The Best Vegan Jerky Brands That Taste As Good As The Real Thing
To map out a successful road trip always requires a massive amount of planning, but the most important thing to remember is to pack the snacks. Fighting against exhaustion, hunger, and sheer boredom, the long-distance driver's best friend is a jack-of-all-trades snack like beef jerky. But plant-based travelers cannot reap the benefits of this high-protein snack. Or at least until now. We are happy to report that several brands have tapped into the demand for a plant-based or vegan jerky that packs in protein, keeps you busy, and cures the driving enui.
Meatless vegan jerky products deliver the same bold, strong taste as traditional beef jerky, just without the cow. Plus, most vegan jerky brands have all the benefits and protein content of the conventional snack without the health risks and environmental impact of processed meat.
What is Plant-Based Jerky Made From?
With so many plant-based jerky brands to choose from, there are tons of options when it comes to ingredients. This means that no matter what other dietary restrictions you may have, there is likely a vegan jerky perfect for you. Vegan jerky is cooked with several types of ingredients including fungi, fruits, pea protein blends, and others.
Each brand’s recipe offers a different basic ingredient and variety of seasoning, meaning that there is jerky for every palette. Whether you choose Moku’s oyster mushroom-based recipe or Sassy Birch’s jackfruit jerky, there is a plant-based jerky designed for everyone. The fruit-based jerky’s often contained lower calories, making them great for a diet-friendly car snack. For long hikes or tiring drive, the seitan or soy-based protein give you the boost of energy necessary to reach your destination.
Health Benefits of Switching to Vegan Jerky
Vegan jerky production is better for the environment, often lighter in calories, and most importantly, significantly healthier. The biggest reason to think about trying vegan jerky is to avoid processed meats. A growing body of research has linked the consumption of red and processed meats to several fatal or chronic conditions. Eating processed meat including conventional jerky can increase the risk of heart disease by 18 percent.
Other studies have found even more severe consequences stemming from processed meat consumption. Processed meat consumption could lead to a higher risk of colon cancer and increases the risk of developing type II diabetes by 33 percent. Now, instead of relying on the ultra-processed, sodium-heavy meat typically found in convenience stores, there is a tasty alternative that significantly reduces the health risks associated with traditional beef jerky.
Choosing Your Favorite Jerky
With tons of options ranging in taste, texture, and ingredients, it can be difficult to choose the right jerky for you. Before you pack your bags, our list of the best vegan jerky on the market will you pick the most appealing option for your palette. From fruit-based alternatives to near-perfect replications, we taste-tested the best-selling vegan jerkies available for retail so that you can know the best brands to look out for when shopping for the whole week.
Akua Sesame & Nori Sea Salt Kelp Jerky ($7.99 per 1.50 oz)
At first glance seeing seaweed on the label of this jerky might turn some shoppers away. But that would be a mistake. Akua’s Sesame & Nori Sea Salt Kelp Jerky is an unconventional plant-based snack, packed with plenty of essential nutrients. One serving contains 10 grams of fiber, 10 grams of protein, and 67 percent of your daily iron, and has only 150 calories. This kelp jerky is filled with vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. Note that this vegan jerky is also one of the most sustainable, using a zero-input crop (seaweed) that helps pull carbon out of the environment and back into sea plants.
Total Fat 8g, Saturated Fat 2g
Bella Sun Luci Plant-Based Tomato Jerky - Teriyaki ($5.28 per 2 oz)
For only 90 calories per 10 pieces, Bella Sun Luci’s tomato-based jerky delivers the perfect bite-sized, road trip snack. Since this vegan jerky resembles a sun-dried tomato in texture and taste rather than conventional meat jerky, Bella Sun Luci’s fruit-based snack is not for everyone. Plus it’s spicy: Bella Sun Luci generously seasons the tomato jerky with black pepper and teriyaki flavoring, so if you love the sound of that, give this jerky a try! For travelers looking for a zero-fat snack with 6 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein, this tomato jerky is like winning big at the low-stakes table.
Total Fat 0g, Saturated Fat 0g
Beyond Meat Jerky ($3.98 per 3 oz)
In typical Beyond Meat fashion, the plant-based meat giant created a near-perfect replica of traditional beef jerky with a tough texture and a bold flavor that literally makes your mouth water. The pea and mung bean blend delivers 10 grams of protein with only 2 grams of fat and 0.5 of saturated fat. Beyond’s Jerky is marinated, slow-roasted, and kettle-cooked to turn the pea and mung bean base into a meaty, slightly smoky snack. The comments on this product are mixed. Some tasters complain of a slight – but noticeable – aftertaste, while others swear that this jerky will turn even die-hard meat-lovers into plant-based fans.
Total Fat 2g, Saturated Fat 0.5g
Country Archer Provisions Plant-Based Jekry BBQ ($6.99 per 2 oz)
From the artisan beef jerky brand, Country Archer Provision's take on plant-based jerky slightly misses the mark. Even though mushroom lovers will be attracted to this plant-based jerky, this vegan alternative leaves a subtle yet unwanted aftertaste that even mushroom enthusiasts can’t ignore. The texture resembles a cooked mushroom almost too closely. While this snack will not satisfy the craving for beef jerky, the barbecue roasted mushrooms can provide a healthy, energizing snack. Take this on a hike.
Total Fat 1.5g, Saturated Fat 0g
Gardein Ultimate Plant-Based Jerky ($4.98 per 2.25 oz)
With a signature hardwood smoked flavoring, Gardein’s seitan- and soybean-based jerky is tasty enough to convince dad to leave behind Jack’s Links. Gardein successfully fashioned a reliable plant-based jerky that contains 12 grams of protein per serving, making it the perfect portable snack for a road trip, hike, or long day at work. Gardein's Ultimate Plant-Based Jerky contains 30 percent of your daily sodium, so for those concerned about heart health, this would not be your top choice.
Total Fat 1g, Saturated Fat 0g
It’s Jerky Y’all Plant-Based Jerky, Prickly Pear Chipotle ($7.98 per 2.7 oz)
With Texas roots, It’s Jerky Y’all knows how to smoke up some BBQ jerky. Challenging the top beef jerky brands, It’s Jerky Y’all’s plant-based spicy jerky delivers a boldly flavored jerky alternative with a kick. Though the texture may be too tough for some jerky lovers, biting into this snack will be almost exactly like tearing into traditional beef jerky. The only difference is you’re eating soybean protein. Enjoy it as a treat, though, since despite its label as Prickly Pear, which is a healthy plant, this jerky weighs in with one of the highest fat content we found.
Total Fat 8g, Saturated Fat 1g
Louisville Vegan Jerky Smoky Carolina BBQ ($7.39 per 3 oz)
Locally sourced, small-scale batches distinguished the Louisville Vegan Jerky Co. from the rest of the pack. With a sweet, tangy barbecue flavor, this vegan jerky remains true to its roots with a southern-style jerky that will satisfy most lovers of traditional jerky. With 5 grams of protein per serving and just 3 grams of fat, Louisville jerky offers a healthy alternative to beef jerky. This vegan jerky, made of soybean protein, skillfully recreates the texture well enough to fool even the most staunch beef jerky lovers.
Total Fat 3g, Saturated Fat 0g
Moku Plant-Based Jerky Original ($7.00 per 2 oz)
Moku’s signature oyster mushroom-based recipe delivers a vegan jerky that looks and tastes just like the beloved convenience store snack. Moku’s plant-based jerky is flavored with onion, garlic, and black pepper to give it the same savory flavor as traditional beef jerky, but is much healthier. The texture is more tender than other plant-based jerky brands we tasted, giving jerky lovers an exceptionally juicy option. This vegan jerky also contains 3 grams of fiber per serving and is one of the few certified organic jerky products we found.
Total Fat 4.5g, Saturated Fat 0g
For more great plant-based recommendations, visit The Beet's Product Review articles.