Consumers buy faux meat products for a variety of reasons: “faux” health purposes, “faux” expanding one’s vegetarian/vegan recipe repertoire, or “faux” the occasional Meatless Monday. Now that we’ve driven that play-on-words into the ground, let’s talk the best of the best of these products! These are the meat alternatives that may or may not trick your taste buds, but will definitely provide a flavorful (and oftentimes protein-packed) base for your meat-free meals or snacking needs.
Simple to prep and pleasantly spiced, Gardein’s Meatless Meatballs approach a regular meatball-like texture when simmered in your favorite sauce. Because you rely on flavoring with your own sauce, this product is a cinch to swap into your go-to spaghetti and meatballs, meatball sub sandwich, or meatball appetizer recipe without dramatically changing the dish. Keep a package or two in the freezer for a quick-and-easy meat-free dinner!Buy Now
Touting some serious health advantages over ground beef (87% less fat!), Gardein’s Beefless Ground is a super versatile product that can be prepared by sautéing, simmering in sauce, or heating in the microwave. It works in meat marinara for pasta, or layered into lasagna, but it really shines in chili or as a taco base. Like with the meatless meatballs, the more your recipe leans on a special blend of spices or a particularly flavorful sauce, the better these meatless Gardein products seamlessly take the place of meat. Check out this recipe for Meaty Vegetarian Chili, and see if you might also fool your family with this meatless substitution! Buy Now
Sweet Earth Foods Benevolent Bacon, $3.79 at Target
Smoky, savory, and a little sweet, Sweet Earth’s Benevolent Bacon may not trick most bacon lovers into thinking it’s the real thing, but it certainly stands out in its own delicious right. Cook it to crisp perfection and crumble it over salads and rice bowls, or—wait for it—get yourself some vegan mayo (like Just Mayo) and make a completely vegan BLT. Enhance your childhood version with slices of grainy bread and kale, and you’ll find yourself muttering between mouthfuls, “This is vegan? This is vegan! I can be vegan…”Buy Now
Speaking of mayo, let’s talk tuna salad. Or rather, let’s talk Tuno salad. Yes, Atlantic Natural Foods whimsically named their canned tuna alternative, “Tuno,” in a way that will delight some and enrage others, but ultimately add a touch of irreverence to any pantry. Does Tuno taste like tuna? Not quite, but the texture is similar, and if you whip up a simple mixture of vegan mayo (or regular mayo), a little mustard, dill, salt, and pepper, you’ll have a Tuno salad sandwich that tastes so good you won’t care that it’s not the real thing. There are many varieties to be found in stores near you, but Spring Water is best for adding your own flavors. Buy Now
Upton’s Naturals Vegan Chorizo Seitan, $3.99 at Target
When you have a recipe that calls for chorizo, try Upton’s Naturals Vegan Chorizo Seitan. With flavors that mimic a mildly spicy chorizo, this product is an easy addition to build-your-own taco bowls or breakfast scrambles. Since it’s already seasoned, it doesn’t require a lot of effort to take it from fridge to meal, making it an excellent protein to have on-hand for weeknight dinners.Buy Now
Jackfruit is a little different than these other products, because it’s not made from a base of wheat gluten or soy (since it’s a fruit). As such, it doesn’t serve up a solid dose of protein, and in fact, one serving has just one gram of protein. So, why bother with jackfruit at all? The selling point is its uncanny pulled-pork-like texture! With Upton’s Naturals Bar-B-Que Jackfruit, you have a vegan sandwich filler with a smoky, tangy sauce to rival your favorite barbecue fare. Though, you may want to add some cheese or serve with a side of baked beans to supplement the missing protein.Buy Now
Since we’re talking about good sauce, we must include Gardein’s Mandarin Crispy Chick’n. Incorporating ingredients like orange juice, tangerine juice, garlic powder, and ginger puree, Gardein supplements its well-textured faux chicken with this sweet, zippy citrus sauce that’s well-suited to accompany rice-and-vegetable bowls. Crisp up that protein in a pan, add the sauce, and serve—that’s it!Buy Now
If you are the type of person who needs to eat every few hours to ward off the hangries, you know that a high-protein snack is clutch. Getting away from meat, or animal products overall, might mean giving up protein heavy-hitters like cheese, yogurt, and jerky. Well, lucky for you, as far as faux meats go, there’s an excellent option for vegan jerky: Louisville Vegan Jerky Co. All the flavors are worth trying, but Paulette’s Maple Bacon variety is particularly delectable. Keep a few bags at work or bring one on a hike, but share with friends if you won’t be near a fridge to keep fresh after opening.Buy Now
Beyond Sausage, (price varies) on Instacart
Now, we are dipping into grillable faux meats, where a few products shine even brighter than the others. The first of these is the Beyond Sausage. This is not necessarily the product to consume purely “faux” your health, with the Hot Italian variety serving up 25 percent of your daily recommended saturated fat per link. However, as a comparison, a regular meat Johnsonville sausage has 38 percent of your daily saturated fat, and almost twice the total fat per link. Nutrition aside, this product does have the potential to fool meat-loving palates, and cooks up to crispy, fatty perfection.Buy Now
Tofurky Sausages, (price varies) on Instacart
Tofurky Sausages probably won’t trick taste buds the way the Beyond Sausage can, but they are a super solid fridge supply for a quick lunch or dinner. They cook up quickly in a pan, and their Kielbasa version, in particular, needs as little as a bakery roll and some ketchup to deliver protein and flavor in a pinch. Plus, with five different varieties, they’re great to have on-hand for grilling with friends and family.Buy Now
We would be remiss to exclude the Impossible Burger from this list, but since it won’t be available in grocery stores until later this year, it’s not readily-available for home preparation like all the other products. When it does become available, though, we’ll be there! The texture! The taste! And, yes, the fat! It’s great as a burger, it’s great as replacement ground beef—it makes us glad to live in this time of faux meats where we have oh-so-many products at our vegetarian or vegan beck-and-call.