- I tried eight vegan-friendly holiday roasts to see which is the best.
- The original Tofurky roast and the Field Roast Celebration Roast have classic turkey-like flavours and are best eaten with lots of gravy.
- The Tofurky ham-style roast was a big winner with my tasters and could be great for Christmas dinner or an average Tuesday night.
- Whole Foods’ 365 plant-based roast is skippable – I would get the Gardein version instead.
- The Field Roast hazelnut and cranberry roast en croute was the overall winner with its bold seasonal flavours and pastry crust.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Thanksgiving has always been one of my favourite holidays because of its delicious food.
That didn’t change when I became vegan about seven years ago and, if anything, I’ve only spent more time in the kitchen since.
Side dishes are easy enough to adapt to a plant-based diet if you swap in non-dairy butter and nut milk. But if you’re a new vegan, plant-curious, or hosting someone who doesn’t eat meat, you might be stuck on what to do for a centrepiece.
Fortunately, many companies make vegan turkey-like or ham-like roasts for the fall and winter holidays. It’s a nod to tradition, but these roasts aren’t just a sad stand-in for meat â€” some of them are seriously good.
For the sake of culinary science, I made eight different vegan holiday roasts so that I could compare them side-by-side.
Here are my findings regarding the cooking process, taste, and texture of each:
The original Tofurky roast is a tradition in and of itself
The original meatless roast, Tofurky made its big debut when it hit stores in 1995, giving vegetarians and vegans a new option for their turkey-free holidays.
The 26-ounce plant-based roast made primarily of soy and seitan, which is meant to mimic meat and contains a wild-rice stuffing, cost me $US13.99 at Sprouts.
This pack doesn’t contain gravy, but Tofurky sells meal kits that include both the roast and a vegan gravy, or even a whole “feast” that includes a dessert as well. Although the roast appears to be pretty small, it’s actually quite dense.
It was pretty easy to cook, though it did need time to thaw. The instructions suggested thawing it for 24 hours in the refrigerator, but the package said you can use a hot water bath if you’re in a pinch.
All of the roasts, including the Tofurky original, are basically cooked the same way: Remove the plastic casing, cover with foil and bake in the oven so it heats, then cook it uncovered for another 10 to 15 minutes to brown.
Tofurky needs to be basted when you first put it in the oven and about an hour and 15 minutes later after you uncover it. The box has various suggestions for making a homemade baste out of common pantry items, and I used a mix of olive oil, mushroom broth, and spices.
The original Tofurky took about an hour and 25 minutes total to bake. I cooked it on its own for the sake of this experiment, but normally I’d surround the roast with hearty vegetables, like carrots and potatoes, for added moisture and flavour.
Since I was cooking with a flat baking sheet rather than a roast pan, I shaped the aluminium foil covering into a little boat to hold the basting liquid close to the roast.
When my roommates and I dug into the final product, there were pros and cons.
We found the texture a little tough, but overall the taste was quite good â€” meaty, savoury, and comforting â€” though a bit salty. Tofurky is a classic, and I imagine many longtime vegetarians and vegans have a special place for it in their hearts as I do.
My recommendation is to slice the roast as thinly as you can for optimal bite texture and, if you’re sensitive to salt, be mindful of how much of it you use in your baste.
Like actual turkey, this can be a little on the dry side, so be sure to serve with gravy and/or cranberry sauce.
The Tofurky ham was new to me, and a strong contender
I’ve had the original Tofurky roast many times, but I had never tried its beer-glazed ham-style roast. The 19-ounce ham-style roast cost $US13.99 at Sprouts and was even easier to cook.
The package also includes an amber-ale glaze to drizzle over the roast when you uncover it.
This roast doesn’t need to be thawed, making it an even better option for low-stress holidays and spontaneous feasts.
The “ham,” which is also made of a soy and seitan mix, looks fairly similar to the original Tofurky roast but in a deeper pink colour. It also comes with a net around it.
If you thaw the roast first, as I did, it cooks in a total of an hour and a half. Like the original, it’s baked covered with foil in the oven for an hour and 15 minutes, then uncovered and baked for 15 more.
This glaze was delicious â€” sweet, tangy, and rich, dripping over a moist and flavorful vegan “ham.” This roast was a hit with my roommates and I’d gladly eat it again â€” maybe even for a regular weekday dinner.
We found the Field Roast Celebration Roast to be pretty similar to the classic Tofurky
Field Roast’s holiday roasts tend to be pretty well-received in my family, so I had high expectations for this one.
Being the smallest roast, this one predictably cooked the fastest and was about as easy, if not easier, to prepare than the previous ones. Technically, you don’t even need to cook it â€” according to the package, you can slice it and eat it cold.
If you do cook it, it doesn’t need to be covered. Simply place in a roasting pan, baste (I used the same mushroom broth, olive oil, and seasoning mixture as before), and cook for 30 to 40 minutes.
I’ve had this one before, but it tastes more similar to the classic Tofurky roast than I remembered.
This is surprising because the Field Roast (which is, notably for those with allergies, soy-free) has a pretty different ingredient makeup with its blend of seitan and vegetables.
Somehow it managed to have a good, turkey-like flavour, similar to the Tofurky, but with a slightly softer texture. I would also recommend pairing gravy and/or cranberry sauce with this roast to help make it moister.
The Field Roast hazelnut cranberry roast en croute is a personal favourite of mine
In addition to its large and small Celebration Roasts, the brand Field Roast makes a 32-ounce pastry-encrusted hazelnut cranberry roast that’s been my holiday go-to for the last few years. I got mine for $US19.99 at Sprouts.
Once thawed, the roast took an hour to cook â€” 45 minutes covered, 15 minutes uncovered. It doesn’t require basting because it’s wrapped in puff pastry.
My only word of advice here is that when the instructions say to cover the loaf loosely with foil, they mean it. I wrapped my roast a little too tightly and some of the puff pastry got stuck to the foil.
The puff pastry didn’t really rise for me or get a golden look, but I was able to confirm that I still really like this loaf.
The carb coating gives this roast an obvious advantage, and its delicious filling is a blend of seitan, cranberries, and hazelnuts.
Unlike the other roasts, this one isn’t trying to stand in for meat as it is just vaguely suggesting that it’s a traditional holiday roast.
I think that’s exactly why I like it â€” although seitan is the primary ingredient, the cranberry and hazelnut flavours boldly come through, making this loaf sweet, tangy, nutty, savoury, and complex.
Vegetarian Plus has a vegan turkey roll and ham roll, which were very different from the rest
The 16-ounce turkey roll cost me $US23.99 at Sprouts, making it one of the most expensive options on this list. It also included a sizable packet of cinnaberry glaze.
This turkey-esque roast cooks similarly to the others: Set on a lightly oiled sheet and bake for 45 minutes covered with aluminium foil, then another 10 minutes without.
It needs to be thawed first, but you can do so by placing the still-wrapped loaf in a hot water bath if you’re short on time. The outside is encrusted with spices, so basting isn’t necessary.
The instructions recommend heating the cinnaberry glaze on the stovetop, but microwaving it in a glass container worked just fine.
Take note: within the plastic wrapping, the roll itself is covered with netting and clips that aren’t mentioned in the instructions. I didn’t see them amidst the pepper crust until after cooking, so be sure to remove those before serving.
I wasn’t a fan of this roast for one main reason: the spice rub on the outside was too aggressively black peppery for my taste, although if you like pepper, it might be right up your alley. The flavour of the inside of the roll was pretty good, if mild.
It was the same kind of soft wheat and soy meat that I’ve encountered in casual vegan restaurants before, and I don’t mind it, but my roommates didn’t care much for it.
The cinnaberry glaze, as you might expect, is a very cinnamony cranberry sauce and I really liked it both on the “turkey” and on its own.
The ham roll was very similar to the turkey version
This roughly 40-ounce roast was the most expensive one I picked up, retailing at $US24.99 from Sprouts.
Once I opened it up and realised how huge it was, though, it seemed like a good value. The size is definitely a factor worth considering if you’re hoping to feed a lot of people. It also comes with a sticky-sweet apricot-plum glaze that I heated in the microwave.
It’s meant to be placed on a lightly oiled baking tray and covered with aluminium foil, baked for an hour and 10 minutes, then uncovered and glazed every five minutes for 20 more minutes.
Because of the glazing and re-glazing, this one was the most labour-intensive, though not by much. I used a spatula to pick up and re-drip the fallen sauce, keep as much of the reddish glaze as possible on the roast itself.
The large roll took about an hour and a half total to cook after it was thawed.
To my vegan eyes, this roast’s appearance was pretty ham-like since it was very smooth and pink.
The flavour of this one was almost identical to the interior of the Vegetarian Plus turkey roll, though maybe a little richer.
Again, I liked this a little more than my roommates did, but we all agreed it would be better to incorporate this roll into fried rice and other leftovers rather than eat it on its own.
I was excited to try the Gardein holiday roast
I regularly eat Gardein’s vegan “meat” products when I’m craving something specific, so I had high hopes for the brand’s holiday roast, which I had never tried before.
The 40-ounce roast cost $US12.59 at Whole Foods and came with four convenient packets of frozen gravy.
This roast has a breaded exterior, so basting is not necessary. Its total cook time, according to package directions, is an hour and 20 minutes, and it’s meant to be cooked from frozen.
I’m not sure what I expected, but I was pleasantly surprised by the finished product.
The roast was lightly crispy and golden brown on the outside with a soft and adequately moist interior and vegetable stuffing.
Its mild flavour tastes of familiar flavours like carrot and celery, thanks to the stuffing. The gravy was delicious too, and a perfect pair for the roast.
I thought it tasted like the definition of comfort food, and my roommates largely agreed. I would certainly consider buying this one again.
The 365 meatless plant-based roast was just OK
I discovered this roast at the last minute and was eager to try it since thrifty shoppers often flock to store-brand products for a deal.
The 32-ounce roast cost $US11.99 at Whole Foods and comes with its own gravy in two frozen packets.
Upon unboxing, it became clear that this roast was very similar to the Gardein one with its breadcrumb-crusted exterior, vegetable stuffing, and gravy for serving.
The roast took just under 70 minutes to cook.
The roast was definitely similar to the Gardein one â€”soft, comforting, vegetal, mild â€” albeit a little less flavorful, in my opinion.
I’d consider the roast itself pretty middle-of-the-road, not amazing or terrible, but the gravy was a different story. For some reason, it really rubbed me and both of my roommates the wrong way. It was sort of thin, sort of chicken-y, and didn’t go well with the roast at all.
If you purchase this kit, I would recommend making or buying another gravy instead of using the one that’s included.
The verdict: You can’t go wrong with the pastry-covered roast
Even though the Field Roast hazelnut cranberry roast didn’t come out perfectly golden brown, it’s still my favourite store-bought roast.
The flavours are bright and seasonal, and there’s crusty, flaky pastry involved. It’s moist enough that you don’t necessarily need gravy or sauce, although I’d still recommend adding some to amp up the delicious flavours.
The Gardein holiday roast was a close second that I can’t wait to dig back into.
Overall, most of these roasts were really simple to prepare. And, with the exception of the breaded and pastry-crusted roasts, I think they would be lovely roasted with some carrots, potatoes, or other vegetables and herbs of your choice.
As a host, I have my aforementioned preference, but as a guest, I’d honestly be happy to be served any of these roasts for a holiday dinner.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.