Plant-Based Burger Taste Test: We Tried Four Vegan 'Meat' Brands Ahead of Grilling Season
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again—2019 is the year of the plant-based burger. They look like meat, they taste (for the most part) like meat, and some of them even "bleed." While frontrunners like the Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger have been steadily dominating the market, the competition is growing, and each month seems to bring about a new meatless product. Lightlife and Nestlé also have new plant-based burgers out this year, which hit grocery store shelves in March 2019 and fall 2019, respectively; MorningStar Farms announced its Meat Lovers Vegan Burger last spring. With grilling season on the horizon and increasing dietary and environmental incentives to swap meat for plant-based protein, we decided we needed to try them out ourselves—for many staffers, it was the first time they’d ever had a plant-based burger.
We called in samples from Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods (for the new Impossible 2.0 recipe), Lightlife, and MorningStar Farms and fired up the skillet to see which plant-based burger came out on top. In addition to comparing how similarly the patties tasted to beef and whether or not we would swap them out with regular burgers, we also looked at overall taste, texture, and quality. Burger patties were sampled plain, and also eaten the traditional way with buns, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and our choices of mayo and mustard—so yeah, not a bad Wednesday afternoon lunch. Here's what we thought of each plant-based meat:
Impossible Burger 2.0
This gluten-free burger has 19 grams of protein, and the new recipe uses soy protein, coconut oil, methylcellulose (a plant-based culinary binder), and sunflower oil.
“Really succulent and umami-y. Almost identical to beef.”
“Juicy and pink on the inside, crumbles correctly.”
“Unlike others, very good ‘beef’ replacement.”
“Juicy, charred, almost seems fatty like a real beef burger.”
Availability: TBD, launching in 2019.
This burger has 20 grams of protein (mainly from peas) and is soy-free and gluten-free. It is made without GMOs, and the red coloring comes from beets.
“I love the taste—love how it meshes with condiments.”
“Nice and crisp on the outside, good density.”
“Tastes pretty close [to meat.]”
“Would happily switch to this instead of a regular burger.”
Availability: Whole Foods, Giant, Food Lion, Safeway, Jewel-Osco, Acme, ShopRite, and more.
Lightlife Plant-Based Burger
This burger has 20 grams of pea protein, and also includes virgin coconut oil and beet powder. It’s gluten-free, GMO-free, and soy-free.
“Pretty good meat-like texture.”
“Does not taste like meat.”
“Similarly neutral to tempeh or tofu.”
Availability: Albertsons, Jewel Osco, Safeway and Wegmans. The burger will also be available at "select Whole Foods" starting in July 2019.
Morningstar Farms Meat Lovers Vegan Burger
This burger has 27 grams of protein and uses non-GMO soy to replace meat.
“This kind of tastes like falafel. In a good way.”
“I appreciate this as a veggie burger, but not a meat replacement.”
“Soft and squishy, not beef-like but similar to a lot of [MorningStar's] other products.”
“I would definitely use this in place of a veggie burger.”
Availability: Sam's Club, Amazon, Walmart, Target, Kroger, Instacart, and more.
Ultimately, the Impossible 2.0 Burger was the clear favorite, with many staffers saying they would happily substitute it for a regular hamburger. While you can’t grab it at supermarkets yet—it’s set to launch in stores later this year, according to the website—there are several restaurants around the U.S. that serve Impossible Burgers on the menu. Umami Burger has an Impossible Vegan BBQ, Impossible Classic Cheeseburger, Impossible Trufflemaker (yes, please), and Original double-decker Impossible Burger; Red Robin recently launched the plant-based burger at all 570 of its locations across the country. White Castle and Muscle Maker grill also carry them and Questlove even took Impossible 2.0 meat to make a vegetarian Philly cheesesteak—available at 40 Live Nation venues and Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park (naturally).
However, the biggest news comes from Burger King, who announced earlier this month that it's testing Impossible Whoppers—and apparently, even employees can't tell the difference. The adoption of these burgers by so many restaurants undeniably cemented plant-based meat’s place in the mainstream, and when you fire up your grill this season, rest assured that beef is far from your only option.
Editor's Note: We will add more plant-based burger brands to this review as they are received or become available this year.