We consider ourselves to be refined vegans. What self-respecting home cook even needs a plant-based burger, when there are so many delicious vegetables on the planet? But after trying the Beyond Meat burger, the answer is: us – we needed one all along, and we had no idea.
If you’re taking part in Veganuary this year but have no idea where to start, meat substitutes are a reassuring springboard from which to dive into your new plant-based diet.
When you first try veganism, you’re often confronted with a sense of foreboding as to what a plate of food should even look like without a slab of meat on it. Like Joey Tribbiani wondering what all the furniture points towards when you don’t own a TV, it can be destabilising to no longer have a protein-packed centrepiece for each meal.
Although we’d advise it’s good to start experimenting with vegetable-led cooking from the off, a meat alternative can help ease you along the way. For long-time vegans, meanwhile, substitutes can scratch any nostalgic itches that your brain is stubbornly holding onto, despite your conversion to an animal-product-free existence.
How we tested
We ate and ate. Brands sent us a range of delectable goodies to try and we judged which were our favourites in each broad category. We’ve also featured some items that we’ve been enjoying for years, which are regularly on our shopping lists.
Our testers have been trying their best to live as vegan as possible since 2017, and they had some testing help from committed meat-eaters too. We kept in mind that these items needed to suit a range of different kinds of vegans, with different levels of culinary skills. We also tried to feature a mixture of foods – everyday staples and occasional treats alike.
We made all the samples as stipulated in the cooking instructions, and added them to our normal weeknight meals where that made sense.
The best vegan meat alternatives for 2023 are:
- Best burger – Beyond Meat burger: £3, Sainsburys.co.uk
- Best for curious cooks – Tempeh Meades frozen traditional soya bean tempeh: £5.99, Tempehmeades.com
- Best for convenience – The Tofoo Co naked tofu: £1.68, Waitrose.com
- Best for a doner in the daytime – Vivera plant shawarma kebab: £2.60, Sainsburys.co.uk
- Best with pasta – Tofurky plant-based Italian-inspired sausages: £3.50, Thevegankind.com
- Best for the pantry – Sosmix: £5.79, Alternativestores.com
- Best for a quick supper – Quorn vegan fishless fingers: £1.75, Asda.com
- Best party food – Vegan Zeastar lemon shrimpz: £7.99, Vegex.co.uk
- Best for sandwiches – Taifun smoked tofu: £3.79, Greenbaysupermarket.co.uk
- Best for a sausage sarnie – This isn't pork plant-based sausages: £2, Morrisons.com