Summertime is rapidly approaching, and to kick off the seasons, Americans will be firing up the grills and heading out to the ballpark. One of the cornerstones of Americana cuisine is the hot dog, famous for its regional expressions, and one of the most popular, affordable American foods. Every year, Americans eat (on average) 20 billion links per year, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. But what is the true cost of America’s hot dog addiction?

Despite countless exposés revealing the horrifying truth about how a hot dog is made, Americans have remained reluctant to leave behind their beloved junk food staple. However, vegan hot dogs or plant-based bratwursts have continued to evolve over the last decades, making considerable leaps and bounds from carrot dogs or tofu-based links. Now, the market is full of viable, tasty, and sustainable vegan hot dog alternatives that will grill and sizzle the same, making everyone at the barbecue happy.

What is in a Vegan Hot Dog?

Conventional hot dogs have earned a reputation similar to the grade school cafeteria's “mystery meat.” Typically, companies use a blend of pig, cow, turkey, and/or chicken meat to create the hot dog. The leftover meat is then heavily processed and the final product is America’s beloved hot dog. But Americans no longer have to abandon this signature piece of Americana, and instead, can choose from a variety of grill-worthy links made completely from vegetables.

Veggie dogs feature a wide variety of ingredients to provide consumers with the same texture and taste as a hot dog, but without the terrifying mystery meat blends. Though the exact recipe varies between brands, most vegan dogs use an oil- or protein-based to create these alternative dogs. For oil-based hot dogs, companies use everything from soybean oil, canola oil, and even safflower oil, while for protein-based options, consumers can find options containing pea protein, soy protein, and even vital wheat gluten.

Are Vegan Hot Dogs Really Better For You?

So, the real question is why should you choose a vegan dog at your next cookout? Even though all hot dogs should be eaten in moderation, vegan dogs provide you with a little more leeway than their highly-processed counterparts. Overall, vegan hot dogs contain less saturated fat, more fiber, and even more protein than regular hot dogs.

Conventional hot dogs also present major health dangers for the future,  especially since the WHO categorizes this processed meat as a carcinogen. One recent study even found that consuming processed meats like conventional hot dogs could raise your risk for diabetes by 33 percent. Another study suggested that eating processed meats could shave 36 minutes off your life. Luckily, shoppers can find more plant-based hot dogs now than ever before.

Take note that while vegan dogs are significantly healthier than regular processed hot dogs, it is not the healthiest vegan option. However, choosing a vegan sausage during the summertime barbecues will benefit not only your health but the environment as well. For example, Beyond Meat’s plant-based sausage requires 93 percent less land, uses 99 percent water, and emits 90 percent fewer greenhouse gases. So, make sure to come prepared for your inaugural summer cookout with any of these vegan links, rated for both taste and health.

Beyond Meat Beyond Sausage

Beyond Meat delivers one of the juiciest, tastiest vegan sausages around, setting a new standard for what plant-based links can be. The Beyond Sausage doubles as a bratwurst style thick hot dog and you can sizzle it up on the grill and eat it in a hot dog bun with your favorite condiments. Packed with 16 grams of protein, this vegan sausage has no cholesterol and contains 35 percent less saturated fat than leading pork sausages. This vegan dog will amaze every guest at the barbecue.

Calories 190

Total Fat 12g, Saturated Fat 5g

Protein 16g

 Field Roast Signature Stadium Dog

With a healthy dose of garlic, onion, and pepper, Field’s Roast Signature Stadium Dog brings the ballpark home. Even though the texture is slightly denser than traditional hot dogs, the Stadium Dog is flavored to perfection and sears nicely on the grill. Be careful getting these vegan hot dogs out of the package, because these links fall apart easily (every time I tried to get one out of the plastic wrapper it broke in half!). The Stadium Dogs also contains one of the lowest saturated fat of the group, with only 0.5 grams!

Calories 110

Total Fat 7g, Saturated Fat 0.5g

Protein 5g

Future Farm Plant-Based Sausage

Future Farm imagines a future where your cookout is plant-based. The Future Sausage is boldly flavored and sears just like traditional Bratwursts. These sausages don’t need much but pile on your favorite toppings, and with the leftover links, chop them up and add them to a Tuscan “Sausage” Soup or “sausage” pasta sauce. These exceptionally tasty vegan franks are high in saturated fat,  with 7 grams per sausage! A real hot dog has 4 grams of saturated fat, so if you’re choosing plant-based to be heart healthy you need to check the labels!

Calories 130

Total Fat 8g, Saturated Fat 7g

Protein 8g

 Lightlife Smart Dogs

Lightlife’s Smart Dogs have been on the market since 1993, and these soy-based vegan hot dogs remain one of the smartest options for your health. With only 60 calories and 8 grams of protein, Lightlife’s vegan franks deliver a diet-friendly option. But make sure that if you are grilling out, pick up the Jumbo version because these tiny links will fall between the grill rack and into the coals. (We lost 2 to the flames until we figured out that we needed to position them sideways!)

Calories 130

Total Fat 2g, Saturated Fat 0g

Protein 8g

 No Evil Foods "The Stallion" Italian Sausage

How is it possible to have a low-fat hot dog? No Evil Foods manages to do the impossible with its Stallion vegan franks. Despite its 160 calories per vegan dog, these plant-based franks contain 2 grams of total fat and zero saturated fat and they contain 25 grams of protein! No Evil Foods makes no sacrifices when it comes to taste. These vegan dogs feature fennel-flavoring with hints of rosemary and spice, making them a fresher, less briny choice. Throw these vegan Italian-style sausages on the grill and they will char up perfectly. Slice them up and add them to a sauce, or on a pizza for vegan sausage flavoring.

Calories 160

Total Fat 2g, Saturated Fat 0g

Protein 25g

 Tofurky Jumbo Hot Dogs

Looking for a classic vegan hot dog? Tofurky is the brand for you. Packed with 18 grams of protein, Tofurky’s Jumbo Hot Dogs are meant to be low-key so you can add your favorite toppings and they’ll be the star. Whether you like a Chicago Dog (with peppers and diced tomato on top) or a Coney Island Dog (mustard and onions) Tofurky adapts to every type of topping. However, without any toppings, the Jumbo vegan hot dogs texture is similar to firm tofu. So, make sure to keep your arsenal of condiments close by.

Calories 180

Total Fat 9g, Saturated Fat 1g

Protein 18g

Upton’s Natural Updog

Boldly flavored and sealed in an algae-based casing, Upton’s Natual Updog has the potential to take first place among the veggie franks because it has the best flavor of the bunch. Despite its blend of spicy flavors, there is a slight seitan-like aftertaste that can be toned down with your favorite condiments. Updog contains 20 grams of wheat-based protein with only 0.5 grams of saturated fat and 7 grams of fat. The Updog is best grilled rather than boiled to retain the vegan dog’s signature casing and smokey taste, as well as the “snap” that you sense when you bite into it. Don’t try to cut it though, since the algae skin doesn’t make it easy to slice. So grill it up and enjoy!

Calories 170

Total Fat 7g, Saturated Fat 0.5

Protein 20g

More From The Beet