Which vegan jerky is best?

For a snack or hike, few things deliver a quick protein punch better than jerky. The trouble is, jerky can be loaded with preservatives, sodium and artery-clogging fats. And if you are avoiding animal products, finding the best vegan jerky can be a serious challenge. But there are some solid options out there to satisfy your jerky cravings.

Why buy vegan jerky?

There are many reasons why people might choose vegan jerky. 

  • For the planet: Some people are concerned about greenhouse gas emissions tied to cattle production.
  • For their health: Although vegan jerky can also contain too much sodium, additives and sugar, some people choose to limit their consumption of animal protein as a preventative measure against heart disease.
  • For ethical reasons: Some vegans change their diet for ethical reasons. They refuse to eat any kind of animal products, including animal by-products such as honey. 

Vegan jerky ingredients

So, what makes it jerky? The main ingredients that replace the animal products are prepared to mimic that satisfying chewy bite of traditional meat jerky.  When it comes to vegan varieties, you have quite a few options for the star ingredient. 

  • Soy: Soy curls and soy are generally tasty choices for high-protein jerky.
  • Mushrooms: Mushrooms are one of the first substitutions for meat in jerky and bacon products. Portobello, shiitake and oyster are most common. 
  • Wheat: Seitan is made of vital wheat gluten. Its tough chew makes it very similar to traditional jerky.
  • Jackfruit: Jackfruit is a good substitute if you are avoiding soy or gluten.  
  • Kelp: For a taste of the sea, choose kelp-based vegan jerky. 
  • Coconut: Coconut jerky is not only soy-, wheat- and gluten-free; it’s also approved for paleo diets. 

Clean ingredients matter

Many people believe that vegan snacks are healthy because they are missing animal products, but this isn’t always true.  A plant-based diet won’t do much for you if you’re shoveling down tons of artificial flavorings, colorings and preservatives. The best vegan jerky has clean ingredients you can recognize — and not much else.

The 8 best vegan jerkies

Louisville Vegan Jerky

Louisville Vegan Jerky

It has 15 grams of protein and just 4 grams of fat per bag.  The Carolina barbecue flavor is both sweet and tangy. The ingredients are locally-sourced in Kentucky, and the list is clean and short. The protein is soy-based, and this jerky is gluten-free.

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Primal Spirit Vegan Jerky

Primal Spirit Vegan Jerky

This is a sampler pack of 24 1-ounce, individually-wrapped servings of jerky. Flavors included are Thai peanut, mesquite lime, teriyaki, hot and spicy, hickory smoked and Texas BBQ. Some varieties use mushrooms as a base, but some may use soy, so check labels if you are avoiding that ingredient.

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Savory Wild Vegan Portabello Mushroom Jerky

Savory Wild Vegan Portabello Mushroom Jerky

Portobello mushrooms carry the savory, spicy flavors of sesame, ginger and chili. This jerky is gluten-free and made from non-GMO ingredients. There are no preservatives and no hydrogenated oils. One serving has 10 grams of protein.

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Beyond Meat Plant-Based Jerky

Beyond Meat Plant-Based Jerky

This 10-pack includes two flavors: original and teriyaki. The original is smoky and savory, but the teriyaki has a slightly caramelized sweetness.  There is no soy or gluten in either flavor. It uses peas and mung beans to provide jerky-like chew.

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Be Leaf Spicy Vegan Jerky

Be Leaf Spicy Vegan Jerky

This is sweet, salty and spicy all at once. Each large 7-ounce bag contains 20 servings and 40 grams of protein.  It’s low carb for keto diets. There is no added gluten, but it is processed on shared equipment. It’s also available in four other flavors or a variety pack.

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Pleather Black Pepper Vegan Jerky

Pleather Black Pepper Vegan Jerky

This serious vegan jerky comes with a playful name. It is made of seitan, which means it’s not suitable for gluten-free diets. Crafted by hand, it has a black and cayenne pepper kick and a smoke finish. Each 90-calorie serving packs a whopping 16 grams of protein. Other flavors include red pepper bourbon BBQ and ginger sesame.

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Noble Jerky Chipotle Vegan Jerky

Noble Jerky Chipotle Vegan Jerky

The spicy, smoky kick of chipotle meets soy protein in this plant-based jerky.  All of the ingredients are vegan and natural, and the jerky is nitrate-free. Every bag has 14 grams of protein with an exceptionally long shelf life.

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The Bunny James Store Vegan Jerky Sampler Gift Box

The Bunny James Store Vegan Jerky Sampler Gift Box

This is a great vegan jerky sampler for trying out different types of meat substitutes. It features eight different varieties of jerky made from jackfruit, soy, seitan and fruit. Samples brands are Primal Jerky, Noble Jerky, Perky Jerky, Wild Joy Jerky and Solely Organic Fruit Jerky. Protein levels vary, as do ingredients, so check to make sure they work for you.

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Suzannah Kolbeck writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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