From lentils to jackfruit to cashews, veggie burgers are getting a whole foods plant-based makeover: say hello to the brands making vegan meat from fruit and vegetable ingredients.
Animal protein alternatives have undoubtedly come a long way — and so have consumer attitudes toward them.
A decade ago, some of us were lucky enough to just find a soy burger in our local supermarket; now, we all have our individual brand favourites.
While we love ourselves a good Beyond or Impossible patty, sometimes we crave a whole-food plant-based (WFPB) veggie burger. Luckily, we’re now spoilt for choice, thanks to these ten global vegan protein companies that are betting on whole ingredients, sans the isolates.
1. Big Mountain Foods
Founded in 1987, Vancouver-based Big Mountain Foods is a brand that prides itself on food “made 100% with vegetables”. To that end, while it does have link sausages and plant-based meat crumbles that use pea protein, its range has a few products made completely from whole foods.
These include Veggie Grounds, which come in broccoli and cauliflower varieties, made with yellow split peas, vegetables and spices. The Superfood Breakfast Bites use a base of sweet potato, yellow split peas and apples, while the Original Veggie Patty is a burger made with a base of yellow split peas, carrots, green peas and red pepper.
KARANA is a relatively young company, established in Singapore in 2018 with the goal to use whole plants to make meaty products. The first ingredient it’s tapping is jackfruit, and their product is already served in restaurant in its hometown and in Hong Kong.
Currently, it has two plant-based meat products for foodservice, one of which is completely whole foods-based — and it’s marketed that way too. The Whole-Plant Meat Shreds were KARANA’s first product, made from only four ingredients: organic young jackfruit, canola oil, sea salt and natural flavours. The brand promises a shredded meat-like texture that can take in a lot of seasoning.
3. Better Nature
Tofu has a storied, infamous reputation as a meat alternative. London-based Better Nature presents the argument that tempeh, a traditional Indonesian fermented soybean cake, serves that purpose better. It’s probably why it describes its signature tempeh as “imagine tofu with bite”. Ooh.
Apart from the original tempeh and a smoked version, Better Nature’s riffs on plant-based alternatives to meat include barbecue strips, bacon rashers and curried bites — all of which are just tempeh with spices and flavourings.
Perhaps the flagship, however, is the Tempeh Mince, 93% of which is just tempeh, with rapeseed oil, salt, yeast extract and spices rounding out the rest.
4. Upton’s Naturals
While Chicago-based Upton’s Naturals has been selling seitan products since 2006, it also became the first company to launch seasoned, ready-to-eat jackfruit-based alternative meat in the US.
Although its seitan products are just vital wheat gluten, whole wheat flour, soy sauce and seitan, the whole-food plant-based stars are jackfruit and banana blossom. The latter is seasoned with salt and lime juice and sold as a plant-based alternative to fish. The jackfruit products include the original (which is literally just jackfruit pieces), shredded, chilli-lime and barbecue.
5. The Jackfruit Company
Speaking of jackfruit, this brand was established after its founder took inspiration from a trip to India. Boulder-based The Jackfruit Company offers a wide range of products, split between meal starters, ready meals and plain ripe jackfruit. Everything is marketed as whole-food plant-based.
The meal range comprises dishes inspired by Thai green curry, chana masala, Tex-Mex chilli and red kidney bean stew. The meal starters, on the other hand, are just a combination of jackfruit with seasonings, and these include “lightly seasoned”, BBQ, curry, lemon-garlic, teriyaki and Tex-Mex.
UK-based Gosh! is a free-from favourite, with none of its products containing any of the 14 main allergens outlined by the Food Standards Agency.
Gosh! offers loads of falafels, bites and croquettes, but for people looking for whole-food plant-based meat, there are four kinds of burgers and sausages each. The burgers range from Mexican-style, beetroot, Moroccan-spiced and mushroom — all made completely from vegetables, grains and seasonings.
Chickpeas are a recurring main ingredient in the burgers, but they play an even bigger role in the sausage lineup. The four chickpea-based sausages include the original sage and black pepper, Moroccan-spiced, sweet potato and red pepper, and sage and black pepper cocktail sausages.
7. Actual Veggies
On a mission to dispel the myth that all veggie burgers are bad, New York’s Actual Veggies creates whole-food plant-based quarter pounders.
The four-strong burger range is sorted by colours. The Black burger is based on black beans and carrots, the Purple burger employs beets and carrots as a base, the Orange burger starts with sweet potatoes and carrots, and the Green burger has a base comprising kale, broccoli, spinach, peas and zucchini.
Actual Veggies also offers two breakfast burgers — Blue (plantain, banana, blueberry and oat) and Pink (strawberry, raspberry, banana and red lentil).
French brand HARi&CO is a startup that puts legumes front and centre, specifically locally grown ones that help sustain farmers. It began as a collaboration between two agricultural engineers from Lyon concerned with the overconsumption of meat and its effect on the environment.
Among its fresh range are green lentil, red bean, and coral lentil burgers; chickpea nuggets, falafels, and balls; and green lentil meatballs. In its frozen lineup, you’ll find both meatballs and patties from red bean, green lentil, and chickpea bases.
9. NoBull Burger
Charlottesville-based NoBull Burger has been around for a while, and has amassed an army of fans who love the brand’s veggie burger patties made from actual vegetables including lentils, carrots, brown rice, sweet potatoes and fresh spinach. Founder Crissanne Raymond wants to help people “eat as close to the earth as possible”.
NoBull currently has five flavours on offer, all of which are gluten-free: Original, Savory Mushroom, Sundried Tomato, Spicy Italian and Madras Curry.
10. Caju Love
Hawaiian startup Caju Love is solving the food system’s two biggest problems: food waste and an overdependence on industrial animal agriculture. The company diverts and upcycles cashew nut fibre and transforms it into a healthy plant-based meat alternative that can be used in everything from burgers to tacos to “tuna” sandwiches.
The young brand currently has one product, its cashew fruit meat, which is gluten-free, certified organic and comes unseasoned for your cooking pleasure.
Lead image courtesy of Canva.