WAITROSE SMOKY STREAKY SLICES – IT’S HAPPENING. VEGAN SUPERMARKET BACON’S ACTUALLY HAPPENING

waitrose smoky streaky vegan bacon
Hi, Pathetically

In the old days (read late last year), Upton’s Naturals Bacon was all we had. Quorn bacon, of course, still includes milk and egg – and it’s basically liquid mould. Then, steadily, I started stumbling across vegan supermarket gold like Sgaia’s Vegan Meats and all-star high roller THIS Isn’t Bacon. Now, supermarkets like Waitrose are doing it themselves. And they’re doing it damn well.

Until recently – other than the Full Nelson’s crispy in-house tofu bacon – THIS Isn’t Bacon was my favourite meat-free alternative. But I think Waitrose has just edged it. Because everything about their own-brand “smoky streaky slices” is perfect. The taste. The texture. The smell. Even the thickness is on point.

Waitrose’s streaky slices, you see, are thinner than THIS Isn’t Bacon. So they’re more bacon-like and easier to crisp up. In fact, the texture’s the perfect middle ground between thinner, more cardboard-like Upton’s Naturals Bacon slices and thicker, more salmon-like THIS Isn’t Bacon rashers. They’re juicy, but they ain’t chunky. They’re also wheat and pea-protein based, and soy free.

The smoky flavour’s exactly what you’re looking for as well – thanks to maple syrup and smoked paprika. And when you cook them up the kitchen smells like a late, hungover Sunday morning. So far, this is the best, most legit, vegan supermarket bacon alternative I’ve had. And you know what, maybe the future’s looking good for pigs after all.

BEN & JERRY’S CHOCOLATE FUDGE BROWNIE NON-DAIRY ICE CREAM – MAKING VEGANISM RADICAL AGAIN

Hi, Pathetically

“Make veganism radical again.” That’s what a friend of mine posted on Instagram. Followed by a photo of him sitting, smugly, in a hip vegan restaurant, eating a gourmet, plant-based hotdog with some hip vegan buddies. All good. What is making veganism radical again, however, is Ben & Jerry’s new range of non-dairy ice creams.

Netflix and chill – with a frozen tub of Ben & Jerry’s, of course – had become a thing of the past. An old indulgence I’d all but forgotten. A dream I’d just about relinquished. That was, until I spotted a tub of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie Non-Dairy Ice Cream in my local ASDA. Radical.

I know I say this a lot but I really could not believe my luck. To me, the non-dairy version of the classic Ben & Jerry’s flavour tastes even better than the real thing. There’s just something about it. The flavours are richer. The chocolate’s more decadent. And the ice cream’s even more luxurious. Somehow, it tastes more small batch. More-carefully put together. Like Ben and Jerry actually have something to prove again. It’s irresistible.

I’ve tried the vegan Peanut Butter & Cookies vanilla ice cream option as well. And it’s just as good as its non-dairy counterparts. But if you’re anything like me, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia is way more enjoyable with a tub of chocolate, fudge and brownie-based ice cream and a big spoon. Now I’m on the lookout for the latest addition to the vegan range, the gorgeous-sounding caramel number, Cookies On Cookie Dough. Remember vegan kids; don’t give up on your plant-based dreams.

NOMO VEGAN CHOCOLATE – DAIRY-FREE SUPERMARKET CHOCOLATE FINALLY GETS CREAMY (AND DREAMY)

Hi, Pathetically

The shelves of my local ASDA seem to be going through a lowkey vegan renaissance at the moment. And it’s pretty exciting. First there was Kings Veggie Jerky. Then Jealous Sweets. And now I’ve spotted NOMO vegan chocolate. Truth is, it’s getting easier and easier to be vegan every day.

Generally, vegan supermarket chocolate options include Cadbury’s Bournville and whatever’s in the Free From aisle. And if you’re looking for something creamy, forget about it. It’s dark. It’s soy-based. And it’s average. If you want something dreamy you need to go to Holland & Barrett and pick up a bar (or two) of Vego Whole Hazelnut. Well, vegan friends. No more.

NOMO, or No Missing Out, vegan chocolate is made by U.K. confectioner Kinnerton. And it’s the real thing. Creamy. High-quality. And soy-free. Except the dark chocolate option. But that’s not what we’re after, right? We want soft, velvety and luxurious. And that’s exactly what NOMO brings to the table. Or bus. Or park bench. Or pavement.

So far I’ve tried the Creamy Choc bar, which reminds me of a Beacon Inside Story Delectable Truffle – it’s that creamy. And I’ve had the Caramel and Sea Salt option, which is my favourite, and reminds me of a more artisanal-tasting, less-saccharine Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Caramel.

You hear (and see) the words “game changer” thrown around so often they’ve lost all meaning. But if you’re vegan, and you’ve got a sweet tooth, and you’re tired of the boring, bland, dark chocolate options in your local Free From aisle, look out for NOMO vegan chocolate. It’s a game changer.

SGAIA’S STREAKY MHEAT RASHERS – ALL OF THE SIZZLE. NONE OF THE GRISTLE.

Hi, Pathetically

I used to think it was weird that vegans and vegetarians were so into “fake” meat. Now I get it. It’s how we were raised. It’s comforting. It’s convenient. The unshakeable evolution of the human fast food diet. And besides, nobody gives up bacon because they don’t like the taste. We do it because it’s cruel, it’s unhealthy and it’s killing the planet.

I have tried a few meat, dairy and egg-free bacon alternatives since I went vegan. And unsurprisingly, some of them taste like dry, “hickory flavoured” cardboard. But there is hope for plant-based foodies craving that perfect, juicy, smokey bacon taste on burgers, pancakes and scrambled tofu.

Of course, The Full Nelson’s homemade crispy tofu bacon is a vegan junk food dream. But so far, my favourite DIY supermarket option is This Isn’t Bacon. Followed by Upton’s Naturals, which is thinner and drier than I’d like and does need seasoning.

Then I stumbled across a bag of SGAIA’s Vegan Meats Streaky Mheat Rashers in Whole Foods, Piccadilly Circus. And straight away, I was intrigued.

They really do look the part. The uncooked rashers are “juicier” and more bacon-like than Upton’s, and even This Isn’t Bacon. And when you pop them in a hot pan with a splash of oil, the sizzles, crackles and smells are perfect. Close enough to trigger the feels, yet different enough to not smell like actual dead flesh cooking – which now grosses me out, a lot.

I tried the rashers in toasted cheese and bacon sandwiches and on burgers, and I’m definitely hooked. They’re crispy, chewy and bacon-thick. The taste’s fantastic as well. Salty. Smokey. With a hint of sweet maple – thanks to the combination of beech wood liquid smoke, molasses and maple syrup. Next time I think I’ll cook up a vegan carbonara. Mmm…

PULLED OUMPH! & OUMPH! KEBAB SPICED – DELICIOUS SOYA “MEAT” CHUNKS STRAIGHT OUT OF THE KEBAB SHOP

Hi, Pathetically

No one I ask has ever heard of Oumph! It’s like some kind of hush-hush full-time vegan secret that just seemed to appear one day. First there was BBQ Pulled Oumph! Then came Oumph! Kebab Spiced. And now there’s a new Oumph! Burger, which I haven’t tried yet. So people are obviously buying the stuff.

The “meat” itself is pretty damn convincing – especially for frozen, pulled supermarket soya pieces. The taste and texture reminds me of What the Pitta’s amazing vegan kebab “meat.” Or at least a frozen, DIY version. But still… believe me, that’s high praise indeed.

I’ve tried both versions of the Swedish company’s pulled soya meat. In wraps with homemade hummus. On loaded rosemary fries with Garlic Aioli Vegenaise and sriracha. With roast potatoes. Rice. And roasted vegetables. And Oumph! never disappoints. It’s simple. It’s delicious. And it’s easy to dress up and enjoy.

ONE PLANET PIZZA THREE CHEEZLY MARGHERITA – THE STICKIEST, CHEESIEST FROZEN VEGAN PIZZA IN TOWN

Hi, Pathetically

Public service announcement. If you live anywhere near New Cross and Deptford, you have to try the new Embas Express Supermarket in New Cross Road. It’s a vegan goldmine loaded with rare gems. The range is incredible. I’ve found everything from Follow Your Heart Bleu Cheese Dressing to Sgaia’s Vegan Mheat Steaks. And finally, I found it. One Planet Pizza.

The independent, partly crowd-funded company’s range of frozen vegan pizzas has been on my hit list since I saw them at Vegan Life Live 2019, Alexandra Palace. I didn’t get to try a slice then, because the queue was too long. But it looked and smelled amazing. So imagine the excited little vegan dance I did in my head when I found the whole damn range in an obscure, independent, express supermarket in New Cross Road.

I decided to keep it simple and go for the Three Cheezly Margherita. That’s the one I remember from the expo. And straight away, it had one up on my regular Kirsty’s Classic Margherita – and every other frozen pizza I’ve ever tasted. Because it’s the only one I’ve had that comes with basil leaves already on it. Ready to go. Just pop it in the oven.

Like a lot of vegan margheritas the cheese topping is sticky and gooey. But the three cheese combo makes it thicker and tastier than usual. The texture’s better as well. And the tomato sauce is richer and more flavourful. It’s a quality frozen pizza. So it’s no surprise that One Planet Pizza won Best Vegan Ready Meal at Vegfest 2018.

Interestingly, when I saw One Planet Pizza at Vegan Life Live, the Norwich-based company used Bute Island Sheese on their pizzas. Nowadays, however, they’ve swapped to VBites’ Cheezly alternative. Not sure why. Also, if you don’t live near a magical Embas Express, One Planet Pizza is available from Ocado and hundreds of independent stores across the U.K.

WAITROSE VEGAN STYLE GREEN PESTO WITH BASIL – SMOOTH, TANGY AND IRRESISTIBLE

Hi, Pathetically

There isn’t really a Waitrose on my regular beat. So whenever I’m in one of the bigger stores I walk the aisles slack-jawed, bewildered by the sheer range and depth of vegan options available. Last time I was in the St Katharine’s Dock mega-store I picked up a tub of Waitrose Vegan Style Green Pesto With Basil. And a box of Ritz crackers.

I have made vegan pesto myself. With nutritional yeast. And it’s delicious. But it’s slightly different than the classic basil pesto taste and texture I remember. Instead of nutritional yeast, Waitrose’s version uses various starches – and even rice protein – to replicate that cheesy parmesan tang and velvety consistency that makes a perfect pesto. And it’s right on the money.

It’s fluffy. It’s lemony. It’s nutty. And it’s irresistible. I literally couldn’t put the tub down until it was all gone. Along with my box of Ritz crackers.