The Great Vegan Turkey Taste-Test: Which Roast Should You Bring to Dinner?
If you're expecting to serve at least one or more vegan family members this Thanksgiving or are short on time to prep for Thanksgiving dinner, you're probably searching for the perfect vegan "turkey" roast to serve. Plant-based "turkeys" have come a long way since their earliest days when they were the object of sitcom jokes like Everybody Loves Raymond's Tofu Turkey episode, No Fat in 1998.
We at The Beet love to taste test the latest non-dairy, meat alternatives, and this test was a surprisingly fun one. When the two best roasts were cooked and ready for tasting we came back for seconds and thirds. Cooking no fewer than five roasts in one crowded kitchen on a chilly Tuesday afternoon, and serving them to hungry editors who had nothing for breakfast or lunch left us more than impressed.
Having never tried a vegan roast before, we expected the worst. In prior years, we refrained from the turkey altogether at family get-togethers and celebrations, opting instead for a plate of veggies and mashed potatoes (no butter). But this year, we were happy to have taste-tested, because these holiday roasts are truly as delicious as the real deal, and there's one brand we all loved, and plan to bring to our festivities. Even the stuffing was a winner!
We tested these five: Field Roast Celebration Roast Stuffed with Butternut Squash, Apples and Mushrooms, Field Roast Celebration Roast with Breaded Stuffing and Mushroom Gravy, Trader Joe's Breaded Turkeyless Stuffed Roast with Gravy, Tofurkey Veggie Roast, and Gardein Holiday Roast. While the four of us taste-testers have varying preferences and rarely agree on anything, we all generally came to the same conclusions about the roasts.
1. Gardein Holiday Roast
Gardien’s breaded crispy outer coat might be the thing that makes this roast the winner. But overall we loved the "meat" of the roast as well as the stuffing which balanced well and was distinctly different from the "white meat" taste of the faux turkey.
With cranberry wild-rice stuffing that’s a perfect mix of sweet and savory, this is a focal point of the meal that you’ll be happy to put on the table and even the non-vegans at the table will want to sample this dish. You can cook it straight from being frozen (so no need to defrost overnight, unlike some of the other roasts). It has a nice tender texture and a good ratio of rice-stuffing to “meat.” We couldn't help ourselves and found ourselves going back for seconds and thirds. In fact, we would eat it year-round, not just at traditional turkey dinner time of year.
2. Trader Joe's Breaded Turkeyless Stuffed Roast with Gravy
The Trader Joe’s roast ranks high on the list and is a virtual tie with our winner. The core of the roast is a wild-rice stuffing that includes bits of cranberries, and it's really good if you want an even ratio of protein to stuffing. The “meat” is a soy-based protein mixed with organic ancient-grain flour, creating a nice firm bite. The outside is coated with a crisp breading seasoned with herbs. This roast is super easy: It cooks fast and no prep or thawing is needed. If you’re grabbing something last minute, this would be a great option. On day two, when we brought left-overs to The Beet offices, the team that had not tasted it initially actually liked it the best, so keep the leftovers since it travels and ages well.
3. Field Roast Celebration Roast Stuffed with Butternut Squash, Apples & Mushrooms
Admittedly, we overcooked this small roast, it was still very flavorful, and the cross-hatching on the outer skin was very realistic to a holiday ham. While tough to cut, once you reach the meat and stuffing, it was satisfyingly flavorful.
The Field Roast Celebration Roast ranks high on the list of beloved Turkey-alternative for vegans. But note, it doesn’t necessarily mimic a meat taste; although, the crisp skin-like outer coating may fool you. In Field Roast’s words, it’s “the ultimate in vegetarian sophistication.” The exterior is made up of grain meat (a.k.a. wheat gluten) flavor with sage, garlic, and lemon juice. The interior is a sausage-style stuffing made with butternut squash, mushrooms and apples seasoned with a blend of rosemary, thyme, and sage. This one does need to defrost overnight, so plan ahead.
4. Field Roast Celebration Roast with Breaded Stuffing and Mushroom Gravy
This version of the Field Roast Celebration is just as tasty as the last, but a little less elaborate when it comes to the stuffing. So if you prefer a more traditional bread-like stuffing, this is the one for you. The exterior is like a hard crust on a wheat or rye bread, which is pleasant but not really turkey-like. The texture of the "meat" is a little spongier than actual turkey, and at the end of the day, we felt that we were eating a lot of bread on bread.
This stuffing was the one we kept digging into, however, so if you are a stuffing lover, and you like the bready consistency of traditional stuffing, you will definitely feel satisfied bringing this to your Thanksgiving table.
5. Tofurkey Veggie Roast
Probably the best known, Tofurky has been around since 1995, and is still going strong as a holiday favorite. However, we think some of its rivals have surpassed it in new technology when it comes to making meatless meat taste like the real thing. We love the Tofurkey founder's story on How I Built This with Seth Tibbot, who lived in a tree house, leave a bit to be desired but mix with gravy and mashed potatoes, and it will go down just fine. Its base is wheat gluten, and the stuffing has a flavorful taste. Note they do say to thaw for 24 hours in advance, so plan ahead.