Our ancestors preserved meat for obvious reasons—food was scarce, winters were long, and traveling required portable food that was compact and long-lasting. For these reasons, jerky was a staple long before paleo dieters made it the snack trend it is today. However, most of us are no longer homesteading like our ancestors, but modernity serves its own challenges and needs for quick, nutritious snacks. It also creates a livestock industry that’s bad for our health, the planet, and the animals. Animal-based jerky products get their flavor—smoky, spicy, sweet— from plants, so why not go straight to the (cruelty-free) source for a jerky that ticks all the boxes? While consumers might think of animals as the only “meaty” option for jerky-making, the terrestrial and marine plant kingdoms offer much more variety, flavor, and textures because, of course, anything animal-based foods can do, plants can do better. And for the vegan jerky category, the proof is in the chew. With this in mind, we’re highlighting 10 innovative vegan jerkies that could upend traditional animal-based jerky sales.
1. Mean Vegan Products Funguy Jerky
Funguy Jerky is made with recognizable whole sliced mushrooms. “We slice, marinate, dehydrate, and package mushrooms,” Stephanie Shelton of Mean Vegan Products says. “Nothing more, nothing less.”
2. The Herbivorous Butcher
The Herbivorous Butcher’s chewy and flavorful jerky is seitan-based and comes in three flavors: Teriyaki Jerky, Sizzlin’ Cajun Jerky, and Salt ‘n Peppa Jerky. “Frankly,” Kale Walch, The Herbivorous Butcher co-founder says, “I think ours is more flavorful and the texture is spot on. Some people may not like that ours is a more realistic texture, but different strokes for different folks.”
3. Beyond the Shoreline Kelp Jerky
This jerky is made from mushrooms and kelp, making it high in fiber and protein, while also low in calories, sugar, and fat. According to the company, the product is the only high-protein, soy-free, and gluten-free vegan jerky on the market.
4. Power Plant Organic Eggplant Jerky
If you’ve ever grilled eggplant and let it sit on the grill until it’s crisp and chewy, you’re going to wonder why you didn’t think of making eggplant jerky before Power Plant Foods did. But now you don’t have to—just grab a bag of this chewy, smoky, and sweet deliciousness for an excellent on-the-go snack.
5. May Wah Vegetarian Market
New York City’s premiere vegetarian meat seller offers vegan jerkies made with Japanese konjac root (similar to sweet potato), wheat, or soy. All varieties come in several different flavors, including curry, teriyaki, and vegan bacon.
6. Louisville Vegan Jerky Co.
With flavors such as Bourbon Smoked, Sriracha Maple, and the limited-edition Buffalo Dill, this non-GMO textured soy protein-based jerky is all chew and full of flavor. “Real Good. Real Fake” is the company tagline. Apparently, they forgot to add “Real Addictive.”
7. Primal Spirit Foods Primal Strips
These individually-wrapped jerkies are comprised of wheat, mushrooms, or soy, and flavors such as Thai peanut and Texas BBQ make for a perfect portable snack for traveling, hiking, or keeping in your bag for snack emergencies.
8. Stonewall’s Jerquee
Don’t let the fancy spelling fool you! These single-serve “jerquees” are equal parts meaty, chewy, and savory.
9. Cocoburg Coconut Jerky
Coconut doesn’t just lend itself to milk, water, ice cream, and cheese, as it’s a natural jerky, too. To make the transformation, young coconut meat is marinated and dehydrated for an addictively healthy jerky.
10. Lightlife Smart Jerky
A recent addition to Lightlife’s roster, the soy-based Smart Jerky currently comes in two flavors: original and teriyaki. “What’s better than plant-based jerky?” the company asks on its website. If you can think of something, we’d like to know, too.
Photo courtesy of FakeMeats.com