Our Power Ranking of All the Popular Vegan Roasts at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s
We tried all of these vegan (and one vegetarian) alternatives to roast turkey to steer you to the best option for your Thanksgiving dinner
My best friend and my husband are both vegetarians, so our Thanksgiving table always hosts a delicious, protein-packed main dish for them. Usually, this comes in the format of a “roast” or a spin on a “turkey.” These are not your Tofurkeys of yore—vegetarian brands have really upped their game when it comes to flavor, texture and taste, and Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have responded by featuring them front and center in their holiday sections. We’ve tried all the roasts—here are a few of our favorites, ranked from most to least preferred.
Gardein Holiday Roast
Gardein, whose crispy chik’n and barbecue tenders are always in our freezer for busy weekday nights, was the winner of the vegan turkey contest with their Holiday Roast. Appearance-wise, this even looks like turkey, and definitely won on presentation against the other roasts. The meatless turk’y is moist, the crust is crispy and perfectly spiced, and the stuffing with kale, cranberry, and wild rice, though a little too soggy, was passable with the flavorful turk’y. There’s only one major flaw when it comes to this meal: the gravy, which was, shall we say, weak sauce. We found it watery, not salty enough, and flavorless. We ended up making our own vegan gravy to complement their moist meatless turk’y. At 40 ounces for $17.99, this is your main affair.
Trader Joe’s Breaded Turkey-less Stuffed Roast with Gravy
The folks at TJ’s get it when it comes to what nostalgic yet forward-thinking, trend-obsessed millennials want—I mean, have you listened to their podcast? They’re as obsessed with fusion-y snacks and campy holiday treats as we are (they currently have over 400 holiday-related products in their stores, most of which seem to be s’more-, peppermint-, mocha-, truffle-, or pumpkin-spice-oriented).
The TJ’s Breaded Turkey-less Stuffed Roast hits all the comfort notes I love with its umami-licious gravy, a flavorful wild rice, tart cranberries, crispy breading, and red pepper flakes. It’s basically a roulade with soy protein, wild rice and cranberries in the middle, wrapped up with a crispy breading on the outside, with lentils and pea flour to amp up the protein. It clocks in at 40 ounces for $12.99. We liked it because it’s easy to slice into the perfect medallion slice per person, as opposed to more “turkey”-shaped options. In fact, we liked it so much we bought two: one for Friendsgiving and one to take to my mom’s house for Thanksgiving.
Quorn Meatless Roast
Despite the Quorn Meatless Roast‘s confusing appearance straight out of the box (it more strongly resembles a tube of polenta than anything else), when sliced into medallions and accompanied by one of Sunset‘s vegan Thanksgiving sides or Quorn’s own festively fall suggestion of potatoes, squash, and onions, this is a perfect vegetarian Thanksgiving main for three to four people. If you’re guessing that mushrooms, with their natural umami, are one of the best tools in the vegetarian arsenal, you’re right. Quorn has long been using mycoproteins to add savory flavors to its chicken nuggets and other foods, while giving the necessary protein to make its meals filling.
Because of the mycoproteins, there’s a distinctly meaty texture to this roast that makes the mouthfeel much more pleasurable than a lot of fake meats. The Meatless Roast is 60 percent protein, but it also leans on egg whites and milk proteins—which means it’s not vegan. But the firm texture and turkey-like consistency of this roast, after being cooked in the oven for an hour, makes it worth our time. Quorn chose yeast, onion powder and sage for its flavoring, lending a traditional Thanksgiving turkey flavor. The downside? There’s no gravy included, so you’ll have to make your own or steal some from another roast you buy. The price was on the lower side though, at $7.99 for 16 ounces.
Gardein Savory Stuffed Turk’y
This Gardein version, Savory Stuffed Turk’y, is the mini-me of the Holiday Roast. Two 8-ounce pieces of turky’s and two packs of gravy come inside a small resealable pouch, assuming that you might have one now for a homestyle dinner and save one for later. If you’re not having a big Thanksgiving, and it’s just you and a partner, this might be your answer. The only downside is that this meal offers less presentation because it’s smaller and there are fewer fancy ingredients.
While the Gardein Holiday Roast has kale and wild rice, the Savory Stuffed Turk’y has neither—it’s just a plain, old cranberry sage stuffing. But this meal can be ready in 20 minutes, and the company’s website has even more sides to dress it up, including mashed potatoes, roasted veggies, cranberry chutney, and green beans with cranberries. Plus, if your freezer’s crowded, this one takes up less space than the big Gardein Holiday Roast box. The price is nice at $9.49.
Field Roast Celebration Roast
Field Roast sausages are a favorite of many vegans for their great flavor and texture, but I was utterly confused by their Celebration Roast, which basically felt like the company decided to take a bunch of their sausages, smush them together, and stuff them with more sausage. Though the stuffing was actually bread stuffing, its texture and taste resembled sausage. I could hardly taste the cranberries or butternut squash this loaf supposedly contained, and its appearance was brown and boring.
The flavor, like all Field Roast products, was appropriately seasoned (sage, rosemary, garlic, lemon) with a hint of smokiness, but I’d personally be disappointed if this was my vegan Thanksgiving entree for the evening—it’d feel like just any other night eating Field Roast. This was much more like a dense weeknight meatloaf than a celebratory roast. Its best component? The powdered mushroom gravy, though it required mixing, was our gravy winner. Composed of shiitakes, porcini mushrooms, onion, wheat flour, and flavored yeast, it beat all the other gravies out for flavor. This main is the most expensive, at $23.99 for 32 ounces.