While the Beyond Burger and particularly its competitor, the Impossible Burger, have raised the bar for realistic vegetarian burgers, good-tasting vegetarian sausages have been around for a long time. Because real sausages are typically made with cheap, miserable organ meats in the first place, tasty heavily seasoned tubes of soy protein have been on the market for twenty or more years.
The Beyond Brats come in a four pack. Luckily the packaging isn’t nearly as wasteful as the Beyond Burgers, which are typically packaged in a two-pack with a surprising level of stiff plastic. Like Beyond Burgers, the main ingredient in these puppies is pea protein, and they are vegan.
I have cooked Beyond Brats twice now. The sausages are sort of limp and not perfectly shaped, much like a real bratwurst would be. In the name of realism, Beyond has apparently tried to simulate some of the inherent grossness of real sausages. I followed the directions on the package, frying them in a pan, and turning them frequently. They brown easily and seem like they would be on the verge or burning any time. While cooking most vegetarian sausages equates to reheating them, Beyond seems to aim to simulate the experience of cooking a meat product. Like the burgers, these “bleed” some sort of liquid onto the pan. It is hard to tell this liquid apart from the canola oil I greased the pan with, so it can be hard knowing if you are frying in an oily or dry stretch of pan. At first these sausages are fairly flat on the top and the bottom, and they want to have a “top” and “bottom” with undercooked sides unless you go out of your way to sort of smash them down on their sides, which I did both times I made them.
The finished product reminds me of a “lean” sausage like turkey sausage, albeit one that is so heavy on the nutmeg that it tastes like eggnog. I believe that in a good sausage product, while it may be loaded with fennel, gloves, garlic, black pepper, and other flavors no one flavor should dominate. In the case of Beyond Brats, this is a pumpkin spice season sausage all the way.
The first time I served the brat on a bun with ketchup, mushrooms, mayonnaise, relish, and kraut. The second time I served it with just ketchup and mayo. I made a point of cooking the sausage longer the second time I cooked them, which did not really improve anything. This is still a relatively dry turkey-ish sausage that tastes like egg nog.
While I did not pair these with a beverage, I believe these would call for a dark ale, maybe a “cream” ale, a root beer, or an ice-cold Coke. I’m not much of a cream soda guy, but cream soda might work. Not Dr Pepper though. I think the flavor from these and Dr Pepper would totally clash.
That said, while these certainly aren’t good, they aren’t bad either. They are just plain weird. Although this will not become one of my favorites, I can see myself eating them again. I can see myself having a weird craving for them at some point, or Costco having a good deal on a big box. I would recommend someone try a box in the same way I would recommend listening to Chinese Democracy. And, for all their faults, these do indeed satisfy a hankering for “meatiness.” These could easily pass for some kind of lean sausage from a healthier-to-eat animal than a cow or pig. If someone said “Hey, try a bite of my homemade ostrich sausage,” I would not say, “Hey! This isn’t ostrich! This tastes like peas!” But I probably would think “My sausage-making friend must really like nutmeg.”
“So,” you must be asking, “Who makes these better vegetarian sausage products you speak of?” Good question. Field Roast, for one, in many varieties and flavors. I particularly like the apple sage varieties and some sort of spicy variety. Other brands like Tofurky and Lightlife make decent ones too. I’d wager Trader Joe’s has some. In the breakfast sausage world, Morningstar, Gardein, Trader Joe’s, and others have some good products.
It is also worth noting that some of the products above are made with things are common allergens and/or trendy foods to avoid, including soy and wheat gluten, and that some, like Morningstar, contain milk and/or dairy. These are vegan as well as suitable to folks who are allergic to everything.
Except nutmeg. If you are allergic to nutmeg I’m assuming you are out of luck here.
Pros: meaty texture and taste, environmental and ethical advantages associated with vegetarian food, healthier than meat-based sausage, novelty factor associated with realism of product, vegan/soy free/gluten free
Cons: weird eggnog taste, somewhat difficult to cook, approaches gross-out factor of real sausage when cooking, many better alternatives have already been on the market for many years