Vegan Meat Guide

By KD Angle-Traegner / Last Update: April 2019

Faux, fake, mock, meat analogs, or plant proteins; no matter what you call them, vegan meat products are more common than ever.

Not surprisingly, there has been a lot of talk about these products. Are they healthy? How do vegan meats help animals? Why would vegans want to eat something that is like meat if they don’t eat meat? And, perhaps the most asked question of them all, do vegan meats taste good?

Veggie burgers may not save the world, but they do save the life of cows. Here’s everything you need to know.

 

The Basics

If you’ve ever wondered what vegan meat is, this section is for you.

Meat-Free Basics

Often referred to as “fake,” vegan meat and dairy products are quite real. So, why do people call them fake? A look back at the etymology of the word “meat” actually shows that the word is rooted from the Old English term, “mete,” which meant “item of food.” (1)

What is vegan meat?

Vegan meat — also called faux, fake, mock, meat analogs, or plant proteins — are products that mimic certain qualities of animal-based meat-like textures, flavor, or appearance, for example. They are made from a variety of ingredients such as soy, textured vegetable protein, or wheat gluten, to name a few.

Note that there is a difference between “meatless” and “vegan meat.”  The term “meatless” can refer to a product that still contains trace amounts of animal products (such as eggs, casein, whey, or other animal-derived enzymes). On the other hand, “vegan meat” does not contain any animal ingredients at all.  Check the labels carefully when purchasing.

Should you eat vegan meat?

There are plenty of good arguments in favor of vegan meats. First, for some people, they can help them transition into an entirely vegan diet. These products imitate products that people are already familiar with, making them easy to integrate into favorite meals. Plus, they’re convenient. Most of them come precooked.

Next, the ritual of food plays a significant role in people’s familial and social lives. Food is powerful in the way it brings people together. Having vegan options that mimic formerly traditional foods allow everyone to participate in the celebration. Not to mention, vegan meats taste good too.

Finally, but perhaps most significantly, when compared, vegan meats will have additional benefits over non-vegan ones by default.

There are ethical and environmental concerns surrounding the creation of animal products. Living vegan addresses these. But also, if we can live without harming others, why wouldn’t we? 

Vegan meats allow us to do precisely that.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Answers to the most commonly asked questions about vegan meat.

This question is much more common than you might think.

Some people have a hard time understanding why vegans would want to eat something that tastes like meat but the answer is straightforward: It’s because they like the taste. 

Vegans remove animal-based meats from their diets not because they don’t enjoy their taste, but most often because of ethical, environmental, or health-related reasons.

Vegan meat — also called faux, fake, mock, meat analogs, or plant proteins — are products that mimic certain qualities of animal-based meat like textures, flavor, or appearance, for example. They are made from a variety of ingredients such as soy, textured vegetable protein, or wheat gluten, to name a few.

Note that there is a difference between “meatless” and “vegan meat.”  The term “meatless” can refer to a product that still contains trace amounts of animal products (such as eggs, casein, whey, or other animal-derived enzymes). On the other hand, “vegan meat” does not contain any animal ingredients at all.  Check the labels carefully when purchasing.

It’s inevitable. When non-vegans try vegan meats for the first time, they will compare the taste to their animal-based counterparts. Comparisons like this can often result in the person exclaiming, “it tastes nothing like meat!”

Sometimes, they’re right.

While some vegan meats try to replicate the taste or texture of animal-based meat, others don’t; it varies widely from brand to brand. Some brands are so similar that even professional chefs have a hard time telling the difference.

Meat analogs can provide a bit of familiarity for people transitioning towards a vegan diet. Also, the ritual of food plays an important role in people’s family and social life. Food is powerful in the way it can bring people together. Having vegan options that replace former traditional foods allow everyone to participate in the celebration together.

Not only that, vegan meats taste good.

Vegan Meats & Nutrition

Taste is subjective, but nutrition is not. Here’s some information to consider when choosing to consume these vegan products.

When talking about the nutrition of vegan meats, one point comes up more often than any other; the abundant amount of sodium they contain. It’s mentioned so often because it’s true.

Salt as a flavor enhancer and preservative is ubiquitous in processed foods, and vegan items are not exempt. While we do need some in our diets to assist with functions like muscle contraction, it is possible to consume too much when relying on convenience items, like vegan meats.

How much is too much?

According to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention, the average American consumes slightly over 3,400 mg per day of sodium. This amount is over 1,000 mg more than the recommendation of 2,300 mg per day, which translates into around one teaspoon of table salt. (2)

So, what does that mean as far as food goes?

An average veggie sausage (think Tofurky or Field Roast) contains roughly 600 mg per link. A veggie patty can easily have 500 mg, while deli slices average 300 mg per serving. Add to this that you may be using bread or a bun, along with high salt condiments like pickles or ketchup, and you could easily push 1,000 mg for that single meat substitute portion of your meal.

Doing the math, you can see how it’s easy to push the salt envelope if you consume these meat substitutes at most meals.

Why do we need salt at all?

Our bodies need some sodium for essential functions like muscle contractions; however, in excessive amounts, salt can increase blood pressure. This condition, known as hypertension, causes the heart to work harder. It can also stress other organs, like the kidneys, and lead to a stroke.

A diet high in sodium can raise blood pressure, and high blood pressure is a significant risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Here in the United States, heart disease and stroke are the nation’s first and fifth leading causes of death. (2)

Don’t eliminate, diversify instead

Must you give up your favorite vegan meat to maintain your sodium intake within the daily guidelines? Not necessarily, according to vegan dietitian Anya Todd MS, RD, LD. The key is reducing your consumption and adding some basic protein-rich staples into the mix will help balance out your sodium levels.

“There is no evidence that incorporating processed veggie meat into your diet has negative health impacts. For many people, these options enable them to transition more easily to being vegan, which is always a win in my book. Do I believe diets should be primarily based on whole foods? Yes, but I also think a healthy, compassionate diet can include some vegan sausages now and again, too.”

Todd advises including other protein-rich plant foods like beans, tofu, and tempeh to the menu several times a week. All of which, in their natural states, are low in sodium.

Vegan Meat Shopping Guide

From burgers to bacon to wings; there are vegan versions of just about any meat product on the market. 

For ease of use, the shopping guide is broken out into six different categories: Deli slices, bacon, and jerky; Burgers, sausages, hot dogs, and ribs; Chicken-style; Beef-style; Turkey, Ham, and Holiday Roasts; and Seafood.

No matter what you’re searching for, it’s bound to be here.

Deli Slices, Bacon & Jerky

Generally speaking, you’ll be able to find vegan deli, bacon, or jerky in well-stocked grocery stores. Look for them in two places; in the produce section in a refrigerated case alongside tofu and other meat-free products as is the case for deli meats and bacon, or in the snack aisle in the case of the jerky.

Vegan Deli Slices Brands

  • Lightlife
    White Bean & Kale, Chickpea & Red Pepper, Bologna, Ham, Pepperoni, Turkey
  • Quorn (coming soon!)
    Smoky Ham, Chicken-Free
  • Tofurky
    Smoked Ham, Oven-Roasted, Peppered, Hickory Smoked, Bologna, Italian

Vegan Bacon Brands

Want more bacon? Visit the Vegan Bacon Guide for a comprehensive look at all things crispy, smoky, and delicious. Includes a shopping guide and more than 50 vegan recipes to try at home.

Vegan Jerky Brands

  • Louisville’s Vegan Jerky
    Pete’s Smoked Black Pepper, Tod’s Smoked Chipotle, Enid’s Perfect Pepperoni, Reuben’s Smoky Carolina BBQ, Paulette’s Maple Bacon, and many other seasonal flavors
  • Primal Strips Jerky
    Teriyaki, Hickory Smoked, Hot & Spicy, Mesquite Lime, Texas BBQ, Thai Peanut
  • Stonewall’s Vegan Jerquee
    Original Mild, Original Wild, Peppy Pepperoni, Beef, Beef Teriyaki, Spicy Chicken, Tandoori Chicken, Country Ham, Hot Pastrami
  • Su Mama
    Black Pepper, Hot & Spicy, Roasted, BBQ strips, Shreds

Vegan Burgers, Sausages, Hot Dogs & Ribs

Luckily, you’ll be able to find a wide variety of vegan burgers, sausages, hot dogs, or even ribs in many grocery stores. Look for them in several places; in the produce section alongside other meat-free products, in the freezer section, and also in the section with other dry mixes.

Beyond Burger - Vegan Meat Guide - Your Daily Vegan

Vegan Burger Brands

  • Amy’s
    Sonoma, California, All-American, Quarter Pound
  • Boca
    Original Veggie, Turk’y, Spicy Chick’n
  • Dr. Praeger’s
    All-American, Sweet Heat Beet, Asian, Bombay, Tex Mex, Korean, Heirloom Bean, Mushroom Risotto, Black Bean Quinoa, Califonia Veggie
  • Gardein
    Veggie, Black Bean Burgers & Sliders, Beefless Burgers & Sliders
  • Hilary’s
    World’s Best Veggie, Adzuki Bean, Hemp & Greens, Root Veggie, Black Rice, Spicy Thai
  • Hot Dang
    Original Grain, BBQ, Southwest, Italian
  • Sunshine Burgers
    Garden Herb, Quarter Pound, Black Bean Southwest, Barbecue, Falafel, Shiitake Mushroom

Dried Burger Mixes

  • Neat
    Original, Southwest

Vegan Sausage Brands

  • Field Roast
    Apple Sage, Italian, Mexican Chipotle, Apple Maple Breakfast Links
  • Gardein
    Original Breakfast Patties, Spicy Breakfast Patties, Sliced Italian Saus’age
  • Tofurky
    Spinach Pesto, Andouille, Italian, Kielbasa, Beer Brats

Vegan Hot Dog Brands

  • Lightlife
    Tofu Pups, Smart Dogs, Smart Dogs Jumbo

Vegan Rib Brands

Do you make a vegan product that isn’t listed? Contact me.

Vegan Chicken-Style Nuggets, Patties, Strips, Breasts & Wings

Like other meat-free meats, vegan chicken products are available in most well-stocked grocery stores. Look for them in the same places you’d find vegan burgers: in the deli case, in the produce section alongside other meat-free products, in the freezer section, and areas with dry mixes.

Vegan Chicken Brands

  • Boca
    Original Patties, Original Nuggets
  • Gardein
    Strips, Mandarin Orange Crispy, 7-grain Crispy Tenders, Scallopini, Teriyaki Strips, Crispy Patty, Chipotle Lime Fingers, Sliders, BBQ Wings
  • Quorn
    Meatless Pieces, Cutlets, Breaded Cutlets, Spicy Patties
  • Simply Balanced (available at Target stores)
    Korean BBQ (strips), Smoky Chipotle, Teriyaki
  • Tofurky
    Slow Roasted (strips), Thai Basil, Sesame Garlic, Barbecue

Do you make a vegan product that isn’t listed? Contact me.

Vegan Beef-Style Ground, Strips & Steaks 

Just like other vegan meats, vegan beef products are available in well-stocked grocery stores or natural markets. Generally speaking, you’ll spot them in two places; in the refrigerated section or in the freezer section.

Filet Mignon from The Herbivorous Butcher - Vegan Meat Guide - Your Daily Vegan

Vegan Beef Brands

  • Gardein
    Beefless Ground, Sliders, Meatballs, Tips, Strips, Burger, Meatloaf
  • May Wah
    Vegan Beef-Free Crumble, Chunks

Do you make a vegan product that isn’t listed? Contact me.

Vegan Turkey, Ham & Holiday Roasts

We live in the golden age of vegan products; no matter which foods are part of your family traditions, they can be recreated using plant-based alternatives. Look for these vegan meat alternatives in refrigerated sections of health food stores and well-stocked grocers. Also, check the freezer section, sometimes the roasts are sold frozen.

Tofurky Holiday Roast - Vegan Meat Guide - Your Daily Vegan

Vegan Turkey Alternatives

Vegan Ham Alternatives

Do you make a vegan product that isn’t listed? Contact me.

Vegan Seafood

It might surprise you to know that vegan seafood is available in larger grocery stores, as well in health food stores. Look for them in two places; in tins in the canned aisle alongside non-vegan versions, or in the frozen section.

Vegan Seafood Brands

  • Gardein
    Fishless Filets, Crabless Cakes
  • Good Catch
    New England-Style Crab Cakes, Tuna Sliders, Tuna Burgers, and Tuna in the following flavors: Naked, Oil & Herbs, Meditteranean
  • Loma Luna
    Scallops, Tuno (tuna alternative) in the following flavors: Sriracha, Lemon-Pepper & Thai Sweet Chili
  • May Wah
    Squid, Fish Filet, Crab Steak, Tuna, Belt Fish, Salmon, Scallops, Shrimp Ball, Shrimp Rolls, Fish Nuggets, Fish, Red Spot Prawns, Abalone, Fish Ham, Salty Sliced Salmon & Lobster
  • Sophie’s Kitchen
    Crab Cakes, Fish Filet, Coconut Shrimp, Plain Shrimp, Scallops, Toona (tuna alternative) & Smoked Salmon

Do you make a vegan product that isn’t listed? Contact me.

Vegan Meat: Shopping Guide, Health Info & More - Your Daily Vegan

Truth in Advertising

I am committed to providing accurate information to the vegan community. Meticulously researched, the topic explored in this guide contains the knowledge available at the time of publishing. Reviews and updates happen when new material becomes available.

Please contact me if you find incorrect data.

Article Sources

  1. Online Etymology Dictionary. Meat. Retrieved from https://www.etymonline.com/word/meat
  2. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Sodium Fact Sheet. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_sodium.htm

Nutritional information provided by Anya Todd MS, RD, LD

Photo Credits

Product photos via manufacturers (Tofurky, Beyond Meat, and The Herbivorous Butcher among others) and used with written permission.

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