It’s a fast-paced world. There’s a lot to do. Cooking? Gah, who has the time? But you love food. We get it. Ready-to-eat meals are here to save you, showcasing the best of plant-based food that’s ready in a jiffy. Here are the (vegan) crème de la crème.
Ready meals have a bad rep. Sometimes it’s a perceived lack of freshness, and sometimes, they are just bland or unappetising.
But they can also be a lifesaver (especially for busy working parents). In the constant grind of the workday, sometimes the last thing you want to do or (at least as a writer) break your flow is cook. Believe me, I would kill for a nice vegan meal right now – something I could just microwave or heat up on the stove.
Well, I’m here to tell you – I know a lot of ready meals are meh, but some truly stand a cut above the rest. So even if you’re a food snob, you won’t be disappointed. Plus, they can help you get through your day that much easier – whether that is just a workday, a busy weeknight, or even just a lousy Sunday afternoon.
Here are the brands making some of the best plant-based ready meals you can buy:
Alt-meat giant Impossible Foods launched its frozen ready-to-heat bowls last September, and it’s an eight-product-strong range. The meals contain Impossible’s plant-based beef, chicken or pork, with 10-13g of protein per serving. They can be heated in five minutes.
The pork bowls include vegan mac and cheese, sweet and sour pork with rice, and BBQ pork with potatoes and beans. The chicken meals include a spicy enchilada bowl and a teriyaki option with rice. Then there’s an Impossible beef burrito bowl, along with meals with both beef and pork – pasta bolognese and spaghetti and meatballs.
You can find Impossible’s frozen plant-based ready meals at Walmart for $6.28.
Vegan chicken brand Daring also deals in the ready-to-heat bowl business. It has three frozen entrées that pack in 16g of protein.
The Harvest Plant Chicken Bowl pairs Daring’s meat alternative with brown rice, a chimichurri sauce, sweet potatoes and kale. The Teriyaki bowl, meanwhile, combines the teriyaki-flavoured soy chicken with white rice and broccoli, and the fajita bowl contains fire-roasted onions and peppers, white rice and cajun-spiced Daring chicken.
You can find Daring’s frozen bowls online and at various retailers across the US for $8.99.
Somos might be known for its mind-blowing chilli crisps and salsas, but it has an extensive range of vegan ready meal components too. The idea is to mix and match the rice, beans and taco fillings to create your own meal – it’s perfect for fajita night or burrito bowl lunches.
The white rice comes in cilantro-lime and Mexican street corn flavours, and brown rice in Mexican red salsa and poblano options. As for the beans, there are whole-cooked black beans, as well as spicy or chipotle refried beans.
Moving on to the veggie entrées, Somos used a pea-protein-based beef alternative as the main taco filling in the Peacadillo and Salsa Verde variants. The other options are smoky chipotle mushrooms and cauliflower tinga.
To help people pick, Somos offers bundles comprising rice, beans, taco fillings and a sauce jar, which retail for $28.
You can find Somos’ pick-and-mix vegan ready meal components online and various retailers across the US.
Gardein is a huge name in the plant-based industry. In addition to its beef, fish, pork, turkey and chicken alternatives, it also offers frozen vegan meals in the form of its Ultimate Bowls (14-18g of protein per meal) and Skillet Meals ranges (11-14 of protein).
The Ultimate Bowls line comprises sweet and sour chicken (with rice, pineapple, carrots and peppers), a beef burrito bowl (with rice, corn and black beans), beef and broccoli (with rice), and meatball marinara (with pasta, spinach and onions).
The Skillet Meals range contains an Italian-style vegan sausage with rigatoni and bell peppers in a marinara sauce, and a plant-based chicken Florentino, with strozzapreti, broccoli and spinach in a lemon-garlic sauce.
You can find Gardein’s frozen vegan bowls at Target and Stater Bros for $4.50, and the skillet meals at multiple retailers for across the US $8.99.
Plant-based giant Beyond Meat launched its ready meal range in the UK only earlier this year. The lineup consists of three frozen Beyond Meals, containing 14-17g of protein – and they can be ready in seven to nine minutes.
The spaghetti bolognese pairs Beyond Meat with pasta cooked in a tomato and herb sauce, alongside a dash of wine. The keema curry and pilau rice option comprises its pea protein beef simmered with spices and an Indian-inspired gravy, and the other rice option is a chili with coriander rice, with Beyond Meat cooked in a tomato-chilli sauce with black beans and red pepper.
You can find Beyond Meat’s ready meals exclusively at Tesco stores across the UK for £3.
Speaking of Tesco, it is home to Wicked Kitchen’s UK retail presence. The Minneapolis-headquartered brand is present in four countries across three continents and has a wide range of vegan ready meals.
The frozen range has two meals with Beyond Meat – a naked burrito and a Korean-inspired bowl. Sriracha tofu and rice, as well as Penang tofu curry make up the other two in this section. Wicked Kitchen also makes frozen vegan pizzas, in Margherita, rustic veg, and spicy sausage and pepperoni flavours.
Apart from these, Wicked Kitchen makes microwaveable bowls too. These include a plant-based chickpea and mushroom bourguignon, potato and three-bean chilli, and Tuscan white bean stew.
You can find Wicked Kitchen’s ready meals at various locations across the UK, US, Finland and Thailand.
A relatively new brand, Earth Company is the brainchild of vegan chef Matthey Kenney and entrepreneur Max Koenig. It has a whole-food plant-based, “360° nutrition” approach to its plant-based meals.
Its first range of products came in jars and included a lentil and tofu bolognese, a lentil and bean chilli, and a chickpea, lentil and tofu curry. The bolognese boasted 25g of protein per serving, while the other two had 28g. The meals could be heated in a microwave or in a pan in about two to three minutes.
They are currently sold out, but Earth Company has teased that it will be launching another range soon on its website. At the time, each 16oz jar was priced at $6.
Bonus: Blue Zones Kitchen
After the popular Netflix documentary, Live to 100, Blue Zones certification co-founder Dan Buettner announced the launch of Blue Zones Kitchen, a line of ready-to-heat meals inspired by the world’s Blue Zones – regions where people are said to live the longest.
The four ready meals also take a whole-foods plant-based approach. The burrito bowl – inspired by Nicoya, Costa Rica – blends sweet potatoes, organic black beans, roasted corn and red quinoa. The heirloom rice takes influence from the Gullah community, combining heirloom Carolina Gold rice with red beans, toasted garlic, sweet potatoes and stewed tomatoes.
The sesame-ginger bowl pairs brown rice with carrots, edamame and broccoli. And the minestrone casserole takes inspiration from Sardinia, which was the original blue zone. It combines chickpeas, red lentils, durum wheat pasta, kale, tomatoes and other vegetables.
Blue Zones Kitchens will soon launch their products at Town & Country markets across Washington state.
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