Beyond Meat sausage on pretzel bun with caramelized onion

Beyond Meat Vegan Sausage Review: Gluten Free, Best Brand?

[toc]El Segundo, California based Beyond Meat is practically our neighbor. That town borders Manhattan Beach, which is where you’ll find us.

They use the local Whole Foods and Veggie Grill as testing grounds for their products. You’ll often see them there, long before they’re sold elsewhere in LA, OC, or nationwide.

As such, we know their products much better – and way before – our NY and East Coast friends.

That includes their sausage – something that you’ve been able to buy here for a while.

The photo you see above is the Beyond bratwurst on a pretzel bun with caramelized onion. We snapped that pic in February 2018, at the Veggie Grill in El Segundo.

Their flagship product, the Beyond Burger, is something we have been eating for years. Likewise for their Beyond Beef and Chicken Strips. So how does their new sausage compare?

Ingredients

The main ingredients in Beyond Meat sausage are water, pea protein isolate, refined coconut oil, and sunflower oil. This is comparable to what their burger patties are made of; water, pea protein isolate, expeller-pressed canola oil, and refined coconut oil.

After those, there’s 2% or less of each ingredient. Things which produce the flavors and help achieve the meaty textures.

Some noteworthy differences between them are the faba bean protein, rice protein, and apple fiber, which you’ll find only in the sausage. The vegan casing is made from calcium alginate, which comes from seaweed.

Only in the burger will you find gum arabic, beet juice extract for that “bleeding” color, and cellulose from bamboo.

Both contain potato starch, which carries some unique safety concerns due to the way it’s processed and cooked (more on that in a minute).

Beyond vegan sausage ingredients

This is the full list of ingredients found in Beyond Meat bratwurst, which is their original flavor. They also make Spicy Italian and Sweet Italian, which differ only in spices and seasonings.

What does vegan sausage taste like?

Despite being 100% plant-based, the Beyond sausage tastes like real pork. It even looks like real meat, with the same sizzle and smell emitting from the skillet as you cook it. The vegan sausage casing, made of seaweed, is eerily reminiscent of authentic pork or beef casings. Those come from pig and cow intestines, respectively.

As you bite into a vegan sausage, or cut it with your fork and knife, the characteristics are the same as a real pork bratwurst. It’s crumbly yet juicy. The fats (oils) and saltiness are basic creature comforts everyone enjoys, even if they’re not the healthiest traits.

what Beyond Meat vegan bratwurst sausage looks like when cooked

With most vegan and vegetarian sausages, the texture is what falls short. After Beyond Meat’s version, which nails it, wheat-based versions using seitan are closest to the real thing.

Field Roast sausage reviews are generally quite positive and that’s because they’re seitan. Gluten-free soy sausages are few and far between, as even manufacturers know that some wheat gluten is needed in order to achieve the right texture.

All of the Beyond Meat sausage flavors are 100% gluten free and soy free. This is rarity. In fact, they are the only gluten free vegan sausage on the market from a major brand. Tofurky and other soy-based brands still include some wheat gluten in their ingredients, so they’re not suitable for celiacs and those with gluten sensitivities.

Nutrition facts

vegan sausage nutrition facts

A serving size of 2 large Beyond Meat vegan sausages comes in at just 380 calories. There’s 32g of protein, 24g of fat, almost no carbs (10g or 4% of DV) and zero cholesterol.

Two links are quite filling. Weighing 76g each, the two are 152g or 5.3 oz. That’s a third of a pound.

According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, 152g of frozen or refrigerated pork sausage links are 438 calories and have 23.4g of protein, 37.7g of fat, 1.4g of carbs, and 106 mg of cholesterol. Beyond vegan sausage is lower in calories and higher in protein than real pork sausage, when comparing equal weights. (1)

You’ll also reap the benefit of it being a cholesterol free food, versus the 35% of the max daily value that real pork provides.

Anything 100% plant-based is always zero cholesterol.

Both real and vegan pork sausages are guilty of being high in sodium. Two links of Beyond Meat brand contain 1,000 mg. Technically that’s “only” 42% of the daily value recommended by the FDA, however that ceiling is scam.

Due to lobbying efforts of the restaurant industry and processed food manufacturers, the daily limit of 2,400 mg is too high according to the American Heart Association, who advises staying at 1,500 mg or less. (2)

Based on that math, Beyond plant-based pork links are 67% of your daily sodium allowance.

That’s bad for you, but it’s less bad than the real deal. Per the USDA, that same serving size of pork has 1,123 mg of sodium. So the vegan version has 11% less salt.

Is vegan sausage healthy?

For major plant-based brands like Beyond Meat and Field Roast, most experts in healthcare and nutrition would agree they are better for you than real pork, beef, turkey, or chicken sausage. All of those have unhealthy cholesterol and carcinogenic compounds.

If judging using just the basic nutrition facts, like calories or grams of fat, the healthiest choice isn’t clear cut. It depends on how each type is prepared.

Something bad for you about Beyond Meat sausage is that it contains potato starch. While not bad for you on its own, when exposed to high intensity heat – such as grilling or frying – potatoes becomes a major source of acrylamide. (3)

That’s a Group 2A carcinogen per the World Health Organization.

FYI, boiled potatoes are not bad at all.

Acrylamide is also what’s responsible for coffee causing cancer, or at least the possibility of it doing so.

Starbucks Prop 65 warning sign for coffee acrylamide and cancer

The acrylamide content is specifically why you see those Prop 65 warning signs throughout Starbucks and similar places in California (our state mandates the warning).

It’s not just high intensity heat needed to create acrylamide. You also need the presence of carbs and the amino acid asparagine.

Potatoes are a rich source of asparagine. (4)

That’s why French fries and potato chips can have dozens or hundreds of times more acrylamide content than other fried and roasted foods, when they’re made with other starch sources.

Don’t believe us? Here’s the FDA data to compare for yourself. Waffle House hash browns are 861, while Pei Wei fried rice is 31 ppb. That’s a 28-fold difference.

We hate the fact that Beyond Meat uses potato starch in their burger patties and sausages.

At our local Veggie Grill in El Segundo, the manager and staff know us quite well. They know when we order a Beyond Burger, we want it very lightly cooked.

Beyond Burger with vegan cheese, mushroom, bell peppers, served kale style from Veggie Grill

Our version, seen above, is practically raw relative to the average customer’s burger… that’s charred black with extreme grill marks.

And extreme carcinogens.

We opt for very rare and kale style (no bun) which makes it a gluten free and low carb meal.

At home, we cook their sausage in a steamer and here’s what that looks like…

Beyond Meat sausage

Admittedly, this doesn’t look like an authentic bratwurst, as the steam creates a soggy shell. Not that crispy casing with those rows of black grill marks.

That’s okay with us, because we’re not vegans that particularly like fake meats anyway.

We would rather have the taste and texture of proteins like tofu and seitan be what they may… without modification or replication of something else.

Though understandably, many want plant-based meats that taste like the real thing. That’s who Beyond Meat really caters to.

instructions for how to cook vegan sausage

That’s also probably why they tell you to not boil it. They want it to look pretty with the charring, glycated fats, and all the other stuff that’s bad for you.

We can control how we cook Beyond patties and pork links it at home, though we have no clue as to how they are heat treating and processing it prior.

It might come chock full of acrylamide before you as the consumer even defrost it, simply due to how they make it in the factory.

Given that their manufacturing techniques are trade secrets which other food manufacturers are salivating to know, don’t expect Beyond to tell you or us that info anytime soon.

The high amounts of sodium and the potential for acrylamide exposure are the two main reasons why Beyond Meat’s vegan sausages can be bad for you.

Yet, they’re still healthier for you relative to real meat.

IARC cancer ratingsWhy?

While acrylamide is a Group 2A carcinogen, in real pork sausage you have something worse… Group 1 carcinogens.

Not just one type, but several.

Heterocyclic amines are cancer-causing agents only found in animal-derived foods. That’s because in order for them to form, creatine must be present.

Creatine is only found in the muscles of animals. Plants don’t contain any.

Potato starch is 2% or less of the Beyond sausage ingredients and of that, asparagine is a tiny percentage of that number. If you eat French fries, you have a much bigger source to be concerned with!

Pork, chicken, beef, and turkey all contain ample amounts of creatine, and hence, are major sources of carcinogens (HCAs) after cooking.

Ironically, grilled sausages – which are viewed by the public as being healthier – are actually one of the most dangerous sources.

Steaming or boiling would produce much lower amounts.

Yet because people love to grill their dogs, they are exposing themselves to insane amounts of cancer causing heterocyclic amines.

graph of how much carcinogens there are in cooked sausage types

This graph shows how much heterocyclic amines form in the crusts of different types of sausage. The casing and outer layers produce the most, because they’re exposed to more intense heat.

“When the temperature of cooking increased from 190 to 230°C, levels of the mutagens increased 2-5 times. Levels were 2-4 times higher on the crusts of the meat samples compared to the interior portions. Smoked sausage showed the highest levels of HCAs on the external surfaces compared to the other meat products. When the internal portions were included in the analysis, Italian sausage was found to contain the highest levels of HCAs.”

That’s a quote from the conclusion of a study done by Kansas State University and published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. (5)

In short…

Vegan sausage is far from being a superfood, but it is healthier than real sausage. Unlike real cooked meat, the plant-based version will not contain Group 1 carcinogens (heterocyclic amines). Beyond Meat is the best brand of if you want something that tastes, looks, and smells like real bratwurst.

Where to buy Beyond Meat sausage

The Beyond Meat brand is sold at over 5,000 grocery stores in the US including Kroger, Albertsons, Vons, Safeway, Giant, Whole Foods, Stater Brothers, Sprouts, Meijer, and most major chains. Their vegan sausage/bratwurst will be sold at those places but for now, you can only find it for sale at select locations of Whole Foods and a few restaurants in Los Angeles, San Francisco, NYC, and Chicago.

The “bleeding” Beyond burger didn’t make a debut in the UK until hitting the shelves of Tesco in 2018. So don’t expect widespread distribution of the faux pork across the pond anytime soon.

The brand is easier to find for sale in Canada versus the United Kingdom, France and Germany. That’s for the burger patties, which you can find at Canadian A&W restaurants. As for that sausage, it’s still a US-only item.

At $8.99 for a 4-pack, Beyond brand is certainly not cheap. Then again, neither is real meat. It would be nice if they made them more economically competitive.