The sun is shining, condensation is sliding down a pitcher of lemonade and pooling on a gingham tablecloth, and the grill is loaded with sizzling hamburger patties and hot dogs. Is there a tastier slice of Americana than the traditional summer barbeque? Probably not. These casual celebrations of grilled meats and seasonal produce are hugely popular across the country. Ballads are sung about them. Endless ink is spilled on their behalf. But when it comes to the meats, there are reasons to slow our collective roll. It’s not realistic to force vegetarianism on anyone, but a reduction in meat consumption (especially factory farmed meat) has been shown to be a small, measurable change that’s good for the environment.
There was a time when meat alternatives were largely constructed from legumes and grains, and there were relatively few that you could snap up at a supermarket. Over the past half-decade, things have changed dramatically. These days, there are dozens of options crowding store shelves. This is both good and bad. It’s nice to have choices, but how do you select the tastiest options without having to spend a ton to try everything?
You have us do it for you, that’s how. Our list of meatless burgers and dogs highlights a variety of approaches to the fake meat game — some soy-based options, some grain-based ones, and some that are made of wheat gluten. Most importantly, they’re all flavor-packed, a quality which is sure to make #MeatlessMondays feel a lot easier this summer.
Beyond Meat Beyond Burger
The big talk of the meatless burger world for the past year has been divided between the Impossible Burger (which may be released in stores this year, but has yet to be made available to home cooks) and the Beyond Burger. Beyond Meat is a Los Angeles-based company founded in 2009 and backed by Bill Gates and a lot of Silicon Valley bigshots. However, their products weren’t available until 2013, when they released mock chicken.
Two years later, they launched the first plant-based burger to be sold in the meat section of Whole Foods. Now, products have expanded and are available internationally. Conversations about the Beyond Burger generally conclude that it’s one of the few meatless alternatives to truly replicate a beef patty. This is likely why Carl’s Jr. and Del Taco have both released Beyond alternatives to their menu items. They boast that their burgers “bleed,” but that doesn’t seem like much of a selling point. It’s more likely that diners are attracted to an umami-forward plant-based patty that cooks and satisfies like beef.
So convincing is this burger that once it’s on a bun and topped with goodies, a lot of meat eaters genuinely can’t tell it isn’t a beef patty. If you’re looking for that — here you go.