When it comes to craving a good piece of steak, you might consider a flank steak. But what about the other cuts of the cow? Can we use some of these interchangeably? Is there a vegan substitute for flank steak?
Yes, yes and yes.
However, the best substitute comes down to the type of cooking you'll be doing. To make your search easier, we've laid out the best flank steak substitutes in terms of grilling, pan searing, oven roasting and stew-making.
Understanding Flank Steak
First, let's take a dive into what constitutes a flank steak!
Flank steak is a tough, boneless, lean cut of meat that comes from the cow's abdominal muscle. A flank steak is long and flat with an outstanding visual of the cross grain of muscle fibers.
Generally speaking, flank steak has less concentrated marbling than its fattier cousins, the ribeye and the NY steak. With that said, it's a cheaper cut which makes it a more common variety for family dinners.
When it comes to taste, flank steak is rich in beef flavor with a slightly chewy texture. Flank steak can be hard if not cooked properly or tenderized. In order to keep the meat soft, it is important to marinate it (acidic marinades work best).
Best Flank Steak Substitutes
We're looking for similar texture qualities and comparable end results when we're searching for a flank steak alternative.
For the Grill
Skirt Steak (#1 Recommended)
The skirt steak is our number one recommended flank steak alternative! It comes from the diaphragm of the cow and is full of intense flavor. Skirt steak has similar properties in preparation; marinade, high-heat and quick cooking.
For best results on the grill, marinate your skirt steak for at least 2 hours. Place skirt steak on the grill over medium heat for about 3-4 minutes and flip for another 3-4 minutes. Take off the grill and rest for about 6-7 minutes. Do not over cook or the meat will become tough and chewy.
Also deemed as "butcher's cut," this secret piece of meat comes from the diaphragm of the cow along the lower belly. Hanger steak is higher in fat content but grainy and cut thin like flank steak.
For best grilling results, high heat is key. Season the hanger steak with salt and pepper or steak seasoning. Place steaks on the grill and cook for about 3 minutes on each side. Hanger steaks are recommended to be cooked to medium rare or less. Anything over can result in chewy and tough meat.
Portobello Mushrooms (VEGAN SUBSTITUTE)
Weird to think mushrooms would be a meaty substitute. Don't knock it til you try it!
Portobello mushrooms have a meaty and fibrous texture and can easily absorb marinades. A quick and easy marinade that includes balsamic vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic is ideal to use on the mushrooms as they're grilled. Grill mushrooms on medium heat for about 4-5 minutes on both sides. Check out this recipe for more details!
Flap Steak (Bavette Steak)
Flap steak is from the cow's abdominal region, as is flank steak; yet flap steak has more marbling and is less expensive at the market.
Flap steaks need to be cooked at high heat. This recipe calls for the grill to be set at 450°F and a marinade for 20 minutes. Check it out!
According to Julia Collin Davison, "Flank steak is the boneless, skinless chicken breast of the beef world," so why not use chicken breast as an alternative?
Like flank steak, chicken is great with marinades. Leave chicken in marinade for at least 2-3 hours or overnight. Have the grill on medium heat. When grilling chicken, have the top closed for about 6-7 minutes and open to flip the chicken. Continue this for about 20-25 minutes total. Always ensure your chicken temps to 165°F. Beware of overcooking chicken as it can turn dry and tough.
For Pan Searing
Here is the skirt steak again, but this time in a hot skillet! Because skirt steak is a thin cut, it's quick to cook in the skillet for dishes like fajitas and stir-fries.
Similar to the grill, you can have your skirt steak in marinade or seasoned on the spot for about 15-20 minutes. Coat the skillet with olive oil and put the skillet over medium high or high heat. Add the steaks and cook about 4 minutes on each side.
Flat Iron Steak
Having the appearance of an old-fashioned flat iron, this cut of meat comes from the chuck primal area (shoulder and neck) of the cow. Flat iron steak is known for its extensive marbling and tenderness.
Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat. Season the flat iron steak on both sides. Add butter or oil to the skillet and place steaks in the skillet. Sear for about 7 minutes and turn it, cooking for another 7 minutes. It is recommended for the flat iron steak to be cooked to medium rare.
Portobello mushrooms (VEGAN SUBSTITUTE)
Pan-seared portobello mushrooms are a fantastic choice if you're trying to avoid meat or dairy in fajitas and tacos. In a large skillet, combine the following ingredients: onions, peppers, cumin, paprika, and portobello mushrooms and sauté over medium heat.
Tofu can be delicate but is a great protein-based alternative for vegans. The key is to get the hard or extra firm tofu. Tofu has the ability to soak in marinade very easily therefore bursting with flavor after cooking. Try out this recipe of Tofu Steaks!
For Oven Roasting
Top Round Roast
Top round is extracted from the back section of the cow's leg. There is very little marbling and fat. You can rub the top round with dry rubs or soak in a marinade. Cook at low temperatures for about 1 to 2 hours.
The top round meat may also be sliced into top round steaks for grilling or pan-searing. A meat slicer is ideal but your typical chef's knife will do.
Boneless chicken breasts in the oven are a wonderful alternative for people who want to limit their red meat intake.
You can cook chicken breasts in a million ways, just remember don't overcook it! Some recipes may suggest brining the chicken before cooking to preserve the tenderness.
A chuck roast comes from the chuck shoulder primal area, same as the flat iron steak. Best way to cook a chuck roast is to braise or slow cooking it in the oven or in a crock pot!
The tri-tip steak comes from the sirloin primal area of the cow. Moderate marbling and tender, the tri-tip steak can be full of flavor whether it is cooked whole or sliced.
Due to its toughness and medium fat content, chuck meat is great for stews as well. For stew, the chuck meat is usually simmering in a liquid broth for a longer period of time on low heat.
There are many flank steak substitutes whether you're trying to grill, pan-sear, oven roast or make a stew. It all depends on what you're looking for in terms of texture and flavor.
Consider trying out some of these substitutes the next time you're in the mood for steak!
Thanks for reading. Please feel free to reach out if you have any further questions...we are here to help.