Few studies have assessed the association between consumption of red meat (RM) and processed red meats (PRM) and the incidence of metabolic syndrome (MetS) and results have been inconsistent. We investigated associations between total consumption of meat and its subtypes and incident MetS and estimated the effect of substituting RM or PRM for alternative protein-rich foods.We analyzed 1868 participants (55-80 years-old) recruited into the PREDIMED study who had no MetS at baseline and were followed for a median of 3.2 years. MetS was defined using updated harmonized criteria. Anthropometric variables, dietary habits, and blood biochemistry were determined at baseline and yearly thereafter. Multivariable-adjusted hazard ratios (HRs) of MetS were estimated for the two upper tertiles (versus the lowest one) of mean consumption of meat and its subtypes during the follow-up as exposure.Comparing the highest vs the lowest tertile of consumption, we observed an increased risk of MetS incidence, with HRs of 1.23 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.03-1.45) and 1.46 (CI: 1.22-1.74) for total meat and pooled RM and PRM, respectively. Compared with participants in the lowest tertile, those in the highest tertile of poultry and rabbit consumption had a lower risk of MetS incidence. The risk of MetS was lower when one-serving/day of RM or PRM was replaced by legumes, poultry and rabbit, fish or eggs.RM and PRM consumption was associated with higher risk of MetS. Replacing RM or PRM with other protein-rich foods related to a lower risk of MetS and should, therefore, be encouraged. This trial was registered at controlled-trials.com as ISRCTN35739639.