While we all know the healthiest vegan diet is one based on whole, nutritious foods, life is about balance. Sometimes you want to be able to eat a familiar food on a bun at a backyard barbecue, or you’re really craving a dish your grandma used to make when you were a kid. For many people, sausage is one of those foods.
Vegan sausage has come a long way, and many brands have a chewy, “meaty” texture that’s perfect on the grill or fried up next to your tofu scramble. Available in many flavors and shapes, they’re also a great source of plant-based protein.
Read on to learn more about our favorite vegan-friendly brands for your next brunch, backyard cookout, or easy weeknight dinner.
Tofurky Italian Sausage
When I get an invitation to a tailgate or a barbecue, the first thing I’m sure to pick up is a pack of Tofurky sausages. The sausages are available in plump beer brats, Italian sundried tomato, and Polish kielbasa, as well as an artisan line that includes things like Andouille (perfect for veganizing your favorite gumbo recipe), spinach pesto, and chick’n apple.
Each Tofurky sausage link contains roughly 280 calories and 25-30g of protein, making it a nutritious addition to a meal for vegans and non-vegans alike. With vital wheat gluten as an essential ingredient, the sausages have a chewy texture pleasant even for omnivores.
When it comes to texture, Tofurky sausages are best used where a firm, solid product is needed – this is the product to pick up when you’re grilling, or need perfect, chewy rounds of sausage in a dish. It doesn’t crumble easily – its true strength is standing up to the grill or the frying pan, and snuggling perfectly into a bun for a vegan-friendly gameday favorite.
What We Liked
This is a perfect “meaty” vegan sausage, standing up well on its own in a bun with traditional toppings. Additionally, the flavors are spot-on – complex, lightly spiced, and savory. If you were a grilled sausage lover in your omnivorous life, or are looking for some very satisfying umami flavor, this is a great product to try.
What We Didn’t Like
These sausages have a high sodium content, which makes them unsuitable for those with heart conditions or who are looking for low sodium foods.
Field Roast Sausages
Made in small batches with techniques borrowed from traditional sausage making, Field Roast sausage links are another pick perfect for the grill.
Available in Italian (eggplant, red wine, garlic, and fennel), Mexican chipotle (a pepper blend, garlic, onions, cumin, and oregano), and smoked apple sage (granny smith apples, Yukon gold potatoes, sage, and ginger), the brand makes itself available to a variety of dishes and cuisines.
At about 250 calories and 25g protein per link, these sausages are a great source of plant-based protein and nutrition.
Field Roast sausages also have a familiar crumbly texture, as opposed to some vegan meat alternatives that tend to have a one-dimensional texture. It pairs well with other familiar, comforting foods, like mashed potatoes and corn.
What We Liked
For a processed vegan food, Field Roast has a great, recognizable ingredient list. It’s a great option for people with allergies or sensitivities to soy, as well as those who want to make healthier choices, even when it comes to processed and ready-to-eat foods.
What We Didn’t Like
Some reviewers note that the flavoring in Field Roast sausages is a little too strong – for example, while the fennel in the Italian sausages is reminiscent of traditional Italian sausages, some thought they were a little too liberal with fennel, even for those who like fennel.
Light Life Foods Smart Sausage
Lightlife offers two types of sausage to take you from breakfast to dinner – their Gimme Lean veggie sausage makes an ideal accompaniment to your tofu scramble, while the sausage links can be grilled and placed in a bun, or sauteed to eat with pasta or mashed potatoes.
The Gimme Lean breakfast sausage is made from mostly soy products and can be sliced into patties or crumbled into scrambles. It is lightly spiced, but the flavor is mostly neutral as to blend well with a variety of dishes.
The sausage links are available in three flavors – chorizo, Italian, and harvest apple. All the products are kosher for Passover, as well as non-GMO – which is important since the majority of the ingredients list focuses on soy.
What We Liked
The nutritional panel on these sausages is enviable and is a perfect option for people who are watching their calorie intake. For example, the Gimme Lean breakfast sausage contains a mere 60 calories and 7g of protein per serving.
What We Didn’t Like
Many reviewers note that, visually, Lightlife sausages leave a lot to be desired. They are a little pallid in color, and the texture can feel very “vegan meat,” so they may not be the optimal way to introduce an omnivore to plant-based meats.
Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo
On taco night, the menu calls for a spicy, tangy chorizo that can be easily crumbled into a filling. The Soy Chorizo from Trader Joe’s is a perfect application for this, moving perfectly from packaging to frying pan, and totally packed with flavor. Even my dad, a staunch carnivore, devours Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo when I make it into chili or taco filling.
This is a truly authentic tasting – and feeling – vegan-friendly chorizo, with no cholesterol and 60% less fat than meat-based versions. In addition to applications in tacos and burritos, it’s delicious when added to a tofu scramble for a Tex-Mex twist, or served with potato wedges for a fun alternative to breakfast potatoes.
The Soy Chorizo from Trader Joe’s comes pre-crumbled, so this isn’t a sausage you can lay out on the grill. It’s best for applications where you would use crumbled sausage or ground meats, like taco filling, chili, or as an interesting add-in to dishes like lasagna, casseroles, and scrambles.
In addition to the great taste, the Soy Chorizo from Trader Joe’s features a delightfully short ingredient list of just 8 pronounceable items – textured soy protein, water, oil, vinegar, salt, spices, red pepper, and garlic. It’s also gluten-free so that it can be enjoyed by those with wheat sensitivities or Celiac disease.
What We Liked
The flavor! Just spicy enough to be interesting, well-seasoned, and with a satisfying, meaty mouthfeel, this is a great product for vegans who often cook for omnivores, or who want to impress a group of meat eaters with delicious, satisfying, plant-based dishes.
What We Didn’t Like
While delicious, Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo is high in fat, containing nearly 10g of fat per 140 calorie serving. It’s a great-tasting treat, but those who are consuming lower fat diets should make this a once-in-awhile addition to their diet.
What to Consider When Purchasing Vegan Sausage
While the vegan sausage brands above are our tried-and-true favorites, with an ever-expanding market for meat-free foods, you’re bound to encounter some products “in the wild” that aren’t included in our guide.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you’re searching for your next favorite plant-based sausage.
Type of Sausage
Are you planning to bring your sausages to a barbecue, and char one up to pile into a bun with all kinds of toppings?
Do you need small breakfast sausage links to fry up alongside your scramble and toast?
Or do you need a sausage product that easy to crumble to make into tacos, chilis, or breakfast casseroles?
Think about the type of dish you’re planning to make with your veggie sausage, and choose something whose form allows you to create the taste and texture you need.
What’s Your Flavor?
One of my favorite comfort foods is spaghetti with a tangy tomato sauce and sliced cooked Italian-style sausage. In the case of a certain cuisine, the flavorings of your sausage will need to match – while delicious on its own; a sage-and-apple vegan sausage wouldn’t taste quite right when paired with an Italian-inspired pasta dish.
If you’re looking for a sausage to function as the focal protein to be eaten with side dishes, you can opt for a product that’s as flavorful or as mild as you please. However, certain styles of food, like Italian or Mexican, work best with vegan sausages that share a similar flavor profile.
Lastly, take a look at the ingredients list, especially if you have any allergies or sensitivities. Someone with Celiac disease or a wheat intolerance should opt for a soy-based product, while those with an aversion to soy can choose something to make from vital wheat gluten.
To choose the healthiest option, a shorter ingredient list is better – look for items that contain as few ingredients as possible, which are mostly pronounceable, and contain few preservatives and/or artificial flavors.
Is it Okay to Eat Something Meat-like if I’m Vegan?
An assumption about vegans is that they somehow need to dislike the taste and texture of meat, or that eating a meat amalgam is somehow hypocritical. This simply couldn’t be further from the truth, and it is a common, often unfair attack on people who are simply trying to do what they believe is right.
While some people do go vegan because they dislike the sight or taste of meat, vegans who abstain for ethical or environmental reasons may still love the taste of meat, but know it does not align with their values. Veganism is only abstaining from actual animal products – plant-based substitutes are perfectly acceptable under this definition.
Additionally, the purchase of plant-based meat substitutes furthers the vegan cause. By opting for a plant-based alternative when you would have formerly purchased meat, dairy, or eggs, you are signaling to businesses that there is demand for these kinds of products – that their profits would be affected if they were to sell a vegan-friendly product.
Voting with our dollars is the single most effective way to create change in the marketplace, and in the world.
If you’re a vegan who still drools at the sight of a slightly-charred sausage on the grill, it’s okay – none of this makes you “less” of a vegan. By choosing a plant-based sausage, you’re feeding yourself the food you crave while furthering the cause and staying aligned with your values – everyone wins!
Guilt-Free Tasty Vegan Sausage
Just because you’re forgoing animal products doesn’t mean you can’t participate in beloved traditions like a sausage at a football game, or flavorful italian sausage in Nonna’s tomato sauce.
By replacing meat-based sausages with plant-based alternatives, you’re not only making a kinder choice for the animals and our planet, but you’re signaling demand in the market for vegan-friendly products. Many of these products are delicious additions to your own diet, as well as a good way to introduce meat-eating friends and family to plant-based cooking.