A Definitive Ranking of Every Vegan Meat Replacement, From Weird to Wonderful
I've been living the lifestyle for over eight years now, so I've seen it grow in popularity and accessibility over that length of time. When I first went vegan, there was only one brand of ice cream I could eat—and with a very limited flavor line. Now, Ben & Jerry's has vegan ice cream. I'm still waiting on a veganized take on Phish Food though.
But we're not here to talk about ice cream. I know, I wish we were, too. We're here to discuss vegan meat replacements, of which there are quite a few. As someone who is well-versed in this subject for an incredibly obvious reason, I'm the best person at Sweety High for the job.
Ranking the replacements was tougher than expected, and I put a lot of thought into it. I know this will upset many, but I stand by my opinions. Without further ado, scroll below for the definitive ranking of vegan meat replacements from weird to wonderful—just don't attack me afterwards.
Cauliflower has its place, which is not a sentence younger me ever thought I would say. While I do enjoy the vegetable, using it as a meat replacement doesn't cut it for me. Buffalo cauliflower is incredible when made right, but it's just cauliflower drenched in buffalo sauce; it can't be used as a replacement for wings. Cauliflower steak is also very weird and not something I'm entirely fond of. For that, it ranks on the low end of the totem pole.
I cannot express how much it pains me placing mushrooms so low on this list, but it has to happen. Next to potatoes, mushrooms are the reason I exist. They're everything to me, and I can't help but feel as though I'm betraying them by placing them in this position. That said, mushrooms as a meat substitute just don't work. Similar to cauliflower, they're not all that versatile. They make for great additions to anything else, but please don't slap one between two burger buns and call it a day. I'm going to need a little more than that to sustain my appetite.
8. Beans and Legumes
Beans and legumes are often used in so many different types of fake meats. They're delicious and filling, but because they offer plant protein, you don't feel all that disgusting after eating more than you should have. At least, that's how it is for me. While I do enjoy the presence in meat replacements, I ranked them fairly low because they make me gassy and I hate that. There, I said what we're all thinking.
This may be a more controversial ranking position for the simple fact that I haven't had too many encounters with seitan. I've maybe had it a handful of times, if I remember correctly, and it was fine. I just don't go out of my way to purchase or eat it at restaurants that offer it. In my opinion, there are far superior options out there. Shall we meet them?
6. Textured Vegetable Protein
For all you non-vegans who decided to read through this list (if there are any of you), textured vegetable protein is essentially just soy. Rich in protein, it's used in a variety of meat replacement products. It might be in just about every single one of them, but I could be wrong. Anyway, it's ridiculously good. I haven't had meat in ages, but it does taste like what I imagine meat would taste like—which kind of freaks me out, but TVP is still amazing.
I know what you're thinking, jackfruit isn't all that versatile either. You're right, it's not. I've only ever had it in pulled "pork" sandwiches or pulled "pork" tacos. That's it. But I cannot deny how mouthwateringly delectable a jackfruit take on pulled pork is. If you haven't already had it, you're missing out. I might need to go order one after finishing this piece. Alas, its lack of versatility knocks it down a few notches on this ranking. Sorry, jackfruit. Know that you still hold a very special place in my heart.
Tofu and I go way back. We've been pals since the beginning of my veganism. Okay, that's not entirely true, as I detested it for the first year or so. But eventually, I came around and realized its worth. For non-vegans, tofu isn't the greatest meat substitute. Its texture isn't at all the same, nor is its taste, but that's the beauty of it. Just as there's a difference between pork and chicken, tofu is an entirely different breed of "meat." Expecting it to replace meat, however, takes away all tofu's capabilities. You can grill it and serve it on a burger, or turn it into a turkey for Thanksgiving, but its better when it's just as is. Toss it in a salad or add it to ramen and you're good to go.
Tempeh. That's it, that's the reason it's so high on this list. Finding words to express my devotion to the meat replacement is harder than I expected. Anything with tempeh as an ingredient I will eat. You could serve me a block of uncooked tempeh and I would devour that white brick as if it were my last meal on earth. You think I'm joking, but I would do it. Heck, I'd do it for free just to prove my unwavering affection for this meat replacement. It's you and I till the end, tempeh.
2. Impossible Meat
No. 1 and No. 2 were sort of a toss-up, because they're somewhat similar. Impossible Meat is undeniably tasty. It's impossible that it's not meat… but, it isn't. And that's part of the reason it's not No. 1. Sometimes it looks a little too real for me, and as I said before, I'm not the biggest fan of that. Still, I can't get enough of this vegan alternative. It's magic on a bun.
1. Beyond Meat
And here it is, the best vegan meat alternative in my humble vegan opinion. I know I made a big deal about certain substitutes not being versatile, and this one isn't either (I've only ever had it on a burger, though it can be used in other dishes), but I don't care. I'm breaking my own rule. I've never really enjoyed vegan burgers, because the patties were always dry or not that great, but slap a Beyond Meat between two buns and I'm set. Unlike the Impossible Burger, I don't question that it isn't vegan. My tastebuds light up with joy whenever I take a bite out of this bad boy. I'd go to infinity and beyond just to get it if I had to.
Before you go, can we interest you in learning about foods that are accidentally vegan? We figured that grab your attention. Check them all out HERE!