Growing up as a vegetarian 20 years ago, there weren’t many different meat alternatives on the market. I remember a lot of Morningstar Farms, and that was pretty much it. Nowadays, there are so many different options, and it makes my vegetarian heart happy. I remember being scared to go on field trips in school, because I didn’t know if I would be able to eat lunch at whatever restaurant the bus would stop at. While not all food chains have options yet, I see exciting things brewing in the news. It’s awesome to know that young vegetarians don’t have to be as anxious about their lifestyle as I was. (Don’t misunderstand me though, I wouldn’t change the way I was brought up for the world).
Even though there are a lot of fun meat alternatives both in restaurants and grocery stores, I do try to eat heavily processed foods in moderation. Most of the protein from my diet comes from more whole sources like tofu, tempeh, lentils, soy curls, and beans; however, sometimes I just want to mix things up and have an easy meal. The meatless section at the grocery store can be overwhelming. With how expensive meat alternatives can be, I don’t want to waste money on ones that I don’t love.
I thought I would review different products and compare them in case you are curious like me. Meatless chicken products are definitely my favorite kind of alternative, so that’s where I wanted to start! I have very little experience tasting real chicken, as I’ve been a vegetarian almost my whole life (all but a couple of years in the college/newlywed era). Even in those “experimental” years, I didn’t eat meat at all and never beef. Therefore, I wanted to be sure to include my husband’s thoughts too, as he has only been a vegetarian for about 2.5 years.
Most of my groceries have been purchased online and picked up curbside for the past two years, and that has made it harder to look for new products. Also, some of the items that I’ve ordered have repeatedly been out of stock. Thus, I am going to treat this as an evergreen post. As I find and try different products, I’ll add them to the list. If I make an update, I’ll be sure to make a note about it on my Instagram page @its.just.that.c.z .
Let me preface these reviews by saying that:
- I don’t have a microwave, so all of the nuggets were either baked or air fried. From experience, choosing to bake over microwave is a game changer, especially when it comes to the breading.
- All prices are from my local stores (mainly Kroger). To be honest, I usually buy whichever brand is on sale or what I have a coupon for.
- And as far as servings sizes go… we always finish a box off between the two of us.
- These are just our initial opinions from right after we ate them.
Incogmeato by Morningstar Farms
Regularly priced at $6.39 for 4.5 servings
$1.42 per serving
- Breading: really good and crisp
- Flavor: like a regular chicken nugget
- Texture: a little softer than an actual chicken nugget
- Breading: agreed, really good and crisp
- Flavor: buttery
- Texture: soft with a little chewiness
I am not sure how these differ from the original Morningstar Farms nuggets (or if they even do), but I think baking these makes a big difference. I was surprised how much I liked them! They aren’t the most realistic, but I think they have the most buttery taste.
Regularly priced at $3.99 for 2.5 servings
$1.60 per serving
Contain egg and milk but no soy
- Breading: nice and crisp
- Texture: perfectly tender
- Breading: have a tendency to separate from the middle of the nugget
- Flavor: have a little twang at the end
- Texture: crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. It is slightly more grainy on the inside than a regular chicken nugget.
These are a great non-soy option if you are okay with the milk and eggs. They have a unique taste that isn’t quite like real chicken (probably from the Mycoprotein- a fungal protein), but I happen to like it.
Simulate Chicken Nuggs
Regularly priced at $5.49 for 3.5 servings
$1.57 per serving
- Breading: nice, crispy outside
- Flavor: like a thin chicken nugget from McDonalds
- Texture: not very meaty, kind of thin. Don’t have much in them
- Breading: like a battered onion ring
- Flavor: buttery taste with a slight twang at the end
- Texture: not much flakiness on the inside
Overall, they seemed the cheapest to me because of how thin they were. Out of all of them, these would probably be the only ones too tough for my son to eat easily.
Regularly priced at $7.99 for 4.5 servings
$1.78 per serving
- Breading: not as crunchy as some of the others
- Texture: very realistic
- Flavor: not as buttery as I thought they would be
- Texture: much thicker on the inside than the others. More chewy and realistic on the inside.
These are hands-down the most realistic nuggets that I have had. If that is your barometer for success, they would be the best.
Regularly priced at $3.79 for 3.5 servings
$1.08 per serving
- Breading: reminds him of Noodles and Company parmesan crusted chicken
- Flavor: one of the better tasting ones
- Texture: not very “chicken nuggety”
- Flavor: these are the most basic tasting ones I’ve had.
- Texture: soft in the middle. Not the thickest and not the thinnest
My husband and I were a little divided on this one. This is the cheapest option, and they are good for the price!
So according to the reviews thus far, my husband’s favorite is the Quorn nuggets, and my favorite is the Morningstar Farms Incogmeato. Honestly, going into this review, I really thought my favorite was going to be the Gardein Ultimate nuggets, because I had had them in the tender form before; however, I think I like them as the tender better! That said, if you are wanting the most realistic nugget, the Gardein Ultimate ones are the way to go for sure.
- Most realistic: Gardein Ultimate Nuggets
- Best tasting to me: Morningstar Farms Incogmeato
- Best tasting to my husband: Quorn Meatless Nuggets
- Best price per serving: Boca Original Chik’n Veggie Nuggets
Like I said, I hope to keep adding to this list. I want to try the Impossible nuggets, but I haven’t been able to get my hands on them. Let me know if there are any other brands you are curious about and if there are other kinds of products that you would like me to review! Maybe beef crumbles or restaurant meals?
Follow along at @its.just.that.c.z for more!