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The Best Vegan Italian Sausage Links

With more options than ever, vegan sausages are booming. How do these Italian-style links stack up to meat sausages, and which brand is best? 

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Published Mar. 3, 2022.

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What You Need To Know

As more and more plant-based offerings flood the food market, the vegan sausage scene is no exception. What was once a lonely shelf stocked with tofu hot dogs now includes a variety of links: Italian, chorizo, breakfast sausage, and bratwurst. 

For this tasting, we focused on Italian-style links, which are the most widely available style of vegan sausage. We tasted four products served two ways: plain, prepared per package instructions in a nonstick skillet, and cooked in our winning jarred pasta sauce. All the sausages held together and browned nicely in the skillet. When cooked in the sauce, none got tough or soggy. We also cooked our highest-ranked sausage in a cast-iron grill pan to see if it held together and got grill marks, which it did.  

Are Vegan Sausages Good Stand-Ins for Meat Ones?

Vegan links are made with a variety of plant-based meat substitutes: pea protein, vital wheat gluten, tofu, and even eggplant. Pea protein, in particular, has become quite popular recently in the plant-based protein realm because of its texture, high levels of iron, and dietary flexibility (it’s gluten-free and somewhat less allergenic than soy). Most vegan sausages use a single base ingredient; however, two in our lineup used two bases. 

The base protein(s) is (are) augmented with fat (sunflower oil, safflower oil, coconut oil, or canola oil) and a variety of texture enhancers and moisture retainers. But even with this medley of ingredients, replicating the coarse texture and juicy, chewy meatiness of real meat sausage is no easy feat. 

The texture of our favorite vegan sausage, which is made with pea protein, didn’t quite get there. The links were a little soft and spongy, but combined with good flavoring and a meaty taste, they most closely resembled real meat sausage. Even though our favorite sausage was made with pea protein, so was our least favorite link, so pea protein as a base didn’t guarantee a good sausage.

The amount of fat per serving, which ranged from 7.5 grams to 15 grams, impacted the juiciness of sausages in addition to adding rich flavor. At 13.5 grams of fat per serving, our highest-rated link, Beyond Sausage Hot Italian, sat near the top of the range. The links with less fat were dry and crumbly.  

The type of fat used was also important. The Beyond Sausage contains sunflower oil as well as coconut oil, which has a high melting point and therefore creates small pockets of fat inside. When we sliced into these links, they oozed fat like real meat sausages. Fats that melt at lower temperatures (such as canola and safflower oils) tended to melt out during cooking.  

Did They ...

Everything We Tested

*All products reviewed by America’s Test Kitchen are independently chosen, researched, and reviewed by our editors. We buy products for testing at retail locations and do not accept unsolicited samples for testing. We list suggested sources for recommended products as a convenience to our readers but do not endorse specific retailers. When you choose to purchase our editorial recommendations from the links we provide, we may earn an affiliate commission. Prices are subject to change.

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