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.
Boca All American Classic Veggie Burger
View this post on Instagram
Daydreaming about this beautiful 🍔 made by our homie @daydreamworkshop 🙃 At BOCA, we strive to bring you delicious, convenient, accessible eats that vegetarians and meat-eaters alike will love! Show us how you use BOCA with #MyOriginalBOCA • • • • • #bocaburger #OriginalBOCA #MyOriginalBOCA #veg #veggie #veggieburger #plantbased #eeeeeats #delicious #convenient #foodie #food #yum #yummy
Boca Foods Company was founded in Boca Raton, Florida in 1979 with its vegetarian “Sun Burger.” Over the next decade, other burgers were released. In fact, there was a period when people looking to buy a veggie burger in a supermarket were limited to choosing between Boca patties and Gardenburger. Whereas the Gardenburger leaned into traditional veggie patty territory, the Boca tried to replicate meat. Though no one would actually be fooled into thinking these are meat, they aren’t without appeal — which is why the default meatless patty at Red Robin was a Boca Burger for over a decade.
Though classic Boca patties are vegan, the All American ones not only include soy protein, they also have cheddar cheese in them (although not the gooey amount in a Gardenburger). They also feature onion and garlic for flavor. Overall, the flavor of a Boca is mild. Once you have it smothered in tomato, lettuce, onion, cheese, and condiments, you really won’t taste it. Or maybe you’ll get a little grill flavor (be careful of drying these out). The upside here is the nice chewy texture and the subtle savory notes.
Beyond Meat Beyond Sausage Hot Italian
The fine people at Beyond Meat are all about burgers that look, cook, and satisfy like beef. But they also make the world’s first plant-based sausages that look, sizzle, and satisfy like pork. They contain no GMOs, soy, nitrates, nitrites, hormones, or gluten, and they offer 16g of plant protein each. That means healthy and packed with protein, which is great, but how do they taste?
So good. These sausages get their flavor, texture, and juiciness from the protein extracted from peas, fava beans, and rice. The coloring is from beets (as is the color in the Beyond Burger). And coconut oil keeps them from feeling dry. There are three flavors of sausage: Original Bratwurst, Hot Italian, and Sweet Italian. The brats with sauerkraut and mustard are solid, but we love the Hot Italian. Though they could stand to be a bit spicier, they have a rich, deep flavor that satisfies. And it’s worth noting that these sausages have 43 percent less fat than pork alternatives, which means they aren’t quite as greasy.
Field Roast FieldBurger
Field Roast launched in Seattle in 1997, making it one of the younger companies on this list. However, the brand’s approach to making artisanal plant-based meat and cheese is truly exceptional, even in comparison to more established brands. Seriously, if you are looking for a decent vegan cheese, their Chao products are delicious. The company honors and celebrates the cooking of both Europe and Asia by using the culinary traditions of both seitan and charcuterie, so the wheat gluten-based meats bear a striking resemblance to actual meat.
In addition to vital wheat gluten, these burgers also contain barley, garlic, onions, and carrots. They get their pronounced umami from shitake and porcini mushrooms. One fun aspect of them is that they come in hand-formed patties that beg to be cooked up on a grill, and they don’t disappoint because they have a fairly classic burger flavor, despite all the veggies. We aren’t quite sure how they do it, but Field Roast makes a burger that is both flavorful and enjoyably textured. And they’re vegan.
Tofurky Beer Brats
In 1980, Turtle Island Foods was founded in Hood River, Oregon. 15 years later, Tofurky made its first appearance. We have to be honest, Tofurky Roasts aren’t that tasty. There was a time when that was the only alternative to rocking a lentil loaf at a holiday meal, but they are like a rubbery salt lick. However, over time the company has really sorted itself out and improved the flavor and texture of its product line. They do make hot dogs, but their sausages are better. They offer Italian Sausage, Kielbasa, Spinach Pesto, Andouille, and Beer Brats. The brats are where it is at.
These vegan sausages celebrate another Hood River company: Full Sail Brewery. The brats contain microbrewed Full Sail Amber Ale. They also include both tofu and vital wheat gluten for a double whammy of meat alternatives. This is likely why they have such a pleasing texture. Plus, garlic and onion are added for flavor, though they don’t overwhelm. Grab one of these from the grill, slap it in a bun with mustard and sauerkraut and you have the makings of a super satisfying bite of food. These are legit.
Morningstar Farms Grillers Prime Burgers
Morningstar Farms was introduced by Worthington Foods, a company that was also associated with the Seventh-day Adventist friendly Loma Linda Foods, makers of canned fake meat. Morningstar Farm’s line of soy-based meatless meats hit supermarkets nationwide in the mid-70s and offered tons of American customers their first experience with the soy-based meats that are so ubiquitous now. The Griller wasn’t part of the original line, but it was one of the first easily accessible grocery store options that wasn’t predominantly made of rice or lentils.
Grillers Prime Burgers are mostly wheat gluten, which is often called seitan. It makes for a really meaty texture, so a lot of people think these are a great alternative. The patties are primarily flavored with onion, carrot juice, garlic powder, onion powder, tomato paste, and salt. This is to say that they are not as nuanced as some other options on the list. However, they do excel at being pleasantly juicy/greasy. Because a lot of veggie burgers are low in fat, they can be dry. Grillers are definitely not.
Gardenburger: The Original Veggie Burger
View this post on Instagram
Back when the kids were little, we used to get veggie burgers at Nation's. They were sooo good. Something to do with the grill flavor on the patties, the right amount of condiments and the inevitable messiness😋. This homemade veggie burger may be just as good. Two @gardenburger patties, American cheese slices, mayo, brown mustard, tomato, @organicgirl baby spinach, red onion, and dill pickles. All squeezed into a soft brioche bun. Napkins please😉😉🍔🍔🍔 #foodlover #foodgasm #foodpic #eat #tasty #hungry #feedfeed #yum #eeeeeats #f52grams #organicgirl #nomnom #foodpics #foodblogger #foodphotography #huffposttaste #foodies #forkyeah #foodblog #veggie #veggieburger #sandwhichlove #sandwichgram #instawhich #burgerart #burgerporn #instaburger #gardenburger #fujifilmxt1 #fujinonxf56mmf1.2
An elder statesman in the world of commercially available veggie burgers, the Gardenburger is now owned by the Kellogg Company. However, it was originally developed in a vegetarian restaurant in Gresham, Oregon in the early 80s. Part of their enduring appeal probably has to do with the fact that they aren’t trying to replicate beef. Instead, they go the veggie patty route, blending brown rice, rolled oats, mushrooms, onions, parsley, garlic, and a ton of cheese.
The cheese may be both the best and the worst part of these burgers. It’s delicious to bite into one and feel the mozzarella and cheddar ooze out of the patty, but it can also cause the burgers to stick to the grill. You have to watch them and keep them from adhering to the grill because once attached, they will fall apart when you try to flip them.
Amy’s Quarter Pound Veggie Burger
View this post on Instagram
Get excited! The 3rd Annual National Veggie Burger Day is tomorrow! Did you know Amy's created this special day on June 5th, 2016 to celebrate all kinds of veggie burgers and the positive impact they have on the planet? Stay tuned for giveaways, recipes and coupons headed your way! #VeggieBurgerDay #OneMoreDay #VivaLaVeggieBurger
Amy’s Kitchen is a family-owned company that dates back to the late 80s. For a pretty lengthy period, vegetarians didn’t have many other options, so Amy’s was a bit of a lifesaver. Try finding a vegetarian of the 90s who didn’t eat their veggie loaf with mashed potatoes and vegetables. It can’t be done. And though it took the company a bit of time to introduce burgers, they now manufacture multiple tasty options that follow a more traditional veggie patty model.
We like the Quarter Pound Veggie Burger, which is made from textured soy protein, organic bulgur wheat, organic oats, and a ton of vegetables like celery, mushrooms, carrots, and potatoes. There is also a hint of barbeque sauce, which you can enjoy as a subtle accent or build upon by basting the burger in additional sauce. Plus, the burger is giant in a way that a lot of meatless patties are not. People looking for faux beef aren’t gonna be fans of this burger, but people who like burgers that lean to the hippie direction will appreciate them.
Field Roast Frankfurters
These are the only hot dogs on this list because they are literally the only ones worth eating. In a lot of cases, veggie dogs have a rubbery texture that makes them squeak against your teeth when you bite into them. There is also a pervasive issue of flavor, which tends to be largely absent. Admittedly, tofu can be part of a great meal, but you have to build flavor onto and into it because it doesn’t come with much. So, slapping it into a hot dog shape without working to construct a savory flavor is no good. None.
Field Roast as a company focuses on using real ingredients and uncomplicated techniques. For their frankfurters that means fresh garlic, fresh onions, and a blend of traditional spices that includes caraway, celery seed, ground yellow mustard, and paprika. These are solidly good sautéed in a pan or steamed in the oven, but they really shine when grilled and topped with the condiments of your choice. These are also vegan, but you literally would not know it. Heck, people might not even know they are vegetarian.
Hilary’s World’s Best Veggie Burger
View this post on Instagram
We have a very delicious giveaway for you! We've teamed up with our friends at @lunchskins and @quoconow for a fantastic lunchtime giveaway. Enter for the chance to win an assortment of LunchSkins, Hilary's and a Whole Foods gift card from our friends at Quoco Now. All you have to do is: 🌟'Follow' Hilary's, Quoco Now & LunchSkins on Facebook 🌟❤ this photo 🌟Tag at least three friends, the more the merrier! We'll choose a winner on 3/27 and you can enter on all accounts! US residents, 18+ only. Facebook is not a sponsor of this giveaway.
It reeks of hubris to name your product the “world’s best,” so it may be a relief to know that the superlative was given to the burger by customers who frequented the restaurant of the Hilary’s founders in 2005. And, they can’t have been wrong because this burger frequently tops lists calling out the best veggie burgers and remains the best-selling burger made by the company.
Like the Gardenburger, Hilary’s World’s Best Veggie Burgers are full of grains and veggies. In this case, it is whole grain millet, quinoa, sweet potato, and leafy greens, which might not sound super yummy when you are jonesing for some meat, but they are genuinely delicious, especially when married with toppings like avocado and or jalapenos. Plus, they are mad filling, and they don’t fall to pieces when you pull them off of the grill. And, they contain no wheat, soy, gluten, dairy, nuts, or corn, so people with food sensitivities can barbeque something that actually tastes good.