Position them strategically. You don’t have to create a separate menu category for these items. Incorporate them into your regular mains section to communicate that they offer as much heft and satisfaction.
  • Offer flexibility. Again, you don’t even have to revise your current menu. You can just add a banner inviting customers to make their orders plant-based. 
  • Choose fun colors. It’s easy to rely on green and brown when designing your menu. But if you want to stand out and entice non-vegetarians, consider complementing earthy tones with bolder colors. 
  • Organize events. Meatless Monday or Meat-free Fridays? Events draw in customers, especially if you’re promoting new items. You can also schedule discounts or promos on quiet days.
  • Offer samples. Give your meat-loving customers a chance to taste plant-based versions of their order. Serve them a small portion, ask for their feedback, and entice them to go meat-free next time. 

Filipino diners’ preferences are shifting. While some old meat-leaning habits die hard, more people are showing openness to plant-based menus. Don’t be left out – start planning your offerings today.