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The 10 best vegan meat alternatives

Meat alternatives are growing in popularity

More and more consumers are questioning the consumption of meat and the effects that our diets have on animals, the environment, and our health. This is also reflected in the increasing demand for meat alternatives. All well-known supermarkets now offer a wide range of plant-based burgers, sausages, and other meat substitutes, based on legumes, vegetables, cereals, and other ingredients. Meat alternatives offer several advantages compared to meat. Vegan versions of burgers, for example, are free of cholesterol and usually contain fewer calories and less fat than similar burgers made with meat.

Tofu is the classic meat alternative and has been one of the basic sources of nutrition in Asia for centuries. It is appreciated in particular as a low-calorie source of protein. Tofu is also versatile as it easily absorbs aromas from spices and marinades. Today, tofu is available in countless variations, including aromatic, smoked versions, and marinated varieties flavoured with various herbs and spices.

Tofu is made using soaked soybeans, which are mashed with water to form a smooth puree. Afterwards, the puree is filtered, which separates the firm, fibrous constituents from the liquid content. The liquid is then heated to just below boiling point and curdled, which solidifies the liquid content in a similar way to how cheese is made. The tofu is then pressed into slabs, while the leftover solid mass, commonly known as okara or soy, is dehydrated and used as mince, chunks, or cutlets.

Soy protein

Soy chunks and mince are very inexpensive ingredients that are easy to prepare. They consist of dehydrated soy which, once mixed with water, can be used as a meat substitute in almost any dish. Soy is most commonly sold as mince, cutlets, or balls. As with tofu, marinades and spice mixtures can be added to produce virtually any aroma or flavor. This makes soy ideal for vegetarian burgers, meatballs, cutlets, bolognese sauce, or chilli sin carne.

Tempeh is a traditional Indonesian food, made from fermented soybeans. Similar to the production of cheese, tempeh takes advantage of the effects of special bacterial cultures that break down the protein in the beans and make them particularly accessible to the human digestive system. Containing 20% protein on average and a high fiber content, tempeh is ideal for a balanced diet. Thanks to its versatility, there are no limits to one’s culinary creativity when using tempeh.

Seitan/wheat protein

Seitan is the protein contained in wheat. Easy to season and prepare, and with a consistency similar to meat, seitan is a popular meat substitute that has been a staple ingredient in Asian cuisine for millennia. It is made by washing wheat flour dough with water until all the starch granules have been removed, leaving only the wheat gluten. It acquires its meaty texture by boiling, baking, or steaming the raw dough. Seitan is used in a broad range of products, including cold cuts, sausages, and cutlets. Seitan powder is widely and cheaply available in many countries in the form of vital wheat gluten and is ideal for making vegan sausages or cold cuts at home. Vital wheat gluten can be made at home from wheat flour, although it is a time-consuming process. Since seitan is essentially wheat gluten, it is not suitable for people with celiac disease or those who are following a gluten-free diet.

Lupin protein

Like soybeans, lupins are protein-rich legumes. Considered one of the meat alternatives of the future, the cultivation of lupins is particularly sustainable and easily possible in Europe, which has an ideal climate for it. Products containing lupin protein include cutlets, doner kebabs, and sausages. These are available from most organic food stores, vegan supermarkets, and online shops.

Green spelt

Spelt is a species of wheat and one of the oldest cultivated grains. Green spelt is the name for spelt grain that is harvested while semi-ripe. Once harvested, it is roasted and dried to improve its shelf life. This process lends the spelt a particularly intense flavour and makes it easily digestible. Green spelt has an especially high content of B vitamins, along with significant quantities of magnesium and phosphorus. Bruised grain and semolina made from green spelt are a good basis for vegetarian/vegan patties, cutlets, and meat(free)balls. Green spelt is available from organic health food stores and supermarkets in the form of partially prepared cutlets, bruised grain, or semolina.

Oat flakes

Oat flakes can be used to prepare delicious cutlets. These consist of fried oat dough combined with vegetable broth, a little fat, grated carrots or zucchini, and usually other vegetable proteins. Oat flakes are an ideal source of zinc and iron and are available at an affordable price from any supermarket or discounter. Oat flakes provide a slow and steady supply of complex carbohydrates, which can prevent hunger and thus promote fat loss. Oats are an increasingly favored source of protein and are even available in the form of ‘pulled oats’, which are an alternative to pulled pork.

Black beans

Burgers made from black beans are a popular, healthy, and delicious alternative to ready-made products and fast food restaurant fare. Black beans are rich in protein and fiber. The darker the bean, the more anthocyanins it contains. This natural vegetable colorant is a potent antioxidant.

Chickpeas

Chickpeas should be an integral part of any diet due to their beneficial nutrient composition. They contain more protein than many types of meat, provide a substantial portion of iron, and have a calcium content similar to that of milk. Rich in fiber, chickpeas are very filling and constitute the basic ingredient in several Middle Eastern dishes, including falafel and hummus.

Pea protein

The humble pea is one of a number of other plant-based sources of protein that have been carving a niche for themselves lately as meat alternatives. Pea-based products currently available on the market are manufactured as a combination of vegetables, pea protein, and various spices. They contain a lot of protein and iron and are low in fat and carbohydrates. Although meat substitutes made from pea protein are increasingly available, for now, they are mostly found at vegan-friendly supermarkets.

The risks of meat consumption

Regularly occurring food scandals such as swine flu and rotten meat, as well as the increasing occurrence of multidrug-resistant pathogens, exacerbated by the high use of antibiotics, are just a few examples of the health risks that animal-based foods can pose. Meat consumption is also a risk factor for diseases of the cardiovascular system. A US study with more than 500,000 participants, showed that, compared to people consuming the least meat, men with the highest meat consumption were 27% more likely to die of cardiovascular disease, whereas for women the risk was elevated by 50%.6)Sinha R, Cross AJ, Graubard BI, Leitzmann MF, Schatzkin A (2009): Meat intake and mortality: a prospective study of over half a million people. Arch Intern Med 169 (6), 562-71 The more red and processed meat that was eaten, the greater the risk became.

ProVeg supports the availability of plant-based meat alternatives

ProVeg does not only point out healthy, cruelty-free alternatives but also makes them more readily available. In 2011, ProVeg provided the idea for VeggieWorld – Europe’s first and biggest trade fair promoting a plant-based lifestyle – and continues to help the event organizers with the core program and the selection of exhibitors. Furthermore, ProVeg advises and supports innovative companies that want to enrich the veggie market with their products.

What are the best vegetarian meat substitutes and are they good for you?

With veganism on the rise – a survey released last year found that around 3.5 million Britons have adopted a plant-based diet – many people are turning to meat substitutes to bulk out their meals and ensure they’re consuming enough protein.

While meat-free protein sources including beans, lentils, chickpeas, soya, nuts, seeds, wheat, rice, maize, milk, yoghurt and cheese all provide protein, many vegetarians like to consume mycoprotein, a single-cell protein derived from funghi.

Quorn is a mycoprotein and one of the best-known brands of meat alternatives. And in July 2018, the vegetarian company, best known for its meat-free mince and “chicken style” pieces, announced it will be investing £7m into a new product development centre with the hope of capitalising on the UK’s growing appetite for meat substitutes.

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But whilst there’s no denying the benefit to the environment of cutting down your meat intake, do substitutes actually provide all the nutrients we need?

“Plant-based sources of protein are generally incomplete – they don’t contain all of the essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein – meaning it’s essential to eat a variety of them every day,” registered dietitian Nichola Ludlam-Raine explained to The Independent.

Shape Created with Sketch. Celebrity Vegans: From Beyoncé to Natalie Portman

Show all 13 left Created with Sketch. right Created with Sketch. The pop singer is a passionate animal rights advocate, telling Vanity Fair in 2019 that her diet also reflects her fashion choices: “I’m challenging the system more than ever. Choosing to live as a sustainable vegan activist means wearing more vintage (less waste; loving pieces for longer), playing with the newest eco-materials and technology, and making custom vegan pieces with some of my favorite designers.” Getty

2/13 Alicia Silverstone

The Clueless star went vegan shortly after wrapping the hit 1990s film and has been a passionate campaigner for animal rights since. Speaking in a video for Compassionate Meals in 2017, she said: “Knowing the truth about where our food comes from is just so disturbing to me. Once you see it, there’s no way to go back from that for me.” Getty

3/13 Simon Cowell

The music mogul revealed in a recent interview with The Sun that he decided to give up animal products earlier this year “on a whim”, adding that he feels much better as a result. Getty

4/13 Venus Williams

“I started for health reasons,” Williams told Health in 2019. “I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, and I wanted to maintain my performance on the court. Once I started I fell in love with the concept of fueling your body in the best way possible. Not only does it help me on the court, but I feel like I’m doing the right thing for me.” Getty

5/13 Natalie Portman

The American-Israeli actor decided to go vegan eight years ago after learning more about the environmental consequences of eating animal products. Speaking at an Environmental Media Awards benefit, 2017, she said: “Factory farming is responsible for most of the air, water, and land pollution – that disproportionately affects our poor communities as well. So we get to make decisions three times a day, what we do with our planet, and you can make a difference by even once a day or once a week choosing not to eat animals or animal products.” AFP/Getty

6/13 Beyoncé

While she chooses to refer to herself as plant-based as opposed to vegan, the ‘Halo’ singer underwent a 22-day vegan challenge with husband Jay-Z in 2013 and is believed to have maintained the diet ever since. Writing in the foreword of The Greenprint: Plant-Based Diet, Best Body, Better World by Marco Borges, the couple say: “We used to think of health as a diet – some worked for us, some didn’t. Once we looked at health as the truth, instead of a diet, it became a mission for us to share that truth and lifestyle with as many people as possible.” Getty/Coachella

7/13 David Haye

The British boxer extolled the virtues of veganism in an interview with The Daily Telegraph in 2016: “A lot of the meat that people eat has been genetically modified, or if it hasn’t then the food the animal’s been fed has been. That’s tough for a human being to process, so cutting it out made me feel immediately better and stronger than ever.” Getty

8/13 Ariana Grande

The ‘Dangerous Woman’ singer announced she was going vegan in November 2018. Speaking to The Daily Mirror in a recent interview, she explained: “A lot of the meat that people eat has been genetically modified, or if it hasn’t then the food the animal’s been fed has been. That’s tough for a human being to process, so cutting it out made me feel immediately better and stronger than ever.” AFP/Getty

9/13 Ellie Goulding

The British singer has been toying with veganism for a while, having been a vegetarian for seven years. Speaking to The Cut in 2018, she revealed that she will “never eat fish or meat again” and eats a predominantly vegan diet. Getty

10/13 Mike Tyson

The former heavyweight boxing champion revealed he had become vegan in 2010. “I wish I was born this way,” he told Fox News in 2011. “When you find out about the processed stuff you have been eating. I wonder why I was crazy all those years.” Getty

11/13 Jessica Chastain

The Zero Dark Thirty star decided to go vegan roughly 13 years ago because of low energy. Speaking to W Magazine in 2017, she clarified: “being vegan was not anything I ever wanted to be. I just really was listening to what my body was telling me.” Getty

12/13 Rooney Mara

Mara has been vegan for eight years, telling Harper’s Bazaar in 2018 “it’s better for your health and the environment.” Getty

13/13 Kim Kardashian

Reality star Kim Kardashian West revealed that she has started eating a plant-based diet on Instagram in April 2019. Sharing two photographs of vegan dishes on her Instagram story, the 38-year-old wrote: “I am eating all plant-based when I am at home.” Getty Mara has been vegan for eight years, telling Harper’s Bazaar in 2018 “it’s better for your health and the environment.” Getty Reality star Kim Kardashian West revealed that she has started eating a plant-based diet on Instagram in April 2019. Sharing two photographs of vegan dishes on her Instagram story, the 38-year-old wrote: “I am eating all plant-based when I am at home.” Getty

“Soya, quinoa and hemp are the only plant-based complete sources of protein i.e. they contain all of the essential amino acids that our body needs.”

Ludlam-Raine says it’s important to bear in mind, however, that meat-alternatives often contain a lot less protein than their meaty equivalents.

While this may not be an issue for everyone – the majority of people in the UK eat more than enough protein on a daily basis – fitness fanatics and avid gym-goers, who require a higher than average protein intake for muscle repair, may need to make an effort to consume enough protein if they’re not eating meat.

The average person requires a minimum of 0.8g protein per kg of body weight a day, but this can increase to 2g if you’re a regular exerciser or are trying to lose fat and prevent muscle loss.

Here’s how some of the most popular meat-free alternatives compare to chicken breast protein-wise:

We spoke to Harley Street nutritionist and Re-Nourish author Rhiannon Lambert to get her verdict on some of the most widely consumed meat substitutes:

Tofu

Unlike most plant proteins, tofu (which is made from soya) contains all the essential amino acids we require from food because they cannot be made by the body. “Soya is typically affordable and nutritious, being that it is a good source of iron and calcium and the minerals manganese, selenium and phosphorus,” Lambert explains.

However, the health benefits of soya are often disputed: while the oft-heard claim that soya contains oestrogen is a mere myth – rather, it contains phytoestrogens – some studies have suggested that men who consume soya regularly have a lower concentration of sperm.

Tempeh

While tofu is unfermented, tempeh is a fermented soya product that has recently become a popular vegetarian meat replacement – soya beans are fermented and then pressed into a compact cake.

“It is high in protein, probiotics (which are beneficial to your gut health) and is a source of magnesium, phosphorus and manganese,” says Lambert. It’s also been linked to lowering cholesterol, boosting bone health and is considered one of the healthiest plant-based protein sources. At 320 calories per cup, it’s quite calorie-dense though.

Seitan

Seitan is a vegan protein source that is typically made from wheat gluten and water. It also contains the minerals selenium and iron. “Seitan is a good option for vegans who cannot eat soya products as other popular vegetarian foods (such as tofu and tempeh) are soya-based,” adds Lambert.

However seitan is usually processed, and some store-bought versions are high in additives, salt and preservatives.

Quorn

Lambert believes Quorn is a good alternative protein source and it is high in fibre which has been linked to helping to maintain a healthy gut microbiome. “It is also low in saturated fat and is incredibly versatile with mince options, sausages, burger and meat style pieces.”

Quorn is made from mycoprotein which is produced by adding oxygen, nitrogen, glucose and minerals to a fungus called Fusarium venenatum. While the fungus is edible, the Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) claim some people have adverse reactions to it. “We urge consumers to avoid Quorn and urges retailers not to sell this product that is dangerous to sensitive individuals,” says the CSPI.

Jackfruit

Jackfruit has recently risen in popularity largely due to its close resemblance to pulled pork. However, as tasty as it is, it’s not a great source of protein. “So if you’re going to add it to your main meal, make sure serve it up with something like lentils, quinoa or beans,” Lambert advises.

The fruit is low in calories, a good source of fibre and potassium, and it’s typically served with minimal processing.

“A well planned plant-based diet can be both nutritious and healthy, and meat-free diets have indeed been associated with lower risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, obesity and various cancers,” says Ludlam-Raine.

“This could be down to the fact that meat-alternatives often provide more fibre and less saturated fat (and fewer calories), however most of the research is only observational and many vegetarians may be more health conscious; thus being more likely to exercise and less likely to smoke.”

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Even if you’re an omnivore, adding some plant-based protein to your diet can be a great way to add some diversity to what you’re consuming, as well as benefiting the environment.

Vegan Meat Brands That Are Changing Everything

It’s a great time to eat vegan. There are more plant-based meat options than ever before, and they’re available everywhere, from your local co-op to big-box stores, including Target and Walmart. With so many options to choose from, it can be hard to figure out which ones to try first—so we’ve taken away the guesswork with this handy list.

1. Before the Butcher

This meatless meat brand offers its UNCUT Plant-Based Burgers in several grocery store chains in Southern California. The savory soy-based burgers cook up great on the grill. Try them in four different varieties: Burger, Savory Chicken Burger, Roasted Turkey Burger, and Breakfast Sausage Patty.

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It’s always burger o’clock at @eatsuperdeluxe. ❤️💙💛 Both locations are now slinging this classic #veganburger with @b4thebutcher patty, @daiyafoods cheese, and vegan deluxe sauce on a potato bun. 🍔 Get in my mouth, puhlease.

A post shared by Waz Wu | vegan food + living (@waz.wu) on Oct 30, 2019 at 8:59pm PDT

2. Beyond Meat

This innovative company is single-handedly changing the vegan meat game. What’s its secret? Beyond Meat’s mouthwatering products are made with non-GMO, gluten-free pea protein. After the sensation of the “bloody” Beyond Burger, the company unleashed Beyond Beef, a vegan ground beef perfect for tacos, meatballs, and whatever else you can dream up.

3. MorningStar Farms

Following PETA’s talks with Kellogg’s about offering more vegan products through its MorningStar Farms and Gardenburger brands, the company announced three reformulations of products from vegetarian to vegan. The tasty, improved items, which are now dairy– and egg-free, include MorningStar Farms’ Buffalo Chik Patties, Buffalo Wings, and Chik’n Nuggets, and BBQ Chik’n Nuggets. Look for the yellow “vegan” label on products in stores now and for even more vegan products by MorningStar in the future.

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Tastes like chicken, spelled like chik’n. Find more plant based deliciousness on our website.

A post shared by MorningStar Farms (@morningstarfarms) on Jan 18, 2019 at 3:49pm PST

4. Gardein

We love that Gardein offers fishless fish, including a golden fishless fillet, as well as mini crabless cakes. Its website also features fun recipes and a page of gluten-free products. Must-try product: Classic Meatless Meatballs.

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#TGIF! Sweet. Sticky. Lip-smacking good! Visit www.gardein.com for the full recipe. Recipe by A Healthy Life For Me. #OMGardein

A post shared by Gardein. Meatless Meats. (@gardein) on Jul 31, 2015 at 3:36pm PDT

5. Tofurky

Founded in 1980, Tofurky quickly became famous for its holiday roasts, but it’s known for many other delectable vegan products as well, including deli slices, veggie dogs, tempeh bacon, vegan pizza, and more. Must-try product: chorizo-style ground “beef”.

6. Field Roast

Made with grain meat, Field Roast products include vegan sausages, deli slices, roasts, burgers, and even a meatloaf. Its famous vegan cheese Chao Slices are a great complement to what we consider a must-try product: the Field Burger.

7. Yves Veggie Cuisine

Yves has a wide range of vegan products, including Vegan Grain Strips with BBQ Sauce, Original Meatless Jumbo Hot Dogs, and Meatless Canadian Bacon. The company was founded in 1985 and continues to provide cholesterol-free vegan meat options to a growing demographic of compassionate consumers. Must-try product: Veggie Brats Classic.

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#vegan #yvesveggiecuisine

A post shared by Chantal Keoghan (@chantalxlee) on Jun 24, 2015 at 5:48am PDT

8. Trader Joe’s

A trip to Trader Joe’s is a pleasant experience for any vegan, as the grocery chain carries a large array of vegan meat products. Thanks to the law of supply and demand, the more yummy meatless products you buy, the more Trader Joe’s carries—so keep up the good work! Must-try product: Chickenless Crispy Tenders.

9. Lightlife

Lightlife offers a variety of vegan meat options, which are easy to identify, thanks to a prominent “certified vegan” logo on the package. Must-try product: Smart Dogs (veggie dogs)

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Our Smart Dogs with a little Chicago flair. #hotdog #foodporn #grill

A post shared by Lightlife (@lightlifefoods) on Jul 13, 2015 at 2:25pm PDT

10. Boca Burger

Boca Burger was born when a chef in Boca Raton, Florida, wanted to make a great veggie burger his way. His creation became such a hit that he had to set up shop in a warehouse next to his restaurant—his small kitchen simply couldn’t keep up with demand. Must-try product: Spicy Chik’n Patties.

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A post shared by Boca Burger (@boca.burger) on Aug 5, 2016 at 2:57pm PDT

11. Sweet Earth Natural Foods

Sweet Earth is well known for its seitan, burritos, and veggie burgers, but be sure to try the company’s other products, too, such as its “bacon” and three flavors of vegan ground round. Also, keep an eye out for its Awesome Burger, made from pea protein. Check the ingredient list to make sure your choice is vegan. Must-try product: Hickory & Sage Smoked Seitan Bacon.

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BLTA with with Sweet Earth Benevolent vegan bacon, lettuce, garden tomatoes, avocado, Just Mayo on spelt bread. Packed sandwiches for Hot Summer Nights concert.

A post shared by Rosie (@rose_petalz) on Sep 6, 2015 at 6:04pm PDT

12. Simply Balanced

Target’s line of soy-based meatless meat is delicious—and available in four varieties: Mushroom Miso Meatless Turkey, Teriyaki Meatless Chicken, Smoky Chipotle Meatless Chicken, and Korean Barbecue Meatless Chicken. Must-try product: all four!

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For more information about vegan meat options, visit our guide to soy- and gluten-free meatless meats.

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If it looks like a burger, cooks like a burger and even tastes like a burger, it must be a burger, right? Well, not anymore.

“Burgers,” made with plant-based ingredients instead of animal meat, have become a hot item in grocery stores and even fast food chains. The Beyond Burger — which Carl’s Jr., the restaurant famous for its particularly meaty dishes with ads starring models, incorporated into its menu — and the Impossible Burger, adapted by Burger King as a new Whopper patty, are two examples of the trendy alternatives out there.

And unlike the fake meats that are often relegated into the vegan section, the newest crop of plant-based options are found in the meat aisle at your local supermarket. That’s right, the meat aisle! These companies aren’t just making food for vegans and vegetarians — they’re coming after meat lovers.

Here’s why.

More Americans are switching to a “flexitarian” diet.

The growing trend to incorporate vegetarian options into a diet of meat and fish is known as “flexitarianism,” and it comes with immense health benefits.

Currently, Americans eat a lot of red meat. According to the USDA, the average American ate 222.4 pounds of red meat in 2018; that’s the equivalent of 890 quarter-pound burgers (or 2.4 burgers a day). The World Cancer Research Fund recommends limiting red meat consumption to no more than three 4-ounce portions a week. That means folks are eating more than five times the amount of red meat experts recommend as part of a healthy diet.

Research from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services found a diet of too much red meat comes at a cost, including increased risk of colorectal cancer, heart disease, cardiovascular disease, obesity and high cholesterol levels. Processed meat, in particular, is higher in sodium, which has been linked to an increased risk of coronary heart disease and type-2 diabetes.

Evidence generally indicates that reducing red meat intake is a good idea, particularly for people who are at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease or certain types of cancers. For example, a 2012 NIH study estimated that replacing one serving of red meat with one serving of other foods (fish, poultry, nuts, legumes, low-fat dairy and whole grains) was associated with a 7%-19% lower mortality risk.

On the other hand, other protein sources — including those from plants — could help you live longer, making these faux meat options a great way to get the taste you love without impacting your well-being.

Burger King’s Impossible Whoppers rolling out nationwide

Aug. 2, 201903:11

Are plant-based meat alternatives really that healthy?

While plant-based meats have zero cholesterol, they are often calorically similar to and have more sodium than their animal-based counterparts.

On the other hand, plant-based alternatives often have one nutrient missing from all animal products: fiber. And because most adults clock in their fiber intake at about 15 grams a day — way below the USDA-recommended 28 grams per day — eating more of these plant-based alternatives can help you on your way to meeting these requirements.

Although overall there may seem to be some health benefits, experts don’t necessarily recommend that these plant-based meat alternatives become a regular addition to your weekly menu.

“Some of the plant-based alternatives, in my opinion, are quite processed and have a long list of ingredients,” Maya Feller MS, RD, CDN, told TODAY Food. “It’s important to understand that these alternatives are not a whole foods alternative. They are a shelf stable alternative that has been engineered to have a similar mouthfeel and texture as meat.”

Bottom line: We can’t draw the conclusion that plant based meats are healthier, but at the very least, choosing it over a ground beef burger would help you decrease your red-meat intake.

Meatless burgers are all the rage — but how healthy are they?

June 10, 201902:36

Plant-based burgers may help the environment, too.

Health aside, there is one additional argument in support of opting for plant-based meats: environmental responsibility. Harvard researchers note that there is an “urgent need to reduce meat and dairy consumption” and that “getting protein from plant sources instead of animal sources would drastically help in meeting climate targets and reduce the risk of overshooting temperature goals.”

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According to the International Livestock Research Institute, livestock farming used 45% of Earth’s land surface and contributed to more than 18% of global greenhouse gases in 2011.

Plant-based companies can produce a burger with a fraction of the water, land and greenhouse gases of a conventional burger. Beyond Meat claimed it produces 14 Beyond Burgers with the same amount of land it takes to produce one beef burger and 60,837 Beyond Burgers using the amount of water in an average swimming pool versus 312 beef burgers.

How to choose the right plant-based alternative

“Both plant-based meats and regular beef burgers can fit into a nutrient-dense diet in moderation. There are trade-offs for choosing each, so neither should be relied on as a sole source of protein,” The Nutrition Twins, Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT and Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT, told TODAY.

When opting for either of these, shoppers “should choose organic beef or a veggie burger without highly processed components.”

For many, these trendy “burgers” may be their first foray into plant-based products and another easy way to make dinner on Meatless Mondays.

Ready to try the meatless “meat” trend?

Here’s a list of some of TODAY’s favorite plant-based meat alternatives that taste, well, like meat!

1. Impossible Burger

The plant-based burger that bleeds has a special secret ingredient that’s the key to it cooking, smelling, and tasting like real beef: heme, which is found in animals and all plants. Impossible Burgers also adds essential B vitamins (a plus for vegan and vegetarians, whose diets are usually deficient). This “burger” will hit grocery stores nationwide in September but can be tried out chains from Burger King to Cheesecake Factory to White Castle.

One 4-ounce patty has 240 calories, 14 grams fat, 370 milligrams sodium, 3 grams fiber and 19 grams protein.

2. Beyond Meat Burger

The Beyond Burger, made with pea, rice and mung bean protein, doesn’t use heme like the Impossible Burger, but it gets its red color from beets with an additional magic ingredient: apple extract. This extract helps the patty turn from red to brown as you cook it. The extra meatiness from marbling — aka the white fat streaks you see in beef — it’s replicated using coconut oil and cocoa butter, which create a melt-in-your-mouth texture.

A 4-ounce patty has 250 calories, 18 grams fat, 390 milligrams sodium, 2 grams fiber and 20 grams protein.

3. Beyond Sausage

Beyond Sausage has all the juicy, meaty deliciousness of a traditional sausage, but comes with the upside of a plant-based meal. You won’t find any hormones, nitrites, nitrates, soy or gluten in the sausage either.

Beyond Sausage delivers the juicy, delicious, and sizzling satisfaction of pork sausage, and it has 43% less total fat, 38% less saturated fat, 27% less calories and 26% less sodium than traditional pork sausage. It comes in Original Bratwurst, Hot Italian and Sweet Italian flavors.

4. Lightlife Italian Sausage

Lightlife

Timed with their 40th anniversary, Lightlife launched their new line of meat-like pork sausage replacements made entirely of plants. This Italian sausage has nearly half the total fat and three more grams of fiber than traditional pork sausage for the same amount of protein and 60 fewer calories.

One cooked Italian sausage has 220 calories, 12 grams fat, 500 milligrams sodium, 3 grams fiber and 16 grams protein. They’re available now at more than 7,500 stores nationwide, including Acme, Albertsons, Haggen, Jewel, Pavilions, Safeway, Vons, Wegmans, Sprouts, Fresh Thyme and more.

5. Abbot’s Butcher “Chorizo”

The Abbot’s Butcher was developed in a kitchen with ingredients like extra virgin olive oil, organic tomato paste and Spanish smoked paprika. One half-cup 1/2 cup of “chorizo” has 140 calories, 6 grams fat, 420 milligrams sodium, 3 grams fiber and 16 grams protein. It’s available online via Mylk Guys and Vegan Essentials.

6. Before the Butcher UNCUT Breakfast Sausage Patty

This plant-based, non-GMO “sausage” patty can work well when people are hankering for a breakfast sandwich, but don’t want to overdo the meat. One 2-ounce patty has 130 calories, 10 grams fat, 170 milligrams sodium, 4 grams fiber and 8 grams protein.

It will launch in 3,000 stores in early September in Southern California, Colorado, Texas and Florida, and roll out nationwide in late fall.

7. Tyson’s Raised & Rooted “Plant-Based Nuggets”

In September 2019, plant-based will officially have gone mainstream. Launched by chicken giant, Tyson, Raised & Rooted is their newest line of “flexitarian” meat options, the nuggets are made from pea protein isolate, golden flaxseed, bamboo and egg whites (so they’re not vegan). Four nuggets contain 220 calories, 13 grams fat, 680 milligrams sodium, 5 grams fiber and 9 grams protein. They’re available in grocery stores nationwide.

8. NUGGS

Founded by 19-year-old entrepreneur Ben Pasternak, NUGGS are made with pea protein, corn starch, pea starch and corn flour. NUGGS, available online, have almost twice as much protein as the animal-based equivalent and 20% fewer calories and no cholesterol. Five pieces have 180 calories, 5 grams fat, 270 milligrams sodium and 22 grams protein.

9. Good Catch Fish-Free Plant-Based Tuna

Good Catch is on a mission to protect the oceans’ natural resources while still allowing you to enjoy the anti-inflammatory health benefits of fish. Their plant-based tuna contains algal oil and a six-legume blend of peas, chickpeas, lentils, soy, fava beans and navy beans, and are vegan, GMO-free and gluten-free.

This tuna packet serves up the same amount of protein as tuna (14 grams), as well as 350 milligrams of heart-healthy DHA omega-3 fatty acids. While this is less than the 590 milligrams in white albacore tuna, it’s still more than you could get from just eating the same legumes alone. Good Catch is available at Whole Foods, Thrive Market and FreshDirect.

10. Outstanding Foods PigOut Pigless Bacon Chips

A chip that tastes like bacon but is made from a vegetable? Sign us up! The base of these PigOut chips is actually from oyster mushrooms and is a vegan, gluten-free snack. A serving has 73% less saturated fat and 69% less sodium than cooked pork bacon. One ounce of chips has 160 calories, 10 grams fat, 210 milligrams sodium, 4 grams fiber and 2 grams protein. The brand is available at Sprouts, Wegmans, Fairway, Lassens, Whole Foods stores in the Southern Pacific region and online at Thrive Market and Pig Out Chips.

The faux-meat industry is officially booming. After growing 23 percent last year, according to the Good Food Institute, retail sales are expected to approach $1 billion by the end of 2019. (That’s not including the burgeoning world of lab-grown meat, where companies have amassed millions in funding even without any products available to ­consumers.) This is all welcome news for athletes who avoid meat and anyone seeking additional sources of non­animal protein. “The next generation of plant-based meats are designed for meat eaters,” says Caroline Bushnell, the Good Food Institute’s associate director of corporate engagement. “These businesses are reimagining what meat can be and are delivering in a big way on the single most important factor in food choice: taste.” Whether you’re a longtime vegan or a curious carnivore, these are some of the most delicious options you can buy.

Impossible Burger (price pending)

(Photo: Courtesy Impossible Foods)

When Impossible Foods launched its heavily buzzed about burger in 2016, it shook up the general perception of meat-free patties: it sizzled, smelled, seared, and even bled like real meat. Last January, the company reintroduced the Impossible Burger, made with soy protein instead of wheat and lighter in calories, fat, and salt. It’s currently available only in restaurants but will hit grocery stores this year.

Buy Now

Lightlife Burger ($6)

(Photo: Courtesy Lightlife)

Lightlife, which since 1979 has been producing tempeh-based products like Fakin’ Bacon strips, is now upping its meatless-burger game. Made with pea protein, virgin coconut oil, and beet powder for bloody redness, this burger’s truly beefy flavor is unlocked after being charred on a grill.

Buy Now

No Evil Foods Comrade Cluck ‘No Chicken’ ($8)

(Photo: Courtesy No Evil Foods)

No Evil Foods crafts its products from ingredients like chickpea flour and vital wheat gluten. Try this poultry alternative in potpies, buffalo dip, or chicken salad. Bonus: the outer packaging is 100 percent compostable.

Buy Now

Beyond Meat Sausage ($9)

(Photo: Courtesy Beyond Meat)

Combining pea, rice, and fava protein, these sausages—available in Brat Original and Hot Italian—are convincing and versatile. Crumble them into a breakfast casserole, broil them with peppers, or throw them on the grill and top with ketchup. Their vibrant pink color comes from beet juice, and the casing is derived from algae. Best of all, each link delivers a whopping 16 grams of protein.

Buy Now

Upton’s Naturals Bar-B-Que Jackfruit ($5)

(Photo: Courtesy Upton’s Naturals)

With its mild taste and chewy texture, jackfruit is an ideal canvas for sauce and spices. Upton’s Naturals’ heat-and-eat Bar-B-Que Jackfruit features tomato paste, molasses, vinegar, and chili powder, making it a tasty meat substitute for stir-fries, tacos, and southern-style sandwiches.

Buy Now

Sunflower Family Organic Sunflower Haché ($7.50)

(Photo: Courtesy Sunflower Family)

Founded in Germany, Sunflower Family offers vegan meals made from textured sunflower protein, including a hash that can be substituted for ground beef. Mold it into burgers, meat loaf, or meatballs, or use it in lasagna or dumplings.

Buy Now

Good Catch Plant-Based Tuna ($5)

(Photo: Courtesy Good Catch)

To achieve the texture of tuna without any real fish, Good Catch relies on a blend of six legumes and algal oil. This also provides DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, plus an ocean flavor.

Buy Now

From Outside Magazine, June 2019 Filed To: NutritionDietFood and DrinkEnvironmentWellness Lead Photo: Courtesy Impossible Foods

Veggie burgers have been around for decades, but it’s only recently that they started to… bleed. You’ve probably spotted these bleeding plant-based burgers at restaurants (these days, there’s even an Impossible Whopper on the menu at Burger King), but chances are, a few new brands of meatless burgers have finally landed in your local grocery store, too.

Access to these new brands means our idea of what a plant-based burger even is is changing. Today’s meatless burger options go far beyond your traditional mushroom or black bean or lentil patty. They’re heartier, juicier, and um, meatier than their predecessors—or at least they strive to be.

So unlike our last veggie burger taste test, this time we focused on the new lineup of imitation meats that tout, at times, uncanny beef-like qualities. We sampled 12 varieties of faux meat to find the best option for burgers, chili, tacos, and whatever else you’d use ground beef for. Some brands were dense, dry, and reminiscent of old-school soy patties. A few tasted undeniably like elementary school cafeteria burgers. And our favorite, the Impossible Burger, almost hit the nail on the head. If you’re looking for a meat-like meatless burger, keep scrolling to read our testing methodology and why Impossible earned the top spot.

The Best Plant-Based Meat: Impossible Burger

One word, two syllables: beefy. The Impossible Burger won the faux-beef competition almost unanimously. The package of raw Impossible meat resembled real raw ground beef, complete with bright red “blood” and little white particles of fat. The raw material was a little mushy and greasy; shaping it into patties felt similar to handling any ground meat. This brand was also the most beef-like in the way that it cooked—fat excreted from the patties, which sizzled and seared nicely along the edges. The center of the patties remained pretty moist, while the outsides became slightly crumbly.

In the blind tasting, the Epi staff was pretty impressed with the Impossible Burger’s flavor, noting that it was “fatty, savory, and meaty.” The product was nicely seasoned straight out of the package and had a whiff of smokiness that paired well with its umami-rich, slightly gamey flavor. Impossible credits this quality to the use of heme, an iron-containing compound that’s found in meat (and is responsible for the metallic tang of blood). They’ve concocted a man-made version by inserting soybean plant DNA into a genetically engineered yeast that can ferment to produce the molecule. After one bite, one tester said, “This is straight-up beef!” (While some tasters found it a bit odd, it did make matters even beefier that gristle-like nubbins were laced throughout the meat, as well.) You’ll find Impossible Burger at grocery stores in 12-ounce portions, which allows you to form patties of your preferred thickness. (Or use it for other dishes.)

Ground beef patties, minus the cow.

Photo by Joseph De Leo, Food Styling by Anna Stockwell

The Runner-Up: Beyond Burger

The Beyond Burger came in at a close second in our taste test. It was also the only other brand that “bled” (thanks to beet juice, this time). Like the Impossible Burger, the Beyond Burger browned nicely and remained pleasantly moist in the center. The most appealing aspect of this burger was its texture—meaty, but not too meaty. Testers liked it for its bouncy chew and outer crust, saying “it’s tasty with a nice level of salty juiciness.” These burgers were arguably the best-seasoned, but their intense smoky flavor was divisive—a few testers were into it, while others deemed it too artificial-tasting. And although testers agreed it was certainly meat-like, many felt it was equivalent to a mediocre cookout burger at best.

BUY IT: Beyond Beef, $9 for 16 ounces at Target

What We Were Looking For

In an effort to find the best option for beef-like plant-based ground beef, we asked ourselves two questions: First, does this taste remotely like real ground beef? And second, is it delicious enough to swap in for the real deal? While some of the meat brands we tried were dry and aggressively-seasoned (tasting more like chorizo than all-purpose ground beef), the best meatless meats were succulent, fatty, and perfectly salty. Additionally, we assessed the products’ overall texture and how well it charred, ruling out any options that were mushy or too dense.

How We Tested

We cooked each plant-based burger patty and loose ground beef product in a lightly-oiled cast iron skillet as directed by the packaging instructions. No salt or seasoning was added to the samples. The products were tasted blind by a panel of Epicurious editors and staff in no particular order.

Other Plant-Based Meats We Tasted

  • Lightlife Burger
  • Pure Farmland Burgers
  • Uncut Burger
  • Sweet Earth Awesome Burger
  • Abbot’s Butcher Ground Beef
  • Lightlife Ground
  • Pure Farmland Protein Starters
  • Uncut Ground
  • Sweet Earth Awesome Ground

All products featured on Epicurious are independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our retail links, we may earn a small affiliate commission.

Fake meats are so popular today.

You can now pop into any Walmart, Target, or any grocery store along with some popular chain restaurants and actually find delicious fake meats that can enjoy eating.

It is officially getting to the point that fake meat options are starting to taste and cook more and more like meat every day. And with new and existing companies perfecting their craft, the quality of plant-based meats and other foods has skyrocketed.

Below, you’ll find the complete listing to all companies that offer fake meat options (listed in alphabetical order).

Popular Fake Meat Brands

Here are all the best fake meat brands that you can try today.

1. Amy’s

A popular organic food company that specializes in vegan, gluten free, and vegetarian foods.

  • gluten free vegan meatless pepperoni pizza
  • organic california veggie burger
  • sonoma veggie burger
  • all american veggie burger
  • black bean veggie burger
  • meatless veggie meatballs
  • meatless veggie sausages
  • quarter pound veggie burger
  • veggie loaf meal

You can find their complete listing of products on their website where you can also specify more dietary details like kosher, corn free, nut free, or sodium conscious, just to name a few.

2. Beyond Meat

As possibly the best tasting fake meat brand out there, Beyon Meat prides themselves on being the first in the world to create a plant based burger that looks, cooks, and satisfies like beef without any of the GMO, gluten, or soy.

And from that they have expanded to other plant based meats such as sausage and beef.

  • beyond burger
  • beyond beef
  • beyond sausage
  • beyond beef crumbles

3. Boca

Plant-based veggie burgers, skillet meals, crumbles, falafels, and even chik’n nuggets.

  • all american veggie burger
  • original chik’n veggie patties
  • spicy chik’n veggie patties
  • original turk’y veggie patties
  • southwest taco skillet
  • mexican style bowl
  • mediterranean style bowl
  • original falafel bites
  • chipotles falafel bites
  • original chick’n veggie nuggets

4. Field Roast

At Field Roast, you’ll find artisan vegan grain meat products like sausages, burgers, deli meats, roasts, loafs, appetizers, and entrees.

  • bratwurst sausage
  • smoked apple sage sausage
  • italian sausage
  • mexican chipotle sausage
  • frankfurters
  • apple maple breakfast sausage
  • lentil sage deli slices
  • wild mushroom deli slices
  • smoked tomato deli slices
  • fieldburger
  • celebration roast
  • hazelnut cranberry roast en croute
  • celebration roast with traditional bread stuffing and mushroom gravy
  • classic meatloaf
  • miniature corn dogs
  • fruffalo wings
  • sunflower country style katsu cutlet

5. Gardein

Garden focuses on making delicious meatless food items you know and love like chicken tenders, nuggets, and fish sticks just to name a few. Plus they even have some plant based gluten free options too.

  • turk’y cutlet
  • chick’n strips
  • mandarin crispy chick’n
  • seven grain crispy tenders
  • chick’n scallopini
  • teriyaki chick’n strips
  • crispy chick’n patty
  • chipotle lime fingers
  • chick’n sliders
  • barbecue chick’n wings
  • sliced italian saus’age
  • spicy breakfast saus’age patties
  • original breakfast saus’age patties
  • sweet and sour workless bites
  • black bean sliders
  • garden veggie burger
  • black bean burger
  • beefless ground
  • beefless slider
  • meatless meatballs
  • beefless tips
  • szechuan beefless strips
  • ultimate beefless burger
  • min crabless cakes
  • golden fishless filet
  • stea’k and e’ggs breakfast bowl
  • southwest saus’age and veggie breakfast bowl
  • saus’age and homestyle gravy breakfast bowl
  • orange beefless bowl
  • teriyaki chick’n bowl
  • italian saus’age and pasta bowl
  • chick’n fajita bowl
  • italian style rigatoni n’ saus’age
  • chick’n florentino
  • chick’n fiesta
  • asian style chick’n fried rice
  • breakfast pockets
  • meals pizza pockets
  • bbq porkless pocket meal

6. Impossible Foods

Another popular fake meat brand that specializes in fake burgers made from soy and potato proteins.

  • impossible burger

As of this writing, you can find Impossible burgers and other products at chain restaurants like Burger King, Applebees, Fatburger, Dave and Busters, White Caste, Red Robin, Cheesecake Factory, Qdoba, and Little Caesars.

7. Lightlife Foods

Plant-based burgers and other proteins such as hot dogs, tempeh, ground meats, deli, and chicken.

  • plant based burger
  • smart dogs
  • smart tenders savory chick’n
  • plant based ground
  • smart ground mexican
  • smart ground original
  • gimme lean beef
  • gimme lean sausage
  • smart bacon
  • smart sausages italian
  • chorizo smart sausages
  • smart deli bologna
  • smart deli ham
  • smart deli pepperoni
  • smart deli turkey
  • chickpea and red pepper veggie deli slices
  • white bean and kale veggie deli slices
  • original tempeh
  • organic smoky tempeh strips

8. MorningStar Farms

Veggie proudest that cook, sizzles, and even tastes like the real thing. You’ll find great breakfast options all with meal starters, classic foods, and of course, veggie burgers.

  • buffalo wings
  • chik’n nuggets
  • veggie dogs
  • corn dogs
  • parmesan garlic wings
  • bbq chik’n nuggets
  • buffalo chik patties
  • original chik patties
  • grillers prime burgers
  • spicy black bean burgers
  • mediterranean chickpea burger
  • tomato and basil pizza burgers
  • original burgers
  • meat lovers vegan burger
  • veggie lovers vegan bruges
  • falafel burger
  • tex mex burger
  • garden veggie burger
  • cheezeburger
  • bacon strips
  • original sausage patties
  • veggie breakfast sausage links
  • hot and spicy sausage patties
  • maple flavored sausage patties
  • chipotle black bean crumbles
  • grillers crumbles
  • chik’n strips
  • steak strips
  • pulled pork
  • chorizo crumbles
  • spicy indian veggie burgers
  • roasted garlic and quinoa burgers
  • white bean chili burgers

9. Quorn

Low fat, healthy vegetarian versions of popular products.

  • meatless gourmet burgers
  • meatless breakfast patties
  • meatless patties
  • meatless spicy patties
  • vegan meatless spicy patties
  • meatless buffalo dippers
  • vegan fishless sticks
  • vegan meatless chipotle cutlets
  • vegan meatless pieces
  • meatless vegan fillets
  • vegan meatless spicy patties
  • meatless meatballs
  • meatless grounds
  • meatless roast
  • meatless fillets
  • meatless nuggets
  • meatless sharp cheese cutlets
  • meatless chipotle cutlets
  • meatless pesto and mozzarella cutlets

10. Simply Balanced

This Target brand offers a few soy-based meatless meat options that you can purchase in the frozen aisle at most Target stores.

  • korean barbecue meatless chicken
  • teriyaki meatless chicken
  • smoky chipotle meatless chicken
  • mushroom miso meatless turkey

Nourishing and delicious vegetarian prepared foods

  • protein lover’s pizza
  • chinese chik’n
  • cubano empanada
  • aloha bbq quesadilla
  • protein lover’s breakfast burrito
  • harmless ham and chickpea patty
  • benevolent bacon
  • harmless ham
  • tuscan veggie sausage
  • fresh (or frozen) santa fe veggie burger
  • fresh (or frozen) teriyaki veggie burger
  • fresh (or frozen) mediterranean veggie burger
  • traditional seitan slices
  • tuscany savory grounds

12. Tofurky

A great animal-friendly brand that offers delicious, high protein products that are unbelievable close to real meat in terms of feel, looks, and cooking. Plus, a majority, if not all of their proudest are vegan and certified non-GMO.

  • lightly seasoned slow roasted chick’n
  • thai basil slow roasted chick’n
  • sesame garlic slow roasted chick’n
  • barbecue slow roasted chick’n
  • smoked ham deli sliced
  • oven roasted deli slices
  • peppered deli slices
  • hickory smoked deli slices
  • bologna deli slices
  • spinach pesto sausage
  • andouille sausage
  • italics sausage
  • kielbalsa
  • beer brats
  • chorizo ground
  • ground beef style
  • pepp’roni pocket
  • turk’y broccoli cheddar
  • ham and ched’ar
  • ham roast with glaze
  • year round ham roast
  • roast
  • roast and gravy
  • feat
  • smokey maple bacon tempeh
  • sesame garlic tempeh
  • organic five grain tempeh
  • original soy cake

13. Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s has a bunch of vegan options along with some great non-frozen and non-frozen fake meat items.

  • beef-less ground beef
  • soy chorizo
  • chickenless crispy tenders
  • hi-protein veggie burger
  • meatless meatballs
  • vegan tikka masala
  • vegetable masala burger

14. Tyson Raised and Rooted

Tyson. the largest meat producer in the U.S. has just unveiled a new alternative protein product line that focuses on delicious plant-based products.

  • nuggets
  • blended patties

15. Upton’s

Natural foods company that focuses on meat alternatives.

  • sriracha jackfruit
  • sweet and smoky jackfruit
  • original jackfruit
  • thai curry jackfruit
  • chili lime jackfruit
  • bar b due jackfruit
  • classic burger
  • ground seitan
  • traditional seitan
  • italian seitan
  • chorizo seitan
  • chick seitan
  • bacon seitan
  • that spaghetti
  • thai curry noodle
  • pad see ew
  • massaman curry
  • ch’eesy bacon mac
  • original ch’eesy mac
  • tarragon ginger lime jerky bites
  • tamarind pepperoni jerky bites
  • pineapple pink peppercorn jerky bites
  • smoky original jerky bites

16. Yves Veggie Cuisine

Nutrition plant based meal and snack options made for vegans and vegetarians.

  • falafel balls
  • kale and quinoa bites
  • broccoli bites
  • sweet potato and chickpea bites
  • gluten free burger
  • kale and root vegetable patties
  • the good veggie burger
  • original veggie ground round
  • veggie taco stuffers
  • garden veggie crumble
  • good dog
  • jumbo veggie dogs
  • veggie tofu dogs
  • veggie dogs
  • bologna deli slices
  • ham deli slices
  • turkey deli slices
  • salami deli slices
  • pepperoni deli slices

Hopefully this list helps you find new fake meat brands along with amazing plant based meats, meals, and products.

Whether if you need to find something at your local grocery store or even try them in one of your favorite vegan meals kits, these alternatives proteins will not disappoint.

Cheers.

Fake Meat in Meal Kits

Did you know that you can now get Beyond Meat products in your next Blue Apron meal kit? That’s right!

You can now add these products to your next Blue Apron meal subscription box here!

The 17 Most Delicious Vegan Meats EVER

Each of these vegan meats is so yummy that you’ll be begging for a second serving. Whether you’re already vegan or wanting to save nearly 200 animals a year by going vegan, think of this as your go-to animal-free meat guide. So grab a parent and head on over to the nearest grocery store to stock up!

1. Beyond Meat Beyond Burger

Need something that can persuade your meat-eating friends to go vegan? Well, this is it. Beyond Meat burgers—and all the company’s products (keep reading to learn about some of the others)—are so “meaty” that you might be tempted to quadruple-check the ingredients. They’re that realistic.

Best for: persuading your friends that vegan meat is absolutely fantastic (Have your parents throw some on the barbecue for a quick dinner.)

2. MorningStar Farms Hickory BBQ Riblets

This is for anyone who’s ever wanted a barbecue sauce–covered riblet sandwich without the cruelty.

Best for: summertime or any time you need a seriously satisfying but quick barbecue fix (Just be careful not to burn yourself while opening the bag after heating it up—ouch!)

3. No Evil El Zapatista

No Evil Foods

No Evil’s vegan chorizo is sure to impress any of your pals. It has a bold spice blend and a texture that won’t be silenced. Not able to find this specific brand? Good news: You can find some brand of vegan chorizo—like Trader Joe’s, Tofurky, or Upton’s Naturals—at most grocery stores.

Best for: tacos and burritos (Also, ask your parents to try tossing some into a tofu scramble or a pot of vegan chili! Mmmm.)

4. Beyond Meat Beyond Sausage

These sausages are probably the best thing ever. You can choose between a Brat Original and a Hot Italian sausage—and let us just say, we simply can’t get enough of the spicy ones.

Best for: slicing up in pasta, eating as-is or in a bun, or even putting small slices on pizza (And they’re delicious with a tofu scramble and some hash browns for breakfast.)

5. Boca Original Chik’n Veggie Patties

BOCA

It’s the perfect li’l fast-foodish breaded “chicken” patty. Make a sandwich, or cut one up and put it in a wrap or salad.

Best for: a super-quick and easy meal (Just watch out—these patties are kind of addictive. ☺)

6. Lightlife Smart Dogs

These vegan hot dogs taste just like any other hot dog—but no animals (like pigs) were harmed for them! Take a pack or two on a camping trip and roast ’em over the fire.

Best for: barbecues and campfires or when your family makes chili “cheese” dogs or vegan pigs in a blanket

7. Hilary’s World’s Best Veggie Burger

Hilarys

Hilary’s burgers are all made with simple vegan ingredients. They’re free from common allergens, too, and they taste delicious.

Best for: those times when you really want a veggie-filled burger

8. Beyond Meat Beyond Beef Crumbles

Beyond Meat

This Beyond Beef product is kind of the unicorn of vegan meats. Not only is it just as delicious as this brand’s burgers, it’s also super-easy to use in recipes!

Best for: taco meat, meaty pasta sauce, or sloppy Joes (You can use this to beef up just about any dish.)

9. Trader Joe’s Meatless Meatballs

Don’t want to form your own meatballs? Then this is a great option, because there’s really nothing better than a plateful of classic spaghetti and meatballs—vegan style.

Best for: spaghetti and meatballs or meatball subs

10. Field Roast Miniature Corn Dogs

Field Roast

These mini corn dogs are all you need to bring to a team potluck or whip up real quick when your friends come over after school. They’re delicious, breaded, and bite-size. What more could you ask for?

Best for: an easy snack, dipped in your fave condiment (like mustard or ketchup!)

11. Quorn Meatless Vegan Fillets

Quorn

Vegan chicken? Yes, please! These tasty strips are easy to prepare, and not a single chicken was hurt for them.

Best for: fajitas, wraps, burritos, or on their own dunked in your fave dip

12. Upton’s Naturals Traditional Seitan

Seitan, made from wheat gluten, is a miracle for lovers of vegan meat everywhere. It’s pure protein—and super-filling and yummy. Think of it as tofu’s BFF!

Best for: anything your heart desires—soups, stews, stir-fries, or sandwiches (Seitan can be used in about a bazillion different recipes.)

13. Sol Cuisine Burgers

Sol Cuisine

From its Chickpea Sweet Potato Burger to its Lemon Dill Salm’n Burger, Sol Cuisine has a patty for any craving. Plus, all the company’s products are not only vegan but also organic, wheat-free, and gluten-free.

Best for: anytime you want a tasty, healthy veggie burger (Put one of the patties on a bun or in a salad—or roll one up in a tortilla for some zesty wrap goodness.)

14. Gardein Seven Grain Crispy Tenders

Sitting down with a huge plateful of these crispy tenders and watching movies with friends makes us supremely happy.

Best for: an after-school snack or paired with some yummy veggies to make a meal

15. Field Roast Sausages

These vegan sausages are so good. And the best part? None of our animal friends were killed for them.

Best for: sticking in a bun, chopping up for pastas or casseroles, or frying up for brunch and serving with pancakes

16. Tofurky Plant-Based Deli Slices

Here’s something that hasn’t been mentioned yet: deli slices. These are great for a super-quick sandwich whenever your tummy is rumbly.

Best for: when you just can’t eat one more PB&J

16. Gardein Fishless Fillets

Cook the filets and some vegan French fries according to the package directions for a taste sensation.

Best for: serving with vegan tartar sauce (like Follow Your Heart)

*****

Have you tried all these delish vegan meats? If not, well, ya better get to it—and make sure your friends do, too!

Meatless meat is becoming mainstream — and it’s sparking a backlash

When the Impossible Burger launched quietly in upscale restaurants a few years ago, the coverage was mostly positive, with some reviewers even calling it the future of meat.

Now, Impossible products have hit Qdoba, Burger King, and supermarkets. Another plant-based meat company, Beyond Meat, is featured in Carl’s Jr, Subway, and now McDonald’s. It’s a sign that the new wave of meatless meat is approaching mainstream status — an encouraging development if you care about changing our meat-centric food system.

But if the emergence of meatless meat a few years ago was hailed unanimously as a good thing, the response to its mainstreaming has been tinged with skepticism. The adoption of Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat products by fast-food chains hasn’t exactly been welcomed in some quarters, even among those you would think would be more supportive of this development.

Call it the backlash against the fast rise of meatless meat.

For instance, the CEO of Whole Foods and the CEO of Chipotle both criticized Beyond and Impossible products, calling them too highly processed. Food writer and former New York Times columnist Mark Bittman, who has long called on Americans to eat less meat, criticized “the new higher-tech vegan meats” for not addressing “resource use and hyperprocessing” (though he has hailed them in the past). His website, Heated, has also given plant-based meats some favorable coverage, but recently wrote nostalgically that “not so long ago … Veggie burgers didn’t masquerade as something they weren’t.” Meanwhile, numerous articles have questioned the health impacts of the products.

To be sure, the new plant-based burgers have gotten a lot of positive coverage, too — and some pragmatic reviews more focused on describing their taste (pretty meaty, though some reviewers insist they can still tell the difference). But this is a nascent industry, and any pushback can have an impact.

There’s certainly some truth to the critiques. The Beyond and Impossible burgers aren’t exactly health food (something I’ve written about previously), though they’re not more unhealthy than the meat products they’re displacing. The Impossible Whopper might help save the planet, but it’s still high calorie, greasy, and probably not a good idea to eat everyday.

But the critiques go further than just observing that fast food isn’t health food. Often, critics end up voicing disdain for the whole process of producing food at scale in the way it has to be produced to feed hundreds of millions of people. In that way, as the Breakthrough Institute’s Alex Trembath has argued, the plant-based meat backlash reflects how much classism and elitism creep into our national conversations about our food system — and how they might stand in the way of fixing it.

Plant-based meat has the potential to be great for the world. It can end factory farming, be more sustainable, address global warming, and offer a way to feed a growing middle class its favorite foods without destroying the planet along the way. As it matures as an industry, its offerings can get cheaper, healthier, and more varied, too.

But for plant-based food to change the world requires producing huge quantities of it and selling it where consumers will want to buy it. And that, in turn, requires confronting the reality that consumers like fast food and that there’s real value in providing them with fast food that’s better for the world. The backlash to plant-based meat, when you look at it closely, is a backlash against our food system in general — mistakenly directed at one of the more promising efforts to make it a little bit better.

Plant-based meat myths, debunked

There have been many critiques leveled at plant-based foods. They all boil down to four broad criticisms: 1) they are highly processed; 2) they contain GMOs; 3) they’re not that healthy — or even hazardous to your health; and 4) they’re aesthetically objectionable as “fake” food.

Plant-based burgers, many critics argue, are “ultra-processed junk foods.” Whole Foods CEO John Mackey warned customers “they are super, highly processed foods.” Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol said, “We have spoken to those folks and unfortunately it wouldn’t fit in our ‘food with integrity’ principles because of the processing.”

What does “processed” even mean? There’s no perfectly agreed-upon meaning of processed foods, but the term can refer to any food that’s been modified — to preserve it, to enhance its flavor, to add nutrients, or to make plant proteins taste like a hamburger.

Both the Beyond Burger and the Impossible Burger are, to be sure, produced in a factory with lots of different plant ingredients. But that word — “processed” — can obscure more than it clarifies.

“There’s this really confusing nomenclature going around right now, with this idea that we can classify food as being good or bad based on its degree of processing,” Ruth MacDonald, a nutrition scientist at Iowa State University told Wired. “And it makes no sense from a nutritional perspective, and it really makes no sense from a food science perspective either.”

Pasteurization is a form of processing. Adding supplemental vitamins, which has been lifesaving, is a form of processing. Yogurt is a highly processed food. While processing can make food unhealthy, not all processed foods are unhealthy. You have to look at the ingredients and at which processes in particular the food went through.

When it comes to the ingredients, the dozens listed in the Beyond and Impossible burgers are frequently cited as proof the products can’t be healthy. But even a salad can have lots of ingredients, and ingredient lists on products are often more a product of labelling laws than an objective measure of how many things go into the food.

This point has been made elegantly by Impossible Foods’ Rachel Konrad:

Also, you want a long ingredient list? pic.twitter.com/Mmyw8cd2Gg

— rachelkonrad (@rachelkonrad) July 30, 2019

If we had to list the ingredients of beef the way we list the ingredients of beef alternatives, it wouldn’t look so good. The takeaway isn’t that beef is bad for you (scientists are still fighting over that one) but that counting ingredients isn’t a way to find an answer.

Another commonly raised concern is the specter of GMOs. The anti-GMO Center for Food Safety has campaigned against the Impossible Burger and many figures in the anti-GMO community have joined in.

The Beyond Burger, to be clear, contains no GMOs. The Impossible Burger uses modified soy and a special ingredient that is derived from a genetically modified plant: the “heme” that makes the burgers “bleed” comes from soybean roots, but Impossible Foods manufactures it from yeast in order to produce the quantities they need. This has been cleared by the FDA.

The team at Impossible Foods explained their decision to use modified soy rather than importing GMO-free soy by pointing at the environmental impact: genetically modified soy is grown in the US while GMO-free soy would have needed carbon-intensive importation from Brazil.

Moreover, there’s no good evidence that GMOs pose any health hazards. Billions of people around the world have been eating genetically modified crops for decades, with no harmful effects yet detected. For thousands of years before that, humans were genetically modifying crops through the slower process of selection for their favorites. Some naturally occurring plants are unhealthy for humans, or even deadly; some GMOs are denser with nutrients, require fewer pesticides, or are otherwise better for us. But most are just neutral. After extensive testing, the FDA has agreed Impossible Foods’ heme is fine.

That the new plant-based burgers are so processed and are suspected of containing GMOs leads right into the main criticism: that they’re not that healthy. And certainly, one shouldn’t mistake eating an Impossible Burger for munching on a salad. Plant-based meats don’t work that way.

But nutritionists who have conducted analyses have largely found that the meatless meat burgers are, well, fine — not any better for you than a beef burger but not worse, with the specific details depending on which health priorities you have. (The Impossible Burger has more sodium than a beef burger, but beef burgers are usually salted during preparation; the Impossible Burger has less fat and slightly fewer calories, but if you have it slathered with mayonnaise on a Whopper, you add that fat and those calories right back in.)

“If you’re wanting a nutritious, heart-healthy meal, you can and should eat vegetables and whole grains and fruits and all the other stuff that everyone knows they should be eating,” Ryan Mendelbaum wrote in Gizmodo on the plant-based burger health controversy.

A more serious charge is that these products are actively hazardous to your health. A May press release by the advocacy group Moms Across America, for example, got attention by claiming that Impossible Burgers tested positive for an herbicide called glyphosate. Impossible Foods pointed out immediately that the “positive test” found rates “almost 1,000 times lower than the no-significant-risk level for glyphosate ingestion (1,100 micrograms per day) set by California Prop 65.” And California sets some of the most stringent guidelines in the world; guidelines from the World Health Organization and the EPA say that even higher daily rates are safe.

Importantly, the environmental benefits of the Beyond and Impossible Burgers have held up under the flurry of new scrutiny. Plant-based meats really do emit much less CO2 and other greenhouse gases than meat does, use less water, and use less land. The fact is that lots of people want, well, a burger. So why not offer them a burger that’s good for the environment, good for animals, and positioned to address huge problems with our food system?

The fakeness of fake meat

Another component of the backlash isn’t about health at all. Instead, it’s about a vague sense that there’s something noble about eating dead animals that’s simply absent when eating plant-based, factory-assembled inventions.

In a Heated piece, Danielle LaPrise tells the story of how her community came together to slaughter a pig: “With every animal dispatched, every crop harvested,” she writes, “I realized that our time on earth is temporary, and everything on it is a gift. I could plant seeds or raise animals from birth, care for them, feed them, and then later I would depend on them to nourish and sustain me.” Of meatless meat, she writes, “these foods will never succeed in mimicking the humbling intimacy from meals where the animal’s death is deeply felt.”

But that is not how most Americans eat meat. Over 99 percent of meat produced for consumption in the United States comes from animals raised on factory farms, where they often never see daylight and don’t have enough space to turn around. Most pigs are not shot at the end of a long life by a happy collection of neighbors, but killed on an assembly line that can kill hundreds of pigs per minute. (And the situation is about to get even worse for pigs.)

Our food system isn’t natural. It hasn’t been natural for a very long time. Critiques that plant-based meat fails to promote the joy, gratitude, and connectedness of raising your own pig and then communally slaughtering it with your neighbors aren’t wrong, exactly — but they have very little to say to the typical American.

When niche goes mainstream

The Impossible Burger started out as a niche product in upscale restaurants. Coverage was almost entirely positive: commentators hailed that a Michelin-starred restaurant in Manhattan was adding it to the menu. When it came to Silicon Valley, local papers eagerly reported that it’d be served in Palo Alto “with sun-dried tomatoes, cavolo nero (or lacinato kale) and a sun-dried tomatoes mayonnaise on a poppy seed bun.”

But the Impossible Burger is now in Burger King. And that’s a lot less appealing for its past boosters.

As the Breakthrough Institute’s Trembath argues, the mainstreaming of meatless meat coincided with when the food world turned on the burger. Food critics who’d praised it now complained about it.

“I can’t help but notice,” Trembath wrote in an analysis of the plant-based meat backlash, “that when fake meat was the purview of food utopians and visionary chefs, thought leaders were enthusiastically in favor of it. But as soon as fake meat hit the plastic trays at Burger King, they were fretting about how over-processed it was.”

Did the Impossible Burger get more processed? Hardly. If anything, it looks better now that Impossible Foods has secured the FDA’s stamp of approval on the signature ingredient, heme.

But what the burger did become was mass produced. From one restaurant in 2016, the Impossible Burger is now available in more than 10,000 locations worldwide.

Food historian Rachel Laudan argues, “It is easy for ultra-processed to mean ‘industrially processed,’ ‘low class,’ or ‘not to my taste.’ Soft drinks are ultra-processed, wine not. Snack cakes are ultra-processed, home made cakes not.” And the Impossible Burger, for a time, was not considered ultra-processed, enjoying, we could say, the “wine exception.”

There’s a lot wrong with our food system and there’s nothing wrong with saying so. But opposing all mass-market, mass-produced food is elitist and classist — and in this particular case, it’s silly, too.

Three of the biggest harms caused by our current food system are the harms to the environment, to public health through antibiotic resistance, and to animals through factory farming. In order to address all of those, plant-based or lab-produced alternatives to meat must be mass-produced. And if we’re uncomfortable with the fact of mass-production itself then we can’t fix any of the problems it’s currently causing.

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How Fake Meat Is Made

Like real meat, the fake stuff is available either finished or raw. Finished products include everything from frozen burger patties striped with faux grill marks to fake bologna slices and breaded not-chicken nuggets made from wheat, soy or Quorn, a patented fungus derivative otherwise known as mycoprotein.

Soy protein usually arrives at a food manufacturer in the form of a dry powder. Soy protein is coiled and globular, while real meat proteins are fibrous, so the challenge is to change the soy’s molecular structure. The food manufacturer exposes the soy protein to heat or acid or a solvent, and then runs it through an extruder to reshape it. “When you denature the molecules, they open up and become more fibrous,” says Barry Swanson, a professor of food science and nutrition at Washington State University and a fellow at the Institute of Food Technologists. “Then you hold them together with a gel, such as carrageenan or xanthan gum, something that will hold a little bit of water, and what you get is something that vaguely resembles a piece of meat.”

Quorn, the leading brand for meat alternatives worldwide, is a relative newcomer to the U.S. market. Quorn products are made from a daunting double-fermentation process in a 50-meter-high tower; the result is a high-protein, high-fiber fungus related to the mushroom family and with a structure similar to that of animal muscle cells. The fungus is then mixed with binders, flavorings, and other ingredients, formed into the desired shape and heated, which causes it to coalesce.

Other faux meat products are made from wheat gluten, which goes through a similar denaturing process. Wheat has less protein than soy, but its stretchy texture is more easily transformed into the chewiness of meat. Many products are formed from a combo of wheat and soy.

Once the texture is sufficiently meat-ish, it can be lavished with seasonings and flavorings to impart the taste and aroma of whatever substance is being mimicked, from bratwurst to bacon.

How to Work with the Stuff

  1. It goes in at the end. Instead of beginning by browning or searing the meat, you will instead flavor the dish first and add the faux material at the end.
  2. It works best in dishes with lots of sauce or strong flavors. The sauce will determine the success of the dish; the texture and flavor of the mock meat will be secondary.
  3. It needs to be wrung out. Many of the originals, like mock duck, mock abalone, and other gluten-based products, are resilient little sponges packaged in soy-laced broths to give them a meaty taste. Wring them out gently.
    —Robin Asbell

Where to Get Fake Meat

Nov. 4, 2019 — Next-generation vegan “meat” like the Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat has become so popular, it’s available or being tested at more than a dozen chain restaurants ranging from Burger King and Dunkin’ to KFC. Now, some industry groups and others are pushing back.

A pair of congressmen — one Democrat and one Republican — have introduced the Real MEAT Act of 2019, which would require faux-meat companies to use the word “imitation” on packaging.

“A growing number of fake meat products are clearly trying to mislead consumers about what they’re trying to get them to buy,” Jennifer Houston, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, says in a statement.

And even the CEOs of some leading natural-foods companies have raised concerns.

Last week, the food industry-backed Center for Consumer Freedom ran a full-page ad in The New York Times with the headline, “What’s Hiding in Your Plant-Based Meat?” The ad blasts vegan meats as “ultra-processed imitations with dozens of ingredients.” This echoes concerns voiced by John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, in an August interview.

“The who are capturing the imagination of people — and I’m not going to name these brands because I’m afraid I will be associated with the critique of it,” Mackey told CNBC Make It, “but some of these that are extremely popular now that are taking the world by storm, if you look at the ingredients, they are super, highly processed foods.”

These newfangled veggie burgers do have longer ingredients lists than a burger made with nothing but ground beef and maybe some salt. And a recent study out of the National Institutes of Health found that people who eat ultra-processed foods tend to take in more calories. But does that automatically make meat substitutes suspect? Not necessarily, says Debbie Petitpain, a registered dietitian and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Nutritionally, plant-based meat is lower in fat and offers fiber that red meat doesn’t have, without any of beef’s cholesterol. It also won’t have antibiotics or animal hormones, which are often found in beef.

Impossible Throws In The Towel On McDonald’s Faux Meat Battle

The Impossible Burger 2.0, the new and improved version of the company’s plant-based vegan burger … that tastes like real beef is introduced at a press event during CES 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada on January 7, 2019. – The updated version can be cooked on a grill and has a better flavor and lowered cholesterol, fat and calories than the original. ‘Unlike the cow, we get better at making meat every single day,’ CEO of Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

AFP/Getty Images

Plant based meat alternatives company Impossible Foods has reportedly stopped trying to woo McDonald’s as its next big fast-food customer. Even with huge cultural endorsements from investors like Serena Williams, Jaden Smith, Trevor Noah and Jay-Z, that helped push the company’s valuation north of $2 billion doesn’t seem to be enough. Reuters found talks with the Golden Arches fell apart as they had lots of concerns that Impossible Foods would not be able to produce enough imitation burgers to make a deal work, and based on what transpired at Burger King they may be right.

The Breakdown You Need To Know: Impossible Foods has deals with big restaurant chains in addition to Burger King, including Red Robin and White Castle, they also have products in retail stores. Last June, White Castle suffered a month-long shortage of Impossible Slider patties due to the company’s production issues. Prior to those problems, in April 2018 when the bleeding meatless burgers came to Burger King, many customers reported shortages. CultureBanx found that not only should McDonald’s and Impossible Foods be concerned, but the startup company’s investors should be as well. In its latest funding round they picked up another $300 million, with a new valuation of $2 billion, as they aim to completely remove animals from the food system by 2035.

There’s stiff competition for faux meat, back in May Impossible Foods biggest competitor Beyond Meat went public, its shares gained 163% on day one. They now command a market share of $6 billion. Beyond Meat does have an ace in their back pocket because Former McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson’s venture-capital firm Cleveland Avenue was an early investor in the company. So perhaps the big mac maker should be focusing way more attention on Beyond Meat and not Impossible Foods.

Impossible Foods is working to more than double its production, and they should because Beyond Meat is already testing its vegan burgers at dozens of McDonald’s restaurants in Canada. These two companies are having conversations, and Beyond Meat claims it would have no problem meeting the burger giant’s global demand, according to Reuters. Also, shares surged up more than 12% for Beyond Meat once news hit about the failed talks between its rival and McDonald’s.

Faux Meats Real Upside: It’s great that so many black cultural trendsetters are putting their money where the mouth is by investing in Impossible Foods, especially with hypertension and heart disease so common within our community. Nearly 44% of African American men and 48% of African American women have some form of cardiovascular disease that includes heart disease, according to the CDC. The government group notes that one of the ways to control these diseases is through a healthy diet, so perhaps plant based alternatives can help bring these numbers down in the black community.

Meatless burgers really could be a win for everyone across the board. The Good Food Institute reported that investment in the faux meat space has reached $16 billion over the last decade. Also, supermarket sales of meat alternatives grew 19% to $878 million last year, according to Nielsen data. Even though sales of plant-based meat alone generated $684 million in 2018, it still pales in comparison to the $270 billion in annual U.S. meat industry sales.

Update: Impossible’s CEO Pat Brown has disputed this claim and said he is not “throwing in the towel” as this article claims. According to him, Reuters misconstrued his statements.

Best meat substitute brands

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