Veggie burgers are one of those foods that are extremely hit-or-miss. There are some restaurants that pride themselves on the assortment of vegetables and grains that go into their house-made burger, and others that stick a frozen puck into the microwave and hope you’ll be none the wiser. But when it comes to frozen veggie burgers sold in supermarkets, there are some that are clearly superior to others. We put seven of the country’s leading brands to the test, and walked away with one clear winner.
Veggie burgers share a crunchy reputation with granola and other “health foods” that hit the market in the 1960s and 70s, but you don’t need to be a vegetarian to see the benefit of eating these. They’re a great way to get your vegetables, they’re healthy, and we all know that everything tastes better when eaten on a bun with traditional burger toppings. And for all the love that beef burgers get, they’re not something that you really want to be eating with extreme regularity. If there’s an alternative that sends some of the same “happy burger place” signals to your brain, tastes pretty good, and has a fraction of the fat and calories, then why not do it?
There are dozens of meat-free burger options on the market, and the majority of them contain soy protein, wheat gluten, and other meat “alternatives” that usually form a tasteless base for a smattering of seasonings and a few token vegetable chunks. For today’s purposes, we’re not considering those for our taste test. The only burgers we tasted were the true veggie burgers, the ones that contain more vegetables than any other ingredient. And they needed to come in the freezer case, which excluded Whole Foods from the running (they only had frozen soy-based patties, with fresh veggie burgers in the prepared foods section). That said, we found a very solid assortment to choose from, with all the major brands represented: Boca, Amy’s, Morningstar Farms, Trader Joe’s, Gardenburger, Dr. Praeger’s, and Green Way. All were sold in packs of four.
We heated all of these burgers in the oven together and ate them unadorned, and judged them on the following criteria: taste, smell, texture, variety of identifiable vegetable flavors, aftertaste, and whether they held together as a patty. Some didn’t pass muster, some were middle of the road, and one was the clear winner.