Six tips for choosing the best veggie meats

Beef is in retreat. That’s good news for the planet, because raising beef uses far more land and water and emits far more greenhouse gases than growing plants.

Meanwhile, Beyond Meat, Gardein, MorningStar Farms, and others are closing in on matching meat’s taste, texture, and aroma.

And it’s not just burgers. There’s porkless sausage, chick’n cutlets, crabless cakes, and beefless tips. Here are six tips to help you figure out which deserve a place on your plate.

1. Maximize protein. If your aim is to replace meat, ­fish, or poultry, look for at least 10 grams of protein in a serving (roughly 3 oz.). That’s about half what you’d get from the same amount of cooked chicken or beef. Look for at least 5 grams of protein for breakfast sausage and bacon, because their serving size (roughly 1½ oz.) is smaller.

2. Minimize salt. Most companies go heavy on the salt. Aim for just 350 milligrams per serving (250 mg for breakfast sausage and bacon). The good news: some veggie meats deliver a dose of potassium from their soy—or sometimes from added potassium—which helps counter their blood-pressure-boosting sodium. For example, a 3 oz. Lightlife Original Chick’n Smart Cutlet has 430 mg of potassium, and a 4 oz. Beyond Meat Beast Burger patty has 720 mg. Add a salad or a side of veggies for even more.

3. Don’t fear soy. “Soy free” or “no soy,” boast some veggie meats. But there’s no need to skip soy, which supplies plenty of plant protein. And don’t fret over online scare stories that soy raises the risk of breast cancer, harms your thyroid gland, weakens your memory, threatens males’ masculinity, or keeps you from absorbing minerals. The evidence is shoddy (see “Soy Oh Soy!” September 2014).

4. Check the oil. Most veggie meats are made with polyunsaturated oils, which lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. But a few burgers—like Hilary’s and Beyond Meat’s The Beyond Burger—have enough coconut oil to deliver at least a quarter of a day’s saturated fat (5 grams). Look for veggie meats that have no more than 2 grams of sat fat.

5. Beware of Quorn. Quorn’s “nutritious mycoprotein” is a mold grown in a vat. In some people, it triggers allergic reactions like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and occasionally hives or breathing trouble.

6. Taste around. Veggie meat brands vary. Our advice to newcomers: start with MorningStar or Gardein. They were the most reliable in the taste department. We’ll feature some of our tasters’ favorites in an upcoming post.

Let us know in the comments: What’s your go-to veggie “meat”?

Photos: © Brett Hofacker/ doesn’t accept any paid advertising or corporate or government funding. Any products recommended by have been vetted by our staff of nutritionists and are not advertisements by the manufacturers.


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42 Replies to “Six tips for choosing the best veggie meats”

    1. Since I live in Mexico much of the time, these meat substitutes are not generally available, so I have one I substitute in chili, spaghetti sauce, stuffed peppers, etc. I buy a big package of mushrooms, slice them up and bake them until they are fairly dry, chop them in my food chopper and freeze them, ready to use.

  1. It might be helpful for those of us using lists for you to put the information about brand name and advice on wallet sized information cards so we might take them with us to the store!

    1. What an excellent idea, Lynn! You could certainly create a wallet sized card for yourself to have handy when you shop.
      I may just do that for myself. Thanks for the idea.

    2. This is a simple – and excellent- idea. I try to tear out pages from Nutrition Action to take shopping but that’s messy & inefficient. Nutrition Action – I would pay to purchase such cards.

  2. I’ve been a vegetarian for over 20 years and I don’t like veggie burgers that “taste like meat”. I look for the more veggie and grain/bean varieties. They are hard to find, especially low sodium ones. So I make my own and they freeze really well for a quick meal. So many amazing recipes online.

      1. My two favourite recipes for plant based burgers are: Mushroom & Black Bean Burgers from Brittany at and Chickpea Burgers from
        I find that both burgers are very soft as the recipes are written, and if that’s a problem for you, simply add more starch to make them firmer.
        Both are absolutely delicious, and when you are making your own, you can customize to suit your exact taste. Also, when I find the time to cook, I usually double or triple the recipe, since I’m cooking anyway, it’s no more difficult to make lots so that I have them on hand in my freezer for instant, healthy and delicious meals.

      2. Hi Julie, as Maria mentioned, there are a “gazillion” fantastic recipes posted online. I mentioned two that I love, but really, they’re everywhere.

  3. We discovered an amazing meat substitute in Italy. It is called Muscolo di Grano and is made of gluten along with dried bean and pea proteins as well as flavorings . The texture and flavors are wonderful and I would stress the quality of the texture as that is so often the problem with meat alternatives. The product is excellent for taking on the flavors you might choose to add so that a beef-less stew or chicken-less ala king don’t seem to be missing a single thing.

  4. That’s all fine and good however, take into consideration that all the meat substitutes are made from GMO soybeans so are you really trading in one problem for an even bigger problem? If you read the labels on these meat substitutes you will find that they all contain MSG or another derivative under another name that is a known neurotoxin and endocrine disruptor so the basic question is: are these meat substitutes really a better option?

      1. I understand that you must vote the party line however there are truths out there that must be recognized: As to the GMO issue, while your publication regards GMO foods as safe, the preponderance of research points to an opposing position that GMO foods can and will cause heath issues [] and as to the issue with MSG, this intriguing paperback book should be on your ‘to read’ book list: In Bad Taste: The Msg Symptom Complex : How Monosodium Glutamate Is a Major Cause of Treatable and Preventable Illnesses, Such As Headaches, Asthma, Epilepsy, heart Paperback – January 1, 1999
        by George R. Schwartz (Author),‎ Kathleen A. Schwartz (Foreword). Your publication is supposed to be a guide to a healthier diet and while I do read each issue and subscribe to most of the articles positively, the article on meat substitutes needed further research prior to publication. The soy based textured protein is in fact no healthy at all and has chemical additives that can and will induce reactions in many people who simply don’t realize that they are not eating healthy.

  5. My total favorite is the Beyond Meat, “Chicken” grillers. They are fabulous. I can make a chicken and avocado sandwich or top my green salad with a few. I also like tacos using a few slices. I found your article most helpful as I am fairly new to vegan but I was only ending dairy…..otherwise, I have been here for a long time.

  6. I am not interested in meat substitutes, but in tasty veggie options. And with the preponderance of GMO soy, I think it does pay to be somewhat wary.

  7. Check ingredients. Some have isolated soy protein and hydrolyzed stuff which you want to steer clear of. Tofurky brand, Sweet Earth, and Field Roast seem to have the best ingredients. Boca and Gardein can have questionable ingredients, always read labels!!!

  8. I found a nice variety of meatless burgers at Trader Joe’s. Much
    tastier than others from local supermarkets. Also I am not a T.J employee nor work for a company who makes these! Take a look.
    Have bought several kinds and haven’t been disappointed.

  9. Gardein, Morningstar Farms. Since I very rarely use sodium in my food, I have low blood pressure. The problem with wheat, is that some folks have an insulin sensitivity so their blood sugar might go up. So far, I’ve kept it under control.
    For folks that recommend “make your own” -how about sharing a recipe or two?

  10. I really like Sunshine Burgers, Black Bean South West burgers. They are well seasoned, gluten free, and organic. They have 10g protein per serving, 1.5g saturated fat, 190mg Sodium, and 410mg potassium.

  11. No comments about Dr. Prager’s veggie burgers. Some of my fussy family “customers” like them a lot!

    Since we moved this year, I haven’t been subscribing to Nutrition Action. My good friend sends hers to me. I will return as soon as I am able. Nutrition Action is such a treat for me to read and read to my husband as well. Thanks for your years of honesty and accuracy that supported us on our journey toward good health.

  12. I find it simply ironic that while you want to get off eating animal flesh that you end up having nothing but GMO soy beans as the basis for substitute products that will ultimately lead to other health ailments. Not to mention the amount of MSG or its derivatives that wreck havoc as neurotoxins on the brain. Between the glyphosate laden soy beans and MSG infused substitute meat products you’re actually getting the shorter end of the stick by trying to eat healthier.

  13. Some of the new hot-dog-size veggie sausages are great, especially LightLife Smart Sausage Chorizo. Great in a bun for a quick meal or to add zing and texture to pasta sauce. Find them near tofu, rather than the freezer.

  14. I am new to veggie meats too and would be interested in knowing about those that are tasty and lower in carbs too. Would be great if you posted at least one tasty veggie burger recipe.

  15. beyond meat is my favorite meatless meat. tastes so good. even m husband who eats meat enjoys this. i also like it bc it has no soy. i try to limit my soy. contrary to what you wrote in this article.

  16. Personally, I like Yves veggie beef… Comes in original, Italian and Mexican flavours. There are other products (all available in Canada) but the “beef” is my fave.

  17. Morningstar Farms has come out with several new products made with organic ingredients and are all vegan. I purchased them on vacation while in Michigan in 2017 and now many of the major supermarkets sell them. They are more expensive than their regular burgers but are excellent. Find them in the freezer section.

  18. My favorite meat substitute is tempeh which is a cake of soy beans partially digested by a delicious fungus. It does require cooking, but nowhere near as long as for plain soy beans. It can be fried or sauteed as a burger sub. It can be put early into stir-fried veggies as cut squares or crumbles. If you start your soup with sauteed onions, add it then. It imparts a wonderful flavor to the broth.

    No GMO because the brands I know are organic.

    I have served it to people who claim to hate tofu.

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