The Best Plant-Based Meats for the Grill, According to Vegans
There are two camps of plant-based eaters: those who eschew foods that simulate the taste and texture of meat; and others who enjoy the feel and experience of a meat substitute. For those in the first camp, we see you and hear you (and check out these great meat-free grilling options). For those in the second camp, we’ve got your backs, too — and we have some great news for you.
“The landscape has totally changed since those early days of being vegan,” says Chef Jason Wyrick, founder of The Vegan Taste. “There are now plenty of great meat substitutes out there.” And Chef Wyrick should know — he’s been vegan for 21 years, and a vegan chef for 18.
For plant-based meats to work for the grill, however, they need to have several important qualities, Wyrick says. “First, they have to be sturdy enough to maintain their shape on those hot grill irons. I mean, who wants to eat a burger that’s falling apart?” says Wyrick.
Next, they have to be able absorb that intoxicating smoky flavor from wood and coals. “If you’re going to spend the time to grill, make sure the ingredients make the most of it,” he says. And finally, they have to have a great flavor and texture to start with, because if they won’t, why bother?
But to discover the best plant-based meats for grilling, it seemed only fair to ask those who would specifically be looking for these when grocery shopping: plant-based eaters.
There’s nothing like a good burger, and the best elements of a burger can be achieved without eating meat — if you know where to look. “I love to add just a touch of A1 sauce to the burgers before they hit the grill, and finish them off with a Texas BBQ sauce about two minutes before they come off the heat,” says Wyrick.
Larisa I., a publicist who lives in Houston, has been vegan for over four years. “My favorite product to pop on the grill is Beyond Meat’s Brat in the Original flavor. The brat crisps up nicely and pairs well with grilled onions topped with mustard in a bun. It’s an absolute must for all of the summer BBQs.”
Adriana Lee, a yoga instructor from Las Vegas who has been living a plant-based lifestyle for more than 10 years, says her go-to for the grill is also Beyond Meat’s Brats. “They grill up perfectly and fit the bill for when I’m craving something similar to a hotdog,” she says. “Plus, they’re gluten-free.”
These kelp-based burgers are not only delicious, but also incredibly sustainable. “Kelp is a type of seaweed that grows rapidly and requires no fresh water or arable land to cultivate. It also sequesters carbon dioxide, making it a potential game changer in the fight against climate change,” says vegan chef Anja Wolf. They all taste great grilled up with some BBQ sauce, ketchup, pickles, and vegetables.
This option is great for everything from grilling “chicken” for skewers or salads to eating it straight up on a plate with a dipping sauce of choice. “I toss it in a roasted garlic citrus olive oil called mojo de ajo and place it in a grill basket over a low heat so it has plenty of time to absorb the mojo and mesquite flavor from my wood-fire grill. Absolutely delicious and you’ll never miss meat again with these!” says Wyrick.
“I am not a big fan of most of the plant-based meats as I think the ingredients are often… questionable,” says Chef Christina Pirello, who has been a vegan for 39 years and a vegetarian before that. “I do like the brand Tofurky, especially their Italian Sausage, as it’s spicy and the ingredients are whole and not very processed.”
Garrett Wymore, co-founder and CEO of Petaluma, a plant-based dog food brand, transitioned to a vegan diet in 2018. “I grew up eating a lot of Persian food and always loved grilled kebabs as an easy summer meal,” says Wymore. “My grandfather, who was born in Iran, was a big home chef and I have fond memories of helping him prepare kabab koobideh, which is typically made from ground lamb or beef. Today, I adapted those familiar meat-centric recipes to be plant-based by leaning into vegetables commonly served in Iranian meals, like grilled eggplant, that can absorb the smoky flavor from the grill. When cooking for friends, I’ll sometimes make kebab using Impossible ground meat mixed with onion mince and sumac (like the “authentic” koobideh spices), and the taste and texture have fooled even the most diehard meat-eaters.”
Pirello likes bean- and grain-based burgers, and although she usually makes her own, she’ll opt for Sunshine burgers in a pinch. “I like these because they’re made with whole ingredients,” she says.
Mary Ellen Valverde, a vegan food blogger and plant-based nutritionist from New Jersey who has been vegan for 13 years says she didn’t love burgers before going vegan. “I kind of miss that the veggie burger isn’t that much of a thing since vegan beef has really hit its stride,” she says. “That’s why I really enjoy Gardein’s Chipotle Black Bean Burger. It’s a little ‘meaty’ but still has grains and vegetables. Plus, they’re gluten-free and easy to find at most grocery stores.”
Andy Vaughan, Director of Operations at Local LA, has been vegan for nine months and believes the best thing to grill is Beyond Meat, specifically their Beyond Patties. “Grilled with some oil and salt & pepper. You can make a whole meal out of it by adding it to barbecued vegetables, such as zucchini, bell peppers, asparagus, and purple sprouting broccolini,” he says. “Serve with a side of potato salad made with potatoes, mint, chili, English garden peas, and finish it off with a healthy side of chimichurri.”
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