It’s the most wonderful time of the year, which means, crimbo sarnies! Stepping up to the plate with more cheer than Santa could shake a stick at are four of the biggest high street coffee chains, plus UK lunch stalwart, Marks and Spencer. Each has brought out at least one vegan Christmas sandwich and we tested the most easily available, to see which can go on the nice list and which made us wish we’d eaten a lump of coal instead.
There was a time when grab-and-go vegan options were limited to a bag of crisps and a pot of fruit salad. Now, the UK high street has woken up to the value of the vegan pound and the number of people reportedly choosing plant-based. At least at Christmas. We tested sandwiches from Caffé Nero, Costa, Marks and Spencer, Pret A Manger and Starbucks. So, what did we think and what do you need to know?
1. Caffé Nero Vegan Festive Feast Panini
What’s In It: THIS vegan turkey, a port and cranberry sauce, spinach and apple, and sage stuffing in a toasted panini.
Availability: Across 700 UK stores
Tasting Review: All the Christmas flavours are here and in good balance. We tried the panini toasted and not, with warm definitely winning. The filling was a little on the bah humbug side but not so much that we needed to top up with anything else to eat. A well-considered blend of flavours and textures that had an undeniably festive feel and left us recharged for more present shopping. Well done Caffé Nero. We have also reviewed this sandwich in more detail.
2. Costa Vegan Turkee, Cranberry & Stuffing Bloomer Toastie
What’s In It: Soy and wheat protein ‘turkee’ meets cranberry sauce, sage & onion stuffing, and mayo alongside spinach, all in toastable white bloomer bread.
Availability: Subject to store availability but rolled out throughout the UK
Tasting Review: The shredded vegan meat was a nice touch from Costa and kept the sandwich light but evenly filled. Every bite had a little of everything included and when toasted, the bread really added something. Subtle flavours that worked together jolly well.
3. Marks and Spencer No Turkey Feast
What’s In It: Malted bread, soy vegan turkey chunks, crispy onions, cranberry chutney, and fresh spinach.
Availability: Full roll out across all Food Halls
Tasting Review: One of the first to market two years ago, the Marks and Spencer No Turkey Feast has remained the same each year. It comes together well and seem to have become something of a formula. Still as delightful as the first time we tried it, the cranberries are really tasty and add the right amount of sweetness while the malted bread doesn’t feel stodgy or heavy. The filling has been generously portioned as well, which feels luxurious and satisfying.
4. Pret A Manger Vegan Christmas Flatbread
What’s In It: Sweet potato falafel, roasted butternut squash, pickled red cabbage, carrot, sage mayo, and port and orange cranberry sauce, all in a wholemeal flatbread.
Availability: Larger Pret A Manger stores (note: seems concessions don’t stock it)
Tasting Review: This was an interesting one. With no vegan meat, the hearty vibe came from the sheer amount of filling. A lot was going on and it tasted great, just not Christmassy. Add as much cranberry and sage as you like, but when falafel is in the mix, that’s what you taste. A great sandwich for any other time of year and a bold move away from the standard alt turkey. We applaud Pret A Manger‘s desire to be different.
Overall: 6/10 (but only as a Christmas-specific launch. 9/10 as a general flatbread.)
5. Starbucks Very Merry Berry Beyond Meat Sandwich
What’s In It: A Beyond Meat pea protein patty, cranberry chutney, vegan Dijon mustard mayo, sliced fresh tomatoes and vegan cheese on a light roll.
Tasting Review: Bring together a Beyond Meat pea protein patty with almost anything and it will be a delicious experience. Much like the Pret A Manger offering, this was a great sandwich, no question, but it lacked a certain amount of festive charm. The cranberry was a nice palate cleanser and left a pleasing aftertaste, but it didn’t deck the halls. Had we been able to find a Starbucks Turkee and Trimmings Toastie (sold out in three stores we tried), we think the holiday spirit would have been more present.
Overall: 6/10 (as with Pret A Manger, a 9/10 when Christmas dinner in a bap isn’t what’s expected)
The vegan Christmas sandwich race is in full swing and we can heartily recommend each of these ones. Seriously, not a bad one in the bunch, unless you don’t like cranberry sauce, in which case you might struggle.
So who won? Our favorite has to be the Marks and Spencer No Turkey Festive Feast for the right mix of filling, flavour and fa la la cheer.
Lead image courtesy of Costa.