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Battle of the Vegan Italian Sausages: Tofurky v. Field Roast Grain Meat Co.

Battle of the Vegan Italian Sausages: Tofurky v. Field Roast Grain Meat Co.

Weary of the turkey carnage currently raging throughout the country, we decided to dedicate this week's Battle of the Dishes to its meatless, extremely distant cousin, the Tofurky. Ridiculed by carnivores and regarded with varying measures of gratitude and disdain by vegetarians, the Tofurky Thanksgiving Roast, if nothing else, provokes strong feelings in all who encounter it. Capable of living in the refrigerator for 30 days before being opened, it is also microwavable, two things that cannot -- and should not -- be said about its poultry counterpart.

However, the Tofurky Thanksgiving Roast's singularity also means that it has almost no worthy competitor -- or at least one we could find on short notice -- which is why it isn't, sadly, featured in this Battle of the Dishes. Instead, we've opted to pit Tofurky against the Field Roast Grain Meat Co. Both companies make vegan sausages that are considered the ne plus ultra of ersatz meat products -- Field Roast's are even considered worthy enough to be served -- at a premium -- alongside Bark Dog's regular wieners.

Both Tofurky and Field Roast make Italian sausages, so we bought both at Whole Foods on the Bowery, took them home, pan-fried them in a bit of olive oil, and compared the results. Here's what we found.

Field Roast's sausage perches on top of the Tofurky.
Field Roast's sausage perches on top of the Tofurky.

Here are the stats:

Tofurky: $2.99 for a pack of four 100-gram sausages

Number of listed ingredients: 12

Ingredients: tofu, vital wheat gluten, expeller-pressed non-GMO canola or high oleic safflower oil, water, shoyu soy sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, textured wheat protein, basil, black pepper, spices, granulated garlic, chili pepper, salt.

Field Roast Grain Meat Co.: $5.99 for a pack of four 92-gram sausages

Number of ingredients: 14

Ingredients: vital wheat gluten, filtered water, expeller-pressed safflower oil, red wine, eggplant, onions, natural-flavored yeast extract, garlic, barley malt, dried red bell pepper, fennel seed, granulated garlic, spices and sea salt.

We were immediately struck by the $3 price discrepancy between the two, and also by Field Roast's inclusion of recognizable vegetables in its sausages. Also, we were encouraged by Field Roast's use of fennel seeds, a nod to the actual Italian sausages it professed to mimic. The sausage's pallid color, however, gave us pause, particularly when compared with the more robust hue of the Tofurky.

So we threw them in the pan, where both sausages browned evenly, though Field Roast's proved harder to remove without it crumbling apart.

 

A Field Roast specimen.
A Field Roast specimen.

Although Field Roast boasted more recognizable ingredients, its texture was dry and crumbly and its flavor one-dimensional -- it registered as peppery, but not much else, though we did appreciate the heat. The fennel seeds were a nice touch, but, despite their better efforts, the sausage had about as much in common with real Italian sausage as a length of PVC pipe. Not only was it a poor substitute for the real thing, it was a poor substitute for vegetarian food.

A Tofurky cross section.
A Tofurky cross section.

The Tofurky, on the other hand, wasn't bad at all. Its texture was, if not juicy, nowhere near as dry as the Field Roast's. It could almost be described as "meaty," provided you're a vegetarian whose definition of "meaty" rests upon very distant memories of actual meat. That aside, it was pliant and appealingly chewy, which is about as much as one can hope for from a vegan sausage. Flavor-wise, we tasted ginger, which was odd but not entirely unpleasant. In fact, owing no doubt to its prodigious amount of sodium (620 milligrams, or 25 percent of the daily requirement), the sausage was actually quite tasty, and even satisfying.

So despite the Field Roast's more enticing-sounding ingredients and premium in price, Tofurky wins this battle easily. It won't make you believe for a second you're eating an Italian sausage, but it won't make you rue your meatless existence, either.

Have a tip or restaurant-related news? Send it to fork@villagevoice.com.


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