Meatless meat – faux beef – mock burgers: it can be confusing. If your experiences as a vegetarian (or pescatarian, or vegan) are anything like mine, sometimes despite your best intentions you end up with an unavoidable craving for a cheeseburger. And veggie burgers? They’re arguably the most reviled part of a vegetarian diet by non-veggies. Who wants texturized soy protein over a juicy ground chuck patty? Can diced mushrooms and protein fillers really take the place of a Big Mac?
YES. Let me just say – yes. Swap your beef quarter-pounder for a veggie patty and realize that your meal is doubly healthy (not to mention green, socially conscious, yada yada yada) and even… tasty. Dare I say--delicious.
But what brand to buy? A quick Amazon Fresh search turns up eighteen varieties of veggie burgers, from seven different brands. For this post, I’ll test drive three of the most popular veggie patties in the hopes of making your next veggie burger adventure a success. Happy protein crumbles!
Amy’s Organic Texas Burger (vegan)
Ingredients : (VEGAN) FILTERED WATER, ORGANIC SOY FIBER, ORGANIC ONIONS, WHEAT GLUTEN, SOY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, ORGANIC TOMATO PUREE, ORGANIC MUSHROOMS, ORGANIC BULGUR WHEAT, ORGANIC EVAPORATED CANE JUICE, ORGANIC WALNUTS, ORGANIC OATS, ORGANIC CELERY, ORGANIC CARROTS, SEA SALT, ORGANIC POTATOES, ORGANIC APPLE CIDER VINEGAR, ORGANIC BLACKSTRAP MOLASSES, EXPELLER PRESSED HIGH OLEIC SAFFLOWER AND/OR SUNFLOWER OIL, ORGANIC BELL PEPPERS, ORGANIC GARLIC, GRAIN VINEGAR (DISTILLED FROM CORN), GROUND MUSTARD SEEDS, NATURAL HICKORY SMOKE FLAVOR, SPICES*, BLACK PEPPER. CONTAINS SOY, WHEAT AND WALNUTS.*100% PURE HERBS & SPICES (NO HIDDEN INGREDIENTS)
Comments: The texture does a good job of imitating meat. However, the barbecue flavor conflicts with the overall sweet taste of the patty (both tomato puree and evaporated cane juice are high on the ingredients list), leaving a terrible aftertaste in my mouth. I’d eat this—but honestly I would rather put barbecue sauce on a less oddly flavored veggie burger.
Gardenburger Veggie Medley (vegan)
Ingredients: COOKED BROWN RICE (BROWN RICE, WATER), BROCCOLI, WATER, CARROTS, ONIONS, WHOLE KERNEL CORN, ROLLED OATS, BROWN LENTILS, RED BELL PEPPERS, GREEN BELL PEPPERS, OAT FIBER, GROUND FLAXSEED, CONTAINS TWO PERCENT OR LESS OF CANOLA OIL, ONION JUICE CONCENTRATE, SALT, METHYLCELLULOSE, NATURAL FLAVORS, SOY SAUCE (FERMENTED SOYBEANS, SALT), AUTOLYZED YEAST EXTRACT, HYDROLYZED WHEAT GLUTEN, EVAPORATED CANE JUICE, SPICES, CARAMEL COLOR, GARLIC POWDER, YEAST EXTRACT, ONION POWDER, SOY LECITHIN.
Comments: My twelve-year-old sister attested, “It tastes fine, but I don’t know if I would eat this like a burger.” Indeed, the Veggie Medley is not really imitation meat: there are visible chunks of carrot, broccoli and spinach sandwiched between all that soy protein. It’s an attempt at a true vegetable patty. That said, it’s well-flavored (lots of onion!) and would be a great addition to a barbecue.
Boca All-American Flame Grilled
Ingredients: WATER, SOY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, REDUCED FAT CHEDDAR CHEESE (PASTEURIZED PART-SKIM MILK, CHEESE CULTURE, SLAT, ENZYMES, ANNATTO (COLOR), VITAMIN A PALMITATE), WHEAT GLUTEN, CORN OIL, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF METHYLCELLULOSE, HYDROLYZED CORN PROTEIN, WHEAT GLUTEN AND SOY PROTEIN, SALT, CARAMEL COLOR, CHEESE POWDER (CHEDDAR CHEESE, [MILK, CHEESE CULTURE, SALT, ENZYMES], CREAM, SALT, SODIUM PHOSPHATE, LACTIC ACID), DRIED ONIONS, YEAST EXTRACT, NATURAL FLAVOR (NON-MEAT), SESAME OIL, DISODIUM GUANYLATE, DISODIUM INOSINATE. BROWNED IN CORN OIL. CONTAINS: SOY, MILK, WHEAT, SESAME.
Comments: To be honest, if someone slapped this Boca burger in front of me, complete with bun, cheese, and ketchup, I think it would take me a good five minutes of munching to figure out that my burger was not, in fact, made of ground beef. The texture is quite meaty, and the flavor is good but not overwhelming. Drawbacks: to me, the ingredients list seems sketchier than Amy’s or Gardenburger’s by leaps and bounds. What is disodium inosinate? It concerns me. Also, this Boca contains a good deal of cheese, so it is by no means vegan. Bottom line: if you’re a former meat eater jonesin’ for an excellent faux cheeseburger, Boca’s your choice.
Do you have a favorite veggie burger brand, or do you prefer to make your own? Are you a vegetarian, but is faux meat not your thing? Let us know in the comments!
--Anneka Gerhardt, Foodista staffer.