30 Best and Worst Veggie Burgers
Although vegetarians have a variety of recipes in their arsenal—from vegetable curries to overnight oats—there is one thing they admit to missing most after making the plant-based switch: a juicy burger. Although some say 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 brands take over the freezer aisle, it makes it more overwhelming to pick out the best beef-free bun-filler.
What to look for when choosing a veggie burger
Suzannah Gerber, a food behaviorist and a senior medical researcher at Inova Medical, explains that the definition of "healthy" may be harder to pinpoint when it comes to veggie burgers. "There are veggie burgers that are great for low-fat diets, low-carb diets, high-protein diets, some that are nutritionally composed for optimum values but are mostly processed foods, and some that are made from whole plant foods with no additives and added oils." She recommends evaluating your dietary goals and figuring out exactly what you're looking for in a veggie burger "I prefer burgers with whole plant ingredients, like Engine 2 and Dr. Praeger's. If protein composition or allergen/inflammation are part of the equation I may look at Field Roast, and if keto diet is the direction then Beyond Meat."
In any case, there are many options for veggie burgers that can become a healthy part of your diet.
How to cook a veggie burger perfectly
Gerber shared with us two key steps to cooking a veggie burger perfectly: let it thaw completely (if frozen) and cook it on a lower heat than you would a regular burger. "Unlike meat, you don't need to get a high heat going. Cooking veggie burgers like meat often results in dry or softer textures. No fun." She also has some tips for adding more flavor to your veggie burger in the pan, "I like to cook them with sautéed onions and peppers, with the onions a bit softened first. When they are all done, the flavors are combined and you have an even more exciting meal!"
If you're still unsure about how to choose the perfect veggie patty that suits your dietary needs, this list will help you navigate the offer in the freezer aisle.
The Original Veggie Burgers
Dr. Praeger's All American Veggie Burger
Per 4 oz patty (113 g): 240 calories, 2 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 460 mg sodium, 7 g carbs (4 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 28 g protein
Runner Up: Amy's All American Veggie Burger
Per 2.5 oz patty (71 g): 130 calories, 4 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 430 mg sodium, 13 g carbs (4 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 11 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 Dr. Praeger's All American burger, which is made with a clean source of pea protein, four types of veggies, and flavors from real ingredients like roasted garlic. 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.
High Protein Veggie Burgers
Field Roast Hand-Formed Burgers
Per 3.25 oz patty (92 g): 290 calories, 16 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 440 mg sodium, 10 g carbs (3 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 25 g protein
MorningStar Farms Grillers Prime
Per 2.5 oz patty (71 g): 150 calories, 8 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 400 mg sodium, 6 g carbs (3 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 16 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 16 grams of the stuff in its thin burger, this burger is more chemical additives than whole foods. (In fact, there are no whole foods listed in the ingredients unless you count tomato paste.) Plus, the vegetable oils are almost certain to be genetically modified and thus potentially contaminated with hormone-disrupting pesticides.
Go with Field Roast, whose source of protein comes from seitan, unlike MorningStar, whose protein is from soy protein isolate, soy flour, and egg whites. Field Roast adds umami flavor naturally with shiitake and porcini mushrooms.
Southwestern Style Veggie Burgers
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% folate
Qrunch Quinoa Burgers, Green Chile with Pinto Beans
Per 2.7 oz patty (77 g): 120 calories, 4 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 200 mg sodium, 19 g carbs (4 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 3 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 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, Gardenburger is not certified organic and it uses 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.
Bean-Based Veggie Burgers
Sol Cuisine Spicy Black Bean Burger
Per 2.5 oz patty (71 g): 90 calories, 1.5 g fat (0.2 g saturated fat), 260 mg sodium, 15 g carbs (4 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 5 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), 320 mg sodium, 13 g carbs (4 g fiber, <1 g sugar), 9 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.
MorningStar makes one of the highest-protein black bean veggie burgers on the market thanks to their addition of protein-rich, low-calorie egg whites. Sol's Spicy Black Bean burger is made from ingredients you're likely to find stocked in your healthy pantry.
Mushroom Veggie Burgers
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.
Asian Inspired Veggie Burgers
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.
Quinoa Based Veggie Burgers
Qrunch Quinoa Burgers, Original
Per 3.2 oz patty (91 g): 140 calories, 4 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 240 mg sodium, 22 g carbs (4 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 4 g protein
Sol Cuisine Quinoa Chia Burger
Per 2.5 oz patty (71 g): 110 calories, 2.5 g fat (0.3 g saturated fat), 270 mg sodium, 10 g carbs (2 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 4 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 veggie burger for you, we had to declare a tie after Sol reformulated their patty to be lower in sugar. You'll be safe going with the organic, lower sodium option that's a tad higher in healthy, slow-digesting fats from Qrunch. Or, opt for Sol's Quinoa Chia burger for a smaller portion with the same amount of protein.
Gluten & Dairy Free Veggie Burgers
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.
Italian Inspired Veggie Burgers
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): 120 calories, 6 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 330 mg sodium, 8 g carbs (3 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 11 g protein
Mamma Mia! Why Morningstar chooses to add ingredients like methylcellulose (aka wood pulp) is beyond us. Sticking to a plant-based diet should mean you're less likely to run into these common ultra-processed additives Plus, they went from having 6 grams of fiber to a measly 3 grams. Grab Dr. Praeger's burger off the shelf; this option is full of veggies and flavorful spices that will please your taste buds.
Tofu-Based Veggie Burgers
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
Hodo Tofu Veggie Burger
Per 4 oz patty (113 g): 190 calories, 8 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 390 mg sodium, 11 g carbs (8 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 19 g protein
There are no bad options when you're buying a tofu veggie burger. Tofu burgers are some of the best replacements for beef burgers because soybeans contain all 9 essential amino acids, same as meat. (It's what makes it one of the best vegan foods!) With Upton's Naturals, you get the most protein bang for your buck (an impressive 22 grams!). On the other hand, Hodo will fill you up with 30 percent of your daily value of fiber from whole carrots, cabbage, and onions.
Texas BBQ Style Veggie Burgers
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; however, there's nothing wrong with the ingredients in this burger, so if you're looking for a patty of veggies, Dr. Praeger's is a solid choice.
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.
Indian Inspired Veggie Burgers
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.
Fast Food Veggie Burgers
Burger King Morning Star Farms Veggie Burger
Per burger: 390 calories, 17 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 980 mg sodium, 41 g carbs (5 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 21 g protein
Carl's Jr. Beyond Famous Star With Cheese
Per burger: 710 calories, 40 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 1,550 mg sodium, 61 g carbs (5 g fiber, 12 g sugar), 30 g protein
While BK is currently serving up their not-terrible-for-you MorningStar Farms® Garden Veggie Patty, they plan to switch over to the Impossible Whopper by the end of 2019, CNN reports. Until then, their offering still beats out Impossible Burger's biggest competitor, The Beyond Burger, which is used by Carl's Jr. It's probably because Carl's Jr. adds both mayo and special sauce to their veggie patty, bringing it 320 calories higher than Burger King's offering. If you want to get your Impossible Burger fix at fast food chains now, you can also head over to White Castle, which is serving up an Impossible Slider With Smoked Cheddar Cheese for 240 calories 14 grams of fat and 11 grams of protein.
Chain Restaurant Veggie Burgers
Denny's Build Your Own Veggie Burger, no sides
Per burger (with Cheddar cheese and All-American sauce): 805 calories, 46.5 g fat (11 g saturated fat), 1,435 mg sodium, 77 g carbs (16 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 21 g protein
TGI Fridays The Beyond Meat® Cheeseburger, no sides
Per burger: 890 calories, 57 g fat (24 g saturated fat), 3,350 mg sodium, 55 g carbs (7 g fiber, 14 g sugar), 45 g protein
In true TGI Friday's fashion, they've managed to turn a very good thing (a veggie burger) into a very bad thing. In this case, the burger alone will cost you 1,000 milligrams over a day's worth of sodium and more than double than what you'd find in Denny's veggie burger. The only thing you're missing out on in Denny's option is twice the protein. Denny's veggie burger offers an impressive 16 grams of fiber, or over half your day's worth of the good-for-you nutrient.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on July 22, 2016 and has since been updated to reflect current nutritional values.
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