There are loads of benefits to the vegetarian lifestyle. Research has shown that both vegetarian and vegan diets are two of the most effective diets for weight loss, and other studies have connected the lifestyles with a lower risk of cancer, diabetes, and a longer lifespan. Experts hypothesize that much of the power behind these plant-based diets isn’t necessarily because meat is bad for you; it’s just that the satiating, animal-based protein often fills you up and edges out fruits and veggies for a position on your plate. And that means you can’t reap the benefits of the fresh produce’s secret weapon: cancer-fighting antioxidants.
Although vegetarians have a variety of recipes in their arsenal—from vegetable curries to overnight oats—there was one thing my sister admitted to missing most: a juicy, melt-in-your-mouth burger. Although no veggie burger can quite compare to the real thing, there are now dozens of plant-based patty options in the supermarket—both a good thing and a bad thing. Because as more and more brands take over the freezer aisle, it makes it more and more overwhelming to pick out the best beef-free bun-filler.
When my sis came to me last week to ask for advice in choosing the best patty, she emphasized the importance of nutrition. As a college athlete, it’s not just about which burger looks and tastes good; she also needs a product that’s nutritionally balanced and packed with enough protein to help her build and maintain lean muscle. I knew I had to help her out. So, I’ve dug through the long list of meatless rounds to help you find the veggie burger that’s just right for you. And once you decide on a patty, check out how protein is one of the 55 Best-Ever Ways to Boost Your Metabolism.
Original Veggie Burger
Amy’s All American Veggie Burger
Per 2.5 oz patty (71 g): 140 calories, 3.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 390 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (4 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 13 g protein
Gardenburger The Original Veggie Burger
Per 2.5 oz patty (71 g): 110 calories, 3 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 490 mg sodium, 16 g carbs (4 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 5 g protein
When you grab a veggie burger, you’re looking for a solid substitution for the minimally-processed, beef-based patty, which is high in protein and low carb. And that’s exactly what we tried to replicate in choosing the best plant-based option. (Because why should you grab a burger of carbs that you’re likely going to sandwich between two carb-laden buns?) That’s why we chose Amy’s All American burger, which is made with a clean source of soy protein, organic grains and veggies, and flavors from real ingredients like tomato puree, vinegar, and mustard seeds. On the other hand, Gardenburger’s option is low in protein, high in sodium, and full of questionable ingredients like “Natural Flavors,” modified vegetable gum, yeast extract, guar gum, and soy lecithin.
Sunshine Organic Black Bean South West
Per 2.6 oz patty (75 g): 260 calories, 16 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 190 mg sodium, 19 g carbs (8 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 10 g protein, 10% Vitamin B9
Qrunch Quinoa Burgers, Green Chile with Pinto Beans
Per 3.2 oz patty (91 g): 200 calories, 10 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 200 mg sodium, 25 g carbs (4 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 5 g protein
Gardein Chipotle Black Bean Burger (GF)
Per 3 oz patty (85 g): 150 calories, 7 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 390 mg sodium, 20 g carbs (6 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 6 g protein
Gardenburger Black Bean Chipotle Veggie Burger
Per 2.5 oz patty (71 g): 90 calories, 3 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 390 mg sodium, 16 g carbs (4 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 5 g protein
The simple difference between the four products above? The inclusion or exclusion of a specific type of soy. When soy is processed, hexane is used as a solvent to extract the oil—an additive you’ll soon see rivals these 40 Most Horrifying Things Found in Food. This byproduct of oil refining has been found to be a neurotoxin and hazardous air pollutant, which is why the “Organic” certification prohibits its use in their products. Unfortunately, neither Gardein nor Gardenburger is certified organic, and both use soy.
On the other hand, neither Sunshine nor Qrunch use soy in their products and are both entirely organic and hexane-free. If you’re looking for a low fat option with a variety of nutrients from a wide array of grains, beans, and vegetables, go with Qrunch’s patty. For a more well-rounded choice that’s high in fiber and protein, Sunshine should be your go-to.
Sol Cuisine Spicy Black Bean Burger
Per 2.5 oz patty (71 g): 130 calories, 5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 370 mg sodium, 12 g carbs (5 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 8 g protein
MorningStar Farms Spicy Black Bean Burger
Per 2.4 oz patty (67 g): 110 calories, 4 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 330 mg sodium, 13 g carbs (4 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 10 g protein
While beans boast an impressive micronutrient density, their greatest assets are found in the macronutrient department: Packed with both soluble and insoluble satiating fibers, beans break down slowly to help you stay fuller longer and improve your gut health. And even better, these seeds are a superb source of protein—the macronutrient that boosts your metabolism and builds muscle while helping you to scorch belly fat.
Although Sol Cuisine has two fewer grams of protein compared to MorningStar Farms, MorningStar gets the deuce from the addition of calcium caseinate (likely from grain-fed and antibiotic-laden cow milk) and soy protein concentrate (likely from pesticide-laden GMO soy). Their frankenpatty also contains ingredients like disodium inosinate, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, xanthan gum, caramel color, and artificial flavors. Sol’s Spicy Black Bean burger is made from ingredients you’re likely to find stocked in your healthy pantry.
Amy’s Quarter Pound Veggie Burger
Per 4 oz patty (113 g): 210 calories, 3.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 600 mg sodium, 24 g carbs (6 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 20 g protein
Sunshine Organic Quarter Pound Original
Per 4 oz patty (113 g): 360 calories, 21 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 300 mg sodium, 32 g carbs (6 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 12 g protein, 15% Vitamin B9
Beyond Meat Beast Burger
Per 4 oz patty (113 g): 260 calories, 16 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 480 mg sodium, 7 g carbs (4 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 23 g protein, 25% Vitamin B6, 20% Vitamin B12
These veggie burgers are built to stand up to their predecessor, the beef quarter-pounder.
They may have developed the Beast Burger with athletes in mind, but Beyond Meat’s ingredients don’t have your overall health in mind. They add wood pulp (methylcellulose), caramel color, maltodextrin, sorbitol (a sugar alcohol that takes a long time to digest and may cause bloating, gastrointestinal distress, and the fermentation of bad bacteria), and carrageenan—an additive derived from seaweed that has been linked to ulcers, inflammation, and other gastrointestinal problems.
For a patty made with fewer problematic ingredients that could bother those with food sensitivities, Amy’s Quarter Pound burger is a good substitution for the Beast Burger. Because it’s somewhat high in sodium, we’d recommend guzzling down a glass of water with your meal. (Which you should be doing anyway—it’s just one of the 50 Best Weight Loss Tips.) If you’re looking for a burger with minimal ingredients and a relatively solid amount of protein and healthy fats, Sunshine Organic will be your best bet.
MorningStar Farms Spicy Indian Veggie Burger
Per 2.4 oz patty (67 g): 130 calories, 8 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 370 mg sodium, 11 g carbs (5 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 6 g protein
Qrunch Quinoa Burgers, Sweet Curry with Lentils
Per 3.2 oz patty (91 g): 200 calories, 10 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 200 mg sodium, 25 g carbs (3 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 4 g protein
MorningStar’s line of non-GMO-certified, vegan, and made with organic ingredients burgers is a winner when it comes to this Indian-inspired category. It edges out Qrunch’s quinoa burger thanks to it being lower in calories and carbs and higher in fiber and protein. Speaking of fiber, did you know that high fiber foods are a great tool for weight loss because they can help fill you up and improve your gut health? The bacteria living in your belly ferment this nutrient into anti-inflammatory fatty acids which can help regulate hunger hormones, improve your immune system, and turn off your fat genes.
Sol Cuisine Portobello Mushroom Burger
Per 2.5 oz patty (71 g): 90 calories, 1.5 g fat (0.2 g saturated fat), 290 mg sodium, 11 g carbs (3 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 8 g protein
Gardenburger Portabella Veggie Burger
Per 2.5 oz patty (71 g): 100 calories, 2.5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 450 mg sodium, 16 g carbs (5 g fiber, < 1 g sugar), 4 g protein
When you’re picking out a mushroom burger, look out for ingredients that are added to mimic the taste of a real mushroom, like Gardenburger does by adding “natural flavors,” yeast extract, caramelized sugar, and torula yeast. Sol Cuisine is completely non-GMO, which is crucial when you consider their use of soy protein and tamari. They’re full of portobello and button mushrooms as well as brown rice, bell peppers, onions, and carrots, and they also boast double the protein of their Portabella peer and 160 mg less sodium.
Sweet Earth Teriyaki Veggie Burger
Per 4 oz patty (113 g): 250 calories, 9 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 400 mg sodium, 28 g carbs (5 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 17 g protein
Dr. Praeger’s Bibimbap Veggie Burger
Per 2.5 oz patty (71 g): 150 calories, 8 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 190 mg sodium, 17 g carbs (3 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 2 g protein
Judging by Dr. Praeger’s list of ingredients—which includes daikon radish, bean sprouts, gochujang sauce, red miso paste, rice wine, scallions, and shiitake mushrooms—their Bibimbap burger probably tastes really good. The only problem is that not much is going on nutritionally—you’re getting a measly 2 grams a protein per patty and a lot of those 8 grams of fat are coming from canola oil. For a protein-packed, sizeable patty, go with Sweet Earth’s option. It’s a little high on the sodium side, so be sure you’re drinking plenty of water.
Qrunch Quinoa Burgers, Original
Per 3.2 oz patty (91 g): 190 calories, 11 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat), 150 mg sodium, 20 g carbs (2 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 4 g protein
Sol Cuisine Quinoa Chia Burger
Per 2.5 oz patty (71 g): 120 calories, 4 g fat (0.4 g saturated fat), 280 mg sodium, 18 g carbs (2 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 3 g protein
This ancient grain superfood is a great source of plant protein because it contains all 9 essential amino acids that are also found in a piece of meat. In choosing the best quinoa burger for you, we went with the lower sodium option that was higher in healthy, slow-digesting fats and protein from Qrunch. Sol’s Quinoa Chia burger is a smaller portion, is higher in sugar and sodium, and has less of the good fats that help speed nutrients through your body and play a role in torching belly fat.
Gluten & Dairy Free
Hilary’s World’s Best Veggie Burger
Per 3.2 oz patty (91 g): 190 calories, 7 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 350 mg sodium, 27 g carbs (4 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 4 g protein
Dr. Praeger’s California Gluten Free Veggie Burger
Per 2.5 oz patty (71 g): 110 calories, 5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 125 mg sodium, 13 g carbs (4 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 2 g protein
You already know that a good veggie burger can be hard to find, but it can feel impossible if you have a gluten sensitivity or lactose intolerance. Hilary’s burgers are not only gluten- and dairy-free, they’re also free of soy and common allergens. Full of whole grains, sweet potatoes, and leafy greens, this burger is sure to please. As for Dr. Praeger’s, we can’t complain that much; we just wish it had a little more satiating protein and healthy fats. If you’re dairy free, be sure to check out our exclusive report, The Best And Worst Milks and Milk Alternatives.
Dr. Praeger’s Italian Veggie Burger
Per 2.5 oz patty (71 g): 120 calories, 5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 250 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (4 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 5 g protein
MorningStar Farms Tomato & Basil Pizza Burgers
Per 2.4 oz patty (67 g): 110 calories, 6 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 280 mg sodium, 9 g carbs (6 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 10 g protein
Mamma Mia! Why Morningstar chooses to add ingredients like methylcellulose (aka wood pulp), autolyzed yeast extract (aka MSG), and caramel color is beyond us. Sticking to a plant-based diet should mean you’re less likely to run into these common ultra-processed additives. Grab Dr. Praeger’s burger off the shelf; this option is full of veggies and flavorful spices that will please your taste buds.
Sweet Earth Za’atar Veggie Burger
Per 4 oz patty (113 g): 240 calories, 12 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 390 mg sodium, 19 g carbs (6 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 19 g protein
Sunshine Organic Falafel
Per 2.6 oz patty (75 g): 230 calories, 13 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 150 mg sodium, 21 g carbs (7 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 9 g protein, 9% Vitamin B9
With a burger that’s almost double the size, Sweet Earth also boasts better nutritionals compared to Sunshine Organic. Compared to the brown rice and chickpea-based falafel burger, the Za’atar veggie burger’s 19 grams of protein come from a blend of ancient grains like bulgur, farro, and quinoa as well as a plethora of pulses, including lentils, organic soybeans, and chickpeas.
Upton’s Naturals Classic Burger
Per 3.2 oz patty (91 g): 168 calories, 5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 365 mg sodium, 9 g carbs (2 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 22 g protein
Wildwood Organic SprouTofu Veggie Burger Original
Per 3 oz patty (85 g): 170 calories, 12 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 300 mg sodium, 7 g carbs (1 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 11 g protein
Wildwood takes the extra step to sprout their soybeans, a process which is intended to reduce levels of phytates—anti-nutrients which bind to and limit the absorption of important minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc. Unfortunately, studies have shown that soybeans are highly resistant to this technique and the only effective way to reduce phytates is through fermentation. We’d recommend going with Upton’s Naturals to get the most protein bang for your buck (an impressive 22 grams!), as soybeans are one of the best sources of plant-based protein due to their inclusion of all 9 essential amino acids, same as meat. It’s what makes it one of the best vegan foods!
Texas BBQ Style
Amy’s Texas Veggie Burger
Per 2.5 oz patty (71 g): 140 calories, 2.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 350 mg sodium, 16 g carbs (4 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 12 g protein
Sunshine Organic Barbecue
Per 2.6 oz patty (75 g): 250 calories, 14 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 170 mg sodium, 23 g carbs (7 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 9 g protein, 8% Vitamin B9
Dr. Praeger’s Tex Mex Veggie Burger
Per 2.5 oz patty (71 g): 130 calories, 6 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 200 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (6 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 4 g protein
Everything’s big in Texas, so we expect the protein count to be as well in these Texas BBQ style burgers. Unfortunately, Dr. Praeger’s falls short with only 4 grams, but if you’re looking for a patty of veggies, this one would be a solid choice. Amy’s, on the other hand, which is also vegan, is full of hexane-free, non-GMO, organic soy protein and flavored with organic onions and mushrooms. If you’re looking for a more filling option with balanced nutritionals—high in healthy fats, satiating fiber, and muscle-maintaining protein—Sunshine Organic’s barbecue offering is your best bet. Even better, the addition of raw sunflower seeds and cooked beans adds in 8 percent of your DV of folate, a B vitamin that stokes muscle growth.
Field Roast Hand-Formed Burgers
Per 3.25 oz patty (92 g): 340 calories, 24 g fat (8 g saturated fat), 510 mg sodium, 9 g carbs (2 g fiber, < 1 g sugar), 22 g protein)
MorningStar Farms Grillers Prime
Per 2.5 oz patty (71 g): 170 calories, 9 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 360 mg sodium, 4 g carbs (2 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 17 g protein
Many people who seek out these beefless patties in the freezer aisle are likely to be vegetarian, which also means that they likely are often on the lookout to find foods with an ample amount of plant-based protein. But don’t let your quest for the muscle-building macro cloud your judgment of the ingredients list.
Although MorningStar packs in a solid 17 grams of the stuff in its thin burger, many of its ingredients are the same artificial additives notorious for revving your appetite and instigating inflammation that are injected into your fast food burgers: caramel color, hydrolyzed vegetable protein (MSG), disodium guanylate (MSG), disodium inosinate (MSG), and maltodextrin. Plus, the soybean oil and corn oil are almost certain to be genetically modified and thus potentially contaminated with hormone-disrupting pesticides. Go with Field Roast, whose source of protein (like MorningStar) comes from seitan. But unlike the conventional brand, Field Roast adds umami flavor naturally with shiitake and porcini mushrooms.