Gone are the days when vegans and vegetarians had to make do with a dry nut roast on Christmas day. With the number of people following a meat-free diet increasing, the supermarkets have seriously upped their game.
In 2021, you’ll find veggie-packed pastry wellingtons, pork-free ‘bacon’ delights and even meat-free “turkey” crowns on shelves. Those nut roasts have improved, too.
With so much choice, it can be tricky to know what to buy. To help, we’ve road-tested some of the new dishes on the block, before you splash the cash.
Tesco Plant Chef No Pork And Cranberry Wellington, £3 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“No pork is like swearing to my bacon-loving family members. But from the first bite there’s a chorus of approving ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ that ends in a squabble for the last slice! There’s no soggy bottoms here. The thyme-sprinkled, lattice puff pastry is light and crisp. The pork, substituted for plant-based soya and wheat protein, is packed full of ‘meaty’ savoury flavour. And topped with a sweet and sticky cranberry sauce it makes for a dreamy combination.
“I really, really enjoy it. So do my husband and kids, saying they are ‘amazed there’s no pork in it’ and admitting they’d be happy tucking into it at Christmas. Proof that this Wellington can convert a hardcore carnivore. And at £3 I can afford to buy a few and avoid any future food fights. A well-deserved five out of five.” – Melanie Grant, audience editor, HuffPost Shopping.
ASDA Extra Special Vegan Turkey Style Joint, £5.00 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“I wasn’t sure what to expect from this Asda Extra Special Vegan Turkey Style Joint, but I have to say that I am pleasantly surprised. The joint, which is made with a base of soya, thyme, sage, and black pepper and came with a Sauvignon Blanc infused gravy, is really quite tasty. It actually looks and smells a lot like traditional turkey – when it’s cooking it creates a lovely herby aroma, not dissimilar to stuffing.
The consistency of the vegan turkey-style joint is fairly similar to meat - it’s slightly softer and a little less flakey than real meat. While the joint doesn’t taste like turkey as such, it does taste like a herby sausage or stuffing parcel and has a really nice flavour, especially when served with all the trimmings (think: roasties, Yorkshire pudding, veggies, cauliflower cheese and all the other must-have Christmas dinner essentials).” – Beth Mahoney, Shopping writer
Vegan Jewelled Roast With A Fruity Centre, Waitrose, £5.99
“This nut roast packs a punch in flavour from the crunch of the sunflower seeds and pine nuts to the sweetness of the caramelised onions and apricots. There’s a hint of seasonal spices, like clove and cinnamon, but they aren’t strong enough to properly distinguish from everything else going on. And there’s a lot going on! I’m surprised at how meaty the roast smells and tastes, so this would definitely be a great alternative for a festive menu.
“I’m not the biggest fan of mushrooms but it isn’t a struggle to get through a slice. I can see the sweeter filling through the centre becoming a bit overwhelming after a slice or two. There are a lot of flavours happening which for me ends up being too much, but if you’re looking for the Winter Wonderland chaos in a nut roast then this works perfectly.” – Nabihah Parkar, audience engagement reporter
Wicked Kitchen No-Turkey Roast Crown, Tesco, £5 (Serves 4) ⭐️⭐️⭐️
“If it looks like turkey, smells like turkey, it must taste like turkey, right? Put this crown on your Christmas table and vegan guests will be well impressed. Turkey-breast shaped and browned-off, this savoury wheat protein crown will look the part surrounded by all the roast trimmings. On scent, I’d give it a 11/10. Topped with a sage and onion stuffing, garlic melt and a bay leaf it smells incredible. But that’s as far as it goes. You can’t taste the herby seasoning through the crown itself. And the sponge-like texture leaves you with a bland, mushy slice.
“Cooled down though, it’s firmer and provides a better bite. The true vegan brigade – of which I’m not – may disagree and be familiar with this taste and texture. My suggestion is to drown it with gravy or jam your fork full with the roast veg or both. At a fiver the price is fair. A crowd-pleasing vegan option.” – Melanie Grant, audience editor, HuffPost Shopping.
M&S Vegan Beef Wellington, £15 ⭐️⭐️⭐️
“Even before I became a veggie, I was never really the biggest beef eater – and I’m not sure I’d rush back to eat this vegan substitute from M&S’ Plant Kitchen either. Don’t get me wrong, this Wellington looks and smells delicious. The pastry tastes amazing – it just melts in your mouth, a hard feat for vegan puff without any butter – but there is something missing when it comes to the filling.
“The texture of the wheat and pea protein alternative feels very similar to eating meat. In fact, it is almost too meaty. I feel it needs more flavouring to stop it tasting quite so stodgy. I definitely could do with more of the mushroom stuffing too, as that is quite difficult to taste amid all the fake beef. I would eat it again – but more for the pastry than anything else.” – Kate Nicholson, senior trends reporter.
The Plant Pioneers No Turkey Crown, Sainsbury’s, £5.50
″ I’m not the biggest fan of regular turkey so I’m already a bit apprehensive. And when the Plant Pioneers crown eventually arrives from Sainsbury’s my apprehension grows. This ‘no turkey’ crown doesn’t look great and the initial smell is also a bit offputting. But after putting it in the oven for 40 minutes, it’s the moment of truth – and it turns out that this ‘no-turkey’ turkey is actually quite yummy.
“It’s seasoned very well and if I close my eyes it feels like I’m eating regular meat. The sage and onion stuffing gives it that Christmas feel and adds to the flavour. I thought I would have hated it, but turns out it’s actually quite nice!” – Habiba Katsha, Life reporter
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.