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Beyond. Impossible. Ultimate. Incogmeato. The latest crop of plant-based meats aren’t just courting vegetarians. A plant-rich diet can help curb the greenhouse gases that fuel climate change...and that’s good for everyone’s health.

Here’s our 11-step guide to buying plant-based meats

Click here for our full chart of Best Bites and Honorable Mentions.

1. Pay attention to protein.

Typically, your plant meat is replacing beef, pork, chicken, turkey, or seafood. Look for our Best Bites. They have at least 10 grams of protein per serving (5 grams for breakfast sausages and bacon, which have smaller servings). Getting your protein elsewhere? Honorable Mentions have no protein minimum.

2. Think of your heart.

Most vegetable oils like sunflower and canola are high in healthy unsaturated fats. Too bad many newer plant meats are drenched in coconut or palm oil. Both are richer in saturated fats. We capped Best Bites and Honorable Mentions at 2½ grams of sat fat per serving (1 gram for breakfast meats).

3. Spare the sodium.

It’s tough to make tasty plant meat without a little help from salt. So Best Bites and Honorable Mentions aren’t exactly low in sodium. But our limits—no more than 400 milligrams (250 mg for breakfast meats)—weed out the worst offenders. That’s one more reason to load the rest of your plate with vegetables. Their potassium helps lower blood pressure.

4. Heads up for allergens.

If you need to avoid gluten, skip wheat meats like Field Roast and No Evil. Got peanut allergies? Mind your peas. “Peas are legumes,” notes Beyond Meat. “People with severe allergies to legumes like peanuts should be cautious when introducing pea protein into their diet because of the possibility of a pea allergy.” (Beyond contains pea protein.)

5. Check for “vegan.”

If you want to skip not just meat but dairy and eggs, look for “vegan” on the label. “Veggie” isn’t enough, since some contain egg whites or cheese.

veggie burgers
No worse for you than beef...and better for the planet.

6. Watch Quorn.

Some people report reactions—nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and occasionally hives or difficulty breathing—after eating Quorn. Products made from Quorn’s “mycoprotein” (a processed fungi) have been sold in the U.S. since 2002. With so many other options, we didn’t consider the brand for Best Bites or Honorable Mentions.

7. Shop around.

We found plant-based meats sold alongside ground beef, chicken tenders, fresh vegetables, tofu, frozen foods, you name it. Most stores don’t stock them all in one place.

Tip: Check the label to see if you can thaw that frozen package in the fridge (so it cooks faster) or toss uncooked leftovers in the freezer.

8. Hold on to your wallet.

Pound for pound, Beyond and Impossible can cost roughly twice as much as beef. Buying them “ground” instead of in 4 oz. patties saves a couple of bucks. And with ground, you can make smaller patties, which lowers the sat fat per serving.

Or mix 4 oz. of minced raw mushrooms into a 16 oz. pack of ground Beyond Meat. That stretches it to five or six burgers. (To keep the delicate patties intact, freeze them for 10 to 15 minutes before cooking them on the stovetop, not the grill.)

9. Keep in mind that Impossible & Beyond aren’t beans.

Alas, the most meat-like plant meats also come closest to beef healthwise. You’re better off eating largely unprocessed beans, nuts, tofu, or tempeh.

10. Hack the menu.

At many restaurants, hefty white-flour buns, sauces, and (sometimes) cheese or fries push Beyond and Impossible burgers into 1,000-calorie territory.

The Cheesecake Factory’s Impossible Burger, for example, hits 930 calories and nearly a full day’s worth of sodium (2,090 mg)...before you tack on a side of salad, fries (530 calories), etc. The chain’s SkinnyLicious version with a side salad has 560 calories and less sodium (1,520 mg).

No light menu? Go cheeseless. To cut refined carbs, get a lettuce wrap instead of a bun and a salad instead of fries.

11. Try, try, try again.

Impossible or Beyond? Gardein or Morningstar? Whether you're shopping for burgers, meatballs, chick'n, or veggie bacon, here's what to look some of our tasters' favorite Best Bites, Honorable Mentions, and near misses.

Veggie burgers 2.0: Impossible, Beyond, and beyond...

Who makes a better-for-you burger: Beyond Meat or Impossible?

The short answer: Beyond.

Beyond vs. Impossible: Both have too much saturated fat (from coconut oil) for Best Bites, though the Beyond Burger has been slowly dialing it down. A 4 oz. patty has 5 grams of sat fat—less than the 7 grams in a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder beef patty and the 8 grams in Impossible.

Like beef, the Impossible Burger contains heme (but from a non-meat source). Heme may help form carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds in the gut, which could help explain why red-meat eaters have a higher risk of colorectal cancer. In contrast, Beyond Burgers are heme-free.

Which burgers are better than Beyond? Some Beyond copycats have replaced Beyond’s coconut oil with healthier fats.

Dr. Praeger's Perfect Burger

Try Dr. Praeger’s Perfect Burger or Whole Foods 365 Plant-Based Patties. Both Best Bites are made with pea protein (like Beyond), but they use sunflower oil (Dr. Praeger) or canola oil (Whole Foods).

And both are surprisingly perfect tastewise.

If Beyond made a turkey burger, it would taste like Trader Joe’s Turkeyless Protein Patties. They’re made with sunflower oil, have an impressive 23 grams of protein, and miss a Best Bite by just 20 mg of sodium.

Veggie burgers 1.0: MorningStar and more

Don’t forget the old freezer-case standbys. MorningStar Prime Grillers might not fool a meat eater, but they’re delicious. For a vegan version, try Whole Foods 365 Traditional Plant-Based Burgers.

Couldn’t care less about mimicking meat? Yummy MorningStar Mediterranean Chickpea, Spicy Black Bean, and Garden Veggie Burgers offer 9 to 11 grams of protein.

Finding a good ground "meat"

365 plant-based groundPlenty of plant-based grounds or crumbles can make a fine beefless Bolognese, but Whole Foods 365 Plant-Based Ground leads the pack. It’s beefy-tasting and coconut-oil-free. Use it to whip up some veggie meatloaf, meatballs, you name it.

gardein meatless meatballs

Short on time? Juicy, savory Gardein Classic Meatless Meatballs go straight from freezer to skillet.

Veggie links we loved

worthington Deli Dogs

Planning a cookout? Worthington Deli Dogs have it all: classic hot dog taste and texture. Too bad they’re not more widely available (check their website). Runner-up: Field Roast Signature Stadium Dogs. Mmm.

Most brands of larger, dinner-sausage links are too salty for a Best Bite. (So are most chicken or pork sausages.) But Sweet Earth adds potassium chloride, which cuts sodium, not flavor. Its Chorizo-Style sausage would add a welcome jolt of heat and spice to rice & beans with peppers and onions or white beans with carrots, tomatoes, and garlic.

Playing chicken? Breaded or unbreaded, you've got options.

With breaded patties, tenders, etc., it’s hard to go wrong. Gardein, Whole Foods, MorningStar—you name it, we liked it. Since most “chick’n” is breaded in white flour, add a salad or side of veggies.

comrade cluck

For unbreaded "chick'n," we found two clear winners:

  • Sauté pleasantly chewy No Evil Comrade Cluck shreds in oil until lightly browned.
  • Or treat softer, gluten-free Gardein Chick’n Scallopini like a chicken breast: Sauté and eat as is or with your favorite topping. Or slice it up for salad or fajitas.

Fakin’ bacon?

There’s a good reason to replace processed meats like bacon and sausage: They raise the risk of colorectal cancer.

  • Breakfast sausage. Like the company’s burger, Impossible Sausage is made with plant-based heme. Why go there, when (heme-free) Best Bite MorningStar Original Sausage Patties hit the spot?
  • Morningstar farms veggie sausage
  • Bacon. Too bad ultra-crispy MorningStar Veggie Bacon Strips use risky food dyes. Otherwise, they’d get an Honorable Mention.

Don’t expect Best Bite Sweet Earth Benevolent Bacon to crisp up quite like bacon, but it does come with flavor to spare. A few strips would be right at home on your breakfast sandwich, BLT, or Cobb salad. Ditto for a tempeh (fermented soy) “bacon” like Tofurky Smoky Maple Bacon.

sweet earth veggie bacon

Photos: Sundry Photography/ (Beyond Burger top), Beyond Meat (Beyond Burger package), Impossible Foods (Impossible Burger), Lindsay Moyer/CSPI (Deli Dog), No Evil Foods (Comrade Cluck), Kaamilah Mitchell/CSPI (all others).