The first wave of commercial veggie burgers had issues.
With the taste and texture of Styrofoam, they suffered an inferiority complex. Wanting to be meat, they suffered an identify crisis. Those who ate them suffered, too.
Was meatless, grillable and great an impossible combo? Happily, veggie burgers have evolved, some more than others.
• Franklin Farms Veggiburgers (10 ounces, $4.99) in your grocer’s produce section still try to be meaty. Chewy, pinkish-hued and sporting unconvincing grill marks that look more like racing stripes, they have a smoky flavor disconcertingly like a slice of ham steak. They’re hamless but contain the vaguely worded “natural flavors from non-meat sources.”
While mushrooms, carrots, corn, onions and red peppers top the list of ingredients, Veggiburgers also contain eggs, soybean flour and soy protein concentrate, which may concern those seeking non-genetically modified food sources. That said, Veggiburgers have the fewest calories (100) and the most protein (12 grams) of our veggie contenders.
• MorningStar Farms (9.5 ounces, $4.69), a Kellogg subsidiary, was one of the first to introduce veggie burgers. They’re still around, offering a dozen meatless burger options, from Asian to Mediterranean, and one vegan variety. Dense, with a nicely peppery finish, it’s non-GMO and made with organic quinoa, textured soy protein and lentils. Though light on the veggies, it’s rich in flavor, thanks to roasted garlic, yeast, spices and natural smoke flavor. Each burger contains 130 calories and 8 grams of fat. Other MorningStar Farms veggie burgers can include egg whites, corn syrup and soy isolates. Check the label.
• Winner: Dr. Praeger’s Kale Veggie Burgers (10 ounces, $3.99) are vegan, soy-free, non-GMO and defiantly green. They’re made from just a few ingredients, including quinoa, brown rice, millet, canola oil and a veg-intensive blend of kale, carrots, peppers, onions and corn. They’re not trying for meaty but to be the best veggie patty they can be — and that’s pretty good. Each burger contains 130 calories, and 6 grams of fat.
All three veggie burgers are quick-cooking and available at supermarkets. Let the evolution continue. Meanwhile, let’s fire up the grill.