The Big Veggie Burger Showdown!
In mid August of 2012 I started an experiment to see how long I could last as a vegetarian. Up until this point I still ate meat, but not nearly as much as I had previously. This was partly due to the fact of living with my girlfriend Allyson, who has long been a vegetarian. I figured I could at least give it a try.
Fast forward to today. I am happy to say that I’ve been a vegetarian for just about 6 months now. And although I still will have cheese, and less occasionally eggs, I have stripped all meat from my current diet, this of course includes all beef, chicken and fish. (Fish was easy as I never really was a fan of it).
During this time I would rely on frozen mock-meat substitutes as part of meals, especially more frequently in the early days of my transition. This made it easier for me to make quick meals for myself, as well as give me a substitute for a flavor or particular food I was missing. Mock-meat was interesting to me, it tasted pretty compared to what it was advertised as and it helped me greatly in my first steps as a vegetarian.
Veggie burgers interested me greatly. Even when I was still eating meat I would try a taste of a veggie burger now and then. I soon found myself eating at Red Robin (a burger chain) shortly after going vegetarian, I noticed that all veggie burgers were not created equal. Red Robin specifically offered two different types of veggie burgers. Here I was thinking that all veggie burgers were the same, clearly I was wrong.
So what’s the big difference anyway?
Some veggie burgers do their best to try and emulate the taste, smell and texture of a beef hamburger patty. While others are literally a mixture of carrots, peas, corn, and other veggies compressed into a patty shape. Some also fell somewhere in between or went off in a completely different direction, like an Indian cuisine inspired Masala Burger or a Chicken Patty type burger.
Of course all this mock-meat stuff isn’t the best for you health-wise, but they are usually much healthier for you than a regular burger. Of course they’re best in moderation and you should actually read the Nutritional Facts on the back of the box to get a glimpse of what you’re really eating. That being said I have veggie burgers almost like I would have a treat. Too often and you’d probably get sick of it, but in moderation with trying some different types, the experience will be much better and more rewarding. But either way I was very curious to try and find the best veggie burger I could. My health be dammed! I was eager to dive into this new world of veggie burgers to see what was out there. What follows is a short summary of my most noteworthy discoveries in this veggie burger world.
Dr. Praeger’s California Veggie Burgers: These burgers are made up of vegetables and spices. This is the type of veggie burger where you can actually see the veggies while you’re eating it! (Somehow that sounds so wrong, but it isn’t) Peas, carrots, onions, string beans, zucchini, red peppers, and other ingredients are mixed in. I found these to be very good. Don’t expect it to taste like a beef patty (then again, that’s not the goal with this one), but with some lettuce, maybe some BBQ sauce or even some cheese, they can taste very similar to what you may expect of a hamburger. But that’s not to say these patties require dressing up, even without toppings they are quite tasty. I usually pop these patties into the microwave for 15-30 seconds, and then finish cooking them on my stovetop oven. In my experiences I’ve found the insides can be a bit mushy, so it’s best to brown them a bit on the stovetop.
On a recent outing to the restruant chain Houlihans I ordered a veggie burger which I believe used this patty. The burger had two cheeses, some caramelized onions, and some BBQ sauce on it. It was quite good!
Trader Joes’ Vegetable Masala Burger: This burger is not trying to play it safe by trying to taste like a hamburger. No, no, this one is playing on it’s strengths and flavors of an Indian inspired cuisine. These burgers are made from potatoes, green beans, carrots, corn, bell pepers and an array of indian spices. If you’re a fan of Indian food (or honestly even if you’re not) and are looking for a new twist in veggie patties, then look no further. This burger tastes like a hodge-podge of delicious Indian food. There’s a little spice to it, but even a weakling to spicy food like myself can enjoy this one without worry. The flavor and texture of this burger is unique, and I encourage you to give it a try. You can even skip the bun and cut up this patty and enjoy it with some rice and Nan bread for an impromptu Indian style lunch. Again I would recommend browning the patty on the stovetop to avoid a mushy patty.
Boca Original Chik’n Meatless Patties: This veggie burger also not trying to emulate a beef patty, but it’s trying to do something a bit different. As is obvious from the title, this soy veggie burger is trying to build itself up to be like a chicken patty (of course without the actual chicken). Looking at a Boca Chik’n patty and a regular frozen breaded chicken patty side-by-side you would probably not be able to tell the difference. Even when cooked this Chik’n patty tasted very closely to a breaded chicken patty. It may not be as thick as what it’s trying to emulate, but the taste and texture are spot-on. I enjoy making little Chik’n parmesan sandwiches with these patties, they come out very nice. Definitely a good replacement for those who miss breaded chicken patties.
Quorn Turk’y Burger: This burger from Quorn is aimed at emulating the turkey burger. In the past I’ve enjoyed actual turkey burgers so this interested me. Could they actually pull it off? If you’re not familiar with Quorn then you may not know that the mycoprotein used to produce their products is extracted from fungus, for more information check out Wikipedia. However by looking at this veggie patty you wouldn’t know that. After all mushrooms are fungus and they’re delicious! So how did it taste? Great! The texture, taste, and even the smell reminded me exactly of what having a real turkey burger was like. Really in my mind it tasted exactly the same. Granted I haven’t had a turkey burger in some time, but it was everything I remembered it being. Dare I say, even better.
Morning Star Grillers® Vegan burgers: These burgers are the latest type I’ve tried. I purchased them for the purpose of seeing how similar to beef burgers they actually tasted. Judging by the box and the photo on the cover I was curious, but a bit skeptical. I’ve had veggie burgers before that claimed to have a “classic grilled burger taste” only to walk away a bit disappointed. The froze patty tries it’s best to emulate a beef hamburger both in color and texture. So how does it rank up? Well this burger tasted the most like a beef hamburger to me. The moment I took a bite a taste and flavor returned to me that I haven’t experienced in a while. It’s really hard to describe, I was pretty shocked that it actually lived up to my expectation. With a few grilled onions sprinkled on top and some potato chips on the side, I forgot I was eating a veggie burger. It was very flavorful and delicious.
Now there are plenty of other veggie burgers out there, and I haven’t tried them all. But I’ll be sure to keep you all informed if I discover something noteworthy. Happy eating!