A pile of meat-free Burger King. All photos by the author.
Remember when everyone lost their shit over the opening of London’s first ever vegan fried chicken shop, Temple of Seitan? There were queues around the block, lengthy wait times; we even ended up taking Orlando Weeks from the Maccabees there on a first date.
How times have changed. Plant-based convenience food is now so commonplace that it’s hard to know what’s “real” and what’s not. We have cheese that melts, egg yolks that pop and burger patties that are so tender and beef-like they make you think someone somewhere has made a mistake.
That said, even we were surprised to hear that Burger King hadn’t just released a couple of new vegan menu items, but an entire restaurant serving only meat-free food, for the very first time in the UK – albeit in Leicester Square and for one month only. We’re talking about a fast food mega chain, with 18,573 restaurants around the world. The paradigm shift is finally complete.
Fortunately, they agreed to send every single new menu item to the VICE office (minus the Nugget Burger and the Vegan Cheeeze & Bakon Royale … Where were they, BK?). Unfortunately, I was the only person in that day, meaning I had to eat an entire table of fast food alone. Fortunately, I was fine with that.
Here is the definitive ranking of the newest vegan Burger King items. (Please bear in mind that I couldn’t try every size and variation, for example the smaller and larger sizes, because I didn’t want to die like this.)
6) Vegan Onion Rings
The first thing I asked before trying these onion rings was “what are they going to replace the onion with?” before remembering that onions are a vegetable, not an animal. I can only assume that they didn’t fry these with meat burgers, which is what makes them specifically “meat-free”.
Anyway yes, they were fairly nice and standard, if you like onion rings. Not too greasy, a nice little outer crunch and the onion was soft and easy on the tastebuds.
5) Plant-based Whopper
Here we have the most classic of Burger King menu items – the Whopper – turned vegan. This is basically the McPlant of the BK menu (they won’t like me saying that, but I don’t know what else to compare it to). If you want a standard burger, this is very close to the real thing. Creamy mayo? Check. Smoky little meat discs? Check. Can fit perfectly in your hand, like a tiny edible cushion? Check.
My only gripe with the Whopper is that there are many more interesting menu items to sample. So what’s the point?
4) Plant-based Katsu Chilli Whopper
This should really be called the “Curry Sauce Whopper” because that’s what it is – “katsu” refers to breadcrumbed meat or faux meat which isn’t what I observe here. It’s just a regular meat-free patty.
Anyway, now that I’ve stopped being a horrible little worm about it, I’d like to confirm that this is very tasty. 10/10 curry sauce burger. Salty and sweet in equal measure, with generous lashings of sauce. Could have done with some cheese, but that’s just because everything could do with some cheese.
3) Plant-based Cheeeze & Bakon Whopper
For too long, vegan bacon has been an afterthought, resulting in veggies everywhere chowing down on leather-like strips doused in liquid smoke. The “bakon” used in this Whopper, however, is a delicious approximation of the real thing, with strips of fake fat cascading down the middle and just enough bend and crunch to keep the textures interesting. Stunning. Absolutely stunning.
The cheese slabs are a highlight too. What you want from burger cheese, really, is for it to taste as fake and plastic-y as possible. This isn’t 2012 anymore. Back then we wanted complicated burgers called things like “Big Bad Dirty Stacked Blue Cheese Melt”. We just want simple junk food now. And the Cheeeze & Bakon Whopper delivers.
2) Vegan Katsu Royale
Don’t be fooled by the muted colors in the photo above. The Vegan Katsu Royale slaps. The veggies are unexpectedly crunchy. The sauce is vibrant and flowing. There are crispy onions hiding in there. And the oblong shape of the Royale means that you can grip it in one hand while rabidly tearing bites out of it with your mouth without the whole thing collapsing.
Imagine waking up at 2PM on a Sunday – mouth dry and tasting like ash tray, face like a cracked plate – and having one of these hot little parcels in your hand. Smash.
1) Vegan Chilli Cheeeze Bites
Who would have thought that the winning menu item isn’t in fact a burger, or even nuggs, but the humble cheese bite? The cheese, which is perfectly gooey and infused with green chilli pieces, oozes from the mouth-sized balls when you squeeze them. Kind of like cheese fondue encased in crispy bread crumbs.
The best way to eat these, IMO, is to take one bite and then use the remainder as a dipping sauce for your fries. See? They are not only delicious, but they are versatile, which is what you want from a fast food snack. They also pack just enough creaminess and heat. A masterpiece.
So there you have it – all of the information you needed today. There are nuggets and a Vegan Royale on the menu too, although we’ve already reviewed those. I am going to lie down and take some deep breaths now.