Veggie burgers can be delicious—but they’re not all created equal. The lovingly crafted plant-based patties you get from a restaurant that knows what they’re doing are so satisfying and delicious. And if you’re willing to put in the time to make your own from scratch (a fun project!), they can be awesome, too.
But at times, frozen veggie burgers can be a little…lacking. As someone who hasn’t eaten meat for almost 20 years, I’ve had plenty of experiences with store-bought frozen veggie burgers that are bland, mushy, and dry—especially if their only form of preparation consists of getting tossed into the microwave.
That said, I also writes about food for a living AND know how convenient frozen foods can be when you have a full-time job/family/generally busy life), so I refused to write store-bought veggie burgers off entirely. Surely there had to be at least a few tasty options out there, right? I set off on an at-home taste test to find out. As it turned out, I ended up finding some new faves.
What are veggie burgers made of?
First, before we get into some of the most delicious frozen veggie burgers out there, let’s take a moment to talk about what veggie burgers actually are. Veggie burgers are basically any kind of burger-shaped patty made with plant-based ingredients instead of meat. The OG versions and their descendants typically star vegetables (often finely chopped), beans (at least partially mashed), and whole grains, plus a binder to hold the patties together. In many cases, eggs serve as this binder, but for totally vegan burgers, ingredients like flaxseeds, nut butter, oats, or breadcrumbs play the role, plant-based nutrition expert Rhyan Geiger, RDN, tells SELF. (No extra liquid needed, as it would likely just make the patties mushy or soggy.)
Veggies aren’t always the main event though. Some newer plant-based patties, which are designed to have the taste and texture of meat, are often made with a soy- or pea-protein base, along with added starches or thickeners and flavors or seasonings.
Both types of veggie burgers can be tasty, Geiger says. It just depends on what type of burger experience you’re looking for.
How can you make store-bought frozen veggie burgers taste good?
Store-bought versions definitely can be tasty, but you’ve got to cook them the right away. Adding toppings, sauces, or seasonings is important too.
Rule number one for prep: Do NOT microwave your veggie burger, Geiger says. Even if you’re in a hurry, and even if the box gives instructions for doing so. Nuking will manage to make your patty both mushy and dry at the same time.
Instead? “The best way to cook veggie burgers is in a skillet on the stove or in an air fryer,” Geiger says. Both methods will reward you with a crisp crust on the outside while keeping your patty moist and juicy on the inside. Some sturdy burgers might hold up on a grill, but others will stick to the grates or just fall apart. Figuring out which will do which can sometimes take some trial and error, so on the cookout front, you have to be willing to experiment. (For my taste test, I cooked all my burgers the same way for consistency’s sake: I followed Geiger’s skillet recommendation, using just a drop of olive oil and flipping halfway through.)
Once your burger is cooked to perfection, you’ll want to dress it up. “Adding toppings like tomatoes, pickles, caramelized onions, or avocado are such a great way to make a plant-based burger taste really good,” Geiger says. If you’re not necessarily looking to keep it vegan, a slice of cheese or a slick of sriracha aioli are also top-notch. Finally, consider tucking in something crunchy or leafy. A handful of baby spinach or sprouts will give your burger a little more heft while making it taste fresh.
How to pick the best store-bought veggie burger
After my taste test, where I tried nearly a dozen burgers, I definitely figured out which contenders will be stocking my freezer from here on out. But veggie burgers vary so much in terms of flavor profiles and textures, so even after trying a ton of them, I can’t say for sure which one you’ll like the most.
One thing that is worth keeping in mind when you go shopping, though, is deciding whether you’re looking for a burger that tastes more like beef or more like vegetables. The former is great if you’re looking for a stand-in for meat. These kinds also tend to be higher in protein and have a sturdier texture that tend to hold up better on the grill. The latter is better if you’re craving plant flavors and textures that just so happen to be presented in a round, burger-like shape. They’re not always as protein-packed and may be a little softer or squishier. Knowing which category your burger falls into is definitely the first step towards finding one you love (and avoiding disappointment).
OK! Now let’s look at the best of the best. After sampling a whole host of plant-based patties here are my absolute faves in a whole host of categories.
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