First, the obvious: The best veggie burger is homemade. By doing it yourself, you skip the preservatives, corn starch, and soy flour, and use only ingredients that actually grow in our garden. Indeed, the biggest complaint in our taste test of frozen veggie burgers was that they lacked, well, vegetables. Still, for the most part, these burgers have steadily improved over the years, and are a far cry from the soy hockey pucks you found when they first flooded the freezer section in the 90s.
In this test, we found the burgers fell roughly into three classes: Those that try to act (and taste) like meat; those that taste like black beans; and those bursting with vegetables. Here, from our extensive taste test,* are the standout burgers to buy.
Best in Show: Dr. Praeger’s California
Main Ingredients: Carrots, Onions, String Beans
You can see the vegetables in this burger, with noticeable peas and carrots and soy beans held together just enough for this burger to not be a mess. In all, it tastes mildly of vegetables, like broccoli, but like any great homemade veggie burger, it falls into its own category of food — somewhere between a potato pancake, steak, and veggie stew.
Most Hearty: Lightlife Black Bean Smart Patties
Main Ingredients: Soy flour, black beans
These burgers are dense, somewhat toothsome, and chewy — and worthy as a main course. While they have the texture of meat, the flavor is strongly black beans, with just a hint of spice. It’s an ideal burger to go on the grill and to be loaded with condiments.
Best Use of Mushroom: Amy’s California
Main Ingredients: (All organic) Mushrooms, onions, bulgur wheat
Amy’s Californian gives a wallop of umami flavor, thanks to the mushrooms, garlic, and loads of salt (some 500 mg sodium per serving). While we’d rather not pile it with more salty condiments, it is the perfect burger to crumble atop a salad.
Best in Beans: Hilary’s Eat Well Black Rice Burger
Main Ingredient: Adzuki Beans, Brown Rice
From the frying pan, Hilary’s black rice burger has the best texture of the lot — extra crispy on the outside and a uniform paste on inside, with little pieces of quinoa to provide an extra nice crunch. While like so many other options there is a noticeable bean flavor, it is nicely balanced with leafy greens and sweet potato and with just a hint of spice.
Most Unique: Hillary’s Eat Well Root Veggie Burger
Main Ingredients: Millet, Turnips, Sweet Potatoes
This crispy burger is coated with bread crumb-like millet, leaving it crunchy and firm with a mild, root vegetable flavor. If you’re tired of the usual bean-flavored veggie burger, this is your burger.
Most Meat-Like: MorningStar Grillers Prime
Main Ingredients: Wheat Gluten Soy Protein
Some people — and even great chefs — see the McDonald’s hamburgers as that quintessential patty. If that’s the case, this is the quintessential veggie burger — chewy and textured, slightly smoky and the right platform for condiments.
*All burgers below were made on a lightly oiled skillet. Some would work on the grill; others may fall apart.