When it comes to burgers, there’s no question that almost all of us love it. For the vegans, vegetarians, or cruelty-free eaters, many have limited choices. Finding the right meat substitute can be a pain. Knowing the best options, however, can give you some delicious tasting hamburgers for sure.
If you’re looking for meat substitutes, you want them plant-based without any animal products in them. The best choices are Beyond Meat, Impossible Burger, Tofurky, Gardein, Target’s Plant-Based Patties by Good & Gather, and Quorn. There’s also Lightlife, Boca, Morningstar Farms, Trader Joe’s, and Yves Veggie Cuisine. Each of these meat substitutes has their signature styles that would work wonders with your hamburger.
Ready to taste something different from the usual dull, bland meat substitutes you have? Take a look at our list and see which one you think will whet your appetite.
1. Beyond Burger by Beyond Meat
Beyond Meat and its direct competitor, Impossible Foods are taking the meat substitute world by storm. They are dominating the market at the moment with their near-identical taste to meat. The entire experience screams of meaty and juicy hamburgers, down to the flavor, texture, and visuals.
Beyond Meat is a 100% plant-based meat substitute made with a long list of ingredients. Its primary component is a mixture of pea protein, rice protein, and mung bean protein. From here, it has a laundry list of ingredients that give it some extra texture. These ingredients include apple extract, potato starch, and pomegranate powder.
These plant proteins undergo stabilization with some preservatives. Ingredients such as Bamboo Cellulose, Sunflower Oil, and maltodextrin give it its characteristic meaty texture.
What sets them apart, however, is the “bleed.” Apart from the meaty flavor, the burger also bleeds like a cooked medium-rare burger. This comes from the added beet juice extract, rather than soy heme.
Beyond Burgers are 100% vegan, containing zero amounts of animal products in them. The burger is both kosher and halal, so practicing Muslims and Jews would love it.
Is it any good?
Beyond meat tastes as close as possible to actual beef, with only an Impossible burger beating it. Tasters say it has a coconut-like aftertaste, but it’s as close as you can to real meat.
Product page: Beyond Burger
2. Impossible Burger by Impossible
The closest competitor to Beyond Burger is the Impossible Burger, giving it a run for its money. Much like Beyond Burger, Impossible is a combination of different plant-based proteins. The combination mimics meat to a high degree, from taste to texture, to the meat fibers.
Other than water, the primary ingredient of the Impossible Burger is soy protein concentrate. It also combines potato protein and a fortification of vitamins and minerals. The problem with soy protein, however, is that it can get unhealthy because of heavy processing.
The Impossible Burger barely has any benefits to it apart from not eating animals. It lost its nutrients once it went through processing. The makers of the burger, however, compensate using vitamin fortification.
There are many benefits that its raw ingredients have lost through the burger’s processing. Raw soybeans provide a bevy of nutrition, including vitamin C, magnesium, and iron. These go away through the burger’s processing but reintroduced through the patty’s construction.
The Impossible Burger also bleeds, using soy leghemoglobin to create a medium-rare look. It is all organic, which doesn’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things. It has 300 calories, 20 g of protein, and 400 mg of sodium, but it tastes great.
Impossible Burgers taste the same as real beef — even enough to gross pure vegans. This is a testament to the superb flavor of this plant-based burger.
Impossible burgers are making their rounds around the internet. It’s one of the most popular burger options available, and many surprise themselves with the taste.
Product page: Impossible Burger
3. Plant-Based Burger by Tofurky
Tofurky Burger is one of Turtle Island Foods’ most recent products, the company behind the Tofurky trademark. It’s a plant-based patty made out of soy protein concentrate as the main ingredient. Tofurky is one of the oldest companies making meat substitutes on the market, available as early as the 1980s.
There are different products of Tofurky on the market, each having a different combination. The most common ingredient for these meats is wheat gluten and tofu. The wheat gluten is there to provide stringiness and meat-like fibers, while tofu provides the protein.
Other ingredients in Tofurky Burger include water, structured vegetable protein, wheat gluten, canola oil, coconut oil, natural flavor, and seasoning. The product uses only organic ingredients, which adds nothing extra to the taste or texture.
A four-ounce (113 g) Tofurky Burger patty has 19 g of protein, while a similar beef patty can have around 23 g. What makes it a great meat substitute is the clean protein. The amino acids you get from Tofurky Burger are essential to what the body needs, especially that of a vegan.
Is Tofurky healthy? Pretty much, it has the right nutrition, natural additives. Many describe Tofurky Burger as a tasty blend, although a bit juiceless.
Product page: Plant-Based Burger by Tofurky
4. Ultimate Beefless Burger by Gardein
Gardein is one of the many plant-based meat brands on the market, selling different types. For hamburgers, Gardein has its beefless burger, which is a flat disk of their beefless ground. It also offers chicken in its line of different meats.
What sets Gardein apart is its ingredients. While many plant-based meat products are heavy on the processing, Gardein does not. Their beefless burger, for example, uses soy protein and wheat gluten, together with ancient grains. These ancient grains include amaranth, kamut, millet, and quinoa, making it a healthier choice.
Gardein uses non-GMO products, which is also a buzzword that means nothing to you. What tends to shock tasters, however, is the good flavor of the plant-based meat. The food is as close to the meat flavour as you can imagine, without tasting inoffensive to the senses. While it’s not as tasty as actual meat, it’s close enough to fool the senses.
If you’re adding pulled pork style meats, Gardein’s meatless pulled pork is as delicious as it can be. Even then, don’t expect that it can hold its own against actual meat. It’s one of those marketed plant-based meats that are among the best, but the bar is not very high. If you compare it to the leaders of the pack like Impossible and Beyond, you can’t expect it to compete.
Even then, if you want flexibility in the types of plant-based meats you use, Gardein can be a great option.
Product page: Ultimate Beefless Burger
5. Target’s Meatless Alternatives
Meatless alternatives at Target are different plant-based meat options. They’re budget options in their line of healthy living products, offering delicious choices. They provide beef options, plant-based chicken, and pork, as well as a plethora of others.
Meatless alternatives contain soy most of the time and may contain wheat in some varieties. While its status as Non-GMO offers no value, it is also lactose-free and all-natural. This makes meatless alternatives an excellent option for lactose-intolerant people.
Available only at Target is a Plant-Based Patties by Good & Gather, having the closest taste to the meat. These are nicely sized, smell good, cook well, have a great texture, and taste amazing. This option is great for vegans who want something extra with their special meatless hamburgers.
Altogether, for regular consumption, Target’s offer makes it a solid pick. If you have it as an option and you want something different, it’s an excellent pick.
Product page: Plant-Based Patties (Good & Gather)
6. Meatless Burgers by Quorn
Quorn is a unique product as it is. This import from the UK is something that baffles many, but it’s one of the most prominent options around the world. It’s a weird product even amongst other plant-based meats available on the market.
All Quorn plant-based meat products use mycoprotein as their base instead of soy protein. Mycoproteins are proteins that come from fungi, specifically a microfungus. From here, consumers have an option between vegan and vegetarian options.
The vegetarian variety uses egg albumen as a binder for their proteins. This method will allow a better mixture without being too mushy. The Vegan variety for Quorn uses potato protein as a binder for their plant-based meats.
Quorn also gets a texture processing treatment on its meats, giving it a grained feel on the mouth. The adjustable texture allows Quorn to have different forms. These forms include chicken substitutes and beef substitutes, so you’ll have a nice variety of choices.
Views of Quorn vary depending on who is tasting it. Some people say that their meatless alternatives are almost indistinguishable from real meat. Others praise its stringiness, but the taste and consistency are far from it. It’s the type of meat that you eat when you have no other options or miss eating some meat on your burgers here and there.
Product page: Meatless Burgers
7. Plant-Based Burgers by Lightlife
Lightlife is one of those pillar companies that have been around since the late 70s. They’re among the more traditional meat alternatives on the market, selling both sausage and burger substitutes. Among the many places that feature Lightlife is KFC with their vegan fried chicken.
Lightlife offers more than 30 products in its list, anywhere from patties to hotdogs. While they have been a part of the meat replacement market for decades, they failed to innovate their meats. This is the reason they sold out to Maple Leaf Foods in 2017 and got a lift.
What is Lightlife? This vegan burger combines textured pea protein, combining it with beet powder for color. While their burgers don’t bleed, they have every other profile that defines a burger. A careful balance of other proteins, flavorings, and emulsifiers give Lightlife better moisture once cooked.
Even after all these, Lightlife’s meats have something missing in them. Their burgers taste overworked, going more the direction of meatloaf than a burger. It also leaves a grain-like aftertaste, feeling like you’re eating something with flour in it.
It’s nowhere near the taste of meat, but it’s inoffensive. In Lightlife’s defense, their burgers will toast and look like actual burgers once you cook them. They can get the right grill marks and work out perfectly each time.
If you’re looking for a “close to meat” flavor, Lightlife is not the plant-based meat you’re looking for.
Product page: Plant-Based Burgers
8. Original Vegan Veggie Burger by Boca
Boca is Kraft’s entry into the meatless meat market, providing a slew of substitutes. Their product line includes everything from burgers, and meat crumbles to sausages. You’ll find out that you won’t have much when it comes to limitations, with a wide slice of options for you.
Boca has both vegan and vegetarian lines but focuses on their vegetarian lines. Many of their products have cruelty-free animal products in them, including dairy. They’re among the first meat substitute sellers on the market, going as far back as 1979 with Sun Burger.
The Boca burger patties consist of soy protein and wheat gluten, together with emulsifiers. Their products use heavy processing, using hydrolyzed corn protein and corn oil, among others. Vegans should be careful when buying from Boca, making sure to read the labels.
Boca burgers can be tasty when grilled, giving an ok texture. It doesn’t mimic real meat, and it’s not even close. Even then, they’re among the better tasting burgers on the market for vegetarians. The flavor is inoffensive, and they’re easy to cook, giving high protein, low calories, and low fat.
The problem with Boca comes with its cooking method. They can taste very dry without doing much to them, tasting overdone with only light cooking. It has inferior moisture retention and can be super problematic.
Boca is neither a good nor a bad option. It tastes great, it’s a low cost, and it’s ubiquitous enough for everything.
Product page: Original Vegan Veggie Burger
9. Burgers by Kellogg’s Morningstar Farms
Morningstar Farms is Kellogg’s entry into the meatless substitute market. They claim it to be “America’s #1 veggie burger brand,” which is questionable. This claim is attributable more to its ubiquity, however than actual product quality.
Much of the product line Morningstar Farms sells include chicken substitutes, and veggie burgers. Their other products include breakfast “meats,” veggie bowls, hotdogs, and meal starter options.
Their entire line uses the traditional soy meat substitutes, but vegans need to be careful. Their primary products are vegetarian, using egg whites and milk fats. Some of their products, like their Chik Patties, are vegan.
Their vegan burgers use the standard soy protein isolate for their meat substitutes. Other ingredients in their offerings include soy flour, wheat gluten, and some vegetable oils. Their offerings are also standard, with 27 g protein, 280 calories, and 10% RDI for iron.
As far as appearance, the burger itself has specks of veggies on it, including carrots and pepper chunks. They are quite thin, but the texture can be mushy. The texture doesn’t come close to meat, tasting similar to a mash.
The taste of Morningstar Farms’ veggie burgers is not meaty either. They have a robust vegetable flavor, and the taste is inoffensive. Even then, with how flat and mushy the texture is, it’s easy to turn yourself off from these patties.
Product page: Burgers
10. Protein Patties by Trader Joe’s
Trader Joe’s is a new player on the veggie burger market with their “Protein Patties.” Their new patties use plant proteins, which will have 18 g of protein with every patty (4 oz. / 113 g). There is not a lot of information about it yet.
Looking back at history, Trader Joe’s main meat substitute for the longest time is their Beefless line. Within this Beefless line includes their Beefless Ground Beef, which you can use for burger patties.
The ingredients they use for their Beefless line includes textured soy protein, onion, and yeast extract. They fortify their beef too, adding B-vitamins and iron that helps vegan health. Every packet of the ground beef has 60 calories, 9 g of protein, and 270 mg of sodium.
What sets Trader Joe’s beefless apart is the texture. Even omnivores admit that the composition is as close as it can be to beef, which is excellent. As a burger, however, the flavor can be problematic as the taste reeks of onions.
For vegans who don’t eat meat, the taste should be inoffensive.
Product page: Protein Patties
11. Burgers by Yves Veggie Cuisine
Yves Veggie Cuisine is a vegetarian meals producer, selling specialty meat substitutes. Their gluten-free plant-based burgers are some of their most famous product lines. This company hails from Canada, and they offer plant-based meals and snacks.
Their burgers’ primary ingredients include the usual textured soy protein, modified cellulose, and canola oil. Their patties have vitamin fortifications that can help vegans get the right nutrition they need.
The texture is meat-like, which is excellent for many vegans out there. The problem comes from the taste, which is almost non-existent. Depending on how you treat the patty itself, it can taste bland.
Product page: Burgers
When it comes to eating meat replacements for your burgers, you have many options out there. There are different picks like the Beyond Meat Burger and Impossible Burger that provide the best experience. Some are great for the budget or more ubiquitous, like Boca and Gardein.
Whichever you pick for your burger, you need to taste to find which one is for you. Look if you’re happy with the nutrition that you can get. Being a vegan is hard enough with the limited choices you have. It’s best to be discerning with what you eat and plan ahead if you want a good burger.
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