The veggie burger has come a long way, from menu afterthought to backyard BBQ staple that anyone—yes, that includes meat-eaters—can enjoy. While some people opt to make their own, and others are intrigued by Beyond Meat’s groundbreaking “bleeding” version, it’s the frozen veggie burger patty that’s the go-to of cookout hosts and time-strapped plant-conscious eaters alike.
And that’s where things get tricky: As anyone who has ever bought frozen veggie burgers knows, not all meatless patties are created equal—both in terms of taste and nutrition. They can be high in sodium, packed with processed soy (and even, according to one report, the neurotoxin hexane), or, perhaps worst of all, be indistinguishable from a hockey puck.
Because buying food should never be a gamble, Well+Good recruited Miranda Hammer, a highly educated, credentialed RD and genius behind Crunchy Radish, to study the nutrition labels of a wide range of frozen veggie burgers. Our team of editors then taste-tested as many patties as humanly possible. The goal? To come up with a definitive list of the healthiest, tastiest packaged veggie burgers that you can get at your nearby supermarket.
Many, many burgers later (it’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it), the results are in. One big takeaway: Decide for yourself if you want your veggie burger to taste as close to meat as possible, or if you’re just looking for something delicious in patty form to throw on the grill—it will totally change what you’ll go for. Because of that, the below picks scored high in both taste and nutrition, but are in no particular order.
If your preferred veggie burger isn’t on here and you’re wondering how it holds up nutritionally, try this easy, 30-second test: Check out the ingredients list. Could you technically make it at home if you really wanted to? Does the nutrition label sync up with what you’re seeing on the ingredients list? (If there’s spinach, you should expect to see some iron in there, for example.) If so, drop it in your basket because that baby is so going on the grill later.
Now, let’s get down to business.
Originally posted June 27, 2016. Updated July 7, 2017.
Scroll down for the five best frozen veggie burgers that are both delicious and good for you.
Of all the brands we asked Hammer about, Dr. Praeger’s was her favorite. “I love that there are tons of veggies, quinoa, and whole grains, making it full of fiber,” she says. “The diversity means you’re not getting just a hockey puck of rice or grain.” Bonus: There are no additives and the brand is non-GMO. You won’t find anything on the label that you won’t recognize as actual food, with the sole exception of potato flakes (which are used as a binder).
Our editors found that, while it definitely doesn’t taste like meat and is mushier in texture than the others on this list (in other words, you might want to have a napkin nearby), overall the taste is flavorful and filling. The brand’s Super Greens option was a hit too.
This burger got high marks from Well+Good editors, who raved about the flavor (jalapeño and cilantro give it a nice, spicy kick) and texture (it doesn’t fall apart like a lot of the other patties we tested). The first ingredient on the label is raw sunflower seeds—which, while subtle in flavor (none of our editors detected it by taste), aren’t as sticky as beans or rice in powder form.
“It would be nice if it had more vegetables for nutritional meal milage,” admits Hammer, who adds that she’s still a fan due to the super-clean ingredients list (no additives, GMOs, or anything processed) and the fact that it’s organic.
Hilary’s self-proclaimed “world’s best” veggie burger lives up to the hype: Even with all the inventive flavors the brand offers (adzuki bean, spicy Thai, black rice…), its original veggie burger option was the most popular with editors. Made with cooked millet, it has a satisfying slight crunch to it, and doesn’t sit heavy in your stomach after eating.
And when it comes to the label, Hammer calls Hilary’s “the gold standard for veggie burgers.” Since it’s also made with quinoa and leafy greens, there are four grams of fiber and four grams of protein in each patty, which Hammer liked. “Arrowroot is used as a binder, which is totally natural,” she says. Wondering if all the other tempting flavors hold up nutrition-wise? Hammer gives them the thumbs up.
The combination of sundried tomatoes, caramelized onions, roasted garlic puree, and thyme make this exclusive-to-Whole Foods pick taste a lot like a slice of pizza—in a good way. Think a distinct flavor that holds its own sans fixings (and a nice kick to it that tastes almost smokey).
The label passed our expert’s test, but she did wish it had more veggies in it besides the tomato and spinach. Still, she liked that it’s low in sodium and had nothing unnatural or eyebrow-raising in it.
This patty won over our editors’ tastebuds, thanks to the beef burger-esque consistency and spicy bite of Gardein’s original flavor. It’s packed with roasted peppers, corn, carrots, and brown rice, and each burger has five grams of protein and three grams of fiber—not too shabby for something that’s only 140 calories.
Hammer was also into the veggie content from a nutritional point of view, but she did point out a few iffy add-ins: soy protein concentrate, methylcellulose (a thickener and emulsion stabilizer), and cane sugar. So not the cleanest label—but when it comes to taste, Gardein was the overwhelming winner for team Well+Good.
Prefer to make your veggie burger yourself? Here are five insanely delicious recipes to try. And before you pop open that bag of kale chips to go with your plant-based burger, you might want to read our breakdown of whether veggie chips are actually healthy.