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The best meat-free choices for your Memorial Day barbecue

The best meat-free choices for your Memorial Day barbecue
[Photo: courtesy of Beyond Meat]

Memorial Day weekend is finally here. Many of us in the United Sates get to kick back and pray that it doesn’t rain. If the weather does hold up, you’ll likely have the chance to go to a barbecue, one of the very few good American food traditions. This year, your cookout could be different–you could shake things up–by making it vegetarian, or at least partially vegetarian.

You may be asking yourself, why would I do that? And the answer is: Because it’s actually quite trendy to serve meat alternatives. Over the last few years, companies like Impossible have skyrocketed in popularity. Fast food joints including White Castle and even Burger King are testing out the Impossible burger. Other companies–like Sonic–have begun offering their own fake meat options. Not to mention, Beyond Meat just went public, and it was one of the most successful IPOs in the last decade. Which is to say, you would make yourself look intelligent and with it if you served at least one patty or sausage that wasn’t the result of an animal death.

If you don’t know the options currently available, here’s a certainly not-exhaustive list of some of the items available in most supermarkets:

  • Beyond Meat: Beyond makes both burgers and sausages, though I am more partial to the latter. They are the kind of meat alternative that’s meant to trick even the carnivores. Both work very well on grills, and have a certain umami je ne sais quoi that many other vegetarian products aren’t able to pull off. They are, however, a bit pricy; a four-pack of sausages can set you back as much as $10.
  • Field Roast: This is a meat-alternative company that’s been around for some time (22 years, to be exact) and offers some of the most flavorful options. Field Roast’s sausages, for instance, have both the tougher, more natural, meat texture–along with some truly great flavors (the Italian brats and Mexican chipotle are both amazing). It also makes burgers that are definitely good, though more on the veggie burger side of things than meat imitation.
  • Tofurky: Tofurky is another stalwart in vegetarian food. This nearly-40-year-old company is best known for its roast that sounds like it may taste a lot like turkey but actually doesn’t. (That doesn’t mean it’s not good! The Tofurky roast is actually great!) Over the last few decades, Tofurky has branched out into other products, including veggie cold cuts (also great!) and, of course, sausages and burgers. To keep up with the changing tide of meat alternatives à la Impossible, Tofurky has a bunch of burger options–including a DIY burger that can be hand-formed, and a variety of other pre-formed burgers (including standard, veggie-filled, and spicy). There are myriad sausage offerings, too, including Italian, beer, kielbasa, and an “artisan” line I haven’t tried yet but I imagine is meant to look fancy and cost more.
  • Lightlife: Another oldie-but-goodie is Lightlife, which offers more veggie alternatives than five people can stuff into their mouths. Back in the good ol’ days (the ’90s), Lightlife was best known for its “Tofu Pups,” which were indeed sausages made out of probably tofu. Today, the company offers so many more–including Smart Dogs, Smart Sausages, Gimme Lean sausages, etc. This choice is definitely a more retro option–the flavor is much more on the “I don’t know what this is, but it definitely is not meat” side than the newer “wow, this could be meat, but if it is it’s definitely subpar meat” experience.

There are a bunch of other options too: Morningstar Farms, for instance, makes a line of sausages and burgers that are great for grills. Boca and Gardein offer burgers, as well–both of which are available in most stores. Quorn is another solution that offers a bunch of meat alternative options that have a much different texture than most of the others (in a good way!)–though I would say Quorn’s chicken options are its best.

All this to say that, if you so wanted, you could have a glorious vegetarian (or even vegan!) barbecue while celebrating Memorial Day this weekend. Enjoy, and don’t slaughter too many tofus!

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