Whether you're hosting a barbecue and looking to include a few meatless grill options for , or you're en route to a BYO-meat situation and need to pick up some vegetarian grill fare for your vegetarian self, you've got a whole lot of meat-free options to throw on the flames this summer. Long gone are the days when that one dry and tasteless veggie burger was your only option.
Now, let us be clear: We still adore a well-made black bean burger or crunchy mushroom or chickpea patty, but if you're craving a more meat-like version of a plant-based grilled good, you are absolutely living in the golden age. Innovative food operations like Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat and Before the Butcher have plant-based meat trickery down to a science -- quite literally. You can find anything from faux plant-based beef burgers to wannabe chicken cutlets and even faux fishcakes that taste a whole lot like the real thing. All of it makes plant-based living -- and-- in 2020 more exciting than ever.
These plant-based grill meats come in all shapes and sizes too, from crumbled ground "meat" you can season yourself to pre-formed patties with jaw-droppingly meat-like texture and taste. If there is a grill meat that exists, there is likely a plant-based version of it in stores or available online. Here's our round-up of excellent meat-free, plant-based grilling patties, burgers, sausages and hot dogs for summer 2020.
These products and services are independently chosen by our editors.
Impossible was the first producer to really nail that beef burger taste and texture. At long last, its namesake product is available for shipping nationwide. You can buy the plant-based meat, including pre-formed burger patties and breakfast sausage, directly through Impossible's website or on Amazon.
The Beyond Burger is another top option for meat-like taste and texture. Touted as "the world's first plant-based burger patty that looks, cooks and satisfies like fresh ground beef," the Beyond Burger goes from refrigerator to plate with just a few minutes of grilling per side. Pea protein, coconut oil and beets create a patty with 20 grams of protein, plus a texture and look not too far from that of a beef burger (though it may have a somewhat coconut-y aftertaste).
Before the Butcher out in California is poised to be one of the best new plant-based food companies in the game, and for good reason. Its Uncut line of "chicken" and "turkey" burgers and cutlets are surprisingly hard to differentiate from the real thing. Before the Butcher's products were previously only available at brick-and-mortar locations on the west coast but are now also available online and ship nationally. Everything I've tried from BTB is pretty darn great too, so I'd recommend starting with the meatless 6-pack sampler which has faux turkey, chicken, beef and sausage patties for just $33.
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This concoction is no longer unique, though, as Lightlife recently launched its own contender with similar ingredients, appearance, mouthfeel and grill-ability. The new Lightlife Plant-Based Burger includes pea protein, coconut oil and beets as well, and lists BBQ instructions on its packaging as the top prep method. Whichever product you choose, you'll have a patty to please the vegan or vegetarian crowd, and it might just entice some carnivores too! Serve it as you would a beef burger on a bun with your preferred condiments, or get inspired by some of Beyond Meat's recipes.
Other "meaty" frozen patty options include the likes of MorningStar Farms' products. Made from soy and wheat gluten, the MorningStar Farms Grillers Prime Burger is smaller, weighing in at 71 grams per patty compared with the beefier 113-gram Beyond and Lightlife patties. It is also generally less expensive -- prices vary store to store, but a sample search online at Target yields about a dollar per patty for MorningStar and $3 per patty for Beyond Meat.
Gardein offers a meat-free burger of a similar size, price and base ingredients. The 71-gram Gardein Ultimate Beefless Burger is made of both soy and vital wheat gluten, but adds ancient grain flour for a slightly different texture. Both MorningStar and Gardein likely won't fool meat-accustomed taste buds in the way Beyond and Lightlife aim to, but they will provide savory, condiment-toppable options for those looking for an alternative to meat. If your grill party is more casual, and you don't want to have to worry about budgeting out a certain number of patties per person, it might serve you best to just grab a bunch of MorningStar or Gardein burgers and grill 'em as you need 'em.
If you're looking for a happy medium, MorningStar also offers the larger Meat Lovers Vegan Burgers. At 113 grams, these are heftier like Beyond and Lightlife, but come out a bit cheaper (they're about $2 per patty in a sample search). They also aim for the meatlike flavor of a traditional burger more than the aforementioned MorningStar and Gardein options, but with similar ingredients.
While you can't yet order these fish burgers online, you can find them in major retailers like Giant and Hannaford. For the vegetarian or vegan who is missing that salty, seafood summer, the fish burger and the Thai fish burger -- both plant-based -- are as good a substitute as any. The brand also makes a solid plant-based tuna with oil and herbs which you can purchase online.
The slightly smaller FieldBurger by Field Roast is at home on the grill as well, and begins our shift toward patties that focus more on vegetable ingredients. And, this one is soy-free for those with soy sensitivities. So many options, and we've barely gotten to these more veggie-forward patties!
For many vegetarians, "tastes like meat" isn't even a priority. And some meat-eaters certainly enjoy a good black bean burger on occasion (is it the gateway patty?). For this crowd, a package of frozen bean or veggie patties will do the trick. MorningStar Farms and Gardein are there for us, again, with their respective takes on black bean burgers. The MorningStar Farms Spicy Black Bean Burgers add green chiles to a black bean and brown rice base to create a grillable patty with a kick.
The MorningStar Farms Mediterranean Chickpea Burgers and the Garden Veggie Burgers are two more (of many other) varieties that may be grilled with careful monitoring. The key with these, and any other veggie patties you're considering at the grocery store, is to read the prep instructions and look for instructions that specify grilling. If these are absent, likely the patties are best prepared via skillet or oven, and they might not be the best choice for bringing to a barbecue.
Dogs and frankfurters
Not only are there plentiful patty options, but yes, we live in a world with some excellent vegan sausages, too! The best of these are the Beyond Sausages, by the makers of the Beyond Burger. With a hefty dose of vegetable fat (mostly from coconut oil) and a plant-based casing, this is the brand of sausage that just might fool some meat-loving friends. Grab the Original Brat variety and top with mustard and sauerkraut, or the Sweet Italian or Hot Italian options and add grilled onions and peppers.
Not to be outdone, Tofurky offers five different varieties of meat-free sausage: Spinach Pesto, Andouille, Italian, Kielbasa and Beer Brat. These need only a light heating on your grill grates, and then they're ready for whichever bun-and-topping combinations you can think up. Readily available at grocery stores, these are a solid choice for grilling guests who might appreciate the sheer variety of flavor options.
Field Roast has three of its own veggie-forward sausages and they are, in my opinion, the best of the lot. The smoked apple sage, bratwurst, frankfurter and Mexican chipotle all deliver unique-yet-familiar flavor profiles all perfect for the grill. The Italian version is fabulous too but perhaps best diced up into a vegan bolognese. Unlike its competitors, these contain no soy -- made mostly from vegetables and grains -- making them a good choice for folks with soy allergies.
These are best purchased when a true hot dog-like option is called for -- perhaps when everyone else is eating hot dogs and you don't want to leave out the vegetarians and vegans. Maybe you don't want to broach the subject of a meat-free lifestyle with that one uncle at your family party, and you'd like a product that looks unremarkable on the grill. For these scenarios, Tofurky's Jumbo Hot Dogs are the way to go.
Lightlife's Smart Dogs are another unobtrusive choice. Prepare with a healthy dose of mustard, ketchup, relish or whatever you typically add to hot dogs, as these are not packing a flavor punch like their faux-sausage counterparts. Vegetarian hot dogs may sound like an oxymoron but if the crowds demand them, these are a great choice!
Field Roast Frankfurters offer a bit more in the way of taste, but won't be fooling anyone without a lot of help from condiments. With all of these, you need only to provide a brief visit to the grill for light heating and grill-mark purposes. Like many of the products on this list, they're not gluten-free, but Field Roast uses all natural ingredients you know and can pronounce.
Not every grocery store will carry each of these products, but with our lowdown on everything meat-free and grillable, you should be able to find something to suit your occasion. And, the options are not only expanding but growing more and more delicious with every passing summer!
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This story was written by Emily Murawski and updated in July 2020 by David Watsky.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.