For a long time, vegetarian or vegan burgers were a laughingstock for many people. Even committed vegetarians often weren’t a fan of the kind of vegetable patties that were mostly available. Sure, they could taste OK, or even good, but they just weren’t on the same level of filling meatiness as a real burger. For those who have been veggie their whole lives – no problem. But for people who had tried, and possibly even enjoyed, the taste of a prime beef burger? There just weren’t many options out there.
That’s all changed over the past few years. Using scientific approaches to make a burger that tastes like the real thing, two US based start-ups – Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat – have been racing to get their unique plant-based burger imitations into restaurants and supermarkets across the pond. With investment from Bill Gates and other billionaires backing both companies, things are heating up in this new market. But do the burgers taste as good as the hype suggests? We tried out two that are available in UK supermarkets today, and a competing Jackfruit based patty too.
Beyond Meat Free from Meat Burger (Tesco Online, £2.25 per burger)
The daddy of the new revolution, these burgers are made mainly from pea protein. With a small coating of coconut oil to give that meaty sizzle when you drop them under the grill on or in the pan, they also contain small amounts of beetroot juice – which gives a meat-like bleed and reddish appearance to the inside of the burger. Despite looking like not-quite-cooked meat inside the burger, these actually taste unbelievably like real meat.
The suitably tender and soft texture, with the rich umami flavours should be enough to fool many a meat eater. The subtle beetroot flavouring, and the almost raw appearance of the inside will give it away though, especially to attentive eaters. On the nutrition side, they have more protein and less cholesterol or saturated fat than a normal beef burger – but come up short on the vitamin counts compared to cow meat.
Quorn Ultimate Burger (£1 per burger, Morrisons)
With a lot more competition on the vegan burger market, the leaders of the UK’s meat free replacement market have decided to make their own. These tasted like a hybrid of the Beyond Meat patty and Quorn’s old meat free ones, which this reviewer used to hate as a child. However, the beetroots and pea proteins added, turn that slightly rubbery but beefy flavour of old into something actually resembling real meat.
Not quite as good as the Beyond Meat Burger, but still excellent. And at under half the price – who’s complaining?
First things first, these South-East Asian plant based burgers absolutely stink before you cook them. We were not a fan of the sickly aroma of the jackfruit, although we guarantee it does taste gorgeous once fried up. The chewy, protein-y texture definitely does resemble meat – but the taste is quite different. Honestly, the smoky-sweet sticky flavour really does have to be tried to understand it. These don’t aim to replicate meat, but instead are their own beautiful veggie creation for those who don’t like the flavour of a traditional beef burger.