Excessive meat consumption is associated with environmental, ethical and public health concerns. Substituting meat with plant-based alternatives has been located as a key strategy for consumers to reduce their meat intake. While a growing body of research seeks to measure consumers’ acceptance of substitute foods, less attention has been paid to how meat substitution is organised through everyday practices. Based on 50 interviews with consumers with varying levels of meat consumption in Norway, this paper explores how substitution is accomplished in everyday life, and how substitutes are leveraged in the project of meat reduction. A theoretical framework connecting theories of social practice and food qualification allowed investigating substitution as a contextually contingent process rather than the outcome of a simple product swap. The paper finds that many participants were open to the idea of meat substitution, and meatless meals could be acceptable and often desirable. However, substitution was complicated by a prevalent scepticism towards prefabricated substitute products and lacking competence to provide home-cooked alternatives fulfilling expectations in established food practices. The paper argues that ‘qualifying’ foods as substitutes depends on a range of factors beyond the material reconstruction of meatiness present in prefabricated products, problematising the idea of substitution as a straightforward strategy for meat reduction so long as consumers are motivated and/or have access to plant-based options. Shifting consumption from meat to plant-based alternatives require fundamental changes in the organisation of food environments and eating practices beyond measures targeting consumer attitudes or increasing the availability of convenient substitute products.