The 7 Best Plant-Based Meat Alternatives of 2021, According to a Dietitian

Boost your health with these veggie and grain-filled products

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With a shift towards less meat consumption and more plant-based eating, the need for high-quality plant-based meat alternatives has increased exponentially. Previously, the options for quality vegetarian and vegan meat alternatives were slim and mostly filled with questionable, highly-processed ingredients. Now, there are many nutritious options on the market made from whole food ingredients such as vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.

Plant and meat-eaters alike can agree that great-tasting plant-based meat alternatives are an easy substitution at mealtime. They’re easy to prepare, generally keep for long periods of time, and contain easy to digest proteins. Plus, a balance between plant-based proteins and animal proteins are better for you. Research shows that consuming less meat and more plant-based foods is associated with lower levels of inflammation—when compared to the typical US diet, which is high in total fat, cholesterol, and sodium—improved markers for metabolic health, lower body weight, and improved blood pressure.

Whether you’re looking for a plant-based burger with a meat-like texture or a soy-free veggie burger made primarily from whole grains, our nutritionist gathered up the best plant-based meat alternatives to help you select the best, tastiest, and most nutritious options for your needs.

Here, the best plant-based meat alternatives:

Best Veggie Burger: Hilary's Hilary’s Eat Well World’s Best Veggie Burger


Hilary's Burgers genuinely live up to their name. The USDA Organic plant-based burgers are made from allergen-friendly ingredients such as millet, sweet potato, and leafy greens. While the taste and texture is nothing like a beef or turkey burger, these veggie burgers are a smart swap with whole grains and three grams of filling fiber per patty. Each vegan patty also packs three grams of protein, 160 calories, and 260 milligrams of sodium with 20 grams of carbs.

They're free from the top 12 common food allergens, including gluten, soy, corn, and nuts; however, the burgers are full of flavor. Plus, they're conveniently stored in the freezer so you can pull one or two out whenever the mood strikes. Whether you choose to cook the patty on the grill, in the oven, or on the stovetop, the versatile patty can be ready in ten minutes.

Best Jackfruit: Upton's Naturals Vegan Bar-B-Que Jackfruit

Upton's Naturals Bar-B-Que Jackfruit

If you're looking for a vegan, gluten-free meat alternative with a texture similar to shredded meat, jackfruit may appeal to you. Jackfruit, a fruit native to India, Asia, and Africa, is rich in collagen-boosting vitamin C and heart-healthy potassium.  While it doesn't offer protein comparable to meat, the tasty fruit contains filling dietary fiber that will help to keep you satisfied.

Upton's Naturals Bar-B-Que Jackfruit satisfies the craving for a smoky, BBQ taste with a shelf-stable, high-fiber plant-based product. It's great on a sandwich, as a salad topper, folded into a quesadilla, or paired with a whole grain. If you take a look at the ingredient list, the product includes only ingredients that you can read, such as tomato paste, onion, garlic, and paprika. One 2.65-ounce serving contains 45 calories, ten grams carbohydrates, four grams fiber, and one gram protein.

Upton's is easy to prepare. Simply pan fry for eight to ten minutes until thoroughly heated.

Best Tofu: Nasoya Organic Sprouted Super Firm Tofu 16 oz. Pack

Nasoya Organic Tofu Super Firm

Soy gets a bad rap; however, minimally processed soy like this Nasoya Sprouted Super Firm Tofu is an excellent plant-based form of protein. Previous research highlighted the cancer-causing potential of soy isoflavones, but recent evidence suggests soy may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, breast cancer, and prostate cancer. Choosing a minimally processed forms of soy, including tofu, edamame, and miso is best for reaping the health benefits.

Sprouted tofu uses soybeans that have been germinated, resulting in a product with higher protein and calcium content than typical tofu. One three-ounce serving of Nasoya's Sprouted tofu contains 120 calories, 12 grams of protein, and 20 percent of the recommended daily value for calcium. It's low in sugar, carbs, and sodium. The USDA Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified tofu is pressed and ready to cook. It's delicious cubed and stir-fried with vegetables or served alongside rice.

Best Burger Substitute: Beyond Meat Vegan Beast Beyond Burger Patties

Beyond Meat Beyond Burger

If you're looking for a plant-based burger that looks and cooks like beef, Beyond Burger is for you. With white, fat-like flecks of cocoa butter and red color from beet juice, the plant-based patties resemble traditional meat burgers. The juicy patties also provide a ton of protein with 20 grams of plant-based protein per patty with no GMOs, soy, or gluten. The primary ingredient of Beyond Burger is pea protein, a high-quality, easily digested protein made from yellow peas.

Compared with a four-ounce 80/20 ground beef patty, a Beyond Burger patty has 35 percent less saturated fat. Each burger contains 260 calories, 2 grams of dietary fiber, and 350 milligrams of sodium with no cholesterol. They're easy to cook on the stove or grill, requiring approximately four minutes per side.

Best Faux Sausage: Tofurky Italian Sausage

Tofurky Italian Sausage

Finding a flavorful plant-based sausage with whole food ingredients that looks and tastes like savory meat links is a challenge. Many faux sausage links contain questionable ingredients with tons of gums and preservatives to hold it all together.

However, Tofurkey makes tasty plant-based sausages that substitute high-fat pork and beef with organic tofu. The main ingredient in Tofurky's sausage is tofu, followed by vital wheat gluten, a high-protein product that is used to make seitan and lend texture and elasticity to yeast bread.

The Non-GMO Project Verified, Italian-flavored sausages contain sun-dried tomatoes and basil to give a fragrant kick to your favorite pasta, sauté, or grill night. They're easy to cook on the grill, in the microwave, or on the stove in under four minutes. Each link boasts 24 grams of protein with 270 calories, ten grams of carbs, and 15 percent of the daily value of iron and potassium. The links do contain a fair amount of sodium—490 milligrams per link—so you'll want to factor that into your daily salt intake.

Best Bean-Based Burger: Dr. Praeger's Purely Sensible Foods Black Bean Quinoa Veggie Burgers

Dr. Praeger's Black Bean Quinoa Veggie Burgers

Beans and legumes are excellent, high-fiber plant-based proteins that offer robust flavor and various health benefits. Dr. Praeger's Black Bean Quinoa Veggie Burgers combine black beans, smoky chipotles, and tri-color quinoa to create a tasty, crave-able meat alternative.

Dr. Praeger's is committed to making high-quality products where you can recognize all of the ingredients. This burger is no exception: it's Non-GMO Project Verified, Certified Gluten-Free, Certified Vegan, and kosher. Each burger contains 140 calories, 7 grams of fiber, and 5 grams of protein.

Best Faux Seafood: Good Catch Fish-Free Tuna

Good Catch Fish-Free Tuna

While seafood is not technically meat, this plant-based protein product is rich in flavor and taste and helps to preserve the oceans' natural resources. Good Catch's fish-free tuna is made from the company's proprietary protein blend of pea protein, soy protein, chickpea flour, lentil protein, faba protein, and navy bean flour. The vegan, non-GMO Project Verified product tastes and looks like tuna, and comes in three varieties: Naked in Water, Mediterranean, and Oil & Herbs.

Each one-serving pouch of the Mediterranean flavor contains 100 calories, 450 milligrams of sodium, 7 grams of carbohydrates, and 14 grams of protein. Plus, it also contains 350 milligrams of DHA from algal oil, a plant-based source of omega-3s.

Final Verdict

If you're a fan of veggie burgers, try Hilary's Eat Well Veggie Burger (view at Amazon). If you're a tofu fan, try Nasoya's Organic Super Firm Sprouted Tofu (view at Walmart).

What to Look for in a Plant-Based Meat Alternative


Always take a look at the ingredient list to know exactly what is in your meat alternative. Many meat alternatives contain questionable ingredients that are hard to pronounce. Aim to select a product that is made with whole food ingredients that you can easily identify, such as beans, whole grains, legumes, nuts, or seeds.

Many meat alternatives contain allergens such as soy and gluten. Consider your individual health needs and allergens when choosing a plant-based option.


Be aware of the protein source and amount of protein in plant-based meat alternatives. Less processed plant proteins such as tofu, whole grains, legumes, and beans are preferred protein sources compared to more processed soy isolates, textured vegetable protein (TVP), and wheat gluten. Look at the ingredient list and consider which protein is best for your health concerns.

Also, look at the amount of protein the product provides. Plant-based products will likely contain less protein than meat products. However, meat alternatives that are primarily tofu or bean and legume-derived products will likely contain more protein than their whole-grain counterparts.


Meat alternatives tend to contain extra sodium to enhance flavor and extend shelf life. Take a look at the sodium levels on the nutrition facts label and factor that into the recommended intake of less than 2,300 milligrams per day.

Taste and Texture:

Plant-based products vary in taste and texture. If you're looking for a product that looks, tastes, and cooks like meat, you may want to select a product like Beyond Meat. Some people, particularly vegans, are turned off by products that look and taste like meat. For them, grain or bean-based veggie burgers may be more tolerable.


Are plant-based meat alternatives healthy?

Plant-based meat alternatives may be a good source of protein suitable for those following a vegan or plant-based diet; however, many of these products are highly processed and should be consumed using moderation. These "alternative" products are thought to be healthier—for humans and the environment—than typical red meat or poultry products. However, many products contain highly processed ingredients that are still being studied by researchers. If you follow a plant-based or vegan diet, prioritize whole food sources of protein, such as nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains. If you select a plant-based meat alternative, choose an item that contains a small amount of ingredients and ensure you can identify each ingredient.

What is the healthiest plant-based meat alternative?

The answer to this question changes constantly as research comes out on plant-based meat alternatives; however, it is our opinion that the healthiest plant-based meat alternative is a product made with as few ingredients as possible and is not heavily processed. Essentially, it is as close to the natural state as possible. A great example is organic sprouted tofu, which is typically made from water, organic soybeans, and some preservatives. Note that soy is a controversial food due to the estrogen-like properties of its isoflavones; however, evidence suggests that moderate amounts of soy may be safely consumed by all individuals except for those with a soy protein allergy.

What Experts Say

"Incorporating more plant-based meals that consist of real, whole foods (as opposed to processed ones) into your diet supports optimal health and can help reduces the risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. Consuming more plants necessarily increases the fiber, essential vitamin and mineral, antioxidant, and phytochemical content of your diet.

Additionally, high consumption of meat and dairy fuels climate change because meat and dairy production involves a high amount of water and land use, deforestation, destruction of topsoil, loss of wildlife. It's also responsible for 60 percent of agriculture's greenhouse gas emissions."—Abby Cannon, JD, RD

Why Trust Verywell Fit?

A personal note on my recommendations written above. As a dietitian, I am cautious to recommend meat alternatives as many brands contain questionable ingredients and tons of sodium.

That being said, there are some great options on the market, such as the plant-based meat alternatives above. In writing this article, I spent time looking at current clinical research on soy and other plant-based proteins. I also looked at multiple products and brands and consulted with trusted peers in dietetics.

I believe the products in the round-up are made by trusted brands and I would recommend the above products to friends, family, and clients. You can currently find Hilary's and Dr. Praeger's burgers in my freezer.Eliza Savage, MS, RD, CDN

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6 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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