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As a food writer, the PR fairies send me a lot of products to try. Some of them are pretty odd-ball. Don’t even get me started about the “grape-flavored apple” named Grāpple. So when sacks of vegan jerky began to show up on my doorstep, I approached with heifer-sized skepticism. Could some dried-out mushrooms and kelp really become a snacking staple? About a dozen packages of plant-based jerky in and I am (mostly) a convert.
Who knew that gnawing on shriveled up, spicy jackfruit could be so habit-forming? Vegan jerky can certainly scratch any itch for this classic snack in a new way. There are a few that are too sweet, too salty, or texturally are just too far removed from old-school jerky to ever find a place in my backpack, but other brands were a big win.
Nutritionally, the first thing you should know that, save for those made soy or peas, most vegan jerky is fairly light in protein, so may not do much for smashing between-meal hunger – but it’s certainly better than slam-dunking a bag of greasy chips for plant-based snacking. And for those with certain food allergies or sensitivities (seriously, is that everyone these days?), there is a plant-based jerky to suit every need.
Try These Vegan Jerky Snacks
Launched in 2022, Beyond Meat’s plant-based jerky comes in three flavors: Original, Hot & Spicy, and Teriyaki. The soy-free jerky is based on pea and mung beans, offering up 10 grams of protein (but zero cholesterol or gluten). Beyond’s jerky was created in collaboration with PepsiCo, owner of brands like Doritos and Lays; PepsiCo’s distribution power will help place the shelf-stable pouches into all the places you might have a hankering for some vegan jerky, like gas stations and corner shops.
Deep umami tomato flavor with just the right amount of smokiness. Bonus: a lofty six grams of both fiber and protein in a serving. Great sliced and tossed on salads, too.
Seitan’s quintessential chewy texture makes this savory pick delicious and similar to traditional jerky. One of the least-sweet options out there, in a good way.
With great texture and smoky heat, this pea- and fava-based jerky is a strong contender for being your go-to protein-packed snack for both the workday and a road trip.
More proof that jackfruit is the chameleon of the fruit world. This plant-based jerky has a nice ginger zing.
Made from portabella mushrooms that are smoked and dried, a light seasoning allows the deep umami flavor to burst through. Will not make you hallucinate (probably).
Like you’re eating a snack from a Mexican street vendor. Pssst…it’s a stellar way to round out trail mix. I appreciate that there are no added sugars.
Made from sustainably farmed kelp, this soft and chewy marine green packs a savory-sweet punch. They toss pea protein (you don’t taste it) into the mix to make it more of a satiating snack.