Main ingredients: filtered water, vital wheat gluten, expeller pressed safflower oil, organic expeller pressed palm fruit oil, tomato paste
Enter the new-school of vegetarian meat makers! Field Roast began producing its “artisanal plant-based meat and cheese” in ‘97, and has happily found a place in vegetarian’s fridges with a variety of sausages, burgers, roasts, and the best-tasting fake chicken I’ve ever had in my life that’s also nearly impossible to find. Not that I’m complaining. (Ok fine, I am. I miss it.)
First off, this company nails the branding. When you take off the outer packaging, the franks come out wrapped like sausage links, making it impossible for you not to whip around six veggie dogs like you’re a mutant turtle. Hours of fun. More importantly, this certified-vegan hot dog option tastes delicious. It has a great chew (though not quite as snappy as a real dog), and it’s well-seasoned with paprika, sea salt, onions, spices, liquid smoke, caraway, celery seed, and ground mustard seed. It’s not going to fool anyone into thinking it’s the real thing, but it’s worth picking up nonetheless. Oh, and each dog has 21 grams of protein, over four times what’s in a Nathan’s dog.
2. Trader Joe's Italian Sausage-Less Sausage
Main ingredients: water, textured soy protein concentrate, soybean oil, egg whites
TJ’s has long been a great place to buy great-tasting vegetarian food, from the frozen food aisle to… everywhere else in the store. From baked tofu to a Cashew Fiesta Dip that will light your world on fire, I came in with high expectations for this plant-based sausage sold with the TJ brand stamp of greatness. It clocks in with 13 grams of protein, and if it’s true that you eat with your eyes first, you’ll love that out of all the sausages and dogs listed, it looks most like the real thing.
Ultimately, we judge these suckers on taste, and it delivers, with loads of onion, garlic, and tomato notes. It’s also a little scary how the texture matches an actual sausage. Inferior fake meats fall apart in your mouth, but this has the chew you’d expect from the real thing. And egg whites, which were a major ingredient in the MorningStar Farms dog, also shows up in this. Thankfully, it does not cause the sausage to taste like an egg. Oh, and the smell! It’s gloriously meaty. It shouldn’t be a surprise, but TJ’s has another winner on its shelves.
Main ingredients: water, pea protein isolate, refined coconut oil, sunflower oil
Other than Impossible Foods, there is no more quintessential modern fake meat company than Beyond Meat. It’s so modern, it’s a publicly traded company with a $10 billion market cap. It wasn’t founded in some hippie town in the Northwest -- Bill Gates had money in this company before it went public. In 2016, I went to my local Whole Foods and tried one of the first burgers the company put on the market. I was impressed.
Flash forward three years later, and Beyond’s products are relatively easy to find in your local supermarket. Its sausage package is cleverly designed to resemble a shrink-wrapped sausage package in the meat department. I was excited until I picked up the sausage to grill it. It felt like Play-Doh. D’oh. I like messing around with Play-Doh, but I don’t want to eat it.
Things got significantly better when I took it off the grill and tried to cut off a piece with a fork. It took work! Like, mash-your-fork-into-the-damn-piece-of-meat-why-isn’t-anything-happening type work. It looked juicy. It tasted even better than it looked. It makes you say things out loud like, “I can’t believe it’s this good.” You get a similar mouthfeel to eating a real sausage, the smokiness, and the snap of a primo piece of encased meat. It’s not made with pork. But it grills up so good you won’t care either way.