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Mix it Up!!

Updated: Jul 9, 2022

Dana Eshelman, MS, RDN

Mushrooms, legumes, grains, oh my! These meat extenders are budget-friendly, sustainable, and nutrient-rich. Add these to lean meat to boost flavor and add moisture.


Mushrooms are full of B vitamins, selenium and dietary fiber; those exposed to UV light also have increased vitamin D content. Roughly chop or put mushrooms in a food processor so they have a similar texture to ground meat. There is not an exact measurement of adding the chopped mushrooms to ground meat. Use a 1:1 portion measure or 3:1 portion measure. Mushrooms has a meaty texture and the same umami characteristics as meat, so either will work.

Beans and lentils

Add cooked or canned beans or lentils to raw ground meat in a 3:1 or 2:1 ratio for additional protein, dietary fiber, iron, and folate. Beans may be more noticeable in a final dish, so pureeing them as a binder may be best. Pureed lentils and beans can replace egg or breadcrumbs for burgers or meatballs. Black or pinto beans work best with ground beef and garbanzo or great northern beans work well with ground chicken or turkey.

Grains and seeds

Whole grains such as oats, bulgur, chia seeds, and quinoa can be added for increased volume and additional protein, fiber, omega 3s, B vitamins, iron, zinc, copper, and magnesium. For increased volume add 1 cup of cooked bulgur or quinoa to pound of raw meat. As a binding agent, add ¾ cup dry oats or 1 tablespoon hydrated chia seed per pound of raw meat.

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