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According to Ipsos Retail Performance, the number of people in the United States interested in vegan and plant-based diets reached 9.7 million people in 2019. “Plant-based” is the key term here. Veganism revolves around the effort to remove animal-based products from a person’s lifestyle as much as possible, from clothing (meaning no more leather jackets) and food. However, you might notice some self-proclaimed vegan bloggers sharing their favorite recipes that include seafood and leave you wondering: do vegans eat shrimp?
In one word: no. Shrimps are crustaceans or shellfish, so true vegans do not eat them. Other familiar animals in this family include prawns, crabs, and lobsters. Even products derived from these animals like shrimp paste and prawn sauce have no space in a vegan diet. This article discusses why shrimp is not vegan and offers vegan-friendly alternatives if you enjoy seafood but are interested in adopting veganism in your life.
Why Shrimp Is Not Vegan
Do vegans eat fish? No, because you can immediately identify fish as living animals. Some people may argue that certain seafood like shrimp and crab are simple marine life that should not be off-limits in vegan diets. However, behavioral studies in crustaceans suggest that they can feel pain. Researchers have observed that common shrimp and prawns have shown sensitive reactions to hot and cold temperatures.
Veganism is about limiting or eliminating your consumption of products that involve animal cruelty. Cruelty against animals can range from testing products to cooking them for consumption. As such, the fact that shrimp can feel pain when you freeze or boil them for your next meal can count as animal cruelty. As a vegan, you would avoid supporting companies that conduct animal tests on cosmetics and household products like makeup, soap, and laundry detergent. At the same time, you would eliminate all animal products and byproducts from your diet.
If you are thinking about going vegan, you will no longer eat meat, eggs, milk, and honey. When it comes to seafood, fish and shrimp are off the table as well. You can adopt a pescatarian diet if you still include fish in your diet of mainly plant products. However, a strict vegan diet will require removing shrimp and related products from your meals.
Vegan Shrimp Alternatives
Once you realize that a vegan lifestyle suits your best interests, you must find suitable alternatives to make up for the shrimp flavors and health benefits you sacrifice. Shrimp offers the following nutrients:
- Protein: Shrimp provides 18 grams of protein per 85-gram serving. Protein is a nutrient found in most meat products. This nutrient is essential in regulating body organ functions, forming body structures, and repairing tissues. Many nuts, soy, and beans are suitable protein sources.
- Calcium: Cooked shrimp (100 grams) has 70mg of calcium, an essential nutrient for building and maintaining strong teeth and bones. Considering that calcium is your body’s most abundant mineral, you must find an excellent calcium-rich alternative. Some nuts and dried fruit can serve as a suitable compensation.
- Iodine: Shrimp is rich in iodine. Iodine is a mineral that regulates thyroid function to produce essential hormones. Thyroid hormones are crucial to brain health as it manages brain development and metabolism. Many people are already iodine deficient. You will need to find a suitable alternative to compensate for the iodine content you will lose once you give up shrimp.
- Fatty Acids: Shrimp are good food sources of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids help reduce your risk of heart diseases. Meanwhile, omega-3 fatty acids help reduce cardiovascular disease risks. Several beans, nuts, and seeds are also naturally rich in these nutrients, so it should be simple to find substitutes.
- Antioxidants: Shrimp is reportedly rich in astaxanthin, which offers potential therapeutic effects in cardiovascular diseases and improves the immune system’s functions. In general, antioxidants can help protect your cells against damage, which can help prevent certain cancers and heart diseases. Antioxidants also appear naturally in plant sources.
Substituting shrimp with other foods may not be as satisfying as the real thing. But it can be easy to make the switch once you realize that you can find shrimp’s health benefits elsewhere. In addition, many shrimp dishes tend to get their flavors from other ingredients, not necessarily the shrimp. Consider the following vegan-friendly alternative recipes from other websites to replace shrimp in your favorite dishes.
You can make a vegan shrimp alternative with sweet potatoes. This versatile root vegetable has enough starch to bind other ingredients to make your shrimp substitute. You will need:
- Sweet potato puree
- Gluten flour
- Garlic powder
- Vegetable oil
Here are the steps to make sweet potato shrimp.
- Step 1: Sift and mix the dry ingredients well.
- Step 2: Combine the puree and vegetable oil in another bowl.
- Step 3: Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
- Step 4: Knead the mixture by hand for 2-3 minutes (any longer will toughen your fake shrimp).
This dough will expand once you cook it in your favorite broth. You can make a seafood flavored broth with water, salt, and seaweed.
Extra-firm tofu can serve as your protein source in your favorite dishes like shrimp scampi. Instead of serving shrimp over garlic butter sauce and pasta noodles, you would use fried tofu cubes. To achieve a shrimp scampi flavor, you can let the tofu sit in a marinade. You will need:
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Minced garlic (six cloves)
- Lemon zest and juice
- Red pepper flakes
Here are the steps to make tofu shrimp:
- Step 1: Cube your tofu into bite-sized pieces.
- Step 2: Let the tofu marinate for at least half an hour. Meanwhile, you can prepare your favorite shrimp dish.
- Step 3: Cook the tofu on a skillet for about five minutes when it turns brown on all sides.
- Step 4: Add cooked tofu to scampi or other shrimp dishes.
King Oyster Mushroom
King oyster mushrooms and shrimp have similar textures. Also known as trumpet mushrooms, you can usually find these ingredients in your local Asian grocery store. You will only use the mushroom stalks and discard the caps. To achieve the shrimp flavor you want, you will need:
- King oyster mushrooms
- Nori sheet
Here are the steps to make shrimp out of king oyster mushrooms:
- Step 1: Chop and discard the mushroom caps and hard bottom parts.
- Step 2: Slice the mushroom into circles (about ¼ inches thick).
- Step 3: Cut the circles further to look like shrimp.
- Step 4: Heat ⅓ cup of water with the seasoning and nori sheet until it boils.
- Step 5: Take the broth off the heat and pour it over the mushrooms.
- Step 6: Marinate the mushrooms for 20 minutes.
- Step 7: Sauté the mushroom in oil for three minutes on each side.
You can serve your king oyster mushroom shrimp in your favorite seafood dishes.
So, do vegans eat shrimp? No, vegans do not eat shrimp. Although some vegans might believe that shrimp are simple marine animals, studies have shown that crustaceans (the shrimp family) can feel pain. So, cooking and eating them is a form of animal cruelty, which goes against the vegan lifestyle. Consider the vegan-friendly recipes we collected for your shrimp alternatives.