Although you might think that jerky is an American thing, given our love of protein, it actually has quite a long history. The name “jerky” comes from “ch’arki,” from the Quechuan language of the Incas. Literally translated, it means “dried, salted meat.” Native Americans would make jerky as a way to bring food on long journeys without having to worry about spoilage. When invaders came over from Europe, Native Americans passed on their recipes to Europeans and jerky caught on not only as a way to preserve food for travel but also as a snack. Today, it still remains as a fairly popular snack in the United States — according to one statistic, 122.46 million Americans consumed meat snacks and beef jerky in 2016.
There’s a reason why people love jerky — it has a salty, umami flavor and tough, yet chewy texture that makes it craveable. If you’re cutting back on meat, you might think that means that you can no longer snack on jerky but luckily, there are plenty of brands out there that made plant-based jerky good enough to rival “the real thing.”
So, what better way to celebrate June 12th, National Jerky Day, than with a bag of savory, meaty, plant-based jerky? To help you out, here are nine options that you can find in stores!
Louisville Vegan Jerky in Smoked Black Pepper
Louisville Vegan Jerky is the vegan jerky company that happened completely by accident. Made from textured soy protein, which gives it a meaty texture, this Louisville Vegan Jerky in Smoked Black Pepper is gluten-free, free from cholesterol and trans fat, and a decent source of protein at 7 grams per serving. Louisville Vegan Jerky in Smoked Black Pepper, which has the highest rating on Amazon for Louisville Vegan Jerky is described as being “salty, mild, and robust with just a hint of sweetness, subtly spiced with organic black pepper, nutmeg, garlic, and onion.”
According to Amazon reviewer Joanna K., “my husband was stoked to finally have some jerky again, nearly 5 years after we went vegetarian. :) Louisville is really yummy, it has the classic, dry jerky taste and texture.” You can pick up one 3-ounce bag for about $10 or a pack of 3 for around $40.
Primal Strips Meatless Vegan Jerky in Teriyaki
Looking for a single-serving vegan jerky you can take on the go? Try this Primal Strips Meatless Vegan Jerky in Teriyaki! This flavor is made from vital wheat gluten, also known as seitan, an ingredient known for its meat-like texture. Here, it’s covered with sweet, tangy teriyaki sauce for an Asian-fusion style vegan jerky that you can take on the go. A single 1-ounce package provides 11 grams of protein and is also free from both trans fats and cholesterol. According to Amazon reviewer Tricky_Peanut, “was a little weirded out by the texture at first but its really delicious! After I finished the first one I had to pace myself so I didn’t polish off the box! I recommend these to all my friends, vegan or not.” If you’re interested, you can pick up a pack of 24 1-ounce jerky strips for about $26.
Image source: Primal Spirit Foods
Sam's Harvest Jerky in Original Recipe
This Sam’s Harvest Jerky in Original Recipe is a meat-free, wheat-free way to get your jerky fix without the saturated fat or cholesterol that comes with meat. It’s made from Butler Soy Curls, a substitute for meat made from non-GMO soy beans along with a flavorful blend of unsulphured molasses, tamari, garlic, red pepper, and more. According to the company, “our special blend of spices with heart-healthy plant-based protein is sure to satisfy.” Amazon reviewer Torri Rose says that this meatless jerky is “a little spicy, a little sweet, a little smoky, a little salty! Another great thing is the chew. It is so so close to being the same as chewing regular jerky.” Interested? You can pick up one 4-ounce bag for about $9 or a pack of four 4-ounce bags for $22.
Cocoburg Vegan Coconut Jerky in Original Flavor
Need a gluten-free, soy-free, paleo, and raw vegan option to satisfy those jerky cravings? This Cocoburg Vegan Coconut Jerky in Original Flavor might be what you were looking for. Cocoburg’s original flavor is made from the meat of young coconuts that have been marinated, then dehydrated to make them chewy. The company is also committed to making their product as minimally processed as possible. Their original flavor, which is the first flavor they released, is made from just dehydrated young coconut meat, coconut aminos, garlic, black pepper, and onion.
According to Amazon reviewer Beowulf13, “both the coconut and jerky flavoring are mild, not overpowering, and the texture was better than I thought it ever could be.” And reviewer candyrabbit describes the texture as being “chewy, yet tender. Very addictive.” If you’d like to try it, you can pick up one 1.5-ounce bag for about $8.
Louisville Vegan Jerky in Maple Bacon
Like the Smoked Black Pepper flavor at the top of the list, this Louisville Vegan Jerky in Maple Bacon is made from textured soy protein, which gives it a meaty texture and uses maple syrup, brown sugar, and tamari to mimic the flavor of bacon. It’s gluten-free, free from cholesterol and trans fat, and a decent source of protein at 7 grams per serving — 21 grams if you want to eat the whole bag in one sitting. According to Amazon reviewer SNMommy, “I found the Louisville Jerky to be quite tasty. It had a nice, not-too-sweet flavor and a great texture,” but several customers wish that a bag came with more product. You can pick up a 3-ounce bag of meat-free maple bacon-flavored jerky for about $10.
Lightlife Meatless Smart Jerky in Original
Lightlife is a company that’s been making plant-based meat since 1979 and with this Lightlife Meatless Smart Jerky in Original, they’ve finally broken into the world of vegan jerky! Made from non-GMO soy protein isolate and wheat gluten and flavored with savory ingredients like tomato paste and molasses Lightlife’s vegan jerky brings 9 grams of plant-based protein per serving. According to Amazon reviewer Jillian, “Texture is close to the real thing. It’s dry and tough just like regular jerky. Only thing I would say is the tomato paste overpowered some of the other flavors. I’d make it a little saltier and add some cracked pepper and more garlic. Still 5 stars because this is the closest in texture to the real thing (meat eaters in my house verified).” You can pick up one 3-ounce bag, which contains three servings, for $9.19.
Stonewall's Jerquee in Original Mild
This Stonewall’s Jerquee in Original Mild is a gluten-free, trans fat-free jerky substitute made from defatted soy flour. The company describes their product as “the world’s best-tasting vegetarian jerky. It contains all the hearty chewing pleasure of real jerky, without the high concentrations of sterols, antibiotics, growth hormones, and nitrates.” Plus, just one serving brings 14 grams of protein! According to Amazon reviewer Shannon, “I found the chewy texture to be perfect – not too dry, not too moist – the slight oiliness added a very rich feel as I was eating it, and the spice mixture was really delicious” and if you’re not a fan of oily products, she suggests opening a package and leaving it overnight. You can pick up a pack of 16 1.5-ounce bags for about $38.
Cocoburg Vegan Coconut Jerky in Chili Lime
This Cocoburg Vegan Coconut Jerky in Chili Lime is Cocoburg’s second-most popular jerky on Amazon. Like their original flavor, this meat-free jerky is gluten-free, soy-free, paleo, and raw vegan, but lime juice, chili pepper, and garlic give it a zesty, spicy flavor that’s perfect for summer. Amazon reviewer Lauren A, “The flavor reminds me of Thai food. I have purchased it a few times and it doesn’t last long once it arrives!” Reviewer Vegan Runner says “I loved it and took it back to my wife, who doesn’t like anything sweet, especially jerky, so I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. She loved it and didn’t have any issues with sweetness.” If you’re looking for spicy vegan jerky, you can pick up a 1.5-ounce bag for around $7.
Image source: Cocoburg
Primal Strips Meatless Vegan Jerky in Texas BBQ
If you’re looking for a vegan jerky that you can easily take on the go, but can’t have Primal Strips in Teriyaki because of the gluten, fear not! They’ve got you covered with this Primal Strips Meatless Vegan Jerky in Texas BBQ, a meatless, gluten-free, jerky made from non-GMO soy protein isolate. It’s also a decent source of protein, with one package of jerky bringing 10 grams of protein. According to Amazon reviewer Carla, “This meatless jerky is perfect! I’ve had a couple different flavors, but the Texas BBQ is by far my favorite. It’s deliciously sweet and smoky.” and goes on to say, “this stuff is nice and tender, but it still has that get-stuck-in-your-teeth effect like the real thing.” If you need some realistic, meat-free, gluten-free jerky in your life, then you can pick up a pack of 24 1-ounce jerky strips for about $31.
Make your own Jerky!
It’s amazing that we have so many meatless jerkys to choose from but did you know that you can also make your own at home? This Eggplant Jerky is gluten-free and made with just four everyday ingredients. Marinating it in soy sauce with just a touch of garlic and onion powder, then dehydrating it gives it a savory, umami flavor and tough, jerky-like texture.
The jerky in this Smoky Jambalaya With Mushroom Jerky is made by marinating slices mushrooms in tamari, liquid smoke, and savory spices, and then baking it in the oven at a low temperature so you get that meaty, chewy jerky texture.
For even more tips, read How to Make Your Own Vegan Jerky!
If you enjoy cooking plant-based food at home and want more, we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App. For those that don’t have it, it’s a brilliant food app available for both Android and iPhone. It’s a great resource for anyone looking to cut out or reduce allergens like meat, dairy, soy, gluten, eggs, grains, and more find awesome recipes, cooking tips, articles, product recommendations and how-tos. The app shows you how having diet/health/food preferences can be full of delicious abundance rather than restriction!
Lead image source: Eggplant Jerky