When it comes to vegetarian burgers, you’ve got a few choices: there are vegetables in the shape of burgers, soy’s attempt at being meat, or pea protein patties. In this review, we’re focusing on the latter.
Because they’re brilliant.
I should point out before any meat eaters leave this post that they taste nothing like pea. Of all the meat alternatives we’ve tried, pea protein comes the closest to resembling beef. But like all food, there are good and bad products, so how do you know which burger to buy?
The easiest way is to just go for it and try them. The worst that could happen is you don’t like them and your money is spent on an experiment rather than a meal. Try not to be put off if the first one you have isn’t for you, though. As you’ll see in this post, not all pea protein burgers are made equal.
Reasons to try meat alternative burgers:
- better for the environment: beef is one of the worst meats for carbon contribution.
- no animals harmed
- no gristle or grease
- something new to try
- why not?
This review should be a good starting point to convince you to try a plant-based burger. Below, I look at three of the best meat alternative burgers Tesco has to offer, from their nutritional value through to their overall meaty looks, tastes and textures.
A fair experiment
We have tried each of these burgers on multiple occasions, because we genuinely enjoy all of them. Each was cooked in a cast iron pan and served with chips or wedges, toasted brioche buns, and one of the below options:
- spinach, fried onions, BBQ sauce
- Annie’s Burger Shack’s Kogumaza-inspired peanut satay sauce and fried onions
- rocket, cheese, fried onions, ketchup and mustard.
Disclaimers: I’ve been a meat eater for as long as I’ve been on solid foods (twenty-something years), so I like to think I know a good alternative meat when I eat one.
Also, I am in no way sponsored by any individual or corporate entity – I just have a lot of opinions about food.
If you’ve heard of pea protein burgers, then you’ve probably heard of the brand Beyond Meat.
We had too, so when we saw them in Tesco’s freezer aisle (pre-pandemic), we thought we’d give them a go. At £5 for two, this was more than we’d normally pay for two burgers, but we just had to try them.
And we were so glad we did. This was our first experience of a pea protein burger, and boy did we set the bar high.
Taste and texture
From the very first through to the latest time we’ve eaten a Beyond burger, we finish eating and look at each other in wonder.
These are so good!
It’s astounding how close this seems to real meat. Not only in taste, but the crisp outer layer and the airy inner texture is almost that of a meat burger – this is the closest resemblance to meat that we’ve had from any pea protein burger.
It even looks like a meat burger –
I genuinely think that if you gave a Beyond to some unsuspecting omnivore, they’d think it was a beef burger. I know I would have.
In fact, I’d go as far as to say I prefer Beyond’s burgers to their processed meat predecessors. Hear me out:
Not only is the taste almost on par, but you lose the grease, the “I need a salad now” feeling after eating it, and the potential for a lump of gristle that puts you off burgers for a while.
And, you know, it’s not made with animal.
Everything that ever put me off a burger isn’t even a possibility with plant-based burgers.
Other products we tried: Beyond hot dogs, which although aren’t as close to their meat counterpart as the burgers are, were still tasty.
Nutritional value per 100g
|Energy||1047kJ / 252kcal|
|of which saturates||5.6g|
|of which sugars||0.0g|
Pea protein – rapeseed oil – coconut oil – rice protein – potato starch – apple extract – pomegranate extract – salt – concentrated lemon juice – maize vinegar – carrot powder – flavouring – stabiliser – colour – potassium chloride – emulsifier
Beyond burgers come in plastic trays with plastic film and either a cardboard sleeve or a sticky label, depending on whether you buy frozen or refrigerated.
Obviously, this isn’t ideal. The packaging says ‘check local’, but doesn’t actually provide a recycling grade, meaning the only thing you’ll be able to recycle here is the cardboard sleeve.
Frozen: £2.50 or £1.75 Clubcard price
After being stunned by Beyond, we decided to try some of Tesco’s cheaper offerings to see how they compared.
Where Beyond surprised us with being a good substitute for meat, Green Cuisine surprised us with how close to Beyond they are for the price.
We have regularly returned to these burgers as a cheap burger night option when Beyond’s expensive price feels unjustifiable.
Taste and texture
For a relatively cheap burger, Birds Eye’s Green Cuisine is still delicious. It’s not quite as close to the taste and texture of real meat as Beyond is, but it’s still totally enjoyable in its own merit.
This burger is slightly softer on the outside and more compact on the inside, meaning it doesn’t crisp up as much and is moister to chew. Plus of course, it has all the benefits that not being meat brings.
Other products we tried: Green Cuisine meatballs, which tasted very similar to their burger patties and worked well with spaghetti.
Nutritional value per 100g
|Energy||985kJ / 238kcal|
|of which saturates||1.3g|
|of which sugars||1.1g|
Pea protein – rapeseed oil – onion – bamboo fibre – pea flour – spirit vinegar – tomato paste – salt – pea fibre – wholegrain oat flour – potato starch – tomato powder – mushroom powder – onion powder – herbs – barley malt extract – extract of rosemary – stabiliser – natural flavourings.
A cardboard box. Simple, sleek, easy to recycle. It can be done!
Tesco’s Plant Chef
Plant Chef’s burgers, we decided, are just as good as Birds Eye’s Green Cuisine, only cheaper.
However, this was without considering the packaging, ingredients and nutritional info.
Now, armed with this knowledge, I can’t recommend them.
Taste and texture
We preferred the taste (just slightly) of the Plant Chef burgers over the Green Cuisine ones. The texture is about the same, if not slightly wetter. As you can see from the cross-section image below, the cheaper alternatives look and feel less like meat than Beyond:
Nutritional value per 100g
|Energy||806kJ / 192kcal|
|of which saturates||3.2g|
|of which sugars||2.5g|
Water – roasted onion – palm oil – textured pea protein – rice flour – pea protein – maize flour – sunflower oil – salt – caramelised sugar powder – beetroot powder – black pepper – maize starch – white pepper – mace – parsley – dried onion – potato dextrin – maize dextrin – flavouring – stabiliser – emulsifiers – dextrose.
Plant Chef have similar packaging to Beyond: plastic tray, plastic film, cardboard sleeve. However, the plastic tray should be recyclable from home, as it is PET (1) grade – the most recyclable.
Although the Beyond Meat burgers are the most expensive, I think they’re better value for money. At full price, we would only buy these burgers as an occasional treat meal.
For a cheap and quick burger night at home, I would choose the Birds Eye Green Cuisine patties. With the lowest price at £1.50, I would have recommended the Plant Chef burgers, but the nutritional value and ingredients sections below will explain why I haven’t…
As a comparison to meat, Tesco’s cheap (and rubbish) 4-pack of quarter pounders is £2.24.
Taste and Texture
As far as taste and texture goes, the Beyond burger is a tier above the rest, and this is reflected in the price. Your eyes will see meat. Your mouth will believe you’re eating meat. Your tastebuds should be convinced enough.
However, this doesn’t mean that the cheaper burgers aren’t good. The difference between the aptly named Beyond and the rest is like having a Five Guys instead of a McDonalds. And who doesn’t crave a McDonalds from time to time?
We absolutely enjoy every pea protein burger we eat – even look forward to them!
Burger nights in our house used to be a rarity – now they’re a given.
|Per 100g||Beyond Meat|
113g per burger
100g per burger
113g per burger
|Tesco Beef Quarter Pounders|
88g per burger
|Energy||1047kJ / 252kcal||958kJ / 238kcal||806kJ / 192kcal||1265kJ / 269kcal|
|of which saturates||5.6g||1.3g||3.2g||11.0g|
|of which sugars||0.0g||1.1g||2.5g||0.6g|
Bearing in mind the different sizes of the burgers above, each of the plant burgers are of similar nutritional value. The only real difference between them are Plant Chef’s high fibre over fat ratio when compared to the other two, which shows in the calories and explains why they’re so much cheaper.
Another point of interest is the protein content in Beyond Meat’s burgers. They have more protein than Tesco’s cheap beef burgers, with almost half the saturates!
I don’t have much to say about the different ingredients in these burgers, but since writing this blog post, I have noticed one unfortunate listing –
Perhaps this palm oil is sustainably sourced, but if it is, Tesco doesn’t state so anywhere. And these burgers aren’t the only product in the Plant Chef range to use palm oil.
The fact that the other burgers in this review are made with rapeseed oil and / or coconut oil and are just as good (if not better) makes this use of palm oil seem unnecessary.
If you don’t know why palm oil is so awful for the environment (outside of destroying habitats), read about the University of Nottingham’s research into the damaging process of preparing land for palm oil.
The Plant Chef burgers would have been our second choice, but until we know for sure that Tesco’s palm oil is sustainably sourced, I will no longer be buying them.
Birds Eye have the most eco-friendly packaging, as they only use cardboard. Both Beyond Meat and Plant Chef use recyclable plastic trays with non-recyclable film, but Beyond’s plastic tray is the hardest to recycle.
It seems with plant-based burgers, as with real burgers, you pay for good quality. And Beyond burgers are completely worth it. So you’ll find that my Best Burger order is also in descending price –
- Beyond Burgers
- Quorn’s Ultimate Burgers (not included in this list because since eating them, they have evaporated from all supermarkets :()
- Birds Eye Green Cuisine
- Plant Chef (because palm oil)
Beyond’s main let-down is their packaging, so let’s hope they’re working to improve it.
So what do you say – will you give a pea protein burger a go? There are cheap enough options that you’re at no real loss if you don’t enjoy them, and if you do, it may just change your opinion of meat alternatives.
Have you fallen in love with a meat alternative burger that isn’t on this list? Let us know in the comments below!