Fast food-style vegan burgers are surprisingly delicious, at least when you use the proper vegan patties.
If you don't live in Atlanta, you might not have heard of Slutty Vegan, the plant-based burger shop Clark Atlanta alum Pinky Cole opened earlier this year. Located in the historic Westview district, the restaurant has become an almost cult-like favorite with both Atlanta natives and those who are intrigued by the promise of vegan burgers that actually taste like beef-filled fast food.
Slutty Vegan began as a food truck and its almost immediate popularity, especially across social media, led to its first brick and mortar location. Even though the restaurant has been open for four months now, it's not uncommon to see people waiting for over three hours just to get their hands on a delicious deceptively burger-like vegan meal.
A few weeks ago, I decided to try the burgers for myself.
I got extremely lucky in that my wait was only thirty minutes, likely due to the fact that I showed up near closing time. The menu offers vegan twists on everything from Philly cheesesteaks to po'boys. After eying several options, I finally settled on the One Night Stand — an Impossible Burger patty loaded with vegan bacon, vegan cheese, caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato and "Slutty Sauce" on a vegan Hawaiian bun.
If I had closed my eyes, I would have sworn I was eating a regular bacon cheeseburger from In-and-Out, Shake Shack or Cook Out. I instantly understood why people were waiting in lines that stretched on for hours.
However, despite my love for this burger, it is totally unrealistic to spend that much time waiting in line for food on a regular basis. So I decided to recreate the One Night Stand at home.
The biggest challenge lay in recreating the actual burger patty, as Impossible Foods ground "meat" is near on, um, impossible for the layperson to find. At my nearby Whole Foods, I found three different plant-based burger options: Beyond Meat, Amy's Kitchen and Whole Foods 365 meatless burger, which I used to make otherwise identical burgers. Which one came out on top? Keep reading, friends.
First impression: Beyond Meat's burger packaging right off the bat wins the day. These plant-based burger patties are easily found in most grocery stores and are fresh and not frozen. They look just like any other burger patty you'd grab to throw on the grill. When I put them into a hot skillet to cook I noticed how thick the patties are, which is in contrast to the slimmer patties from Amy's Kitchen and Whole Foods 365. The biggest benefit to this thickness is that it is actually possible to cook your burger medium or medium-rare.
Flavor: As promised, this meatless patty tastes very similar to the real thing. From its beef-like texture to its packaging, you could easily fool non-vegans with this one. The biggest downside? These burger patties are in desperate need of a nice sprinkling of salt.
Whole Foods 365
First impression: Whole Foods, never one to miss out on a marketing opportunity, has jumped on the meat-like plant-based burger craze as well. Its frozen boxed version contains four patties and each look similar to grilled beef burgers, down to the "char marks." As I cooked these in a pan they held their shape well and smelled surprisingly smoky.
Flavor: This patty reminded me of Thanksgiving day stuffing, and not in a good way. There was an almost herbaceous taste that couldn't be masked by all the other burger toppings. Worse yet, the patty was really dry.
First impression: Amy's Kitchen products have been around for over thirty years. What started out as a small mom and pop operation has evolved into a full blown corporation that offers vegetarian and vegan alternatives to almost everything. I picked up its "All American" meatless burger patty in the frozen food aisle of the market. The patties themselves are on the thinner side and look a lot like slim rice cakes.
Flavor: When I took these patties out of the packaging I'll be honest, I wasn't expecting much. Thankfully when I tasted them I was pleasantly surprised. While there is no faking that this is a vegan option, the flavor was balanced and I found myself mindlessly taking another bite.
After testing out all three brands, the winner, without a doubt, is Beyond Meat. From its packaging to its mouthfeel, this burger was not only a pleasure to eat, but tasted exactly like the One Night Stand at Slutty Vegan. From the toppings to the melted cashew cheese, this is the burger to whip up if you're in the mood for this American meal but want to hold off on actual meat.
Slutty Vegan-Style "One Night Stand" Burger
1 teaspoon canola oil
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 slices Upton's Naturals seitan bacon
1 (2-count) package Beyond Meat burger patties
2 slices Parmela Creamery sharp cheddar-style cashew cheese
2 vegan brioche-style buns, sliced
Annie's Thousand Island dressing, for serving
Follow Your Heart Original Vegenaise, for serving
Lettuce, for serving
Sliced tomato, for serving
Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and caramelized, 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
Return the now empty skillet to medium-high heat. Add the seitan bacon and cook, flipping occasionally, until crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
Add burger patties to the now-empty skillet and cook on medium-high heat until well browned, 5 to 7 minutes per side. Reduce the heat to medium-low and place one slice of cheese on top of each burger. Let the cheese melt then remove from the heat.
Spread the mayonnaise on the bottom half and dressing on the top half of the buns. Top with the burgers, followed by the caramelized onions, bacon, lettuce and tomato. Serve immediately.