Food & Drink

The Best Store-Bought Veggie Burgers, Ranked

veggie burgers
Lee Breslouer/Nina Gonzales/Thrillist

It happens every time: you get all the stuff you need for a cookout, then a vegetarian RSVPs, sending you back to the store to grab veggie burgers. And unless you know your stuff, you probably just stare at the selection, grab one randomly, then rush out and half-heartedly hope your friend is happy.

Thing is, once upon a time, veggie burgers didn't taste so good. Hell, many of them still don't But these days, some are fantastic enough that you might eat one yourself (after a few real ones). So what do you buy? Well, we went out and grabbed the major-brand burgers, grilled them up, and ranked them. You're welcome, lone vegetarian.

Editor's Note: We selected the most widely available veggie burgers on the market. If a brand didn't sell a basic version of its burger (like Dr. Praeger's, Trader Joe's, and Whole Foods), we selected another variety. We aimed for a mix of what you'll find in healthy grocery chains like Whole Foods and your neighborhood supermarket chain.

Trader Joe's Pizza Veggie Burgers
Lee Breslouer/Nina Gonzales/Thrillist

14. Trader Joe's Pizza Veggie Burgers

Nutritional info: 130 calories, 7g total fat
I love the following things: TJ's, pizza, vegetables, and burgers. And yet, this doesn't quite work for me. It smells fairly appetizing, it has some non-gross marinara sauce and mozzarella flavors (probably because it contains both), and a little bit of spice from the black pepper and garlic within, but mostly it just makes me want to eat a pizza. You can also pick up delicious, vegetarian TJ's pizzas in the same frozen section these burgers live in. There should be a sticker on this box that says: "Are You Sure You Don't Want to Buy a Pizza?"

13. Morningstar Farms Grillers Prime Burgers

Nutritional info: 170 calories, 9g total fat
Plus: it looks like a greasy burger you get at a backyard BBQ after you cook it! Congrats to the Morningstar folks for somehow figuring that out. Minus: it tastes like a poor man's Boca burger, and was chewy in ways that weren't all that pleasant.

12. Dr. Praeger's California Veggie Burgers

Nutritional info: 120 calories, 5g total fat
This is why veggie burgers get a bad name. The ingredients are made of whole foods, which is good. Carrots! Onions! String beans! But the taste is a carnivore's nightmare: it's exactly what they imagine a veggie burger tastes like. Carrots. Onions. String beans. It's not pleasant. The burger shouldn't taste like vegetable stew, unless that vegetable stew is delicious. This is not.

11. Boca All American Flame Grilled Veggie Burgers

Nutritional info: 120 calories, 1g total fat
Back in the early aughts when I wasn't eating much meat, I used to go to Bennigan's and order a Boca burger. It was dressed up like a real hamburger, and wasn't offensive. The taste of this burger hasn't changed much since then, and it has that familiar fake-meat aftertaste from anyone who was eating burgers back then -- it so desperately tries to be meaty, but ends up just tasting fakey. At this point, Boca burgers feel like a throwback to the days when you couldn't get a decent-tasting veggie burger from the supermarket, and his was the best you could do. Times sure have changed, as you'll see from the rest of the top 10.

365 Spicy Southwestern Meatless Burgers
Lee Breslouer/Nina Gonzales/Thrillist

10. 365 Spicy Southwestern Meatless Burger

Nutritional info: 120 calories, 5g total fat
I looked for a plain veggie burger from Whole Foods, but strangely, this was as close as I could get. If you were a vegetarian way back when, you'll remember the soy-filled hockey pucks from the freezer section that were all the rage. Eat this and it's like being transported back to 1999, minus the neon windbreakers. The "spicy" part of this burger equation actually delivers, which is why this made it to #10, but Whole Foods should know better than any chain that humanity has evolved beyond the soy veggie burger.

9. Sweet Earth Santa Fe Veggie Burger

Nutritional info: 230 calories, 5g total fat
Let me preface this by saying that I'm generally a fan of the products Sweet Earth makes: its seitan is one of the better nationally produced wheat meats around, and its frozen burritos are great in a pinch. But this falls short for me. The burger has a nice heat to it, thanks to the green chilies within, but after a few bites of this, I was done. America doesn't need a frozen veggie burrito scrunched up into patty form.

8. Gardenburger: The Original Veggie Burger

Nutritional info: 110 calories, 3g total fat
Hey look, it's a Jucy Lucy except for there's no meat! Gardenburger geniusly includes the mozzarella and cheddar cheese inside of the burger, and it gushes with cheese after cooking. And that's the best part of the burger. Trader Joe's also does the "cheese in the burger" thing, but it doesn't taste nearly as good. Slap some marinara sauce on this and you've got a helluva pizza burger real quick. I feel a little bad for judging such an old-school brand harshly (it's been around for 25+ years), as it's akin to telling your grandma she's not as pretty as she used to be. So I'll just say that grandma's still got it after all these years, even if she's not up on the latest trends, like making a veggie burger with ingredients like rice and millet.

7. Beyond Meat Beastly Sliders

Nutritional info: 260 calories, 16g total fat
This has a pleasant, Boca burger-like mouthfeel that mimics the texture of a real burger, but like most veggie burgers, this isn't going to fool anyone. I was lucky enough to be one of the first to try Beyond Meat's newest burger, which made me a little disappointed in this one. It's like using a Samsung Galaxy S7 one day and then a lowly S6 the next. Oh, the horror! But worry not -- its new veggie burger is going to roll out to Whole Foods across the country later this year, and it's gonna blow minds. This tastes like a standard soy-based patty, though to its credit, soy isn't listed in the ingredients. So while you wait for the new burger, this is a fine, circular stopgap.

6. Amy's Bistro Veggie Burger

Nutritional info: 110 calories, 3g total fat
Everything Amy's makes tastes essentially the same -- and that's not necessarily a bad thing. I'm pretty sure that in college I mostly subsisted on anything that had an Amy's label on it and could be microwaved. The burgers were another easy, quick vegetarian meal. And this isn't bad -- it's got a pleasant nuttiness to it. It's probably from the brown rice, which is the second ingredient. The first? Mushrooms. Don't buy this if you don't like mushrooms.

Engine 2 Poblano Black Bean
Lee Breslouer/Nina Gonzales/Thrillist

5. Engine 2 Poblano Black Bean Burger

Nutritional info: 130 calories, 2.5g total fat
Oh boy does this taste healthy. The best veggie burgers don't taste healthy in this way. This is like heating up a bunch of oats and beans on the stove, and then putting it directly into your mouth. But here's the huge upside: it has a strangely complex, poblano-y aftertaste going for it. If I could skip right to the aftertaste, I'd be all about this burger. Cover it in as much ketchup, cheese, and avocado as you can, and it'll taste fresh and delicious off the grill.

4. Good Seed All American Hempseed Burger

Nutritional info: 230 calories, 12g total fat
Seventy-five years ago when I lived in Manhattan, back before it got so commercialized, I'd go to this raw-food place where they'd scoop a vegan pâté onto your plate primarily made with sunflower and pumpkin seeds. And wouldn't you know, this burger tasted familiar since it's also made with a slew of seeds: hemp, sunflower, and pumpkin. And also sprouted lentils, which is an ingredient not present in other burgers on this list. Good Seed's burger separates itself from the pack by being one of the more seedy and nutty veggie burgers. I prefer a milder veggie burger that tastes like whatever I decide to scoop on it (read: guac, salsa) rather than something packed with flavor, but I can see how people might like this. It's also a good change of pace from the soy-filled burgers crowding freezer shelves.

3. Sunshine Burgers Garden Herb

Nutritional info: 240 calories, 14g total fat
I often toss this burger in the toaster oven for a quick lunch, an act which typically guarantees crispiness when it comes to any other food product. This burger, however, comes out in a million pieces like it's auditioning to become a jigsaw puzzle. But other than that, I'm not complaining. It doesn't try to taste like real meat, which is a bonus. It somehow tastes fresh right out of the freezer, and that's probably because it's made with minimal ingredients and lacks preservatives -- just rice, sunflower seeds, carrots, spices, and salt. It's a homemade burger you can buy in a supermarket.

2. Hot Dang Original Grain Burger

Nutritional info: 180 calories, 5g total fat
This tastes like a mouthful of wild rice, and in the best possible way. Considering the third and fourth ingredients are brown rice and wild rice, that makes sense. But this burger differentiates itself with cashews, which give it a delicious nutty aftertaste. Like the best veggie burgers, there's something about this that tastes homemade, and sure enough, when you look at the ingredients, there's nothing here that you couldn't pull out of any healthy person's pantry right now -- navy beans, oats, olive oil, sea salt, onion powder, and garlic powder.

Hilary's World's Best Veggie Burger
Lee Breslouer/Nina Gonzales/Thrillist

1. Hilary's World's Best Veggie Burger

Nutritional info: 190 calories, 7g total fat
This burger sure does live up to its name. Before I'd eaten one of Hilary's burgers, I was skeptical. The first one I ate from this line of burgers was an adzuki bean burger -- a name that gave me flashbacks to eating a dry, disgusting, sprout-covered black bean burger in a hippie restaurant. It's much, much better than that. The World's Best Veggie Burger is slightly different: a super-mild-tasting millet + quinoa burger with a few leafy greens and sweet potatoes thrown in, which works as a delicious canvas on which to put avocado or whatever the heck you want. It's also filling, and doesn't completely fall apart when you pull it out of the toaster oven or off the grill.

Plenty of veggie burgers try to mimic the taste of a real burger, and obviously fail miserably (except for that one Beyond Burger). This isn't trying to be anything other than what it is -- a tasty, grain-filled burger made without soy or dairy -- and it succeeds.

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Lee Breslouer is a senior writer for Thrillist, and has a freezer full of veggie burgers. Follow him to lunch plans: @LeeBreslouer.