One thing I loved when I was not vegan was jerky. It wasn’t the fact that it was meat, it was all about the flavor and texture. I think a good reason behind it as well was the portability. Jerky was good for hikes, long runs and when I started running OCR races; I always had jerky with me. Like those frozen, funky vegan burger patties back in the day, jerky has come a long way and has become oh so glorious. It’s not just for omnivores anymore!
There are tons of companies doing their own thing and offering a variety of flavors and textures. Vegan jerky is becoming more of a niche market and is exploding. Ask companies like Louisville, their product is far from a novelty and is sought after by vegans all over. Believe me though, none of them are similar to the other and stand out on their own. I’m going break down 4 of my favorites and explain to you why they are better than eating animals; besides the obvious of course. So here we go…
Since I’ve already mentioned them, let’s talk about Louisville Vegan Jerky. I was able to first try Louisville at this past years Ragnar Relay in the Adirondacks. They were a sponsor of the team I ran with, Strong Hearts Vegan Power. Teammates in my van can attest, after opening a bag (and completely finishing it) my reaction was a phrase I don’t know where it came from nor do I know what it meant. I exclaimed, “Jesus jumped up!” The jubilation and joy I felt overwhelmed me I guess. I missed jerky and this stuff had the texture and flavor I remembered so well. While it didn’t have that pull that some jerky has, the chewiness and seasoning of Louisville was amazing. At this point I’ve tried nearly every flavor minus a few of the small batches. If I had to choose a favorite flavor, I couldn’t. Can I recommend a few? Sure! The black pepper is amazing and is a bit more dry, which I prefer, it gave it more of that pull I spoke of before. The South Carolina BBQ is tasty as heck and is extremely moist, there’s a nice zip at the end as well. If you twisted my arm, I could pick my absolute favorite Louisville Jerky and that is the Buffalo Dill. My wife got some for me on my birthday and I was in heaven. Amazing! So far I have only been able to get Louisville by mail order, check them out at http://www.lvjco.com.
Next up we have the most accessible of all vegan jerky companies, Primal Spirit Foods. I say that because you have probably seen these at any major grocer or even in quite a few convenience stores; they seem to have a good handle on marketing and getting the name out. Another thing that helps them stand out is their incredible array of flavors. Lets not stop there though, the hits keep coming; they also offer a variety of textures based on ingredients. Most of their jerky strips are made from seitan, but they do also have some made from soy and my favorite; the spicy one was made from shiitake mushrooms as a base and was the most jerky like of all of them. The flavors are fantastic and are based on real ingredients. Being packaged singularly, Primal’s jerky is super simple to thrown in a backpack, ruck or even your fancy lil fanny pack! Minus the spicy flavor which was closest to jerky texture, the other have a similar chew to them. My only complaint, and I stress the ONLY is the fact they are somewhat difficult to open and you always end up with stick hands. I’m not sure there is much that can be done to the packaging to make that easier though. If for some strange reason you have yet to try these, you absolutely should; I eat these all the time now. For more info in Primal Spirit Foods vegan jerky check out http://www.primalspiritfoods.com.
For a while now, this next jerky company has been on my radar big time. Chris from the Vegan Zombie is always cooking up/ talking about Maywah Veg Market. He rants and raves about their products so I had to reach out and see about getting some jerky samples. What started as a small niche shop in Chinatown (downtown NYC), Maywah now not only services customers in the state of New York, but anywhere UPS can deliver too. I got the opportunity to try three of their products; the Roasted BBQ, Beef Jerky and the Bacon Jerky. As with the other two companies already reviewed, their products had their own distinct character and texture that carried throughout each flavor. The Roasted BBQ eerily looked a lot like meat jerky as it was a good piece that you bit and tore off pieces from. This had the most authentic texture to “real” jerky than most. I remember nearly 20 years ago being at a small general store in New Hampshire and seeing jerky in jars on the counter that had been smoked and roasted. Maywah’s jerky reminded me of that. The beef jerky had a similar texture, but was kind of pre-shredded you might call it; so it was easier to grab just a bit at a time and not have to tear into it. Again, the flavor was amazing and the texture couldn’t get any closer to the “real” thing. The bacon jerky was similar to what Primal is doing as it was more of a strip, but had the distinct Maywah flavor profile and texture. It had a real nice smokiness to it and as I’ve said a bunch, the texture was fantastic. It is not bacon, but bacon jerky. If you’ve had no experience with Maywah I highly recommend you order from them. The jerky is super inexpensive and they ship all over. I can’t wait to place a bulk order as they carry all sorts of substitutes. You can find them on the web at www.maywahnyc.com.
Last but certainly not least, is Lightlife. One of the first meat alternative companies, Lightlife has been at the forefront of veg movement for over 30+ years. I’d like say I’ve tried all of their products but at this point there are so many I can’t say I have. Their jerky is something new I’ve tried and it’s distinct from the others. They come in strips, similar to Primal but not as moist. Lightlife jerky has more of a dryness and chew like smoked/ dried jerky does. The only complaint is they only have two flavors. Having a wide range of products, I don’t expect that they will offer many more; they don’t need to. I’ve read other reviews online that say these are sweet; I don’t agree at all as I found them to be quite savory and smoky like jerky is supposed to taste. You can find these at most grocery stores as their distribution is pretty big in the major stores. Another solid jerky that you can just throw in your back pack or lunch bag for the matter. Find out more about Lightlife Jerky at https://lightlife.com/products/jerky
Every day more and more vegan foods & meat alternatives are hitting the market. Whether it’s faux hot dogs, sausages OR jerky, the fact is these products can stand up to, and maybe even push meat off the market. Once people realize they can enjoy the flavors and textures they love, without all the cholesterol and garbage that is in processed meats; they will be better off. I am so excited to have jerky in my life and thank all the companies involved in this article for sending samples to be part of it. If you are part of a company that was not written about here, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d be happy to create an addendum piece or add to this one.
What’s your favorite vegan jerky?