Meat eaters all have a common complaint they often use to justify their carnivorous diet. You’ve no doubt heard, at least once or twice before: “I can’t find any substitute that tastes like the real thing. If there were some equivalent to chicken, beef, pork and fish, I might consider going vegan.”
In truth, there’s no shortage of companies that produce imitation meat, and they can replicate the flavor and texture of chicken, beef, pork and fish with impressive authenticity. To show just how many options there are, here are 10 of the best meat alternative brands on the market today, along with a few examples of their contributions.
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1. Field Roast
Field Roast is an artisan brand that has an extensive selection of vegan meats, selling deli slices, roasts, loaves and more. Their line of vegan sausages come in flavors like smoked apple sage, made from Yukon gold potatoes, garlic, onions and apple cider vinegar. They use other natural ingredients as well, combining fruits, veggies, spices and grains to produce a delicious, animal-friendly alternative to traditional sausages that is just as delicious.
Boca is a well-known name among vegetarians and vegans, and their products have stood the test of time. Though most agree Boca Burgers aren’t exactly identical in taste to their beef counterpart, their chewiness, crusty exterior and ability to retain moisture through the cooking process make them superior to many other veggie burgers available today. Among its competition, Boca is a top brand, and it’s earned its excellent reputation.
3. May Wah
The May Wah brand isn’t available everywhere, and their products are more common in health food stores in the northeast. That said, the company has an enormous online inventory of vegetarian and vegan foods for those who are interested, and their chicken leg drumsticks are worth ordering. Along with resembling the taste of chicken, this meat substitute resembles its appearance, as well, using a wooden dowel to represent a drumstick’s bone.
Vegans who are on the go and need to prepare a quick lunch can turn to Yves for their alternative deli-meats. Yves provides a replacement for bologna with its look, feel and taste, and their non-GMO product is a good source of protein, iron and B12. Those who are searching for a meat substitute can trust Yves’ veggie bologna to satisfy their hunger and give them the essential vitamins and nutrients they need to get through the day.
Gardein isn’t as established as other brands in the realm of meat substitutes, but the endorsement of Tal Ronnen has helped its popularity. The celebrity vegan chef uses Gardein products exclusively in the meals he prepares, and Whole Foods trusts the vegetarian dishes in their food bar to the company, as well. Their meatless meatballs — made from vegetable protein, vinegar molasses and paprika — are an excellent example of why they’re gaining more attention.
6. Sweet Earth Foods
The story of Sweet Earth Foods is unique in that its owner, Brian Swette, once worked for companies like Pepsico and Burger King. His vegetarian daughter persuaded him that a meat-free diet was both healthier and better for the environment, so he decided to launch a company that carried that message. Since then, they’ve produced a wide range of delicious vegan foods, and their hickory and sage bacon stands out for its impressive 10 grams of protein per serving.
7. Beyond Meat
The Beyond Meat brand has made waves for its revolutionary products, and the Beyond Burger has made a large contribution to their success. Packed with 20 grams of plant-based protein per serving and filled with vitamins and antioxidants, this beef substitute is gaining momentum in homes and restaurants. It’s such an authentic replacement that the patty actually “bleeds” when they’re cooked or grilled, for those who appreciate realism.
8. Upton’s Naturals
Upton’s Naturals is an independently owned natural foods company that specializes in meat alternatives, and their commitment to vegan values reflects in their high-quality products. Their chili lime carnitas uses jackfruit, an ingredient with properties almost indistinguishable from pulled pork. The company marinates their jackfruit in a mixture of chili, lime, coriander and cumin to give their meat substitute a sweet, savory taste, perfect for sandwiches and tacos.
Tofurky is a widely recognized brand, and they have a long history of selling delicious meat substitutes. Their inventory includes slow-roasted chik’n, deli slices, veggie burgers, tempeh, roasts and other products, but their sausages are particularly delectable. Loaded with russet potatoes, diced apples and wheat berries, their chik’n apple flavor is perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner. You can enjoy them on their own or chopped up and skewered.
Lightlife produces vegetarian and vegan meat substitutes, but customers can tell them apart by looking for the “certified vegan” logo on the product’s packaging. Their Smart Ground Original lets amateur chefs make a vegan chili to share with their friends — it has the same texture and consistency of ground beef. Beyond their Smart Ground Original, Lightlife has a substantial selection of similar products to choose from.
More Than Just a Compromise
It’s a widespread assumption that vegans are limited in their diet, have few options to choose from and, of these options, none of them compare to the taste of chicken, beef, pork and fish. As food manufacturers catch up to the prevalence of this dietary preference, the reality is becoming far different. Companies like Field Roast, Boca Burger, Sweet Earth Foods and Beyond Meat offer flexibility for those who don’t want meat in their diet. To customers, the substitutes they provide are more than just a compromise.
Many of the products detailed above — like May Wah’s chicken drumsticks or Tofurky’s chik’n apple sausages — aren’t only a replacement for the meat they imitate, but they’re unique foods with their own distinct appeal. They serve as examples of what food companies are capable of, and as these products continue to become more popular, it’s reasonable to speculate the vegan lifestyle will grow in popularity, as well.
As long as the best meat alternative brands continue to be innovative, the future is bright for animals and humans alike.