Whether you’re about to break out the barbie again for another sizzling summer, or just want something decadent for dinner, a meat-free burger can hit the spot while also helping you cut down on meat consumption.
We’ve tested ten vegan varieties from big brands including the Beyond Burger and Garden Gourmet’s Sensational Burger along with supermarket own brands from the likes of Tesco, Co-op, Aldi, Lidl and M&S. Does paying more get you a better bite?
In this year's taste test, the answer looks to be ‘yes’ with Beyond Meat's famed burger taking top spot in our consumer panel taste test, and Nestle’s Garden Gourmet close behind.
Read on to find out why these big brands scored big, which supermarket meat-free burgers disappointed our panellists, and which plant-based burgers were the most convincing substitute for the real thing.
£3 for 2 burgers (226g, £1.33 per 100g)
The go-to choice for many burger joints and pubs, the Beyond Burger should be your top pick for slapping on the grill at home, too.
They’re the joint most expensive burgers on test but were able to justify their price with excellent scores across the board. Our tasters rated these burgers for their enticing appearance, well balanced seasoning and good levels of moistness.
Even more impressive, 78% of tasters said these pea protein-based burgers are convincing substitutes for a beef burger.
£2 for 2 burgers (226g, £0.88 per 100g)
Nestle re-launched its Garden Gourmet brand into supermarkets in late 2021, and it's certainly caused a splash by securing a coveted Which? Best Buy for its plant-based burger. Keenly priced to rival supermarket own-brand options, it could also be the ideal choice if you're feeding a crowd.
These soya protein burgers were rated well for texture and flavour, and while our tasters didn’t rate them quite as highly for seasoning as Beyond Meat, they weren’t far off. 74% said they were a convincing meat substitute, too.
£2 for 2 burgers (227g, £0.88 per 100g)
Meatless Farm makes it onto the podium, but a little way behind the top two scorers. These pea protein based patties are by no means bad – in fact they were as tasty as the top two according to our panel – but fell short in other areas including how enticing they smelled, and their colour - which more than half of the panel said was too dark and less appetising.
Just 60% of tasters though they were convincing as a meat substitute, so they might not keep flexitarians happy.
Unlike last year, no supermarket plant patties made into the top three, but some aren't far behind. Tesco leads the pack, with Co-op dropping to the bottom of the table.
Meat-substitute burgers cook differently to their meaty counterparts, and it's worth taking this into account for the best results.
One of the key differences is texture. Meat-free burgers tend to stick to surfaces, be it the packet or the pan, which can make them a tad frustrating to cook with:
Because vegan burgers aren’t made from meat, they colour differently when cooking (even those which are designed to mimic the real deal).
Many of the burgers we tested were still pretty pale even after cooking, despite having been cooked to the packet instructions, so don't be put off by a paler patty.
Plant-based burgers contain mainly soya, pea protein or a mix of both. These are good plant-based proteins but won't be suitable for people with soya allergies. Some of the burgers also contain wheat protein, which won’t be suitable for those with wheat or gluten allergies.
However, just because these burgers are plant-based don't assume they are healthier than a beef burger. The Beyond Burger, for example, has more fat and saturated fat weight-for-weight than a typical steak burger. That's because oil is one of the main ingredients of these burgers – it increases palatability and without it the burgers would be very dry.
Also worth noting is the fact that the vegan versions typically contain more salt and sugar than a beef burger, which is important to consider if you’re watching your intake.
On the plus side, fibre content – essential for a healthy diet – is way up on the beef equivalent in many of the burgers.
Each burger was cooked from chilled to the pack’s ‘for best results’ instructions, or if none was suggested, via the method that appears first on the label.
Each burger variety was assessed by 72 people. They rated the taste, texture, aroma and appearance of each product and told us what they liked and disliked about each one, as well as how convincing each one was as a meat substitute.
The taste test was blind, so the panellists didn’t know which brand they were trying, and the order they sampled the burgers was fully rotated to avoid any bias.