12 Plant Based Burgers For Carnivores And Vegetarians

With more people than ever cutting back on meat, demand for plant-based alternatives has never been higher. The plant-based burger industry alone has grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade as veganism becomes more mainstream. Long gone are the days when vegetarians had to settle for bland bricks of soy or mushy bean patties to get their burger fix. But today, there's a plant-based burger on the market for everyone from groundbreaking plant-based beef patties that look, cook, and taste like the real thing to wholesome combos of freshly cooked vegetables.

Even meat-centric fast food restaurants have added a few plant-based patties to their menus in recent years. It's hard to believe that the commercial vegetarian burger patty is only a few decades old. Gregory Sams, a British restauranteur and lifelong vegetarian, is credited as the creator of the first mass-produced plant-based burger in 1982. Vegetarian burgers have come a long way since Sams' product first appeared in stores, and now even dedicated meat lovers are making room for them in their diets. With all the plant-based options available now, choosing a burger can be overwhelming. Here's the low down on 12 notable plant-based burgers that hold appeal for vegetarians and carnivores alike.

1. Impossible Burger

The Impossible Burger is not your grandma's veggie burger. From the packaging to the flavor, every element of the plant-based patty attempts to imitate real beef. For the most part, the Impossible Burger succeeds. Made with soy protein, like its meat counterpart, this burger can be served rare, medium well, or well done. In fact, the Impossible Burger's similarity to meat is strong enough that some long-time vegetarians find the Impossible Burger off-putting. Meanwhile, other herbivores delight in the ability to finally bite into a juicy, beefy burger without compromising their lifestyle. 

What sets this burger apart is its use of soy leghemoglobin, a plant-based form of the hemoglobin protein found in real animal meat. Manufactured using soy protein and yeast, soy leghemoglobin is responsible for the meaty texture, color, and flavor of the Impossible Burger. While some food safety advocacy groups expressed concern about the potential health risks of the genetically modified ingredient, soy leghemoglobin received FDA approval as a food additive in 2019. 

Nutritionally speaking, the Impossible Burger clocks in at 230 calories with 19 grams of protein. That's around the same amount of protein as a similarly sized beef patty, and higher than most plant-based burgers on the market. If you're looking for a meatless burger capable of fooling an unsuspecting carnivore, the Impossible Burger may be your best bet — especially served with all your favorite burger fixings.

2. Beyond Burger Cookout Classic

Beyond Burger is another convincingly meaty plant-based patty that appeals to vegetarians and omnivores alike. The product debuted in 2016 to a lot of fanfare as the first plant-based burger to "bleed", that is releases pink juices when sliced, just like beef. Beyond further invited the comparison by selling its signature burgers right in the meat section upon its release. Because Beyond Burgers can be cooked exactly like beef burgers, they're an easy option for cooks new to vegan cooking. And, it makes them a popular menu item for restaurants looking to add a plant-based option to the menu. 

While the Beyond Burger looks and tastes similar to the Impossible Burger, it's made with pea protein rather than soy and contains no genetically modified ingredients (GMOS). It's beet extract, rather than leghemoglobin that gives the Beyond patties their "bleeding" quality and red meat color, a fact that appeals to many consumers skeptical of lab-grown ingredients.  

The Cookout Classics line of Beyond Burgers entered stores in 2020 as a more affordable version of the original plant-based patty.  The flavor is close to the original, with a savory beef flavor and tender bite. Sold in value-sized packs of eight patties, Cookout Classics currently retails for about $16 at nationwide grocers, or $2 per patty. That's more expensive than a package of hamburger meat, but easier on the wallet than the original plant-based patties which can run you more than $6 a for two patties. 

3. Field Roast Chef's Signature Burger

Realistic meat substitutes have changed the game of the plant-based foods industry, but there's still plenty of consumer demand for veggie burgers that aren't trying to fool anyone into thinking they're made of meat. Field Roast offers a satisfying balance between the two styles with its Chef's Signature Burger. Released in 2013 under the name Field Burger, this 240-calorie plant-based patty gets its protein and structure from a base of vital wheat gluten. Onion, tomato, herbs, and a generous amount of garlic infuse the appetizing burger patty with a more complex, refined flavor than an average faux meat burger. 

Field Roast's Chef Signature Burger also includes a dash of porcini mushroom powder which amplifies the meaty, umami taste without adding noticeable mushroom flavor. Those watching their sodium intake might want to skip this particular vegan burger. Each serving contains a whopping 27% of the daily recommended value of sodium. That's high even compared to other processed meat substitutes.

The company, founded in 1997, was a trailblazer in the prepared vegan foods industry. One of their first products, plant-based protein "meat" loaves that could be oven-roasted like meat, was among the first to combine European charcuterie flavors with Asian methods for creating grain-based meat substitutes. 

The Field Roast Chef's Signature isn't going to convince anyone it's meat, and it isn't trying to. And, along with its overall satisfying taste and toothsome texture, that's part of this burger's authenticity and appeal. 

4. Gardein Ultimate Burger

The Gardein brand is a force in the vegan frozen foods industry. Founded in 2003, the company makes exclusively vegan products with a particular focus on plant-based meat substitutes. Most of Gardein's products, including its other plant-based burger patties, are made with its customized soy protein formula. The Ultimate Burger is instead made with a combination of pea protein and wheat protein, similar to the Beyond Burger. The thick, quarter-pound patties have a firm texture with none of the graininess or mushy quality of some plant-based options. Some reviewers have even compared Gardein's Ultimate Burger to a turkey burger noting a milder, less distinctively beefy flavor. 

If you thought the turkey burger comparison might mean this burger is low-fat, you're partially right. Each 210-calorie patty contains 11 grams of fat, 10 grams less than the same serving of beef. In terms of saturated fat, however, the Ultimate Burger has just as much as a beef patty at 9 grams, or 45% of the daily recommended value. That's one strike against this otherwise praiseworthy vegan product, particularly considering that reducing saturated fat consumption is one reason people may adopt plant-based diets.

5. Trader Joe's Protein Patty

In the constantly changing landscape of food trends, Trader Joe's sets the bar high with its ever-expanding private-label line of products. When plant-based meats started growing in popularity in the late 2010s, it was only a matter of time before the supermarket chain entered the ring with its own contender for the title of America's favorite plant-based burger. That moment arrived in 2020 when Protein Patties landed in the freezer aisles of Trader Joe's locations nationwide. 

Trader Joe's follows the lead of Beyond Burger with these plant-based burgers, using pea protein as the primary ingredient and beets for color. Sold in packages of two sealed with clear plastic wrap, Protein Patties are even pinker when raw than the Beyond version. This may be, in part, because of the addition of other fruit and vegetable juices to the formula. When cooked, the pink color fades and the burgers develop brown, seared edges and a tender pale pink center. 

The ingredients list is one of the most appealing qualities of Trader Joe's Protein Patties for conscious eaters. These burgers contain just 10 ingredients, all 100% plant-derived. That may be a breath of fresh air for anyone, vegan or otherwise, looking to cut back on artificially engineered food products.

6. Dr. Praeger's California Veggie Burger

As other plant-based food companies try to one-up each other with fake meat, Dr. Praeger's is sticking with what it does best: nutritious, simple products made with whole food ingredients. Although its line-up does include a plant-based meat alternative, most of Dr. Praeger's burgers are made with real vegetables, grains, and beans. 

Its California Veggie Burger is a stand-out containing 10 types of veggies including carrots, squash, spinach, and onion. All those veggies mean that the burger contains a healthy amount of fiber (5 grams) and far less sodium than a typical vegan burger. In the absence of soy protein or eggs to bind the ingredients together, the California Burger lacks some structural integrity. The burger requires careful handling while cooking and falls apart easily due to its soft interior. Cooked with care in an oven, toaster oven, or on the stove, the vegan patty develops crispy charred edges with a soft center that's full of wholesome veggie flavor. 

This vegan and non-GMO burger makes no pretense of being meaty, much to its benefit. For carnivores who can't be satisfied by meat imitations and vegetarians who dislike the taste of meat, the California Veggie Burger is a tasty and better-for-you alternative. 

7. Morningstar Griller's Original

Morningstar Griller's Original has a loyal fan base for a reason. As one of the earliest companies to introduce American grocery shoppers to soy-based meat-like burgers, Morningstar Farms has been peddling its original vegetarian burgers since the mid-1970s. Its classic Griller's Original is made with a blend of soy protein, wheat gluten, and egg whites, which makes it vegetarian but not vegan. In addition to containing egg, the burgers also contain whey, a milk derivative, so lactose-intolerant vegetarians and omnivores might want to give this one a skip, too. 

For everyone else, Morningstar Grillers Original is a dependable, quality vegetarian burger. The hearty patties are designed to be grilled, but cook up beautifully in the oven or on the stove as well. You can even microwave them if you don't mind your veggie burger a little on the softer, chewier side.

While not the most cutting-edge or exciting vegetarian burger on the market, Morningstar Griller's are easy to find thanks to the company's widespread distribution. It delivers a consistently tasty burger that, if not an exact match for meat, gets the job done. 

8. Amy's Kitchen Quarter Pound Burger

On the hunt for a burger with a meaty texture but not necessarily a meaty flavor? The Quarter Pound Veggie Burger by Amy's Kitchen might just fit the bill. As the name implies, this is a substantially sized patty that fits perfectly atop a sesame seed bun. Amy's Kitchen, whose been crafting vegetarian frozen meals since 1987, has a few different vegan burgers in their line-up, but none as large and protein-dense as the Quarter Pounder. The 210-calorie hunger-busting burger contains 20 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber. 

The thick, round patty is made with textured soy protein for a somewhat meaty consistency. Bulgur wheat, mushrooms, onions, and other organic veggies give the Quarter Pound a wholesome taste that makes you feel good about eating it. Amy's Kitchen seasons this burger with a hint of natural hickory, mustard, and vinegar for a smoky, tangy flavor that conjures memories of backyard barbecues and picnics. The Quarter Pound burger is begging to be tossed on a grill and served on a toasted bun with a slice of vegan cheese and your favorite barbecue sauce. 

9. Whole Foods 365 Plant Based Burger

We know by now that not all plant-based burgers are nutritional powerhouses and that's okay. Even vegetarians can eat food that's not super health-charged from time to time. 365 Plant-Based Burgers from Whole Foods Market combine the indulgent taste of an old-fashioned burger with the nutrient density of a protein-charged grain bowl. 

Whole Foods Market, known for its commitment to natural and organic products, ensures that their private label 365 Plant-Based Burgers meet strict quality standards. Crafted from a blend of soy, onions, and dried seasonings, each patty delivers a full 10 grams of protein in just 80 calories. True to the brand, Whole Foods uses naturally sourced ingredients in its burger, relying on mushroom powder and mustard powder to add a beefy savory flavor to the humble soy and onion patty. Consumers also love that these frozen veggie burgers can be microwaved with good results, making them a convenient option for busy weekday lunches or on-the-go eating.

10. Good & Gather Meatless Patties

As consumer demand for plant-based alternatives to meat climbs, every major food retailer is scrambling to get a foothold in the meatless market. Mega retailer Target entered the plant-based meat business in 2020, releasing several plant-based meat substitutes under the "Good & Gather" brand label. Like the other imitation beef burgers on our list, Target's vegan burgers do their best to fool you into thinking you're frying up a patty of ground meat. The meatless burgers are sold refrigerated rather than frozen and can be cooked as patties or crumbled up for dishes like tacos, chilis, and stews. 

Target's Good & Gather plant-based burgers do taste like a believable imitation of meat with a tender, juicy mouthfeel. Nutritionally speaking, these aren't the most wholesome plant-based burgers out there with an eyebrow-raising 460 mg of sodium and 7 grams of saturated fat in each patty. On the upside, each serving also includes 23% of the recommended daily value of calcium, a nutrient that can be lacking in vegan diets.

11. Boca Original Vegan Veggie Burger

If you've spent any time as a vegetarian, you've probably encountered a Boca product. The brand makes a range of meat alternative products including faux chicken patties, hot dogs, and nuggets, but they're best known for their original vegan veggie burger. First sold in 1979 under the name "Sun Burger", the soy-based patties represented a turning point in the evolution of plant-based burgers. Unlike earlier burgers marketed toward vegetarians like VegeBurger and Gardenburger, Boca Burgers contained no vegetables, grains, or beans. Instead, Boca strived to provide a vegetarian product that would appeal even to vegetable haters. 

There's no doubt that Boca Burger lacks the authentic meatiness and juicy flavor of some of the other plant-based burgers on our list, but it makes up for these shortcomings in several ways. First, the thin patties pack in more protein per calorie than most other vegan burger options. At just 80 calories, the Boca burger contains a full 14 grams of protein with only 7 grams of carbohydrates and no sugar. That low-calorie imprint leaves plenty of room for dressing up your vegan burger with plenty of toppings — which you'll probably want to. Boca's Original Vegan Veggie Burgers aren't super flavorful on their own, but instead provide a solid, protein-rich base for getting creative with condiments, vegetable garnishes, and other burger fixings.

12. Aldi Earth Grown Black Bean Chipotle Burger

To round off our list, grocery chain Aldi delivers another vegan burger option that's also not masquerading as meat. The grocery company known for its low prices and signature products sells several varieties of frozen plant-based burger patties, each with a different flavor profile. The Black Bean Chipotle Burger is a fan favorite for its affordability, nutritional value, and spicy kick.

Aldi doesn't mess with synthetic ingredients or artificial additives in its Black Bean Chipotle Burger. A scan of the ingredients list shows that these fiber-rich bean burgers get their fiery flavor from real jalapeños, along with smoky chipotle powder. The spice in these southwestern bean burgers sets it apart from the ordinary veggie burger, but it's far from overwhelming. In fact, if you have a high spice tolerance you might want to have a bottle of hot sauce on hand to kick the heat up a notch. 

Along with bean burgers, Aldi's Earth Grown line includes plant-based meatballs, sausage patties, and Chickenless Tenders for the vegetarian or vegetarian curious. Just make sure to check the labels; all Earth Grown products are vegetarian but only some are vegan. 

Recommended