Remember Rocky? This is exactly like that. Kind of.
Over the past few years, a brawl has been underway in the fast-food space over which plant-based food brand would dominate the market and become America’s plant-based meat of choice. In terms of accessibility, Beyond Meat shows a lot of promise — solidifying itself as a menu staple at chains like A&W, Bareburger, BurgerFi, Carl’s Jr, and Del Taco. But Impossible Foods has the Impossible Whopper, and that’s a pretty massive uppercut. Meanwhile, McDonald’s slipped a jab this week by announcing that the company will be making its own plant-based burger rather than relying on Beyond or Impossible (which sent Beyond Meat’s stocks tumbling).
With Impossible getting better reviews and McDonald’s developing its product without help from the two front-runners, it’s not crazy to call Beyond Meat the scrappy underdog with a one-in-a-million shot at the plant-based title belt. See? Just like Rocky.
Look I’ve been told before, “Not everything is Rocky.” But this really is just like Rocky. Impossible Foods holds the big title, they’ve got the King. Who might be reasonably be called the “King of Sting,” aka one of Apollo Creed’s many nicknames. And guess where Beyond Meat is headquartered? Phila — okay, that’s not true, the company is located in California. But guess where the company’s founder is from? Okay, also not Philadephia. Dammit. And from what we can tell he’s not Italian either. But this can still be a Rocky story because while things are looking down for Beyond Meat and their eye is all busted up and they’re seeing triple and the old man on the side of the ring is yelling about how he’s gonna stop the fight, they’ve just landed a Balboa-esque punch that has delivered them a fighting chance —
The Beyond Meat Italian Sausage pizza from Pizza Hut.
Plant-based burgers, tacos, meatballs… all of that is fine and good, but pizza? We’ll take a slice of pizza over a burger any day of the week. And while every pizza place has a whole range of vegetarian-friendly options these days, nothing quite completes a pie like a hearty serving of meat. So if you’re the type that likes to pile on the meat-based toppings but you’ve given up meat for health, environmental, or moral reasons, come sit ringside while I review Beyond Italian Sausage.
Hey, Italian Sausage… Italian Stallion???? See it? We told you this was a Rocky story!
The Taste Test:
In my opinion, Pizza Hut’s regular Italian Sausage is not only the chain’s best topping, but it’s also the best sausage topping out of all of the big national pizza chains. I’m pretty fond and familiar with the topping as Meat Lovers is my favorite Pizza Hut pie — so I was interested in how this pizza would match the experience.
Visually, the Beyond Meat Italian Sausage Pizza is a dead ringer for the real thing. It looks right. The smell isn’t quite there, though. Instead, this just smells like a cheese pizza. That won’t matter once you add other toppings on the pie, but it’s a little striking when you know the savory smell of Pizza Hut sausage as well as (I’m a little ashamed to admit) I do.
Beyond Meat and Pizza Hut’s culinary experts teamed up for this project to capture the flavor of Pizza Hut’s sausage topping and I’m happy to report that they’ve done a great job. One of the hallmarks of Pizza Hut’s sausage is the fennel seed seasoning and that’s very evident in the Beyond Italian Sausage. Plus you get a hefty dose of garlic, a tinge of onion, and some paprika for color and smokiness to approximate the flavor of real sausage. In terms of mouthfeel, this is indistinguishable from the real thing, which — together with the visual similarity and flavor — provides the same sensory experience I’ve come to love about biting into a slice of sausage pizza.
The thing that eating an all plant-based meat pizza for the first time taught me is that what I love about meat on pizza isn’t just the meat itself. It’s the greasy flavor that sausage, pepperoni, and bacon produce when they’re thrown into a super hot oven. The way they mix and mingle with the cheese, crust, and tomato sauce and morph into the type of umami bomb that can only be washed down with an equally sinful swig of ice-cold soda.
At the end of the day, the Beyond Meat Italian Sausage Pizza is just a little too dry to truly match what I love about sausage pizza. The sausage never gets greasy and it comes out a bit burnt on the edges. But if the idea of an orgy of meat grease seeping into salty mozzarella sounds disgusting to you (or off-limits for one of the reasons mentioned above), the Beyond Italian Sausage pizza might be just what you’re looking for.
The Bottom Line:
Not a knockout punch, but maybe a TKO.
A great stand-in for vegetarians who have a hard time enjoying pizza without meat. While we probably wouldn’t eat it as a solo topping, mixed in with some veggies the Beyond Meat Italian Sausage supplies a lot of savory flavor with echoes of the spicy oven-roasted sausage that inspired it.